To say that I do not have issues with trust is like saying that the ocean does not have waves or the sun never rises and sets.
Many years in therapy have brought me from a place of being unable to speak to a therapist except from under the cover of a blanket to a place where I can now look a therapist in the eye. Walking into a therapist’s office, in and of itself, is a victory. You see, the first “therapist” I trusted crossed so many boundaries, including sexual assault, so that every skilled and honorable therapist I have had since is enraged at the manipulation I endured. My complete ignorance as to what a boundary was blinded me from seeing the harm that was being done to my heart and my very soul.
But that is neither where my story of abuse and manipulation began, nor where it ended. It started when I was very young with verbal and emotional abuse by my mother. I was only 2 or 3 years old, so those few memories are dominated by visceral emotion and splashes of color – the details are etched into the minds of my siblings who have filled in the gaps.
Then there was my grandfather, the one who said I was “special” and complimented me constantly on my “beautiful brown eyes”. He was a pedophile who wore the mask of a deacon in the church and an upstanding citizen in a small farming town in the Midwest.
I was not his only victim – I was just one of many. My sister was his primary victim for over a decade – chained to a promise of secrecy by the threat that her younger siblings would be sent away and split apart if she told.
The tendrils of secrecy were vast and deep in my family – generations of sexual abuse, the depths of which I will never fully know. That secrecy still exists, taken to the grave or hidden in the minds of a few still living, through no fault of their own. Our minds protect us by erasing or blocking such horrific trauma and such things are unconscionable even in our increasingly transparent world.
I am sure that the vile human being that was, by relation, my grandfather, groomed me from the age of 4 or 5 and likely abused me long before my mind can recall. Perhaps, I did not know it was wrong, or perhaps the strong message to “respect” my “elders” was the mantra that dominated my thoughts. Whatever the reason, the events of abuse that I do recall still haunt me. The likelihood that my grandmother knew, and yet did little, speaks volumes of that secrecy that leads to deafening silence.
Years dominated by depression and low self-esteem followed – decade upon decade. And just when I began to get up, another horrible event would knock me down. The lesson I would “learn” is not to trust – myself or anyone else.
There was the guy I met and told that I only wanted to be friends. I was so proud of myself for setting a boundary. Nevertheless, he became convinced that he was supposed to marry me – years of harassing and stalking ensued. Restraining orders were issued, but that did not deter him. Finally, charges were brought against him, six in all. He admitted guilt, yet still demanded a trial.
I learned that day, that the justice system cannot be trusted. A plea deal imposed by the judge was made – he was, after all, a “first time” offender (in the civilian world). Five years of probation and the option to “adjudicate” his “record” in the future was exchanged for over 3 years of terror and destruction in my life. He could erase a sentence from his record for doing things that I will never be able to erase from my mind or life.
Nearly 5 years passed and although I had every reason to NOT trust, I did. I trusted a very charismatic guy I met in church. I wanted to believe that he was good and that his life then was different from his past. He systematically groomed me for months in order to sexually assault me and later rape me.
I believed it was my fault and none of my close friends were in town to talk sense into me. I did not know that my brain’s response to trauma would cause me to do things that didn’t make sense to anyone, including myself. I did not know that my irrational actions were something called “trauma bonding”.
He was confronted by several pastors at church but responded with convincing lies. Given the fabricated evidence he provided, my word against his was not enough. He was advised to stay away from me – advice that he ignored.
By the time a friend convinced me to go to the police about the rape, over a week had passed. There was no evidence and my “irrational” actions (typical trauma bonding behavior) after the rape would be severely questioned IF the case ever got to court. There had not been any other offenses reported so in the eyes of the “justice” system, he was a first time offender.
It was my word against his – unless I wanted to make recorded phone calls and get him to admit to it. He was too crafty to fall for such a scheme, and all I wanted was to forget and move on. I tried, with everything in me, to do just that – but there was no more space in my mind for additional trauma. I carried the events of the assault and rape in my mind for 10 years, triggered by nearly everything remotely close to what I endured.
I lived the lie that it was my fault – for many reasons. I “should” have known – I “should” have seen the signs. I didn’t know that it was impossible to see what was hidden from me. I didn’t know the terms “covert narcissist” and “predator”. All I knew and believed was that FINALLY someone wanted to know and love me and that I got it wrong.
I was 38 years old and the day I took the “morning after” pill, I believed that God would never allow me to be blessed with a husband or children. I was not worth such blessings. My experiences embedded lies into my brain which remained for years and I am still fighting to change to this day.
There are many more instances of broken trust since then, but if you are still reading, perhaps you understand, if only abstractly, the deep wounds that exist in my heart, my mind, and my soul. Perhaps you understand why it is such a challenge for me to believe I have worth and value. It IS a challenge, but it is one that I am working diligently to overcome.
One of my psychiatrists told me once that it is a miracle that I am still functioning given all the trauma and abuse I have been through. It IS a miracle, but there are many more miracles in my life.
It is a miracle that I persisted with therapy after my first experience with an unethical and abusive “therapist”. It is a miracle that I am not dead – there were so many times I wished it were true and tried to make it true myself.
It is a miracle that I still believe that God is good; in spite of how many people proclaiming to know him deeply wounded me. That is not to say that I do not have challenges in trusting God, I do – but I am learning that if I can trust ANYONE, it is Him.
People are imperfect – they can be dangerous, evil, pedophiles, predators, narcissists desiring only to kill and destroy all that is good in those with hearts that only want to trust and love and encourage others.
But God is perfect – unchanging, loving, sovereign – nothing goes unnoticed by Him. He is the ultimate judge and jury and no evil against his children will go unpunished – perhaps it may in this life, but it will not in the next.
These truths about God help me understand REAL unconditional love. This is the hope I have. This is what I cling to – for me, there is nothing else left. This is how I am learning to trust. I am changing the paradigm of how I view myself and others – through the eyes of God.
I will not continue the generational belief that silence is best, because I have learned that, although difficult, transparency is better.
This is just a part of my story – not to be pitied – but to be told so that others might cling to the edge of the cliff and call for help – that they might have the will to live and to fight and to persevere.
Hold fast – hope is on the way!
We who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:18b-20
Raised in the Midwest, Molly Messer discovered writing as a way of coping with a tumultuous life resulting from an unstable family, sexual abuse and assault, trauma, and a genetic predisposition to mental illness. Molly has had extensive technical writing experience in the environmental field. However, her passion is to share relatable stories and information in ways that encourage and inspire others. Her insatiable desire to learn and teach combined with transparency and deep compassion for others, enables her to reach out in unique ways through the written word. She started her first blog in 2012 (www.godmycomfort.wordpress.com) with the desire to find joy in the midst of sorrow after her father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. She recently started to write blogs for The Clinical Christian delving into the challenges of mental illness and stigma related to mental health both inside and outside the church.