DESIRE, DANGER, AND DEPRIVATION by Kari
As a youth ministry and counseling major I have learned that a common question is, “What is your first memory?” I remember the first time I heard this question thinking that while I know stories of my past, I don’t remember much until I was about 12, and those things I do remember, I would rather not remember. I was the unpopular student for most of my elementary school career. At home we fought to survive from day to day in an area and in a house that was only lived in because there was nothing worse to live in. My mom dealt with severe depression and could barely take care of her grown children who were dealing with suicidal tendencies, drug addiction, and every form of abuse imaginable. As a result being the good little daughter with good grades, who wasn’t into drugs, and wasn’t out having sex by age 13 secured that I would always have a roof to live under, but also secured the fact that I would be the last one to be taken care of.
Between home and school I was just looking for anyone who would like me, regardless of what I would have to go through in order to be liked. As a result I found myself in situations that led to various forms of abuse. By age 6 I had already been exposed to pornography by the neighbor boy, and exposed to the idea that this is all women are good for, and why wouldn’t I do this for him? By age 12 I had been fondled during field trips and by people who were living with my friends. Unfortunately none of this seemed too abnormal.
Through the church I found people who would care for me and accept me, but it was based on having good grades, being morally above reproach, being continuously happy, and in general being the good little Christian girl. Even this became abusive. I started to learn that good girls don’t let themselves become abused (thus I was a bad girl), and anything hard in our lives is God’s way of punishing or refining us (thus I must have done something wrong to deserve the abuse). Fortunately someone had enough courage to tell me what I was doing wrong (I was hugging people).
I learned that in order to be safe I had to stop touching other people in any way. I also learned that as the only Christian in my family at the time, that it was my duty to break the chains of addiction and abuse that ran through my family. Since every female in my family has been severely abused (including sisters, and nieces), this was a hard job. As a result I shut down every part of me that felt love through touch. Since, in my mind, every male was the next perpetrator, I learned to never let myself become too close to men. Even emotional closeness was off limits because I had vowed to never let a man hurt me emotionally in any way. Men would never have any control over me, thus even if they abused me I would not allow it to hurt me. I considered all women to be weak victims that needed to be protected, so emotional intimacy in this arena was also off limits.
My first year at college I started to drop some of these defenses and become close to people, and allow myself to hug other people. When I was assaulted by a stranger that first year, I thought that God was punishing me for the sin of becoming too close to others. I vowed that I would live and die single, never allowing another man to hurt me.
By my senior year in college, I was filled with so much shame and anger at God and humanity that I started to take out God’s punishment on myself by self-injuring. Now my plan was perfect: I could avoid intimacy with others, God, and myself. If I ever got too close I would punish myself with a few little cuts and start to feel relief. After 4 years of counseling though, I had convinced myself that I was OK (minus frequent panic attacks, the continuous desire to hurt myself, and a fear of any form of intimacy). My friend who struggled with homosexuality and porn addiction was not OK in my mind though, so I started attending WGA in order to help her deal with her problem.
When I got to WGA I started hearing about how some people try to control God and make their world safe, by controlling their sexuality. These people are usually honored in the church for their commitment to chastity (I was), but are truly in the same place as anyone who deals with any other form of sexual struggle. For me it was a wake up call. I had lived my life trying to be perfect in order to make God like me more, make the church like me more, and ultimately keep myself from further abuse. Now there was someone who saw through the game, and would give me a new game to play.
It has taken me three years to get to a place even at WGA where I could be honest about my past or my present. After being out of church for close to four years, I started attending church with some friends from WGA and started working on my anger with God and his people. I also started learning appropriate intimacy with other people. I learned that hugging other people will not cause me to become abused again, and sharing my needs is not a bad thing. I have learned that it’s OK to hurt but it’s also OK to be happy. I now have close friends who know when I’m angry and upset, or scared and frightened. While I still have no desire to form a long term dating relationship, I am becoming increasingly open to the possibility. I am beginning to learn what it means to truly be alive, and I would not trade it for the world.