The trial of Larry Nassar, the ex-USA Gymnastics team doctor, has inspired me to want to update my victim impact statement. I have loved the way Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has presided over this case. She has enabled the victims of Larry Nassar to have a voice. A voice that was listened to, heard, and validated. That is so important to the healing process.
As I think back to my victim impact statement, I think about how naive I as at the time. I didn’t have the slightest idea about how the abuse had really impacted me and my life. I had not yet faced the real impact of what happened to me till AFTER I had went to court. A large part of that is due to me still being subjected to unhealthy family dynamics at the time I filled out my victim impact statement. Not being able to see and recognize how unhealthy my family is kept me from being able to recognize how deeply I was affected not only by the sexual abuse but also by the emotional neglect from the rest of my family.
While I filled out my victim impact statement my grandmother had told me to add information about how it had affected my mother because “she is a victim too”. This came back to bite me in the butt during trial; along with other advise she had given me.
I had first disclosed about the abuse to my grandmother. My mother was suicidal all through my teen years. The adults around me had made me responsible for making sure she didn’t kill herself. Since I was living overseas at the time I told my grandmother, I had asked her to let me know when my mother was stable enough for me to tell her without worrying about her trying to kill herself. Shortly after I had disclosed to my grandmother, she had told me that my mom and step-dad, my abuser, were planning on getting a divorce but they didn’t want to tell me yet. My grandmother advised me to wait until after they told me about the divorce to tell my mother about the abuse. Then after I was told about the divorce, I was told I should wait till after the divorce was final to tell my mother because my step-dad would say that I was making it up due to the divorce. Finally, my grandmother suggested to me that perhaps we would NEVER need to tell my mother about the abuse I had gone through. She wanted to sweep it under the rug. I ended up telling my mom about the abuse before the divorce was even filled for because she was considering still living with him after the divorce. I couldn’t stand the taught of going home to see her and still having to be around him. I had to let her know what he had done.
To think back to all of this just pisses me off! It shows me how disposable I was to them. How I was just something to be used. My grandmother was not concerned about how the abuse had affected me. She was more concerned about making sure my victim impact statement showed how my mother was affected. When it came to my mother I was the first thing sacrificed on behalf of her.
After the trial I came across a book called Toxic Parents, and that book changed my life. For the first time ever, I saw how unhealthy my family relationships were. It opened my eyes to so many things. This started my journey of finding out how the abuse had truly affected me. It’s been nearly 11 years since trial and I still feel like I’m learning how not just the abuse has affected me but how everything else I went through as a child has impacted me.
Now that I have a better understanding of how the abuse has affected me, I want to update my victim impact statement so that it more accurately reflects how I, not my mother, has been affected by the abuse.
There have been a rash of reports in the news lately of sexual harassment and sexual assault. It seems like every day there is a new report coming out. These reports are showing how wide spread of an issue this is and the need for a conversation of how to address sexual harassment and sexual assault on a national stage.
Here are some of the things these reports show:
- How wide spread it is.
- It affects both men and women.
- All industries are affected. There have been at least 25 men in Hollywood accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault. There have been members of the media accused, along with Politicians (to include accusations against the President before he was elected), a restaurant executive, a Head of Amazon Studios, YouTube stars, a geologist on expedition to Antarctica, it’s been widely reported on college campuses, and even to include Mariah Carey of being accused of sexual harassment by one of her bodyguards.
- Both men and women are capable of sexual harassment and assault as the accusation against Mariah Carey shows.
- It’s a big problem that needs to have a national conversation.
- Sometimes all it takes is one brave victim to speak out for other victims to feel safe to tell their stories.
The attitude of boys will be boys has greatly contributed to the culture of sexual harassment and sexual assault we see today. The fruit of this thinking is shown with the idea that if a woman is pretty, is dressed a certain way, or even by virtue of her being a woman is reason enough to give cat calls, say inappropriate things, or to touch her in an inappropriate way is “okay” because women “like” getting attention, and is looked at as “just flirting”. Men need to understand that certain “types” of flirting is not really flirting, it’s disrespectful behavior, and is not acceptable. We need to have a discussion on a national level about changing attitudes that many men have towards women. Women are not objects to satisfy men’s desires nor are we objects to fuel their egos. This is another root cause of today’s sexual assault and sexual harassment culture. A lot of these mindsets start off in subtle ways and then mature into more harmful ways.
There is another culture forming that is just as harmful as the boys will be boys attitude. It’s something I’m seeing more and more of. Women giving cat calls towards men, making comments about how “good” or “sexy” a man looks with his shirt off or how “hot” his muscles are; after all, men “love” getting attention from women. These are the same types of attitudes men have towards women that manifest in such inappropriate and harmful ways. With these attitudes and behaviors becoming more common among women, I think we will start seeing reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault against women become more widely reported. As women we need to recognize that if these behaviors came from men we would be offended (as we should be). Therefore, we need to remind each other that if these behaviors would be inappropriate for men to do then it is equally inappropriate for women to do. Just because it is behavior we may see coming from men does not make it okay for us to do; it only adds to this culture of sexual harassment and assault that we are dealing with today.
This goes beyond acknowledging someone is good looking, we all have eyeballs that work. We need to address why it is so easy to dismiss or attack a victim when they speak out instead of supporting them; why is it that the burden of shame too often lands on the victim instead of the predator. This is why a conversation on a national level needs to happen to address attitudes of what is and is not acceptable behavior towards others. Sexual assault and sexual harassment is not, at its core, about one person being attracted to another person, but most often an issue of control and dominance over others. We need to address as a society how these mindsets and attitudes are being cultivated and protected to create a safe haven in our society.
About a month ago as I was sitting at church listening to my pastor when he said something that has really stuck with me. He said, “Our mess is not meant to be our ministry; it’s meant to be our miracle”. This sent my mind spinning. I have always said that I would find the good that would come from the abuse I have experienced; that I would help others who have gone through what I have been through. There is nothing wrong with that, but it just is not the right focus for me at this time. In other words, I was looking for my mess to become my ministry.
This mindset of making my mess be my ministry that I have carried with me has kept me from fully letting go of what happened to me. I felt I had to hold onto the abuse in some ways. That I would need to remember the hurt to help others. It was as if, helping others (trying to make good come out of the bad) was my way of trying to justify what happened to me. Trying to find a way to make what happened to me be okay. The truth of the matter is that no matter how many people I may help, what happened to me will never be okay. It will never be okay to sexually abuse a child.
I realized this mindset was holding me back from moving forward in my healing journey. I need to let the mess of my past become my miracle first before it can ever become anything else. Most days I just want to hide in my own space bubble and hide from what I perceive as all my short comings as a wife, mother, and as a productive member of society. My miracle to me would be to feel as though I function like a normal human being. To not struggle to get things done during the day; mainly keeping up with house work. To have the mental energy to be more consistent with my kids. To feel as though I’m being the best wife and mother that I can be. To be able to manage my time so that I can spend more time writing and making jewelry; while still giving the attention to my family that they deserve. There are days where I feel as though I’m frustratingly close to achieving this goal, and it is my main focus right now. By allowing myself to let go of a ministry that is not mine, and one I do not need to be focused on; I am freeing myself from the pressure of it. This helps me feel less stressed. With less stress I have more mental energy for working on living my life in a way that I feel good about. I have more time to focus on my miracle, and am able to give myself permission to feel good about where I’m at.
Isaiah 9:6 is where we learn Jesus is to be our counselor; the prophet Isaiah is foretelling of the birth of Christ, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…and he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. For the longest time I have struggled with the idea of God being my counselor. My healer, that I got, but counselor has been a struggle. Perhaps that’s because usually when I hear pastors talk about God as my counselor they are also talking negatively about seeing a counselor. As someone who sees a counselor that doesn’t go over too well with me. Why should I feel bad about seeking the help I need with a counselor? I don’t feel bad about it, and I refuse to feel as though I’m doing something which reflects poorly on my faith in God.
The forgotten point that should be made is summed up in Galatians 6:2 which states, “Share each other’s burden, and in this way obey the law of Christ”. The law of Christ that is being spoken of is in John 13:34, “So now I am giving you a new commandment; Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other”. The idea of sharing in each other’s burdens is to help each other and to encourage each other in the things that come our way, and in doing so we mirror Christ’s love. You don’t have to be a Christian to fulfill this. I have said for a long time that not everyone is called or equipped to handle my struggles and burdens; not everyone can handle it. This is where I feel counselors come into play; they have the training and experience to equip them to be able to handle and help me with my struggles. Seeing a counselor is just another way for Galatians 6:2 to be fulfilled.
For the last year God has really been showing me how He is my counselor. He is my counselor because He has been orchestrating what I need to move forward in my healing, and I’m finally seeing that it’s God who has been doing it. I feel as though I’m in counseling three times a week even though I only see my counselor once a week. On most Sundays the message I hear mirrors the things I am working on with my counselor, and the same goes the women’s life group I go to once a week. It is only God who can bring these three areas together in the way that they have been. I have been in and out of counseling for the last 15 years, and have spent more time in counseling than out of it. Never have I notice the correlation between what I’m doing in counseling and that of what is going on in church. It really has been remarkable.
This is how I see God as being my counselor; He knows what I need and what I am struggling with, and He knows how to bring that help to me so that I may find healing. He has helped me find the counselor that I see, and has directed us to the church we go to; in addition to the women’s life group I go to through our church. I have been working on undoing the lies I have been believing about myself, and on how to just live life without the shadow of my past hovering over me. It hasn’t been easy but I am making progress. In church recently there has been an Overcomer Series and we have just started a series titled Yes and Amen. The Overcomer series showed me things I need to overcome and the lies that I have believed about myself. The Yes and Amen series has let me know that God is not done with me yet and that He will continue to do a work in me. In the Women’s Life Group we have been doing Louie Giglio’s Goliath Must Fall study where we are learning about defeating the giants in our life. All of this has been a great companion to the work I do with my counselor because a lot of the time it either mirrors or complements what I am learning at church and in the women’s life group. All three areas come together to form a complete picture of what I need right now to heal and move forward. Only God can bring together three independent areas to form a complete picture of what I need.
This I offer to you: the hope of possibility; He has done it for me and I know He can do it for you to…it is possible. Sometimes the hope of what is possible is all we need to make it to the next step. I have the hope of possibility: that it is possible for me to get to where I want to be; God is showing me that it is possible, and that is enough for me. For I can now see how God is the great counselor.
I have always been afraid of God truly seeing me. I have viewed myself as being so broken in spirit to where all I felt was shame over it. I’ve been embarrassed for God to see how broken I am; for God to see me in the way that I saw myself. I figured the way I saw myself was truth. A shameful truth of who I really was; too shameful to show anyone let alone God. I would cry from a place so deep within myself anytime I felt as though God was looking at all my shameful brokenness. The feeling of being so unworthy for God to even consider me, was overwhelming.
I am finally starting to realize when God looks at me He sees beyond all the lies, beyond all the shameful brokenness I have taken on as my identity. He sees the toll it has taken on me. He knows how those lies have created a painful false identity within myself. He knows I do not desire to be that person who is governed and defined by those lies, but to instead replace lies with real truth.
For the first time I know, He sees me.
He sees through the lies I was coned into believing about myself and sees me. The me where I’m a blank slate full of possibilities. The me that exists when all the lies are swept away. He sees me as an innocent sinless me (as a parent looking at their new born baby).
He sees ME…not the me I see. He does not see me as the lies I see myself as (the lies I was coned into believing about myself); He sees through those to the me that exists far within myself (the part of me He created for me to be). He sees the me who exists where truth and healing overcome all the lies and hurt.
How comforting it is to know how He sees me.