You Steady Me

You Steady Me

I usually write about emotional abuse because my “Christian” husband emotionally abused me for years. As a domestic violence advocate, I often hear from those who have been abused by partners who claimed to love them, and that they thought they loved. Many of these have experienced sexual abuse, either from their partner, or as children.

I find that both the emotionally and sexually abused often believe:

The abuse they’ve experienced was somehow their fault, and
God can’t possibly love them if He allowed their abuse.

Satan is so good at using evil deeds others commit against us to twist our thinking. Do you struggle with believing either of these, even sub-consciously?

Neither of these beliefs is true.
Your abuse was not your fault,
and God loves you more than you can possibly imagine.

Perhaps you know logically that God loves you, but find it hard to feel His love in your heart. Being betrayed by someone you loved and trusted can seriously affect your ability to feel safe and cherished again, especially by an invisible God.

I recently heard a song by Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger of Bethel Music that helps me feel Jesus’ love for me. It’s called “We Dance.” Here is a link to the song on YouTube, and the beautiful words:

“We Dance”

You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway
Take the lead and I will follow
Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That You won’t lead me
Where You don’t go

When my faith gets tired
And my hope seems lost
You spin me round and round
And remind me of that song
The one You wrote for me
And we dance (x2)

And I’ve been told
To pick up my sword
And fight for love
Little did I know
That Love had won for me
Here in Your arms

You still my heart again
And I breathe You in
Like I’ve never breathed ’till now

When my faith gets tired
And my hope seems lost
You spin me round and round
And remind me of that song
The one You wrote for me
And we dance (x4)

And I will lock eyes
With the One who’s ransomed me
The One who gave me joy for mourning
And I will lock eyes
With the One who’s chosen me
The One who set my feet to dancing
We dance (x4)
Just You and me

It’s nice to know I’m not alone
I found my home here in Your arms
It’s nice to know I’m not alone
I found my home here in Your arms
It’s nice to know I’m not alone
I found my home here in Your arms

 

Yes, Jesus does love us, and has written a song for each of us to dance with Him. While you may not be able to hear this song today, know it exists, and listen for it. When you do hear it, you will then be ready to dance . . .

Our Contributing Authors
The Last Battle Blog aims to provide meaningful tools and information about the issue of sexual violation. We offer a way to express yourself, as you engage in your own personal awareness and share your strengths with others. Our goal is to cover a variety of topics, stories, ideas, and to create a blog that is beneficial and honoring to those who read it. Last Battle’s contributing authors help make this happen.

Crying On The Beach

Crying On The Beach

This article discusses the painful truth of spiritual abuse—a topic I’m passionate about because all too often it wrongly serves as an undercurrent to physical violations against women and children. So many who have sought restoration in a church were either betrayed and injured or the abuses they suffered were made deeper by how the church ignored the pain. Read Christy’s story and see why she wants others to be spared her story with the church.

Christy’s Story

I recently returned from a trip to California deeply grieving that my opportunity to be interviewed on a large, popular podcast—which focused on mental health and healing—was cancelled last minute for a seemingly trivial reason. My topic was on spiritual abuse, something that is not often spoken about in public. This sent me into a triggered tailspin, which included lots of crying on a public beach where I happened to take his call. (Not my best beach experience by a long shot.)

While my recent cancelled interview was not abusive, it brought up all the old deep-down, gut-wrenching triggers and familiar—but unfriendly—feelings of being unimportant, unheard, and cast aside. It’s these feelings that are connected to spiritual abuse for me specifically. At this point in my life, crying in public is not an issue, but finding safe ways through my triggers from a spiritually abusive past is an ongoing challenge. It’s taken me many years of personal work and therapy to understand and to validate my own experiences.

Spiritual abuse can be defined as abuse committed under the guise of religion, or harm inflicted in God’s/religion’s name. Some psychologists are now focusing on this as specifically one of the most insidious forms of damage, the result being Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I grew up in The Jesus Movement, a subset of the Evangelical movement, in which I was taught, as a small child, about Satan, demons, being in a spiritual war, end-times apocalypse, and that all unbelievers would burn in hell for eternity.

The Jesus Movement was organized around communities (communes), which worked together to help addicts, the mentally ill and others who struggled to function. As a result of community living, our family lived with a cast of characters who were either safe and respectful or who were quite dangerous.

The message I primarily and unconsciously absorbed as a “ministry kid” was that I needed to be “a healer,” “a helper” and at all costs. Boundaries and God didn’t coincide. Pleasing God was about having no limits, no gut instinct, and no voice that contradicted their belief.

Thus, my personal safety, my need for consistency or predictability “washed up on the shore” after years of being storm tossed in the ocean. Trusting God meant being in a turbulent sea with no rutter, no sails, and no compass. Subsequently, I felt terrified by how none of this felt safe and by how God allegedly judged me for being afraid, angry, doubtful, or frustrated in any way that would reflect badly on our faith, community, or mission. My childhood needs didn’t matter. In fact, I didn’t matter. Does this sound abusive so far?

Because I was also taught to fear unbelievers, fear “the world,” as well as the supernatural, there were no outside resources from which to objectively seek new truth. My well-intentioned parents didn’t understand or notice the stress, anxiety, and the nightmares I lived with constantly.

As I struck out on my own as a young adult, I joined ministries and mission organizations, and Bible Schools. I finally got a degree in social work and counseling and became a mental health therapist. During those early adult years, I experienced silencing and disparity based on my gender. This also took form in the way of sexual and emotional abuse, and in ministry contexts. Sadly, my internal formation and past fears did not allow me to fully process or speak out against abuses, because if I did, it meant I was speaking out against God or leadership. In effect, my speaking out would have meant I would have lost my community, and/or be labeled as “bitter,” “fallen” or “deceived.”

I understand now that these old, haunting messages played a large part in my story of staying quiet. I had lived with fear and anxiety for so long that it had become the norm for me. Internalizing it had sadly cost me my health. I also understand now that whenever your gut instinct is dismantled, your body can sometimes react through auto immune disorders, headaches, digestive pain and so on. I have had to relearn how to “trust my gut” in my own spiritual journey, and as a safeguard, validate my intense resistance to being controlled and manipulated. It can still be difficult sometimes to know who and what to trust.

So, even after all my years of intentional healing work, I still found myself crying on the beach last week feeling unheard, and with so much I wanted to say to others who had experienced what I had. In cases like this, I allow myself to grieve and I remember that deeply lonely feeling of having to “shut up and shut down.” I know that shutting up helped me survive my early years, but it’s no longer tolerable to my body or my soul.

Plus, it’s not my personality to be quiet about injustice or healing. I knew my tears last week still honored the younger me who did the best she could to be quiet, and survive what seemed to be a terrifying, no-win existence.

If you find yourself experiencing some of these themes or feelings, I encourage you to find a safe place, or person to explore them. Find a therapist, a support group or a mentor who can listen to you without judging your story. You may need to find a new church or spiritual leader that allows you to question things, or share your harmful religious experiences, or abuse stories. Some of you may need to step away from the faith system in order to do some healing work without the triggers. Whatever you need to do, know that your validation, healing and safety are important to God. Healing work can be hard, but working toward your freedom is always worth it.

Helpful Guides for Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse

Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart
By: Kathy Escobar

Sacred Wounds: A Path To Healing From Spiritual Trauma
By: Teresa B. Pasquale

The Subtle Power Of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church
By: Ted Johnson and Jeff Vonderveen

Our Contributing Authors
The Last Battle Blog aims to provide meaningful tools and information about the issue of sexual violation. We offer a way to express yourself, as you engage in your own personal awareness and share your strengths with others. Our goal is to cover a variety of topics, stories, ideas, and to create a blog that is beneficial and honoring to those who read it. Last Battle’s contributing authors help make this happen.

The Tethered Mind: Addiction & Trauma

The Tethered Mind: Addiction & Trauma

If you have experienced sexual trauma, and you struggle with addiction, you are far from alone. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women who experience sexual trauma are three times more likely to develop drug and alcohol dependence. The National Institute of Health estimates that 2/3 of all people in treatment for addiction report abuse in their childhood with subsequent PTSD.

We know that trauma actually changes the brain at the cellular level.

Addiction also has consequences on the structure and chemistry of the brain. When we combine the dramatic effects of both addiction and sexual trauma, we are left with someone whose brain needs intense healing and rebuilding. A brain tethered to the constant reminder of the hurt we have suffered often creates the need to find something on the outside to organize us to handle daily life.

For me, the struggle with addiction began shortly after my dad left my family, and the sexual abuse ended. I was 12 when I got drunk for the first time, 13 when I started smoking pot, 14 when I started psychedelics, and 15 when I was shooting heroin and snorting cocaine. Clearly, I had a very quick progression into a substance abuse problem that nearly killed me multiple times. There is no doubt in my mind that the addiction progressed so dramatically because of what I experienced. When I got drunk and high, I wasn’t like most of my friends who had their limits. Not me, I always wanted more. My appetite for escaping was insatiable.

Also unlike my friends, my “party days” didn’t end when I graduated from college. By that time, I had lived every day high or drunk for years, and I simply didn’t know how to exist sober. In my twenties and early thirties, I fought to get clean. The cycle of sobriety and active addiction was endless. It never got easier; it never seemed to work. When I was high, I could tolerate life. When I was sober, life was excruciating.

Around the time I turned 30, I faced the greatest challenge of my life. Before this point, when I was high, I could actually remove myself from the pain and darkness. I could tell myself that things would get better, that eventually life wouldn’t feel so hard. Then suddenly at age 30, being high didn’t work. There was literally no drug that could help me escape anymore.

The trauma I experienced in my childhood and later in my teens was no longer lurking in the background. It was abruptly front and center. It became interlaced into every part of my life and my mind felt like it was on fire. I couldn’t sleep without horrific nightmares. I couldn’t go through one day without crying. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin and the panic attacks were debilitating. Every day I was paralyzed by fear, crumbling under the weight of PTSD, not caring if I lived or died.

That life could have very well continued for me but healing happened. A little every day. People came into my life that changed me. Professionals intervened and drew me out of the abyss. Close ones loved me and stood by me. I reached out for God and he met me where I was.

While I honestly feel that I am in a place of peace with my experiences earlier in life, the daily battle of addiction still lingers. In this way, I will forever be changed by my trauma. Because I have experienced recovery from PTSD, it shows me that I can recover from my addiction too. But if I know anything about recovery, I know it happens one day at a time. Every day I have the choice to stand up against the things that try to drag me back down. I know now that whatever choice I make, each day is a new opportunity and I am loved through it all.

If you know an addict and struggle to understand that reality, ask them to help you understand. Don’t judge the addict. Their addiction is not because they lack character or morality. Addicts need connection and community like few others. Addiction is a disease of the mind, and much like PTSD, it requires diligence and patience to recover. If you are like me, you are not alone. Never ever alone. Rest in that. Know it. Let it comfort you.

Our Contributing Authors
The Last Battle Blog aims to provide meaningful tools and information about the issue of sexual violation. We offer a way to express yourself, as you engage in your own personal awareness and share your strengths with others. Our goal is to cover a variety of topics, stories, ideas, and to create a blog that is beneficial and honoring to those who read it. Last Battle’s contributing authors help make this happen.

When I Knew God Got It

When I Knew God Got It

I never understood why I was sexually abused. Does anyone? My struggle was accepting God the father after what happened to me. I was angry with God and pushed Him away. I had grown up in church and accepted Christ as my savior at the age of 8, rebelled at 15, and at age 42 I was still fighting Him.

In January 2014, at the suggestion of my counselor, I went to a group meeting for women survivors of sexual abuse at a local Baptist Church. I came into the group angry and full of resentment. My anger was obvious and I had a wall between myself and group. I do not believe I shed one tear that semester. By the end, however, I had uncovered so many memories and details I was overwhelmed and very depressed. My counselor suggested I take a weekend to myself at a local convent to regroup and try to relax.

Armed with my Bible and 2 books on recovery that were recommended, I checked in on a Friday night. The next morning, I sat in their garden and started reading. After about 40 minutes I was directed to a passage in the Bible that changed my heart. In 2 Samuel 13, Amnon, son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar. Neither King David nor her brother Absalom did anything to comfort her and there were no immediate consequences for Amnon. The scene described sickened me, but I caught one glimmer of hope in verse 20, So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house. As soon as I read the verse I sat back in my chair, stunned. The moment I read the verse I realized God really did understand what I was going through. He knew the damage sexual violation causes, especially the shame and bitterness that develops when it is swept under the rug, with no consequences for the violator. My hardened depression melted into tears.

For the first time in my life hope started to replace depression. I started to see that the light at the end of the tunnel was no longer a train headed my direction. Instead, it was a light full of promise and comfort. My heart for God started to open. His word was reaching in and changing my life.

A year later—embattled by the ongoing process of trust and letting go—an amazing thing happened. During a recent road trip, I listened to a Bible study session I missed during the summer. About halfway through I realized the pastor was headed toward the passage in 2 Samuel where the rape against Tamar occurred. I almost changed the podcast, as I was unsure of my reaction (the prior weeks had been especially tough). Ultimately, I decided to keep listening.

When the pastor started to describe the scene that described Tamar’s pain I started to cry again. In all my years of going to church, I have never heard anyone talk about this passage from the pulpit or otherwise. The compassion in the pastor’s voice when speaking of Tamar and the contempt he showed towards Amnon was genuine. He did not sugarcoat the damage and never indicated it was not a big deal. He understood. The emotion in the pastor’s words made its way through the podcast, through the speakers in my car, and into my heart. I felt dizzy with gratitude. I was grateful I continued to listen to the podcast, relieved that the pastor did not skip the passage, and inspired into belief once again that God let me know He understood. I was sobbing by the end of the podcast.

God’s timing is flawless.

In my struggles over the past few months, I had completely forgotten about 2 Samuel. My hope had diminished and depression started to take over again. I needed the reminder and God provided. A life changing verse from a year ago was brought back to the surface of my heart and it revived my focus. In the days to come there will be hard times, but the reminder of God’s compassion is there. It takes repetition of the truth to learn that who God is and what happened to me are not cut from the same cloth. So I am diligent to remember and thus have written the reference in my journal and strategically placed index cards in my home to keep my focus on the Ultimate Healer—the One who understands my pain better than anyone and can provide strength when I have none.

Our Contributing Authors
The Last Battle Blog aims to provide meaningful tools and information about the issue of sexual violation. We offer a way to express yourself, as you engage in your own personal awareness and share your strengths with others. Our goal is to cover a variety of topics, stories, ideas, and to create a blog that is beneficial and honoring to those who read it. Last Battle’s contributing authors help make this happen.

Let’s Kick at the Darkness Till the Light Shines Through

Let’s Kick at the Darkness Till the Light Shines Through

Childhood sexual abuse appears to be “that” which cannot be mentioned. In our society the subject is taboo like no other. Childhood sexual abuse is indeed evil and detestable but people need to realize that talking about it is not. Victims need to talk about it in order to heal; (sometimes ad nauseam). Society needs to listen with compassion and learn. By becoming better informed, an awareness of potentially abusive people or situations might be developed.

Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone. – Fred Rogers

To talk about childhood sexual abuse is to admit that it really happens. It fills us with disgust and makes us feel sick. Sometimes hearing about a particular victim’s perpetrator gives us pause and causes us to squirm, because we wonder, “Is it wrong for us to blame this person when there is no actual proof?” We might even jump ahead and think, “What if someone were to blame me or someone in my family of something horrible like that?!” I believe that this is a device used by the enemy to silence us. If we are unwilling to hear about or talk about this subject then the devil succeeds at keeping this issue in the dark. (Where it quietly spreads like toxic black mold.)

Childhood sexual abuse is too much…too much for the healthy mind to absorb. In the case of incest, who can fathom that the very family God provided for protection would use their own child as a sexual object?

All the same, there were things that were not supposed to be. They offended any sane person’s sense of order. – Stephen King, (IT)

Silence is never an encouragement to one who has shown vulnerability by exposing their story. There are times I have been met with silence. It might be the listener was too shocked to speak and could think of no response. Maybe they were trying to remain neutral? In my head I think, “They don’t believe me.” (“I’m sorry” is usually a safe response. Tears are even better.)

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Elie Wiesel

Only by talking and listening can any type of abuse be brought out into the light. Then, all can benefit; (even the perpetrators). We need to get it out of our minds that only “monsters” abuse and that we would “surely recognize a monster.”

God’s word does not shy away from exposing hard stories…including those of sexual abuse. He shows us that abuse is not to remain a secret. I pray for all of us…that we learn how to stay present, and by listening give honor to the abuse that people have endured.

Let us kick at the darkness until the light shines through.

We are children of the light; we do not belong to the darkness.
 
 

Our Contributing Authors
The Last Battle Blog aims to provide meaningful tools and information about the issue of sexual violation. We offer a way to express yourself, as you engage in your own personal awareness and share your strengths with others. Our goal is to cover a variety of topics, stories, ideas, and to create a blog that is beneficial and honoring to those who read it. Last Battle’s contributing authors help make this happen.

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