Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Life after rape

Yesterday's blog post got me thinking... all too often the media focuses on the rapist. Yet little is said about the victim.

Granted, I know they try to keep the anonymity of the victim. But what must she go through.

So I thought about my survival story. How were the days after the rape like for me?

First, let me say that I do not compare my story to the story of any other victim. Each victim is unique. Each rape is unique. Each healing process is unique. I am simply sharing this to give a little insight.

The first few days were surreal. Did that really happen? I mean, my rapists were guys that I knew. Was it all a nightmare?

Then came the blame game - did I do or say something that gave them the impression that I wanted it? How was I dressed? Had I been drinking? Did I say no enough?

What makes my story unique is that I was assaulted twice, on 2 separate incidences. Once occurred at my home by an ex-boyfriend, the second occurred about a year later by a guy that I was dating and his best friend.

The first assault took time to sink in what had happened. Rape wasn't talked about back then. Neither was sexual assault. It wasn't until a few days later, watching The Accused, that I had a light bulb moment.

Shortly afterward I began attending a rape victim support group. This helped tremendously because I learned that I was not alone. That the lack of sleeping and jitteriness was common. That while I was in a bad place now, one day there would be healing.

A year later, the 2nd rape. Yeah that one wrecked me. I blamed myself.

How could I let this happen AGAIN?

No one will ever want you. You're used goods.

Who the hell gets raped TWICE?

No one will ever believe me a second time.

I began retreating into myself. I started having trouble sleeping. I had to sleep with the lights on. Then I could only fall asleep once the sun came up. I didn't feel safe sleeping at night - even if I had the lights on. Eventually, I struggled going to work and  being around people. I would lock myself in the bathroom at work and cry. Finally, I would have a complete breakdown if someone stood too close to me (within 20 feet). I would shake & sweat. I couldn't cope with life.

And the flashbacks. Oh man. Those were the worst. They weren't just when I was sleeping. I would be out with friends and suddenly feel hands on me. I would struggle to breathe.

Even after a year or 2, I still struggled. I would have a complete meltdown, fall asleep and wake up not remembering the meltdown.

Then I started gaining weight. Eating my feelings. Trying to forget the pain.

Consuming large amounts of alcohol didn't numb the pain either.

This is what these victims have to look forward to. While their attackers get to live their lives as if nothing happened, these women will forever be changed because of what happened to them. Their lives are no longer care-free. Instead, they will worry. Worry what they did wrong. Worry if this will happen again. Worry if their attacker will find them. Worry that no one will want them because they have been 'ruined'. Worry that their friends and family won't accept them.

These women will have to learn to have a new NORMAL. A normal that is life after being violated.

My hope & prayer for these ladies is that they have a strong support system; friends and family who will help the healing process. Who will listen to them and not dismiss their feelings. That they are able to find a support group so they know that they are not alone in this. That every emotion they are feeling is the right feeling. That they will be able to one day share their story as a SURVIVOR and not as someone's victim.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Brock Turner Syndrome

Today I read yet ANOTHER disturbing headline..... yet another young, white male (David Becker) was simply given probation after being convicted of raping 2 unconscious women.

The judge didn't want to penalize him for using poor judgement.

Poor judgement? POOR JUDGEMENT?

Poor judgement is drinking from the milk container after the milk has curdled. Poor judgement is wearing all white in a rainstorm. Poor judgement is testing how long you can drive with your gas indicator light on and then running out of gas before you get to your destination.

Raping TWO women while they are unconscious is NOT poor judgement. That is RAPE! That is SEXUAL ASSAULT! That is the actions of a SEXUAL PREDATOR.

This 'young man' was known around school as "David the rapist".

No jail time. No sex offender registry. He'll be able to move on with his life, go to college, have a career, wife, family.

And what do his victims get? They get a LIFETIME of nightmares. Sure, they can still go to college, but you can bet your ass they are going to be looking over their shoulder every moment of every day, wondering if the next guy they meet is going to rape them. 

There's always strength in numbers is the old saying. Not in this case. 

Nope. There were 2 young women and only 1 David the rapist, yet he managed to rape BOTH OF THEM.

And what did our justice system do?


This kid is raping girls in high school. What do you think his college experience is going to be like?!?! More of the same. Think he's learned his lesson.... the only lesson he's learned is that it truly does pay to be a white male.

Yet again - one step forward, 2 steps back.

Many blessings,

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A letter to a small group leader

Dear small group leader,

When you sign up to  be a small group leader for children (whether it be WaumbaLand, UpStreet, Transit or InsideOut), you are signing up for more than just an hour on Sundays. You are signing up to walk through life with the child you have been given, partnering along with the parents. You are to be a safe place for our children to go should they need someone (other than mom or dad) to talk with. You are investing in the future of that child. Believe it or not, you make a huge impact on them (and their parents).

My children have had some great small group leaders in the years that we have been attending North Point & Browns Bridge. Several come to mind as I type this letter. What set these leaders apart was that they invested in my children OUTSIDE of Sunday mornings too. Not just at camps or events. But during the mundane, day-to-day happenings. They were there to celebrate the wins, commiserate the losses and be another voice of reason for my kids.

What we don’t realize when we become small group leaders is that just as we can help make the church experience wonderful for these kids, we can also destroy that experience.

That’s what happened this year. One event changed the course of my daughter’s senior year.

My daughter is about to graduate from high school. She has been with the same small group leaders since her freshman year. She has wanted to attend every single event planned for the high schoolers. She’s been to The Walk, Vertical Reality, My Life and even a mission trip to Mexico. Her small group leaders have walked alongside my daughter through the end of a friendship, surviving a car accident & the sudden death of her beloved grandfather. She LOVED Sundays. Not just because she got to serve in UpStreet & Transit, but because she loved going back to church in the afternoons for InsideOut.

But this year, something changed. A simple comment made by her leader that made her feel as if she were unimportant and dismissed changed the course for her. She stopped attending InsideOut. Only once did one of her leaders text her to see if she was ok. Then, she didn’t go to My Life. Again, no phone call, no text, no email as to why. Even when it was time to film her senior video, she decided not to go. This was a day she had been dreaming about since her Freshman year. I’ll be honest, as her parents, my husband and I were looking forward to it too.

Thankfully, my daughter has the insight to know that the ‘church’ didn’t fail her; people did. But this lesson has made it so much easier for her to walk away from church. Instead of being excited to find a church near her college campus where she can volunteer, she’s not even interested.

Just as in schools, there are cliques. A small group leader is to try to bridge the gap between the cliques within the small group. In this case, the gap was made wider. My daughter attended her senior prom just a few nights ago. She looked stunning. But how sad was it to see the other girls in her small group, all dressed up and beautiful, posing with their small group leaders.

I know how difficult it is to be a small group leader. I have served in UpStreet and Transit. I also know how rewarding it is. My favorite memories of the past few years has been the time I spent as a Transit small group leader.

I don’t have the answer. I don’t even know if there is one. I  know that everyone leads differently. That there isn’t necessarily a right way and a wrong way. But I do know that what took 3 years to build up, only took 1 moment to destroy. 

I know that if something like this had happened in my group when I was leading, I would want to know.

Why did I wait so long to say something? That's simple. Out of respect for my daughter. 

Now I wish I had spoken up sooner. 

So small group leader, please learn from this. Take whatever lesson you get out of this and use it. I know I will. I know that this will make me a better small group leader should I ever go back to being one.

Many blessings.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Falling from Grace

Recently, I learned about a friend's "fall from grace". This got me thinking.

Whose grace do we fall from?

That's a loaded question regardless of who you ask.

Certainly, we fall from the grace of fellow man. When we make a mistake (big or small), our fellow man tends to lose a little respect. We've let them down. They see us in a different light. The bigger the 'fall' the more emotions that are involved.

But what about God's grace? Can we fall from His grace?

So, I started digging into scripture to see what God had to say.

2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

I think those are powerful words from Paul. It is when WE are at our weakest that God's power is made perfect. We are given God's grace so that we may endure the fight we find ourselves in when we are struggling.

As I look back at my struggles, I can clearly see the hand of God in each event. Trust me, I didn't always see His Hand in the midst of the struggle. I would feel like He was far away. But I don't think that He distanced Himself from me. I was the one who moved away.

His grace gives me the strength I need to overcome. I simply need to lean on Him.
Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, the will walk and not be faint.
So to answer my own question, no I don't think we fall from God's grace. It is a free gift given to us. We simply need to accept it of our own volition. He doesn't force it on us.

But His grace also isn't a magic spell, giving permission to run amok.

So to my friend I say, hang in there. God's grace is sufficient. It covers the multitudes of our sins. You have a long battle ahead of you, but you can get through it. Focus on Him.

Many blessings,

Monday, January 4, 2016

Where has the time gone?

Wasn't it just yesterday I saw the plus sign on the pregnancy test (and 4 others after that one)?
Didn't I just give birth to a tiny baby girl, marveling at the amount of responsibility I was being given?
Didn't she take her first step, say her first word?
Didn't she just start kindergarten?

Here I am... January 4, 2016, sitting in a Chick-fil-a Restaurant 2 hours from our home, waiting on our Songbird to complete the last step in her college acceptance journey.

A college has been chosen. Paperwork has been filed. Tests complete. We wait for the acceptance letter. Then we just endure the last 5 months of high school. She'll be a beautiful young woman walking down an aisle to accept her high school diploma. Ready for the next chapter of her life. Ready to spread her wings.

How is that possible?

I'll admit. I'm melancholy about it. I mean, what parent wouldn't be.

All these years I've fought to hold on only to have to let her fly. And fly she will.
God has great plans for her life.

No matter how ready you think you are the time just sneaks up on you.

Hold them closely.... blink and you'll miss it.

Many blessings,