*Please note – This is a copy of posts from my old blog. The old blog was redesigned to point to this one, but not before I got all the old posts transferred. What is here and the next few posts to the “Posts from The Old Blog” are copies of what I did thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and many thanks to Tracie Nall at FromTracie for telling me about this. The links probably do not work and the pictures may not show up and to my dismay, the comments are lost. I will try to reconstruct the links, but I apologize for these posts. ~Jackie
I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Florida. While I was there, I saw five dolphins. To me, dolphins represent the freedom that I have never known in life. They are so majestic and beautiful. I have stood and watched for them for hours.
When I am lucky enough to see even one, it is as if my heart beats in a smoother pattern. It beats as if there is a peace in the world and I may some day know it. It touches my soul at a depth I cannot describe.
In 2001, my sister and I went to California. Before we left, I had done some research into getting a tattoo. I found an artist in Santa Barbara. I loved her work and decided I wanted her to do my tattoo.
I wanted a dolphin. I wanted a piece of that freedom as part of my body. I felt like so much had been taken from me, I wanted a visual reminder of where I had been and how far I had come.
We went to the shop and realized it was almost closing time. Pat Fish was congenial, though gruff. I didn’t want flash, but was so nervous I couldn’t ask her to design something for me. So I chose a design and she tattooed me.
It took two hours. It didn’t hurt because my arm quickly fell asleep because it was tucked under my body so she had easy access to my shoulder as flat as it could be.
It is deep, and I bled a lot, but that is also somewhat symbolic. All the pain I went through when I was a child was hidden. I kept it all inside. The tattoo reflected the pain and the hurt, but made it visible, and turned it into something beautiful.
Pain is not beautiful, but so many survivors turn their pain into passion and speak for themselves and other survivors as often as they are able. In that way, the experience is transformed and something beautiful comes out of it.
My tattoo is in a place where I can show it if I want, but usually chose not to show it. That, too, is similar to my experience.
When people find out that I have a tattoo, they are often surprised. I often hear, “You don’t seem like the type to have a tattoo. Why do you have one?” I usually ask if they really want to know. That gives them a second to think about it, and gives me a second to gather the strength to tell my truth.
It takes a lot less effort to tell my truth than it used to, but there are always implications, for me and the person listening. For me, it is telling something that people do not really want to hear and risk touching the pain all over again. For them, it risks touching their pain of they were abused as well.
There is no beauty in what happened to me. Absolutely none. I hope that I bring beauty to it by telling the story with grace, truth, courage and care. I also hope it makes it easier for others to speak their pain. That is the best result I could every possibly experience.
That, like the dolphin, touches my soul in ways I cannot describe.
Jennifer’s Story, Part II
The first adult I told about “my affair with the pastor” was also a minister, who served at the denominational college I attended (recommended by my pastor, who continued to see me on visits to campus). I was having trouble in a class at college and this man was asked to look in on me. When I confessed to him what was going on, he said was outraged at my pastor but never considered turning in his colleague and friend. It remained a secret, as I started going to him for counseling. For the next year or so, we talked frequently and he tried to help me understand what had happened to me. He admitted that he too had been attracted to girls my age when he was a pastor at a church and told me how tempting some girls were. He made it sound like it was just one of those things…wrong but sometimes inevitable. He asked me in our “counseling sessions” when was the first time I pleasured myself, concluding that I was one of those early sexual girls. We eventually stopped “counseling” but remained friends while I was at college. Just before I graduated, he started trying to have sex with me. I guess he finally couldn’t resist.
The second person I told about what happened to me in my church was the Campus minister. He informed me that if I wanted to, I could bring church charges against the pastor. He said that if I chose to do so that I should be prepared to put my family through hell and have my entire sexual history exposed. He recommended that instead, I focus on healing my own pain and guilt. Basically, he treated me for sexual addiction.
The third person I went to for help was also a minister, from another denomination. He waited three days after I told him about my experience as a child to start molesting me. I was 25. He was 65. When I tried to break it off, he became enraged. He wrote letters to my boss, my friends and my husband describing the sexual contact we had been having. He was defrocked by his congregation and forced into retirement.
The first non-minister, woman I told about my abuse was a professional counselor at the college where I was getting my masters. She invited me to join a support group for survivors of sexual abuse. We had a group of five and met regularly. The group encouraged me to report my first abuser to the church, which I did. I wrote the Bishop and told him that I had been molested as a minor, and named him. I received a letter back from the Bishop weeks later saying he was very sorry but the statute of limitations had run out and there was nothing that could be done. I’m sure that if my counselor at that time had known of his response, she would have been outraged. She never got to see it, though. She was killed in a car accident on the way to work. The group disbanded.
From that point on, I went through periods of time, when I tucked my abuse away, other times when I went to therapists and worked on issues. Little by little, I got healthier and understood more about myself. But, for the next 20 years I carried one very unhealthy belief with me. Deep down, I still believed that what happened to me at 15 was somehow special…unique, and that I was at least partially responsible. That changed when I found out in 2008 that another woman had brought church charges against my abuser AND HAD LOST! Suddenly, I realized that what happened to me was in no way special or unique. For the first time in my life, I owned that I was a victim. A victim of a master abuser. I have heard so many times that in order to heal, you have to stop being a victim and become a survivor. But truly, for me, real healing started when I stood in the realization that I was a victim. Since that time, I have become a survivor and I have found the self that was lost for 30 years.
After finding out that my abuser was able to avoid a conviction in the church when my letter had established a prior history, I became extremely angry. I started looking for the woman who had had the courage to bring charges. When, I found her, it was incredible. She told me that my letter was read aloud at her pre-trial hearing and even though it was determined that it could not be brought as evidence, it gave her the strength to continue when doubts filled her mind. Life is amazing, and after she lost her battle to convict him, she continued on her path to becoming ordained and she is now the pastor at the church where I was abused! We have become soul sisters and visit regularly, but I have not visited her in my home town yet. I’m working on the courage to visit the church and let her make it a safe place for me again.
Every paragraph in my story is a story in itself. I would like to start writing about my healing process and the insights I have embraced. I have been blessed with finally finding and loving myself…most days. Some days are still very hard. The slightest thing can set me off. But the bad days don’t last long and I know what it feels like to be whole.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jennifer. I know it will help other people heal.