I need to make a trigger warning for talking about church, and about sexual abuse. Nothing very specific is written, but it’s just this sort of messy, mixed up thoughts in my head and raw feelings that I wrote about. So, you know. Be safe. ❤️
Forgiveness. Anger. Revenge. Hate. Love. Grief. Guilt. Innocence. These are things that have been on my mind lately. I don’t know how much airtime the Larry Nassar trials have gotten where everyone else lives, but here they are big news. Huge news. I live in Michigan, and so I have been surrounded by news of the trials and sentencing.
I had managed to avoid it, for the most part, until Sunday. You see, I’ve recently been back to church. Church is hard for me, it’s triggering in a way I can not fully explain. It’s a place I want to be, because it is familiar, and yet, it doesn’t always feel like a safe place.
But, I like this church. I like the people, I like the sermons, I like the community of it. I like that my kid can go to Sunday school, because they actually are aware of kids with special needs, and they work very hard to accommodate them and make the kids feel safe and welcome, like they belong. And this church, it’s not just a church. It’s a community center, where all people are welcome. They have comfy seating, and an indoor play area. They are open daily. I love it there, my kid loves it there, and even hubby has been going to Sunday service with me and paying attention.
So, on Sunday, we went to church. And the message was all about spiritual health. It was about how we form a relationship with God, and what it means to believe in Jesus and to live your life knowing you are forgiven by grace. That was all fine and well. Not an easy message for me to listen to, because where I stand with God, and Jesus, it’s well, complicated. But that was okay. The thing that hit home for me, that has stuck in my mind ever since, has been this video clip that was played.
Have you watched any of the testimony of the women and girls that Larry hurt? I hadn’t. I had stayed away from it on purpose. I knew that it would hit too close to home for me. But on Sunday, I watched Rachel Dellhollander confront her abuser. The teaching pastor had picked out a clip where she is speaking of God’s forgiveness, of Jesus’s grace. He said it was one of the best examples he had ever seen of what God’s grace looks like.
You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.
In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well. —Rachel Dellhollander
Rachel was eloquent, and brave to speak out the way she did. Her words hit me right in my heart. It was like those words, sliced me in half. I sat there, listening to her speak, crying. *How? How is she forgiving him?* I thought. *She should be pissed, she should hate him, she should want him to suffer and burn in hell. She should hate him with every fiber of her being. I would.*
It hit me then. I’m so angry. I’m full of anger. I’m angry with Kenny, yes, but I’m angry with so many more people. I’m angry with my parents, his parents, other adults who should have seen but didn’t. I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at God. So, so mad.
Oh, there is fear and nightmares, and anxiety, and this feeling of needing to hide, and there is grief and confusion, so much uncertainty, but there is anger there too.
I grew up in church. The perfect little church girl. And every Sunday, he was at church, too. And he was loved by the members of our church. He was so kind, and so helpful. He was such a great example of a Christian. That wasn’t true, though. He wasn’t good, or kind or loving. Even when he pretended to be nice and caring, he wasn’t good. He was evil. A monster. He was not nice. That’s maybe the worst part of this. I couldn’t let him be bad, so I became the bad one. I let myself believe he was nice, I let myself believe I was special. I let myself believe I mattered, and that he was my friend. In truth, he was a monster, and a part of me knew it. The part of me that hid in my closet, alone and scared, knowing something bad was going to happen; that part always knew the truth.
Even though I can see that clearly now, it doesn’t make things better. It makes the fear and the terror and the disgust and the out of control feelings real. It makes the little girl, hiding in the closet with her teddy bear, praying to God to help her, real. It makes everything all too real, and I don’t know what to do with that.
12 thoughts on “It’s all real”
My heart goes out to you, Alice. I have definitely been deeply affected by the Nassar case as I was assaulted by a doctor as well. I find the #MeToo movement to be inspiring, healing but also wildly wildly triggering. I want these stories told, but they draw up so much — as you’ve so beautifully and heartbreakingly wrote about here. I too have really struggled with watching some of the testimonies from the (struggling here to say victims) women from the Nassar case. Especially the women who have so bravely talked about forgiveness. It’s so confusing. Because on the one hand Bravo! And on the other hand Fuck That Shit (excuse my language). I wonder if forgiveness might come a little easier to these women because they are addressing him while he’s shackled and awaiting a sentencing that they know will outlive him? As if they no longer have to withhold their forgiveness because he’s about to be aptly punished (and what even is an apt punishment for such a crime? I struggle to think that the time he got is enough honestly.) When I started listening to the testimonies of those women it made what happened to me inarguably real. Because even in my own mind I have tried to convince myself that I’d made it up or I’d misremembered or that it couldn’t have been what I really thought it was. But listening to woman after woman describe what happened to them it was undeniable and I felt completely off kilter for days while I grappled with that.
I’ve just written you a novel here. Apologies for being so verbose. Again, my heart is with you and the realness of all this.
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So lovely to see you, Audrey. Hugs. TS
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Audreeee, you can write me a novel here anytime. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I read your comment when you first wrote it, and it helped me so much- just to not feel so alone. It is painful to listen to stories so similar to our own— I really do think that hearing it makes it real, and seeing their stories, outside of our own helps make it possible to really see how awful this all is, and how very, very real it is.
Bea suggested that the forgiveness may be part of the process of working through trauma, but that she thought that the women offering forgiveness were maybe farther along in their journey of healing, and that getting justice in the way they are is a factor in the ability to forgive. I don’t know. I just know that right now, I hate him for everything he did, everything he took from me. And I can’t imagine forgiveness. I need to hate him, to help remind myself that he is the bad one.
See? I’ve gone and written a novel back. Hugs. 💕
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So beautifully written. I’m not religious so I can’t relate on that part, but I appreciate the sentiment of your blog and it’s power. I just wanted to reach out and give you a virtual hug 😊
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Thank you Penny. I’ve read your blog about facebook and the pain you are dealing with. I’m sending a virtual hug back to you. 💕
Dear Alice: It all hurts so much. The other day I said quietly to some close members of my family: “I am a Me Too also.” Nobody said or did anything. [These are people who fight fiercely for all sorts of social justice. My abusers are long dead.] Wow – this hurts. I’m hiding in the closet with you. TS
Dear Alice and TS – I am sorry and I am angry that you can also say #metoo. It’s not fair and it’s not right. And if people don’t know how to respond to you, that’s because we live in a society that has demanded silence for far too long. I hope they will learn, preferably soon, and give you the support and care you both deserve.
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TS. This is so painful. Sending you hugs, and maybe a cozy blankly and teddy bear for the closet. 💕
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Hi Alice. I’m struggling with the Larry Nasser case, too. Part of me thinks, “I should stop following this news.” And yet I find I can’t quite leave it alone, either.
It impresses me that so many women have been able to come forward and confront him. How brave they are! And it’s wonderful that they can support each other. I hope that support, and the opportunity to tell him what a terrible impact he had on their life, helps them with their healing.
But like Audrey, I find it all triggering and confusing. It’s just so confusing and painful. I have to wonder about your teaching pastor bringing the case into church like that. We know so many women, at least one in four, have been sexually assaulted–did he think about what it might feel like to sit in church and listen to Rachel’s words? Those are beautiful worlds, uplifting and strong. But who knows how long it took Rachel to get to that space of forgiving. We all have our own paths. Maybe we get to forgiveness, or maybe for us the important thing is to arrive at rage, to acknowledge that it was NOT OKAY and NOT OUR FAULT. You have every right to your rage. It is normal and healthy to feel furious, my dear Alice, my dear friend who was never bad but who was deceived and hurt and misled and abused by a sick man. I am so sorry for your pain.
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Q, thank you. I don’t know if the teaching pastor even thought, or realized it…..maybe he wasn’t even thinking about women who have been abused. I don’t know. The message was about forgiveness and what it means to live as a Christian, and I suppose her words are a testimony to God. I think that was all the teaching pastor was focused on. It may also be that he assumed we had all heard her words already because the trials and testimonies have been all but impossible to ignore here. I don’t know.
Forgiveness just seems impossible. I’m mad at everyone and everything these days. I have been spending too much time watching movies and reading books and avoiding everything because even this rage is painful. I don’t really know how to explain it. But I’m not living my life right now. I’m functioning because I am so very good at that, at getting things done last minute and being ready for anything and everything. But I’ve been avoiding myself and all the parts since the holidays. It needs to stop, and slowly it is. Now I’ve gone and started a whole blog post on this comment. Oops.
Love to you, Q. 💕
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We can both admire your Rage. Your Rage knows how valuable and precious you are and how outrageous Kenny’s behavior was. She is MAD! She is mad on your behalf because she loves your little girl self. So, when you are ready, instead of avoiding her, maybe you can listen to what she says and hear the love and protective care behind her angry words. In the meantime, just do what you need to do to be okay. There’s no rush for any of this. Love back to you, Q.
Thanks Q. I’m trying to just trust this process, because I know that if I trust things are going the way they are meant to and that things come up they are meant to. This stuff, though, it all feels so big. It feels very exposing and deeper than the work I’ve done in the past. Maybe it’s that I’m more present than I was back then. I don’t know. Whatever it is, this all feels very big. 💟
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