(Guest post by Anonymous*)
The blogosphere has been discussing the Purity Culture a lot lately. I’ve heard all sides from how it hurt those who did and didn’t “wait,” how harmful it is to all sexes and genders and races, and so on. Having been raised Catholic, it was certainly one of the unquestioned precepts I absorbed into my life. I didn’t grow up necessarily believing that all men were out to get me. I didn’t really feel like a temptress or an object of lust.
Instead, I internalized and interpreted the message to mean, “Whatever happens to you, you in some way deserved it. Whatever you do, whatever you let happen, is your fault and it should cause you shame.”
I would like to say that as a liberalized, independent, and analytic 22 year-old that I have moved past this message. But the stakes of shame and doubt and self-loathing are driven deep and I am still tethered to them. The rope is a little longer than it used to be and maybe even getting thinner, but I’m still tied to the idea that I am to blame. That “it” was my fault.
“It” happened from the time I was about 10 until I was nearly 17. I allowed the one person who was arguably closer to me than anyone besides my own mother to sexually coerce me into things I never wanted to do.
I was secretly depressed and I thought of taking my life often. I still have what some would refer to as my “technical V-card,” but that’s very little consolation for the confidence and positive self-image that I lost over those years. There were more consequences to “it” than I ever could have imagined.
In the end, we both died.
He killed himself in 2007 and took a lot of me with him. The mixed light and dark of my childhood-self faded as quickly as the memory of his voice in my mind. I will always love him and miss him more than I can sometimes bear. But one of the most bitter aspects of his death was the fact that I still thought it was my fault until almost 3 years after he had passed.
I didn’t see myself as a sexual abuse victim. I was weak. I was disgusting. “It” was something to be deeply hidden in the earth and never spoken of. Finally, over Easter break in my sophomore year of college, I told my mom about what we did. She remains one of only three people whom I’ve told. I felt like I had to tell her. I trusted my gut and, this time, my instinct was exactly right. I realized that the secrecy I had bound myself to was just as toxic as the experience itself.
Mom was the first person to tell me what I still have trouble believing.
It wasn’t your fault.
Thanks to the slew of bloggers and writers I keep up with, I’m starting to realize that the Purity Culture very much helped build the cage I willingly sat in for so long. I’m not completely free yet, but I am getting brave enough to walk around outside of it. The rope that keeps me from leaving it will only be severed by forgiveness.
I think I’ve almost completely forgiven him. It’s myself that I can’t seem to let off the hook. What do you do when you can’t demonize the person who caused so much pain? How can I fully blame the cause of my grief when he was also the embodiment of all the good in my childhood? If he had been violent or under the influence of some substance, I might be able to more easily accept my role as his victim. But I thought it was just adolescent curiosity – normal and soon to pass.
I don’t know where we would both be if he was still alive. I’d like to think we had pretty much closed the door on “it” before he passed, but I can never be sure. Right now, there is no resolution; no happy ending to my story, yet. A part of me knows that I was a victim to “it,” to him, and to the Purity Culture. But for some reason, I am not able to accept the grace that I have given or the Grace that God has offered me. I think a part of me still believes in the Purity Culture idea that I had in my mind for so long. I still deserve to suffer. I could have said no; I should have been stronger; “it” could have stopped if I had been brave enough.
But I wasn’t.
I will never let myself be a victim again so long as I can help it. But as for forgiving myself, that’s a story I’ve only begun to write. Every pen stroke draws blood and every page is hard to turn. I am trying. Hopefully, by God’s Grace alone, one day I may love myself fully again.
(Please leave brave and beautiful Anonymous* a comment below, letting her know how her post moved you/spoke to you. Thank you friends. I look forward to reuniting with you after the Jumping Tandem retreat this weekend... please, pray that the Lord be glorified through the talks and fellowship? Thank you. Bless you.)
*the writer of this post has asked to keep her name private for personal reasons.
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