Friday, May 23, 2014

I Can See Your Dirty Laundry!

Hopefully you don't have piles of your dirty dainties lying around your home for guests to gawk at! But that's the general idea for the term "airing your dirty laundry." Nobody wants to see it and you should do everything you can to keep it under wraps.

Dirty laundry= dirty secrets

This has been the main topic in discussions with several of the victims I’m working with lately. Why is it that when a victim or Survivor tells their story - their LIFE experience - it's considered dirty laundry? This reference to dirty laundry is really offensive and hurtful because it is telling that person - "Hey. YOU don't matter. Your story isn't important. I don't care what happened to you. Your life is nothing but dirty rags."

Car accident victim
911 terrorist attack victim
Family of a murder victim
Someone with a terminal disease
Soldier with PTSD
Children of alcoholics

They are all allowed to share their stories, pain and ways they made it through the trauma. None of them asked for the mess. These things were done to them. Yet society completely accepts and listens to this part of who they are. But when a victim of childhood sexual abuse begins to find their voice and share what has happened to them they are forsaken by family, called names and told they need to shut up. For some reason, the victim is bullied into believing that what was done to them is somehow their guilt and shame to carry.

Shhh! Don't tell! This is our secret.

Abusers go to great lengths in order to get their victims to keep quiet. In my own experience, the threats made to me if I told were:
  • I would be arrested
  • My mom would be thrown in jail
  • I'd be sent away and never see my family again
  • Since he was "in" with the cops, they would believe him over me
  • My siblings would be taken away and I'd never be allowed to see them again
  • He had ways of making me disappear so no one would ever find me

In addition to threats, abusers will groom the victim and give them a false sense of being special. They'll buy them presents and treats followed by words such as, "See? I love you. You're special to me. Nobody will understand. That's why we have to keep it a secret." The victim is then torn because they feel shame, guilt and fear accompanied with an intense desire to protect the abuser. This is especially true if the abuser is a parent.

I lived my childhood in complete fear that someone would find out. Partly because of the threats and partly because I was so embarrassed and ashamed at what was being done to me. The one part of me hated him with a passion and the other half would defend him to the death to anyone that had a bad word to say about him. One part wanted to scream and tell and make it stop but the other half withered inside out of shame and hoped nobody would ever find out. This started when I was 9 years old and went on until I was just about 16. Do you know a 9, 10, 11 year old? Do you remember being that age? Can you put yourself in their little shoes and imagine what it is like to have very adult things done to you- things you should know nothing about- things that hurt physically and emotionally and at the same time live under the threats, fear and shame? And then be so twisted up inside because you can't stop loving and protecting this person who is doing such awful things to you?

I remember going to great lengths at one point to get someone to realize what was happening without actually saying anything. I spent a few weeks visiting my aunt in Colorado and did things in order to get her attention like stealing money and makeup. It got her attention all right because she knew that I wasn't that kind of person. She went to her pastor and then brought me in to talk and I began crying because I felt such relief! They knew! They knew! And I didn't say anything! It wasn't me that told so none of the awful things he threatened me with would happen. But they didn't know. They thought it was because my parents had just divorced and I was having a hard time with it which just made me cry harder because I was still stuck in hell.

There was also the day I molested my little brother which still makes me cry to this day because my brother and my sister were my world. And not that this excuses it, but as a child who was being abused myself, it was a 'natural' thing to do. Many children who are being molested will act out and molest other children, especially siblings. I didn't do it to hurt him yet that was the outcome. I did it because my little child brain believed that he would tell on me and then the truth would come out - again without ME having to tell because if I told I already knew what would happen. As an adult, I see why he never told but as a child I was unaware of just how dysfunctional our family was or even aware that my siblings were having issues, fears and feelings of their own - many of which revolved around what was being done to me.

Oh no! Did I just hang a pair of my dirty dainties out in public?! No. And here's why. Sexual abuse continues to happen BECAUSE we keep it a secret. It happens in secret and victims are threatened to keep it that way. It lives and breathes because nobody will acknowledge it is there so it roams freely, injuring the souls and hearts of children who grow up and become dysfunctional, hurting adults. Family secrets that are kept hidden do not keep families intact. They destroy them from the inside out. These secrets and abuse will continue from generation to generation until they are exposed. Abuse doesn't stop until we speak out. We cannot heal until we use our voice and share our story. When a person is possessed with a demon and the pastor is trying to cast it out, most of the time the pastor must name the demon (blasphemy, confusion, pride, etc.) before it will flee. It is the same way with sexual abuse. We cannot be free of the pain, shame, anger and the million other things that go along with it until we can name it, speak out and share what has happened to us.

Victims, no matter what anyone tells you - it is not your shame or guilt to carry. You did nothing wrong. Nor are you doing anything wrong by speaking out about it. Your life and your experiences are NOT dirty laundry. God certainly doesn't see your life and traumatic experience this way at all so there's no reason anyone else should, either. You matter! What happened to you matters! How you feel matters! And your healing journey is important!

Keep speaking! Keep healing!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Be Still.....

If I could show you a picture of my soul right now it would look a bit like this......

For the first time in my life I feel peace and calm. Oh, yeah - there's still stress filled days, endless homework, deadlines, the occasional missed bill or empty gas tank when I need to be somewhere right now. But it's so weird because even in those hectic times that peace is still inside. It's like a warm, fuzzy blanket all wrapped around my insides.

A few years ago I asked God to show me what this verse meant -

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

It took many, many lessons before I finally grasped what it meant. I've always been the type of person that has to have A Plan. I've got to know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen. There needs to be alternatives to The Plan and if something goes wrong I feel that I need to find a way to fix it immediately. The summary of that? I needed to be in control of my every situation because it made me feel safe. I controlled what was going to happen. I controlled what the outcome was. I had an escape plan in case something went wrong. That strong need for control goes back to the abuse and I know many of you understand how that vicious cycle works. But I'm not that person anymore. Partly because I've dealt with those issues and partly because I learned to Be Still.

I first started to develop an understanding when my brother was in Iraq. It scared the living daylights out of me because I had no control over it. There was no way to protect him. Well, there was no way for ME to protect him. I prayed every night and all day long for his safety and the safety of his unit. I would wake up in the night feeling fear and an urgency that he needed prayer. One night, I had a vision that he was being shot at. No matter if I closed my eyes or opened them, it just kept playing out. I dropped to my knees and started crying because I had no idea what was going on. About two days later, my brother Skyped me and told me they had been crossing a bridge or something and that's exactly what happened. When he returned from Iraq, he showed me pictures of the vehicle he'd been in. There were bullet holes everywhere. What grabbed my attention the most was when he showed me the "glass" that had surrounded him because he was one of the guys that sat up at the top of the vehicle. He pointed out the bullet holes that were created and aimed right at his face but never touched him. God is good and faithful.

I remember crying over and over to God for his protection that night. And through my frantic cries I heard a voice say, "Do you trust Me?" What? Yes! Yes, I trust You! But You need to....and please....and do it now! Another voice, "Be still; and know that I am God." Ugh! Ok, ok! What does that mean?! "Remember the double rainbow?" I had begun praying before my brother even left. I was a nervous wreck and had God on constant FaceTime. At the same time, kept asking Him to show me what Be Still meant. God had spoken to me and promised me that my brother would be safe and he would come home. Yet, I kept questioning Him. The night I said good-bye to my brother, a double rainbow had appeared in the sky. God told Noah that he would make a rainbow appear in the sky as a token to man that God was remembering His promise. God had given me TWO rainbows! TWO perfect, full rainbows. Now here He was asking if I remembered those beautiful symbols because He did. As that began to slowly sink into my head, I realized I was losing my mind for nothing. He'd already promised and was now reminding ME of that promise. I heard that voice again, "Be still; and know that I am God." 

OoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooH! You are God. YOU. ARE. GOD. YOU have it under control. Oooooooooh!

I finally understood what it meant. But I hadn't learned it yet. This past year has been horrible. I confronted my mom about not only knowing about the abuse but walking in while it happened and never doing anything about it. Her response was, instead of talking to me, was to bad mouth and complain about me to my brother. There was no acknowledgement of what I'd said. No calling me a liar. No apology. Nothing. Except behind my back. Next, my brother decided that I no longer was worthy of a place in his life because I refused to be quiet about my story and now I was "picking" on our "innocent" mother. A few months ago, I removed my sister from my life also. And this is where I learned the full lesson of Be Still.

I began having a horrible gut feeling that she was being one person to my face and another behind my back and I started hearing and seeing things that strengthened that feeling. So I started praying and asked God to either A) show me that it was all in my head or B) give me proof that my gut, ears and eyes were telling me the truth. I already have lost my dad, mom and brother. I didn't want to lose my entire family if I didn't have to. He began showing me proof but I'd ask for more because I didn't want to believe it. The more He showed me the angrier I got. Not at Him but because I knew what I needed to do and I also knew there was no way around it because my family isn't ready to come out of their dysfunction and lies and truly heal. I spent many months just being furious about the whole situation. My narcissistic, lying and play the victim mother. My brother who thinks that dealing and talking about things is 'drama', who refuses to deal with his own demons and thinks he can just bully everyone into doing and believing what he wants. And now my sister, who I had actually begun to trust and thought we had gotten through our issues and had moved onto a new relationship. It all irked me day in and day out to the point it was making me crazy. 

One day I just screamed, "What do You want me to do?! I'm sick of this! I'm tired of the lies and backstabbing. I'm sick and tired of my family!" And there it was again. "Be still; and know I am God." Uh, seriously?! Right now?! Did you not just hear what I said? What about that?! "Be still; and know that I am God." As I sat there and pondered that, I realized that He had given me the proof I had needed. He was giving me permission and telling me to let go of my family. They weren't any good for me and it doesn't matter that they're my blood. They aren't willing to talk about anything. They continually tell me to get over everything I have to deal with on a daily basis. They accuse me of being the problem in the family and the reason we aren't a family anymore. Oh- hey! Just for the record....Our DAD made this mess and our MOM allowed it to continue for years. It's THEIR fault. The three of us are the victims and should have stuck together. Instead, they both cling to the abusers and remove me. Oh, well. BE STILL. God reminded me of the burden and desire He's put in my heart to use my story and experience for the good so that I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. I can't remain healthy and healed with that kind of negativity and abuse still in my life. I can't bring this dream to fruition if I don't trim those dead limbs off. So....I did it. I deleted the final piece - my sister. Three family members in less than a year - gone. It wasn't easy. But as soon as I did it I felt the peace. Not peace because they're gone but peace because I'm doing what I need to do to stay healed, keep helping people and moving towards that dream. 

Peace because He is God. He will fight those battles for me. I don't have to do anything except give it to Him and trust. 

Peace because I learned to Be Still.