I was one of the lucky few that survived untouched. I was raised in a very conservative Christian town and family. I was not once molested. No one raped me in the nursery. No creepy deacon or youth pastor cornered me in a foyer. I never felt an unwelcome grope. However, I was sexually abused in the church. No. No one touched me, but sexual abuse did occur. In each paragraph, I will outline exactly how this abuse occurred and how it still affects me. I have put this blog off for exactly two months. The truths found in it were too very hard to process and I still fight false guilt.
It started as a child before I even knew what sex was. All sex scenes on tv were muted and I was told to close my eyes. During movies with my family, I would be suddenly confronted with my mother’s hand over my eyes. Sex was not to be seen at all. They wanted me to not even know of its existence. I was not allowed to listen to 80’s pop music like every other child in my school could because, “The ‘African’ drum beats, the lyrics, and the dance moves are all inappropriate for children.” This meant, they encouraged sexual feelings. Now, I’m not advocating that children have sex or watch porn. However, all normal, expected, human behaviors should in some safe way be modeled. What my parents did right is enjoy each other. My dad would slap my mother’s bottom and she would blush and giggle and make noise but she enjoyed it. I heard them laughing in their bedroom. I didn’t know what was going on, but my father regularly and passionately kissed my mother so that I saw what loving kisses between adults looked like. I somehow knew that this was not really ok for kids to do, but that when I was a grown up a man would kiss me that way. When I look back at the “sex scenes” I was shielded from, they would have modeled what was appropriate loving behavior during the act itself. Just like I knew that kissing like that was not something children did I am pretty sure that I would have known that this was something for adults to do. It would have been nice to see happy smiling people enjoying the activity that they were doing under the sheets that covered everything as per tv station requirements.
Before I knew what sex was, that I had an opening for penises to go into, and that it was required for the babies I was told I would have as a married adult, I explored my body. Every child explores their bodies. What made this especially difficult is that my parents saw as sinful the stimulation I was doing rubbing my vulva on blankets and liking it. I did it a lot because I have autism. The world hurt so badly that when I found something that made it feel less painful, I did that action a lot. This is a common response to the world for people that suffer from sensory processing disorder. Entire sections of forums are set up for parents to know how to help their child masturbate a healthy amount, only eat a healthy amount of candy, and help them find as many coping techniques as possible so that one does not become an obsession. The key is, that in all autism communities, masturbation is seen as normal, healthy, and part of the process. Masturbation is a normal healthy part of childhood. This booklet outlines clear, basic, normal, and natural tendencies of children as theydevelop. I was told that all of those milestones of completely normal development were evil. I was going to go to hell for doing those and every time I was caught masturbating for comfort I was yelled at, shamed, and told to ask Jesus forgiveness.
I remember how I started hearing the word, “sex.” It was whispered to me and generally followed with “is wrong.” I thought it was a dirty word. I choked on the word if I found myself needing to say it out loud. It was on the same list as “damn” and “poopy.” When I was 11, I remember a girl in my 6th grade class telling me that sex was required for bringing babies into the world. I fought with her. NO it wasn’t because sex is wrong and dirty! Saying the words made me feel as if I had done something naughty even talking about this. I was so mad I thought that the child needed to be punished. I left the classroom. (My teacher was utterly oblivious and taught us nothing in his classroom.) I ran to my dad’s office (he worked as an administrator at my school) and said, “You need to talk to this girl! She is telling everyone that sex is not only perfectly OK, but it is REQUIRED to have babies. DADDY go yell at her like you do me. Tell her the truth!” Dad fell silent. “What truth do you think she needs to hear?” “What I’ve been told that sex is dirty and wrong. That people should never have sex.” (Mind you, I had no idea what sex even was. I had no idea that men had penises and that they would put said penises into me to impregnate me. I had no idea that there was a hole in my vulva or that that area was called a vulva.) I saw his face go red and he quietly said, “Sex is not for children, that is true. But it is required for babies. Sex is only for marriage and it is not entirely evil. Sex outside of marriage is sinful.” I felt very lied to. I still had no idea what sex was but in the ensuing months, my friends filled me in. I apologized to the girl and asked her to tell me about sex. I learned. She was truly shocked that a child of 11 had no idea. “You know you are going to start bleeding soon, right?” Well, that bit I did know, but I had no idea how that related to sex. She told me and I went home and cried because no one had told me that bit.
So, now that I finally knew the birds and bees, children’s church and Sunday School gave way to youth group. It was in youth groups that I learned my value. The only value I had in marriage was my virginity. I learned that beyond doubt that men do not want to marry “sexually impure” girls. I saw video after video tape about the dangers of sex, the harm of sex and was told that girls that do have sex before marriage can be forgiven, but there would always be a lost part of their marriages. It was then I was given a white pedestal to stand on, but I never got that right. I emotionally carried it. The standards that I was asked to meet were not only unhealthy, they were an unholy burden on my heart. I was shrill. I was scared. I only wanted to be pure for Jesus and my future husband because that is the only way that I would be seen as valuable. My entire worth to a marriage partner was tied up in one aspect of my history. Sex. Bible study books, sermons, devotional lessons all told me that my virginity was my sole value and of UTMOST importance. I was asked to attend endless meetings, endless activities, and witness to all the “wicked heathens” at my school. This lead to fervor, which led to humiliation, which my youth leader wrote off as “persecution for Jesus name.” As I look back on that time, I cannot help but see the connection between that level of brainwashing and this passage from the book, 1984, by George Orwell:
“[Julia] had grasped the inner meaning of the Party’s sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party’s control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship. The way she put it was: ‘When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?’ That was very true, he thought. There was a direct, intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy. For how could the fear, the hatred and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force? The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it to account.”
I was being manipulated into belief by deprivation of my perfectly normal bodily functions. The burden of my pedestal grew unbearable. I found that I still carried the pedestal in marriage. I could not speak to other women’s husbands who were my friends at any time without their wives knowing, seeing, or being near. I could never EVER have a lunch with ANY man that was not my husband No. Matter. What. If a pastor, a man, needed to reprimand me or speak to me, a third party witness always had to be present. There could be no hint at all of me being even just platonically interested in a man because I liked him. Perish the THOUGHT of it. My only friends were women in the church because when a woman likes talking to men it is unquestionably because she has sexual designs and sinful intent. I remember having a conversation with a fellow brainwashee of the church that went like this:
“Karen, I had a great teaching time with my girls the other day.”
“That is great, Emily! What about?”
“Well, I was in the WalMart parking lot and a man asked me for directions. I was able to help the man and he stood chatting with me for a little bit about where he was going.”
“That’s nice. Fellow humans helping each other out.”
“Well, I was able to talk to my girls and clearly explain that married women, well, women in general, should not stop and talk to random men in parking lots because it might lead to sin.”
“It isn’t right to speak to people of the opposite sex when you are married.”
“You need to guard your heart at all times to keep the devil from sneaking in.”
I left the conversation thinking about all the conversations I had had with random men in stores and parking lots and we somehow had managed not having sex. The pedestal of sexual perfection bore down on my shoulders. Was I being dangerously seduced by lost men asking directions? My ensuing deconversion and tension in my marriage lead to divorce. I had set the pedestal down but there it still stood in the corner telling me that I was broken and damaged for not wanting it. I didn’t want a single solitary thing to do with that level of brokenness ever in my life. I am not just a pussy to be grabbed or an innocent virgin of pristine alabaster. I am a human being with a mind, personality, quick wit, solid values, and I’m an asset to anyone that I associate with—and the state of my vagina has absolutely nothing to do with any of that. After my divorce, I started dating Ross Balmer. We were engaged. I flew to England to finally get to touch him and physically be in his presence. On a cool, English evening in July of 2016 I fornicated with my fiancé and broke that pedestal to tiny, itty bitty pieces. I instantly felt lighthearted, at peace, fear was gone, and I felt whole. I was now a normal human being with natural, normal desires.I will write a follow up blog on what my sexual morality now looks like, but first I leave this post as a sign for all the world to see. "Moderate”, Evangelical Christianity is using sex to break children down to become malleable, willing participants in their political, ideological, social, profit-focused pyramid scheme. This is how Evangelical Christianity works in America today and this abusive nonsense must be seen for what it is and stopped.