The Past Came Rushing Back: The Role of Religion in protecting the Abuser – Pt. 2

This is the second installment of a two-part series. For background information please refer to part 1 of the identically themed article. 

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:19-21

What Would Jesus Do?

Not long after we left the police station trying to process the events that had unfolded, my mom began to feel a sense of guilt. The countless calls she received from her church friends planted in her mind that maybe I perceived Nate’s approach incorrectly. In just a matter of hours I realized I was being victimized again, not by my perpetrator, but by the church. “Nate is such a good gentleman, he is an usher who serves the church well; the accusations could never be true!” “Nate? No way, maybe Dimitri is overreacting; he is too young to understand.” These were just a few of the statements I can recall hearing between my mom and members of our church congregation. Inside I began to feel a deep regret for speaking up.

My feelings of regret would not have been the first.  When I was around the age of seven, my uncle decided it was his opportunity to explore his sexuality by abusing my own right to a childhood. Spending the weekends with my grandmother became torture, because what no one knew was that my uncle always took the opportunity to give me baths for his own reasons. I felt wronged, I needed to speak out, and so I attempted to. I indicated to my relatives (I use the term relatives here as a means of preserving the identity of the persons involved) what took place during my evening baths, and no one believed me. They accused me of lying, and told me never to utter a word about the incident to my parents. I was sworn to secrecy. My oath to remain silent was sacred for I had to place my hand on a bible which was provided and cross my heart while I promised never to speak of the wrongs that I knew were committed against me. At seven years old I felt the regret that came through the process of victimizing the victim.

The incident at church, though I was older, reminded me of the unfortunate events of my childhood. Again I felt victimized by an institution I believed should have protected me. My mom made the usual Sunday dinner and fought to come to terms with what her son told her, and aligning it with her religious beliefs. At around 5PM that evening, my mom began to prepare a plate to take to the police station we just left. “I am going to take some dinner to Nate, he does not have anything to eat, and it would be ungodly to leave him like that.” Her passion and care for others was a quality I always have, and continue to admire about my mother, but this time I felt angry. Angry at the fact that someone who committed a crime against me was being given the sympathy that I thought I deserved.

A few days passed, and after countless discussions with my parents, it was decided that charges would not be filed. In the absence of official charges, Nate was released from jail and allowed to continue his life the way he had before. Ironically my life continued with yet another tale of mistreatment and injustice pitted towards me. Young boys are supposed to play games with friends, imaginary friends even. Drive imaginary cars, and pretend to be a firefighter. I always wanted to be Superman, taking to the skies and saving this world from the ill that plagues it. In fact, one day after getting a Superman costume, I took a forward leap from my bed hoping to maintain flight. It was a day I would never forget because it ended with 11 stitches to my chin. In my childhood I learned pretty quickly that life was not fair. I learned that no amount of love in this world could shield me from the horrors that did exist. My imaginary friends disappeared and were replaced by a world of pornography as I was forced to watch whatever my uncle decided was appropriate. At a very tender age, I had to let go of my hopes of becoming a superhero, and instead accept that I was a being to be subjected to whatever sexual gains my perpetrators wanted. I did not have a childhood, and I did not give it up. My childhood was taken from me, snatched from my very hands without warning. At 7 I had to question why what felt so wrong could at times still feel so good. No child deserves to make that decision, no child should!

Nate Makes Contact

Several weeks past, and every Sunday I went to church I felt the eyes of everyone watching me. I heard the whispers, and I heard the accusations. I felt abandoned. My biggest fear on Sundays was not the fear of God, but rather the fear I felt when my eyes made contact with Nate sitting in the worship hall. His stare pierced through my soul like a dagger to the heart. I saw him look at me with a body language that said “I WILL get you.” At the end of church I walked quickly to make it to my parent’s car, only to feel my hand grabbed and a force pulling me in a backward direction. It was Nate. Nate held me in plain view of others, and whispered to me, “I will have you when I want, and however I want. Your parents trust me, this church trusts me. I have a car with windows I just got tinted, and no one, I mean no one will ever see me taking advantage of you. See you soon.” My body shivered and I fought back the tears as no one seemed to find it inappropriate that a guy I had previously accused of touching me inappropriately was whispering in my ear. As my heart raced I made it to the car where my parents eventually joined me. As we got into the car to make our journey home I saw Nate yet again. This time Nate came to thank my parents for their generosity and to tell them he would be in contact with them for their continued prayer and support. I cannot write in the space provided the amount of times Nate would call my house following our meeting that Sunday. Every time Nate would call I was encouraged to talk to him because God wanted me to forgive, and it was the Christian thing to do.

The phone conversations never changed. Our conversations always involved talk of sex and what could happen to me if I ever spoke. Nate no longer wanted to tutor me; he instead told me how often he thought about pointing a gun at me and taking my life. At the end of every conversation my parents would ask if I was okay, and I would respond in the affirmative. Who would tell anyone otherwise, especially if your life was at risk? Not me.

The Tipping Point

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years. Over time the memory of what occurred with Nate was tossed to the back of my mind, and the church as well as my parents also seemed to have forgotten what had transpired. Life returned to some semblance of normalcy for everyone, except me. What I realized was that my pain never left, it only hid behind the fake smiles and laughter I was able to show everyone. But like everything in life, there is a tipping point. The tipping point was confronting my weight, and consequently confronting the very demons that my weight gain hid for so many years. Through therapy I realized that while I love my parents very much, I felt hurt by how they handled the events surrounding Nate. I had never told my parents how I felt ostracized by their decision to do “the Christian thing.” I had never related to them the threats that Nate made against my life through regular phone conversations. But eventually I had to. Therefore, a few months ago I made the decision to resurrect a hurt that took place over 15 years ago. I admitted to my parents everything I had held back about what had happened, and most importantly, I told them how hurt I felt. My mom cried when I revealed everything to her and she began to apologize profusely. She apologized for having allowed other people to dictate how she should live her life, and whether or not to believe her own son. My dad also apologized and said they never meant to hurt me, they were just trying to do what they thought was the right thing. Ultimately I had to forgive them, I had to see things from their point of view, and when all is said and done, my love for my parents remain the same. Perhaps more solid because we talked about what had happened.

Life Lessons  

My dear friends, life isn’t perfect, and things will happen to you that you never planned for. You must focus not on the fact that bad things happen. Instead, focus on the fact that you can choose how to respond to negative situations in your life. I’ve learned that forgiveness demonstrates the power to let go. If I had the opportunity to go back in time and change anything in my life, I wouldn’t.  Everything that I have been through, every tear that I have cried has enabled me to understand what being robbed feels like. It has helped me to reach out to the broken-hearted, and to help people who feel like letting go. My abuse has opened up the possibility for me to reach out to other people within the sexual abuse community.

Through pain, I learned the value of suffering. Through failure, I have learned the value of success. Every situation in life gives us an opportunity to learn. Understand and recognize that people may sometimes let you down, but be willing to give them a second chance. Learn to say you are sorry, learn to find compromises, and learn to admit how you truly feel when the time is right.

Perhaps your parents did something to hurt you and truly let you down, but remember that at the end of the day they are the only parents you have. Cherish your family. Know that like you, they (your parents) are people too. Parents are given a child as a gift from God and together, both mother and father must learn how to prepare you (their child) for the realities of this world. Parents are not perfect, and will make mistakes. Allow them to make mistakes. I am confident that you have failed at something in your life before, it was not intentional, but you messed up anyway. What do you do after you fail at something? You get up, learn from your mistakes and try again. Parents are charged with the responsibility of raising a person to meet the challenges of this world, they cannot correct the past. As humans, we can only change the present and hope to affect the future.

Never allow other people to dictate how you should live your life. Your life is yours to live. Look at your life from a holistic standpoint and determine how you could best contribute to this world. People will always have an opinion about you, and always think they know best. The truth is, when it is all said and done, the only person responsible for your life is you. Never allow people to cloud your judgment. Always follow your heart. You will mess up, you will fail, but you will learn from it.

Make forgiveness a part of your life. Forgiveness is key to any hurt you may have had pitted towards you in your life. Forgiveness not only helps the person who is being forgiven, it also helps you. Let go of your past. Forget the what-ifs; all you have is the now. Live for the moment, enjoy every breath you take. Pause and realize the beauty of this life, and in the same breath understand the frailty of life. You have one life to live; live it to the fullest. FORGIVE, FORGET, LOVE…

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Note: If you have been consistently following my blog you may have already come to the realization that my abuse occurred over a period of time. The sexual molestation that I experienced was done by several individuals over a period of roughly 15 years. I have chosen not to reveal the names of the individual/s that contributed to the atrocities against me. My purpose for sharing my past is to help others overcome their own struggles, not to point fingers or to garner sympathy. I ask that you respect my decision not to name the perpetrators. 

© Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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