I’ve been wanting to share some of my story for a while. And this is just a small part of it. But after reading so many stories from others of horrible abuse they suffered, I began to feel like my experiences didn’t compare and weren’t that important. Just recently, I was talking to a fellow abuse survivor on the phone and said as much, and she urged me to get this written and share it – saying it’s important for ALL the abuse to be exposed, that there are many others who suffered abuse and think “well, it’s just not as bad as what others went through”, so they keep it to themselves. That conversation has been on my mind, and I thought “Well, it’s not like others…who were molested or raped.” When it hit me. Yes, it is.
Only those who grew up in an IFB environment really understand how sheltered young adults, particularly young women, can be. This is to give you a little background of how naïve a young woman I was when it happened. We didn’t attend movies or even own a TV, and I had very little exposure to “the world”. When I was 21 years old, I was forcibly raped. By my husband.
We were married when I was 19 and he was 18, just three months out of high school, neither of us with any sexual experience. Our Hyles-Anderson-trained pastors strongly encouraged (and still do) marrying young people off as early as possible – that’s their means of keeping young people pure until marriage. Self-control is not really expected, particularly of men. When we’d been married just over 2 years, I was thrilled to learn I was pregnant, and then devastated 2 months later when I miscarried.
About two weeks after the miscarriage and the ensuing D&C, he decided he had “waited” long enough and demanded sex. I began to cry and said I wasn’t ready. That simply infuriated him and he held me down and forced himself on me. I screamed over and over for him to stop, but it was like he had turned into someone else. When he was finished, he left me sobbing on the bed and stormed out of the house. I felt so filthy and hurt and broken. Still hysterical, I called my father, but couldn’t talk. He came over and held me while I continued to sob for several hours and eventually calmed down. My father never knew until very recently what had happened that night.
When my husband came home, both of us simply acted like nothing had happened. In the years since, I’ve realized that’s a really common coping mechanism when you have to continue to have contact with your abuser. And in time, the abuser even uses that against you – saying you didn’t seem very upset about it and that you’re exaggerating, or else you would have told someone. Except….I did tell someone. Several days later, I went to see my pastor and sobbed out what had happened. He very matter-of-factly said that my husband really shouldn’t have forced me, but that he WAS entitled to sex and that I had NO RIGHT to refuse him. Ever. He even quoted the passage about a wife not having power over her own body. His summation was that I was NOT raped, because it’s not rape between a husband and wife. It wasn’t until after we were divorced a few years later that I was able to confide what happened that night to a friend. That friend started to cry and told me I WAS raped – twice. First by the one person I should have been safe with more than anyone. And again, by the spiritual leader to whom I turned for help. I was shocked, but slowly began to realize the truth of those words. Since then, I’ve realized that it was not just that pastor’s coldness when he should have given comfort. He actually blamed me for causing it, basically said it was my sin of not submitting that created the situation where he HAD to force me. And again, after that day, both that pastor and I acted as if it had never happened. When I later separated from my husband, the pastor blamed me again, saying I had contributed to the failed marriage by making him feel less of a man by not allowing him “enough” sex.
In the years since, I’ve also realized that all the male-dominance teaching actually helped create the sense of entitlement that gave a naïve young man the sense he could just forcibly take what he wanted. I have long since forgiven that young man. But forgiving the pastor that condoned his actions is a long way off.