Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.
Mercy is when He doesn't give us what we do deserve.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I never said...

I am very surprised I am about to write this.  As little as two days ago I made a comment on Kyle's blog about how I usually share this story one on one, but that I didn't think I would ever put it out for mass consumption. Things started to shift for me yesterday when Pete was preaching on praying.  The two biggest points that started to shift my thinking were when he said, "At the very core of intimacy is truth" and "As long as I strive for control, I will never achieve the true intimacy I long for."  Then in our community group last night Brett Bergstrom made the point that if someone tells us they love us it encompasses all of what made us who we are now.  Who we are now has been shaped by all we have been through.  Today, while the kids were napping the thought of writing this all out was pressing on my heart, but instead of rushing into writing I prayed about it and then started to reread a bit of Plan B.  Avoidance is a great tactic unless it is a bit of a slap upside the head like this was:

On page 135 Pete encourages us to "...fight the temptation to hide.  Take the risk of sharing your authentic self whenever you can possibly manage it.  Trust that God will eventually provide you with a community that will circle around you even if it comes from the most unlikely of places."

The message is coming in loud and clear.  I am going to let go and put it out there.  I can't control how it is perceived or received.  I can't control the impact it has on anyone or what anyone walks away thinking about it, but really it's not about who I am,  it is about a situation that happened and shaped me.  It is still my story, but it is far enough in the past that I don't have a problem talking about it (except for my parents, I can't see how it will do anything but hurt them) I just hate the way that once people hear what happened, it shifts how they look at me.

I am not a victim, or at least I don't see my self as one.

I don't take on an empowered survivor status either.

I am not sure that I classify it in anyway, which I think ultimately is the reality of the situation.  You see it's not about being a bad girl or promiscuous.  It's not about putting myself in harm's way by making unwise choices. It's not about getting drunk or being reckless or some wild college story, though I was in college at the time.

It is about a girl who loved a boy.  It is about a significant relationship.  It follows a death and proceeds a graduation.  It is my story.

I was involved with a guy who served our military while I was in college.  When my Grandpa passed away on Spetember 4,2001 J wasn't able to get leave right away, but EVERY day from the day my Gammpy died he called me.  The day I drove the 5 hours from Milwaukee to Minneapolis he was on the phone with me at every opportunity.  I will assure you that without his calls I would not have made it home because I kept pulling off the expressway to sob uncontrollably.  At the wake, after the funeral and in the days that followed before I headed back to college, J would call and check on me.  He sent flowers to my parent's house.  He had my favorite ice cream delivered.  He had my heart in his hands and he took great care with it.  My parents were impressed with him and our relationship.  I headed back to campus and eagerly awaited September 11th.

Yes, that September 11th.  J was a part of a training exercise but had been cleared for a visit following that morning's activities.  That never happened.  Instead I awoke to a call from Mom frantically asking me where J was and telling me to turn on the TV.  In the hours that followed I think I was pretty numb.  I had just come from my hero's funeral and the man I loved was unreachable but most likely in that chaos.  Eventually, the newly married wife of his best friend called to tell me that the guys were okay and headed to deal with clean up and security.  Eventually things calmed down a little and we were able to resume phone calls and emails.  The horrors he would talk about would surface on the nightly news a few days after he would confide in me.  I can not imagine living with what I know he saw.

Mid-October he was able to come visit for 4 days (3 nights) and I was over the moon excited.  I just wanted to hug him and have him wrap me up in his arms.  I wanted to feel that he was safe and I wanted to lean on him in the wake of my Gammpy's passing.  J's flight came in while I was in class and I had told him that I couldn't meet him for at least 2 hours after his flight landed but it could be up to 3 hours if the Professor took the full class time that night. By the time we got out of class there were a bunch of increasingly angry voice mails from J.  Apparently he had forgotten I was going to be in class or expected that I would blow it off.  The problem with overloading each semester and having a Grandpa pass a month earlier is that I had already missed all the classes I could without it affecting my grades.  I called him as I took my suitcase and book-bag out to my Del Sol.  I got his room number and assured him I was on my way as quickly as I possibly could.  I also tried to figure out where we might want to go for a late dinner.

Um, lets just say we had a very enthusiastic welcoming party inside that suite before heading out to dinner.  At dinner I started to catch glimpses of a very different and very angry version of J.  This was NOT the man I knew.  Yet, after dinner when it was time to head back to the hotel (boys were most certainly NOT allowed to stay in the dorms of my Catholic all women's college) we got into a major fight on the street in front of the restaurant.  J apparently could not be driven around by a girl, not even the one he was "making purple" with and didn't care that I never let anyone else drive my car.  Now, I am not one to fight especially not in public... I just hate yelling at each other because it gets to be about winning and not about hearing what the other is saying.  I caved.  I eventually just gave him my keys.  I wish I could say that once we were at the hotel I was smart enough to drop him off and head back to campus.  I wasn't.  I wanted to work out what was going on with him and resolve the stupid fight over who was going to drive a few miles.

I wanted comfort, love and consolation over my loss in the arms of the one I loved... not anger, distrust and petty fights with this stranger in my boyfriend's body.  We worked things out and headed to bed.  I wasn't really planning on anything more than snuggling and sleeping that night with the hopes that in the morning things would be back to the way they had always been before.  It was not to be.  Instead I was awoken a few hours later by the insistent nudging of J and a few hours after that and then a few hours after that.  In fact for the next four days I would not be allowed to get more than a few hours sleep at a time.  He would wake me up for a "fun" little romp or to watch Along Came A Spider and other such movies.  Movies that I wouldn't be really excited to watch under the best of circumstances, but especially not when everything J & I own (including all my clothing) is locked in the waist high bathroom safe except for my boyfriend's boxers, t-shirt and service weapon.

Yep, I spent 5 days in a hotel suite with my boyfriend and his gun.  There was lots of purple being made and I never once said no.  Now, I didn't really say yes either and I didn't fight because let's face it he had a gun.  No, he never pointed it at me, but it was never more than an arm's length away from him either.  My main thought was just on trying to keep Mr. Crazy-pants calm.  I was not going to do anything that might upset him.  He was already raging that I was just trying to trap him and I was after his money.  I only wanted to be with him for where he could take me if he kept moving up the ranks the way he had been... I just kept denying it and trying to sooth whatever concerns he brought up next.  Eventually on the 5th day I woke up before him.  I wrapped myself toga style in the sheet and with my heart in my throat I quietly made my way out of that room.  Every instinct I had was screaming to run and instead I went painfully slow trying to prevent the snick of the door latch from waking him.  It didn't and I was able to go to the front desk where I explained the situation and they let me sit in a back office while we waited for the police and for someone to get all my things from the room's safe.

I have to live with the fact that I never once told him no.  Yet, I am not sure that telling him no would have made a difference, in fact I would guess that it might have made things worse.  I guess I will have to trust that I made the best possible choices in those moments by following my instincts.  I don't know that I would label it Rape or say that I was a victim.  I know when I headed to my Gendered Violence Class that night, it was the most difficult class to sit through.  After class my professor asked to speak with me, apparently I went a little white during the lecture and discussion (Duh!) and she was the first person I voluntarily told.  She told me it was rape and suggested a group I attend.  I didn't.  I had a few months left until my graduation in December and I had too much on my plate as it was so I just tried to push past it.

It would be too simple for things to end there, it was probably another month or so of vulgar phone messages and threats.  He would fill my answering machine, my cell phone's voice mail, my Hotmail inbox with his ranting messages.  Honestly, it was those messages of hate that did the most damage.  They are what wounded me the most, not that I believed intellectually what he was saying, but somewhere inside the wounds started to build up.  Little nicks that pierced so deep and didn't heal easily.  For quite a while I stopped trusting myself.  I chose to share my heart with this man.  I welcomed him to me.  I loved him.  Okay, I know I didn't love PTSD him, but for a long time after this I quit trusting my own judgement.  I had just failed my self so spectacularly how could I possibly be trusted to protect myself in the future?

I did eventually move on and I have shared this story with several people.  At this point it is 9 years in my past and I have worked through all but my hatred of guns.  I still get physically ill around them as I discovered 6 weeks ago.  It has changed me and how I approach relationships, I proceed with great caution now.  I will be quick to back away if someone seems too demanding or if they try to put too much pressure on right at the beginning instead of letting things develop at a more natural pace.  I never enjoy telling the guys I get involved with about this, but I do have to tell them because it changed the core of me and how I react in certain situations.  I just really despise how it changes the way people see you.  I hate the labels that get attached and the looks of sympathy.  I think in some ways they re-victimize because labels come with presuppositions.

I didn't ask for it to happen.

I wasn't a wild child.  I didn't hang out with the wrong crowds.  I wasn't a naughty party girl that got too drunk one night.  I wasn't whatever other image society wants to put out for why girls have it happen to them.  I didn't stay.  Once there was a chance to get safely away I was gone.  I didn't go back, even when he was making all those threats.

I had just turned 21.  I had lived on my own since I was 17.  I had already spent a year living in Germany.  I had almost completed my B.A. in Behavioral Sciences (Psychology, Sociology & Anthropology) program in a mere two and a half years.

I gave my heart to a man I thought I could trust.

He damaged it.

I healed.  I found a way to add value to my life with it.

I used it while working with teens who had been abused physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually.  I could never tell them that I had been there and come out the other side stronger.  Boundaries.  But I could empathize, I could encourage, I could listen and really hear what they were saying.  All those untold moments that lurk between the voiced ones, I heard them.  I could know the plethora of emotions that can't be described.

Knowing it all, I count myself fairly lucky.  I wasn't seriously harmed in a physical way, though I think verbal and emotional do more lasting damage.  I have mostly put it behind me and what still lingers has enabled me to help others try to find healing.  I would never go so far as to wish for it to happen to me again, but to know that something that horrific can happen to you and that you can get to a place where I am now is an odd comfort.  It's also a strong reminder for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and things will start looking up no matter how bad they are at the beginning.


  1. Powerful story, Andie. You're very strong to reveal it.

  2. Thanks Trish, it took me a bit to get over the fact that I was really putting it out there for anyone and everyone to see if they chose, but I'm glad I did.

  3. I'm so proud of you and your transparency in this post. I know it was difficult to write. I pray Jesus will continue to heal your heart and that your story can be used to touch other's lives. I love ya!!! *hugs*