I have spent lots of time deciding if I should write about this. There’s a voice in the back of my head that says, “don’t do this. you need to protect him still. it was your fault anyway. if you tell people, they will think you’re dirty, gross, and unworthy.” That voice is the voice of the person who abused me for years. I have listened to him cast shame upon me and steal life from me. Too much of my life has been stolen by someone who did not deserve it. So, in one small way, this post is claiming my story as my own. I am taking it back. He does not get to keep it.
I also decided to share my story, because when the abuse was actually happening, I didn’t know it. I knew I didn’t like what was happening, but the person actually abusing me kept saying I was just overreacting. Being crazy. At one point, even said he had prayed about it and the Lord said it was okay. I was only 16 when we started dating, I loved him, and he loved me. I had never really known what a healthy relationship was and my self-esteem wasn’t exactly sky-high, so I thought it was normal and what I deserved. It wasn’t until months after we broke up and someone asked me direct questions that I realized it wasn’t normal. If sharing my story allows one more person to realize they are worth abundantly more than the way they are being treated- it’s worth it.
Ok, so let me start at the beginning. I was 16 when we started dating. All seemed really great. Everyone loved him at school, in my friend group, etc. After a few months of dating he started to push the boundaries we had set. I would tell him I felt uncomfortable, that I didn’t think it should be happening, all the things you’re supposed to say. Usually, he would agree with me. He would say that we would “try to be better.” Inevitably, it never happened. The next time an opportunity arose he would act the same way-despite my protest. My feelings had no validity and my words had no effect. He loved Jesus, everyone loved him, and I figured that it must be normal. I made excuse after excuse for him. He trapped my body and stole my power. At some point, I gave up fighting. I didn’t want it to happen, but I was completely powerless.
He also did a great job of using my low-self esteem to his advantage. He constantly pointed out how annoying I was to other people- that I didn’t really add value to anything. How I never actually did anything, and never was going to do anything. I was “all talk and no game.” He manipulated me into believing lies about myself and others that I am still unpacking. In his insecurity, he needed to tear me down in order to feel valuable. When I look back, it’s almost laughable. He had this ability to make every conflict my fault. He made me feel like crap when we weren’t with anyone else, but around other people he wasn’t this way. I didn’t know how to explain to anyone else the way he treated me when we were alone. Plus, I believed the things he was telling me, and that if I told other people they would be just as mad at me as he was. I was so ashamed of who I was and what I had allowed to happen, I became paralyzed in the relationship.
We did finally break up. Only when he allowed it. I had tried a few weeks before, and he didn’t allow it (looking back, it really seems like I should have known).
I had nightmares for months. Dating again was terrifying. I still tense up sometimes when my fiancé puts his arm around me a certain way. We can’t watch movies with the lights turned off because we tried it once and I had a panic attack. I apologize to Jason about silly things, and sometimes things he does. I am just scratching the surface of dealing with all of it. But Jesus is good, and it will be okay.
The Lord has been faithful in all of it though. He has time and time again reminded me of his love. If you’ve never really studied the way Jesus talks to women in the Bible, go do it. Learning to understand the way the Lord sees me, and let His love be my rock and my comforter has allowed healing and forgiveness to begin. I don’t have all the right words yet, and it’s still difficult to talk about. I am still finding wounds from him that have been left untreated. Healing is a long process, but I’m so thankful to be on that road.
I have also learned that Christian community is bad at talking about this stuff. It is uncomfortable and uncharted territory for many of us. But, healing happens in the light. Scripture is clear on that, and my experience has taught me the same thing. I hope sharing this allows one girl to be just a bit more courageous in sharing her story and finding healing in the light.