10 years ago, I was hurt by someone I had let get too close to me. He preyed on my vulnerabilities and exploited my weaknesses to serve his own desires.
I fought, I tried to avoid the situation, I tried to get out of the date that lead to the events that have forever scarred my trust and my heart. I have spent the better part of the last 10 years trying to heal this wound, but not without the help of my Savior, close friends, husband, and parents. The wound is still a scar, and the scar hurts today. A lot.
I still have trouble calling it ‘rape.’ It still makes me feel like I was worthless, weak and helpless. I don’t like to think of myself that way. I always thought if I was being taken advantage of I would scream louder, fight harder, or die trying. Never did I think I would give up and just let the events unfold. I didn’t anticipate what fear would do to my logic. I didn’t think about how I might choose to stop fighting because in the moment my fear of being hurt would overpower my will to stay clean. But I wasn’t clean when this happened. I was recovering from rape earlier that same year… I didn’t think it would happen to me at all, let alone more than once. I didn’t think anyone would really push me that hard, especially someone who knew I was recovering from being raped and still very untrusting and sensitive. But he did push me. He hurt me, he abused me, he worked hard to assert control. He spent months ‘grooming’ me. The entire time I felt uncomfortable, the entire time I didn’t trust him, the entire time I tried to keep myself in a position that would not allow for him to cross the line with me. But not that night. That night he ‘won.’ He wouldn’t give me enough space to think, he wouldn’t take no for an answer, he wouldn’t be reasoned with, he never gave up. Months of pushing my boundaries, disrespecting my boundaries, and proving he couldn’t be totally trusted, proving he was stronger than me, proving he would hound me until he could spend time with me.
Looking back and describing the events this way, it is OBVIOUS he was abusive and manipulative, it is OBVIOUS I needed to get as far away from him as possible. But when you are in the middle of things, and he charms everyone around you so his presence is accepted, you look past the little tests here and there, the little evidences here and there that he is a total narcissist and doesn’t respect anyone’s boundaries. But when you grow up being taught to respect, taught boundaries, taught morals, self control, and virtue, it is hard to fathom someone can be so evil, so hurtful, to serve a selfish end. That is the most naive logic… it is why so many women end up like I did. I don’t like to say I was a ‘victim,’ but I certainly wasn’t emotionally or mentally prepared for this.
So what happened that night? Let me start earlier that day. I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Our previous encounter he had been pushing my moral boundaries, and I was able to end the evening and he ‘respected’ why. But then came the night that scarred me for life. I had discussed with my mom my discomfort, my anxiety, and my reasons for not wanting to follow through with our date. We came up with a way to cancel that seemed reasonable, but that wouldn’t allow for him to really question, hound, or push the date to occur. Well, we were wrong. I told him my mom wasn’t feeling well, I needed to take an evening to just spend it with her before I moved to Austin a few days later. He offered to join us, NO, I said. I just wanted to spend the evening with my mom while my dad and sisters were out of town…. then came the incessant hounding. Eventually, he got mom my mom on the phone and somehow charmed his way into not only taking me out that evening but STAYING THE NIGHT!?!?!?!?!? How is this even possible!?!? He had some story about how a girl (with a horrible reputation) was going to sneak into his house (his whole family was out of town), and perform a sexual act on him. Boo freaking hoo…. We SHOULD had stood our ground and let her! He convinced my mom that if he stayed upstairs while I stayed downstairs with her, he would be ‘safe’ from this girl and he promised to act appropriately with me. He admitted he had a weakness in staying totally chaste and resisting such things, so my mom was convinced by him that he would be safer with us. So. Many. Red. Flags.
This sounds horrible when you retell it the way it actually was. Without all of his elaborate fluff and sob stories.
I communicated my anxiety, my desire to stay chaste and to stay in places that were public and that didn’t leave room for temptations. I informed him that when we got back to my house, I would go straight to my mom’s room, and he would go upstairs. That was the invitation he needed. He ‘agreed.’ But on the way back, he innocently suggested we rent a movie and watch it and THEN we would go our separate ways. As I suggested we watch it downstairs, close to my mom, he insisted he wanted to be upstairs, he promised he was going to respect my boundaries. I trusted him, and was sick of arguing every single thing we did. I had been successful at keeping things at arms length this far, I felt like he was being honest. Plus, I was just sick of having to explain and defend EVERY SINGLE THING I SAID.
-On a prior occasion, he had learned of my previous rape because I wouldn’t allow any sort of physical interaction outside of a simple kiss goodnight. He had me pinned against a wall, yelling in my face, and demanding to know why I wouldn’t let him hardly touch me or kiss me. So after screaming in his face back, telling me to let me go (which he wouldn’t until he got an explanation), and that he was hurting me, I told him. Stupid me. This is when I felt his ‘restrained’ strength, and my fear of him was established. After this encounter, he tried his hardest to make amends to get his foot back in the door.-
So when THIS night happened, that is all I could think of. I kept tiptoeing around him. I tried my hardest not to set him off, but still be in a position to get away if need be. The movie started. And so did he. He attempted to turn kisses into making out and making out into more than that. When I tried to get away, and tell him it was time for me to go downstairs before things got out of hand, he was embarrassed. While grabbing my wrist and pulling it hard enough for it to be sore for a week after, he insisted that I wait, because if I went down before the movie ended, my mom would ask why, and he promised my mom he wouldn’t let things get out of control or inappropriate. He was so afraid of someone finding out he was trying to push me. Then I came back and sat down. Trying my hardest to think of an excuse that would allow me to leave WITHOUT being hurt.I SHOULD have RUN! I wanted to run, I had that pit in my stomach, the one you get when you are afraid… Why did I let my fear hold me back?!
I don’t remember much about how we got from that point to what happened next. I only remember him being physically forceful and aggressive. And I remember I was too afraid to keep trying to leave -I had tried more than once to leave- for fear he would assert himself on me so rough that I would be seriously injured. A few weeks later I chose to tell a member of my church (my Bishop/Pastor) about the events, and he was confused. I finally had to admit, he was holding me and forcing me to perform the very sexual act he ‘claimed’ to have been avoiding from the other girl. In the middle of all of it, he admitted, ‘the reason I want you to do this so bad is because you already know what you are doing.’ He was holding me in every way he could to make sure I followed through and didn’t leave or get away. In that one brief moment, I wanted to literally rid him of his manhood. I wanted to inflict so much pain he would never be able to enjoy such a thing again. But fear held me back. I was in tears, but I hid my tears. The only thought that kept going through my mind was that he would have to be stripped of his current standing within membership of our church for pushing this on me. He had already told me as much, which is one reason I never thought he would push me this far. I thought it mattered to him. But I figured, I could do with a little more tarnishing since I was already pretty tarnished, as long as he went down, I could to I guess. So, with that thought, I went from fear to vengeance and stopped resisting. I hated myself. I hated who I was. I hated that I stopped fighting.
I was broken. I lost faith in myself. Faith I was trying so hard to regain. I had already been a victim once. I hated that I let myself go. I hated that I let my guard down. I hated that I didn’t fight harder or scream louder. I gave up. I was a coward.
Even telling this story now, I am still confused. How did I allow him so much control?! I wish I could go back and run away! I wish I could change the ending.
So a few weeks later, there I was, telling my Bishop. I let him know of how I had been molested as a child, I had been raped earlier that year, I felt broken, incapable of standing up for myself. I needed therapy to help me stop being so controlled by fear. I thought I had been recovering from the previous rape and regaining confidence and control when this last guy had his way with me. He sat across from me, tears in his eyes, told me this was rape (which I was in denial about), my boundaries had been crossed, and that he would be in contact with his bishop. I had a choice to press charges, but I didn’t. I felt that whatever church discipline came his way was enough. Then he paused for a long moment. He asked me if I felt worthy to enter the Lord’s presence and attend an upcoming temple visit. I had been struggling with this for months, but for some reason, I felt the Lord had already forgiven me. “Yes,” I responded.
Tears filled my eyes. I knew in that moment, I would be safe from harm, I would be strong. I had simply been missing the ONE thing I should have kept with me, the LORD. I felt in that moment, that had I called on the LORD in that moment, he would have been able to suppress my fear and give me strength. I felt the Lord telling me, “I was right there, I was waiting for you to call my name, I was waiting for you to let me help you, I wanted so desperately for you to call ME to rescue you from this awful experience. My hand is still outstretched, let ME help you HEAL, let ME help you forgive, let ME protect you and give you strength. This is why I died for you, not just for sins, but for the sickness, the afflictions, the pain, the sorrow. I love you, I will never see you as unworthy, I will never see you as weak, for in ME, are all weaknesses made strong. But I need YOU to call MY name, you need to accept me, you need to open the door.”
This was my turning point. I had already decided, prior to that night, that I would have faith in His Infinite Atonement. I see this last encounter as Satan’s last ditch attempt to instill worthlessness in my heart. He was trying to pull me away from my decision to embrace the Lord in my heart and life.
All the while, the Lord was trying to make me whole again. He was trying to set me back on the path I was intended to be on from before I was born. He was knocking at the door, I just didn’t open it.
It has been ten years. Every December I start to feel anxiety, I start to feel worthless, I start to feel like I will never be enough. I thought getting married in December would give me HOPE and DISTRACTION from this pain. I found out earlier this year that is guy lives 30 minutes from me, and somehow mentions of him keep coming up. I wanted so desperately to run, but instead, through a lot of counseling, prayer, faith, and support from my husband, I am FINALLY confident that I would be able to contain my anxiety and anger if I ever saw him again. If he ever attempted to converse with me, I don’t have to let him. I have forgiven him, but he has no place in my life, nor will he ever. Forgiveness doesn’t erase the consequences. “I have nothing to say to you. You do not exist to me. Leave. Me. Alone.”
So you see, although this experience still pulls at me today, and some days the scar will hurt and others I will barely know it is there, it has made me who I am. This one event, this one moment of weakness, even though it wasn’t my first, was the turning point. This has taught me about the ENABLING power of the Atonement. Ever since, I have learned it much deeper and deeper as I have ALLOWED the Lord to work in me. God doesn’t want to see His children hurt, He wants me to succeed. He gives me strength, He has made me whole, and He will be there as I call on Him. I am not naive anymore, I work hard to do my part, to do the WORKS that prove my faith. I live my life by this standard. Maybe that is why I have so many cute little blessings to remind me that the Lord has never left my side. All I know is, I will never stop fighting, I will never try to overcome my fears alone again!
If you are a victim, YOU are not alone. So many of us have found peace in this storm. And even though the storm comes around from time to time, and every time I relive it, I have to remind myself I am not alone, I feel like I have WON as long as I don’t give in. I will always come back to the Lord, for He made me WHOLE again, and He can do the same for you.