Trigger warning: Detailed descriptions of abuse.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Maya” is a pseudonym.
I don’t even know how to begin to explain myself. Here I am sitting in the place I am forced by income and circumstance to live in (my parents’ home) outing myself to the world when it’s dangerous and precarious for me to do so in the real world. I can’t even use my real name online because I have been stalked and blackmailed by people who choose to support my ex-husband.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe we should start near the beginning.
I was raised Fundamental Southern Baptist. At age 7 I would go door to door with little comic books called “Chick Tracts” spreading the Word Of God to Unbelievers. I was convinced it was my direct heavenly duty to convert people, that I would end up before the great throne of judgment when I die and God would berate and belittle me if I failed in this calling.
By the time I was 12 I would sob in my pillow at night because I had never led anyone to salvation or through “the sinner’s prayer”.
I found no solace in my worship of God because God was to be feared. I was convinced it was proof I wasn’t really saved, and that when the rapture came I would be left behind. It didn’t matter that I was the peacemaker in my family trying to keep my sisters out of trouble any time they saw the cracks in the system. It didn’t matter that I was an A student and had several crown pins in my Patch the Pirate sailor’s hat denoting my dedication and obedience, I failed in my life’s mission before I even hit puberty.
At 13: someone sexually abused my best friend. I was floundering, because I had no idea how to help. I urged them to confess to the parents, so the grownups could help. This was the worst advice I have ever given and it still haunts me.The adults were completely out of their depth too, and relied on the Pastor to fix it all. He had no formal education or resources to assist, and took it upon himself to send my best friend through Gay Conversion Therapy behind the parents’ backs. The atrocities my bestie lived through still feel like they are my fault.
I will forever carry the internal scars for damning their life.
At 16: The doctors declared me infertile. I was raised to believe the highest honor and calling for a woman was to raise children. It was the only thing I ever wanted from life. I took this as further proof that God was not with me. I remained active in the youth group, church nursery and kitchen staff duties. I was a model of obedience and feminine beauty through sacrifices.
The other kids teased me behind the grown ups’ backs that I was just trying to be perfect so the Pastor’s son would like me. They saw the truth even though I denied it. I secretly thought if J wanted me then it was proof I was exactly who I needed to be. We were in a fishbowl, and to be worthy of J’s attention meant I was the Perfect Christian Girl. It didn’t matter if I didn’t love him romantically, it was just a way to grade myself.
At 17: I was dying because my immune system had turned on itself.
It was the first time I ever considered killing myself. My prayers bounced off the rafters of the house. God didn’t care about me or any of my efforts. I didn’t see God protecting his children: I saw cover ups, deceit and an endless empty desert of a life ahead of me. I spent the majority of my time in bed, sick and suicidal. I still worked hard to project confidence and happiness in the face of these “trials”. I don’t know if anyone actually saw what was going on in my head and heart. I knew I couldn’t survive life at Pensacola Christian College, my new best friend had sent me weekly letters of her struggles there. She was a public school kid, but so much smarter than me and I just knew I would fail.
My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college just for me to get an “MRS.” degree, and my senior year of school was being fudged by our cover school so I could squeak through because the grownups thought I wasn’t going to live very much longer anyway. They saw me graduating as a spiritual act of mercy.
At 18: I recommitted my life to God.
That was a huge deal. I decided I was going to believe harder and obey better, and sacrifice until I was purified. If I followed all the steps I would be rewarded. It was promised. My health began to improve with doctor intervention and a new healthy diet. I graduated my homeschooling education. Apparently everything was working with my sacrificing, because my first bestie was “doing better”, my college bestie was surviving, and a suitor had entered my world. He was approved of by my father. I began courting the man, and thought he was handpicked by God just for me. All the signs were there and he seemed to genuinely love me!
While chaperoned by his sister I roamed his house he had bought. It felt like home to me. All the dishes were exactly where I would put them, and I could see myself living there. He was my “soul mate”. He worked on his church’s sound and recording team to broadcast the Word of God to the world. He was friends with all the young people the church held up as examples to follow. He had a good job, and a well known family. He had attended Word of Life Bible Institute, and in high school went to ATI conferences. He had an active ministry and I had the high honor of carrying his equipment and assisting him as he wired S. Truett Cathy and other well respected leaders for sound at events at the local Southern Baptist college.
I was so sure that we were going to light the world on fire for Christ.
That we were destined for greatness. We would be world changers. It would be okay that I had never led anyone personally to the lord, because I was made to assist a great man. His light would shine, and his shadow would be my protection.
At 19: I married him. He confessed privately to me the day before we married that he had sexually touched his sister over her clothes when he was a teenager. I asked him if he followed the keys to forgiveness as laid out by Bill Gothard, and he said he had. I asked if he had anything else to confess, and he said no. I asked if she had forgiven him and if he ever touched anyone else that way, to which he said she had and he didn’t.
I sobbed and told him I forgave him.
This led to heavy petting. I felt helpless, and confused that I had sexual response feelings despite not being on board with what was happening. I had been saving myself for marriage, so sheltered and completely innocent. I had never kissed anyone. I had no sex ed. His advances told me that it was too late to retreat. This was just…a forgivable little thing. God would forgive me for allowing the kisses and groping because I was marrying this man in less than 10 hours. No one had to know.
I’m still haunted by this. The anxiety and disgust have woken me up in the middle of the night so I can vomit countless times. I see it now much more clearly – he preyed on her, and then moved on to me.
At 20: I thought everyone dealt with this sort of thing, that’s why they always warned about “when the honeymoon is over”.
He stopped touching me in a sexual way again after the week of our honeymoon. I knew at a core level he married me from obligation. He wanted to have sex with someone and I was there. He wanted a place to vent his twisted frustrations, so I was there. It made perfect sense. I was there to keep him from giving in to his non-godly desires. I was there to cover up his dark places. I was there to be his “helpmeet”. He constantly told his mother what a failure I was, so she sent me Debi Pearl’s books with highlighted sections to help me improve in my God Given Duties.
Over the next nine years the abuses got worse. He started to manhandle me in front of others, so I would behave in a certain way. We no longer went to church, because the church had withdrawn him from the service team and taken away my kindergartners sunday school class because I had medically diagnosed depression. Obviously his house wasn’t “in order” so he had no further privileges in the church. This made things so much worse for me at home.
It was my fault he was disgraced.
Any failing of his became my failing. There were screaming matches. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times he urged me to kill myself. I knew he cheated on me, the evidence was always there when it was with women. One woman he worked with told me explicitly how she had had her way with him in the break room after work. Another girl threw a brick through his car window when he quit with her.
I became a shell. The more I cut off of my self the more I thought I would control the chaos I lived with. He borrowed money from friends and stole money from me – I had to be resourceful and creative to hide it and pay people back. I worked two jobs in addition to all the 1950’s ideals I was expected to live up to. It was never enough. I was just waiting for him to actually hit me or leave bruises. I was raised to believe only that was abuse.
Again I tried to kill myself. A friend forced me to vomit and the pills came up.
By year 10 of our marriage I had conceived.
When I lost the pregnancy, I was sobbing in the shower with blood everywhere. I was clawing at my skin because I couldn’t stop my body rejecting the new life. I remember him ripping back the curtain and telling me I deserved to lose the child, and that it was a blessing because I was cursed. That no child deserved me as a mother, because I was a failure at being a human being. He spit on me and left me in the shower, shivering, bleeding and alone.
Shortly after that, I learned he had an active account on Ashley Madison and it stated he was game for a good time with any gender.
One week after the miscarriage he pinned me to the wall.
He told me he knew I was going to leave him because I no longer slept under the covers with him. He said I would fall on my ass and come crawling back to him, and when I did he would laugh and turn me away. He frightened me so badly I fell to the ground when he let me go. He told me to clean up the floor and myself, because he couldn’t stand to look at me. I remember scooping up the breakfast into the plate, trying hard not to cry audibly. I used lysol wipes to clean it up and I was terrified he would punish me for not using the mop, but he had taken away my walker and I couldn’t really stand up. I took refuge in the bathroom and ran water for a bath, the sobs had overtaken me by then. I heard the door to our apartment slam, and he was gone. He frequently left on wednesdays to smoke and play card games, but he left earlier than normal. I expected him back at any minute.
I cleaned our apartment top to bottom, hoping to appease him. My atheist friend in Alaska set up a call between me and the local domestic violence center. She convinced me to give staying there one night’s chance, because I had an active suicide plan. I knew if I left my treasured belongings he would never give them to my sisters, so I called my parents to come get the things and my service dog. I thought inwardly if the night’s stay at the shelter changed my mind I would have my own clothes at my disposal.
Through the help of the shelter I learned what abuse is defined as.
I filed a Protection From Abuse order because he was stalking me and still using threatening language. We had a messy divorce. I am still forced through circumstance to live in my parents’ basement. In spite of this I’m learning that I am not cursed, nor a burden. That I am left with scars, but scars don’t inflict pain, they are proof you’ve lived. I will never allow him to hurt or use me again.
I will never allow the Fundamental Southern Baptist religion to control my life again.
I am not cursed. My disabilities are not proof that God has cursed me, or that I am of Satan. My disabilities are proof that I’ve got broken DNA and that’s all.
I will not allow Fundamentalism, Bill Gothard, the preacher, my childhood or my ex-husband to control me or ruin what’s left of my life.
I deserve better than what I was given and better than what I accepted. You do too. If you’re reading this and you’re inside the box still, know you can leave. It’s dangerous and scary, but there are people waiting in the wings to help you.
The world is beautiful.
You are beautiful, and they have no right to crush you.
I am now a Catholic. I vote for the Democratic party. I have friends that are Wiccan/Pagan/Atheist/Agnostic/Muslim/Christian/Jewish. I have friends who are LGBTQIA. I belong with these people. They are the ones that want to make the world a kinder place. They’re the people who turn love into a weapon that defends the weak against others that seek to diminish or deny basic human rights.
I am what I was raised to despise, and I believe God wants it that way. I finally sleep peacefully almost every night. I forge my own future, it’s not predestined or decided for me. I’m an apostate, and yet God hasn’t struck me dead. In fact, I think God and I have an actual understanding now. It’s not my job to win souls, or lead strangers through a rote prayer. It’s my job to be a good person.