*TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of sexual assault/trauma.*
Have you ever been struck by this unsettling feeling of both nausea and anger? You aren’t sure exactly where it derived, but you’re perplexed and feel like your eyes are going to overflow with enough water to quench the thirst of all the plants on sale at Home Depot. No? Ok, well this is the only way I know how to explain this feeling I felt not too long ago.
It was a casual Monday evening; the one where I’d come home from school and begin talking about the new cute guy I saw. Of course, not discussing the *different* crush that I had the week before–he is now irrelevant! In the midst of the laughter and “girl, he did what?” my friend stated something that shook me to my core. When describing a past relationship I had, she said “you know that was abuse, right?” And honestly, I didn’t. I didn’t think much of it. I thought that the most harm he had committed was leaving me and ignoring my text messages. He was, after all the “nice guy”, the quiet guy, the good Christian boy with manners. Oh how I was fooled.
The worst part about being abused by someone, whether it’s emotional or physical, is being oblivious to it while it’s occurring. When my friend shed light on my past situation and identified that it was indeed toxic and unhealthy, I felt sick to my stomach because I had allowed it. The thing is, at that young age my ideas of love came from the Q&A section of Seventeen Magazines, the long list of unrealistic romantic comedies I had memorized, or the arguments I’d overhear at night before bed. I didn’t know.
I was taught to steer clear of the RED FLAGS in a relationship. I was aware that a guy hitting you, cursing at you, and controlling your every action was abuse. But what about the grey flags, or orange even? What happens if a guy is always polite and opens the door for you and sends you a text every morning telling you you’re beautiful, but when you’re alone you can feel him constantly pushing your boundaries that you discussed not wanting to cross? What if he says he respects your decision to save sex until marriage, but his actions are always forceful and he ignores your attempts to stop him in the process? And you excuse his predatory behavior because “we didn’t have sex” and you convince yourself that he meant no harm.
You convince yourself that his unkind hands were placed where you so desperately desired them to be, but was simply too scared to act on. You convince yourself that him lying to you just to get you alone was only because he was looking out for you. You become convinced that he would never do anything you didn’t want if you were to verbalize it, as if you flinching with every initial touch and shoving his hand off of you was not a language in itself. You convinced yourself that he was completely incapable of harming you to the extent that even after it is all over you don’t even hold him accountable for every time he wronged you. You let him off easy.
I. Let. Him. Off. Easy.
Now with my 23rd birthday approaching, I am unpacking the trauma years later and discovering just how misused and mistreated I was. I am disgusted knowing that he’s off somewhere living his life, oblivious to the pain he caused. I want to warn the next girl who may fall victim to his wicked ways, but there’s no way of knowing she’d receive the same treatment.
So here it goes: I forgive you.
I understand that forgiveness is more for myself, as it is the vehicle that sets me free. If we are being honest, I forgave you a long time ago. The offense that I originally charged you with was a misdemeanor. But now with treason tattooed on your chest, I still forgive you. For whatever reason, it’s myself that I struggle to show this very grace.
For awhile I blamed myself for allowing you to hurt me, for dating you, for saying yes to go see that STUPID movie, for succumbing to your idea of what a relationship looked like. I always considered myself to be strong-willed and able to make wise decisions when faced with adversity. It felt as if dating you and allowing your behavior made me some dumb girl falling over the first guy to say that he loves her. This is the very thinking that is destructive and unfair. How can I be angrier with myself–the victim? You are the one who should receive the scornful hand of disapproval–not me!
The thing is, the abuse was not my fault. My moment of weakness because a guy decided that his own wants were greater than my needs does not define me. I am STILL strong. I am STILL smart. I am enough. I am worthy of the greatest love that God has to offer me. And I am completely capable of not only loving again, but trusting someone to withhold intimate details about me and not using them to their own selfish advantage.
Looking back, I am not sure what would have happened if that relationship had continued any longer. And for that, I am grateful that he ended things. God knew that I didn’t have the courage at the time to walk away on my own, so He ensured that the relationship was severed to protect me. To protect myself, I can no longer even remember that entire night. It was as if I didn’t have the emotional capacity to process the situation so I tried to delete it from my memory altogether.
I don’t remember how I got home.I don’t remember the details of our interaction. I just remember you saying to come lie beside you, because everything was fine. But did I follow you? Did I run away immediately after feeling uncomfortable? I remember your friend making a sexual joke as he left us alone, and you said nothing. You knew I wasn’t ready. Yet that never stopped you from placing my hands in places I never wanted them to go. That didn’t stop you from pulling me on top of you when I pulled away.
The few things I know for certain about our last night together was that we didn’t have sex, but yet I felt invaded and hurt. You made it seem like you wanted me for all of the right reasons. However, not too long after the encounter in which I derailed your opportunity to “score”, you let me go. You “lost your phone” and didn’t text me like you used to. When I asked what happened, you assured me that nothing was wrong and that we were good. But I knew things were different. I could feel it. Of course, I ignored my intuition until all of a sudden the truth came out and you wanted to just be friends. I thought that the timing of us breaking up was a coincidence back then. But no, it was purposeful. You *should* know what you did. No worries, I forgive you. But more importantly, I forgive myself.
To any person who has ever felt betrayed and misused, I am here for you. I can’t say that I know exactly how you feel, but I stand with you and support you. To the girl whose boyfriend tells her that she should lose weight; to the girl who gets scolded for having guy friends outside of her relationship; to the girl that has trouble trusting men because of the ones that have done wrong by her; to the girl that is often neglected by the one she loves; to the girl that’s told she isn’t good enough for her significant other–you deserve MORE. And sweetie, you deserve much more than the penance given for his own appeasement.
If you haven’t already, I hope that you find peace.I hope that you find healing. I hope that you don’t blame yourself for the way that you were treated and you find comfort in knowing that your worth is not tied to those that choose to walk out of your life. I hope that if you are struggling now in a relationship that’s bringing you unhappiness that you find the courage to leave. It’s not that simple to leave, I know. But I hope you find the resources and support to do so when you are ready. Don’t wait around for closure, because often times it never happens and is overrated. By the time the apology comes, if it does, it will be too late. Instead, find that peace within yourself and take hold of it by any means necessary! Peace isn’t just something you need, but what you deserve. Now adjust your crown, pick up those broken pieces, and blossom. The vast world awaits you.