A regular guest blogger here on SMP, Dawn returns to share more powerful memories and new realizations from her early childhood years. This one centers around the topic of Spiritual Abuse, a topic that is also close to my heart and very relate-able for me.
I encourage you to also check her other posts after reading this one. Thank you so much Dawn for continuing to shed light on your childhood and helping to validate all who read your accounts.
Trigger Warning: The following contains references to childhood sexual abuse and spiritual abuse. Please be kind to yourself as you read.
I was raised in a very strict environment. My Mother was a very strict Roman Catholic from the Old Country and my father really had no religion at all, but ruled us. My mother always had dinner on the table when he walked through the door at 4:11 pm. We were always to defer to him as to whatever he wanted, how he wanted it and when he wanted. My first memory of him sexually abusing me was at the age of 7 years old. When I turned 8 years old, we started to attend a local church. This was no normal church. They were Independent Fundamental Baptist. The Pastor had the ultimate authority under the Almighty. His word was law..and then came the men of the church, then the older teen boys then the women of the church. Last was the children, and at the end of who had rights, the female children.
I was taught that even if your father tells you to do something wrong, you should do it. I was taught this is what the Bible commands. I was also taught that anything that he did to me was punishment for my disobedient ways and my rebellion/bad attitude.
For the record, I have two older sisters and a younger brother. My two older sisters say he never touched them (I believe this) and my younger brother says that our dad physically abused him, but not sexually.
His abuse began simple enough. Sexual abuse. He would come into my room, carry me to his bed, do as he wanted, take me to the bathroom, clean me up and take me back to my bed. This became his ritual. Other things included me never being allowed to lock any door at any time when he was home. He was able to come into the bathroom, if I was in there in a vulnerable position, and r*pe me. The bathroom was also one of his favorite places to get to me.
He began quoting the Scriptures to me. He would do that either right before he started the “punishment” or during the punishment to accentuate the r*pe. He would also take off his belt and tell me that he did this to me because it was Gods will, because he believed he was doing what God wanted. “Train up a child in the way they should go…” “If you beat them with a rod, they shall not die, if you beat them with a rod, you shall deliver their soul from hell.”
He would quote, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” as he was stripping my clothes off of me. So for most of my life, I thought what I was doing, what was being done to me was the Lord’s will. I thought then when he beat me, it was a punishment for whatever he said. After all, this is what the Preacher was preaching from the pulpit. As I got older the violence of his abuse escalated again and again. He again justified it as punishment and it being God’s will.
All of my life, I guess I believed that it was punishment as opposed to abuse and torture.
Fast forward to Sept of 2016: My Therapist is a PTSD/Trauma Certified Specialist, Grief counselor, ordained minister, Terrorist Recovery First Responder …. She is also a tree hugger. She and I get along very well mainly because of the last thing…I, too, am a tree hugger. She has given me a lot of tools for my Tool Box and for that I am thankful. She said that I was no longer allowed to refer to my father (in her office) as “not a very nice man.”
It is being to kind to the type of person he was. So I let go and I called him a “bastard”. I felt immediate fear wash over me. My father has been dead since 1988 and yet the fear that he instilled into me with all of his beatings, torture devices and Scripture quoting, was so programmed into me, that I felt I needed to say something nice about him.
I looked at him in my mind’s eye. I saw his face and so I immediately said to my therapist, “he has nice hair.” She said, “what??” I said, “My dad, he always had a flip in his hair…very nice hair…” …. and then I saw it…. for the first time I saw it…his eyes. I am a health care professional and have been for the last 25 years. We look at people’s pupils to see how they respond: Are they pinpoint, are they reactive, are they both the same size, are they fixed and dilated.
Anyway, I saw his eyes for the first time and discovered that his pupils were dilated. It was not a punishment. His adrenaline had kicked in, and he was enjoying hearing me scream in pain. He wanted to hear me hurt. He wanted to do that. It was no punishment.
It was like all of the safety ropes that were keeping me sane were pulled out from under me. It was not God’s will. It was not a punishment. He was getting off on my pain. He was enjoying my screaming. He wanted to do this. There was no punishment involved. He was hurting me because he wanted to. It really was not about me. He was a sociopath.
Now…what would I hold on to. I was holding on to the fact that this was God’s will and I was bad and I deserved this and it was a punishment. Now………..I was in a free fall in my brain. However, I am made of some tough stuff having survived what I did. I realize…that in my life, this has changed nothing except one thing:
I AM NOT THE BAD ONE. He was the bad guy in this. I did not deserve it.
If I have any advice for anyone who has been through such horror, it is to hold on one more minute. Find a good and gifted therapist who will help you. Know this: It will not hurt forever. You will be able to sing your own song one day. There is hope in healing.