Sunday, October 6, 2013

"In My World Nobody Gets Hurt"

I met her back in my college days. We became friends. Good friends. After a while we became a little more. She was part of my life for the better part of eight years, often living with me. She had very serious mental issues which stemmed from childhood sexual abuse administered by her "Christian" father. He was also sexually and mentally abusing his other two daughters and infant son.
Just as my faith was on the wane because I was slowly working my way through the more troubling aspects of belief in the Bible, this woman stepped into my life and introduced me to the world of childhood sexual abuse. Her stories, which she told me as catharsis, presented me with a real perspective of the problem of evil.
She had been raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, the same as I. Her grandmother, with whom she had a less than untroubled relationship - became the primary custodial caregiver for my friend after her parents divorced when she came out about the abuse. She and her siblings had been removed from their home for a time and placed in a children's home. Her father was prosecuted but not found guilty. He left town for a while. The mother forever blamed my friend for "seducing" her husband and destroying her marriage. She also had troubled relations with her siblings, for she had endured the brunt of the abuse; her baby brother, fortunately, was so young he had no recollections of abuse.
After all this my friend was of course bitter. She was questioning why God never answered her childhood prayers. Yet she was still a religious seeker. I went to church with her many times, even in my faithless state. I tried to be supportive. She wanted answers and I couldn't help wondering about that myself. In that same troubled mind of hers were both faith and fury. She questioned hard her grandmother about whether her repeated rapes and humiliations at her father's hand were part of "God's plan," which her grandmother constantly referenced. "No," her grandmother replied, "but I see God's hand in it." The old "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" thing, I suppose. Obviously I was not the one to help her find her way back to faith. I had lost my way also, and my friend's story only strengthened my conviction about leaving my childhood faith.
She showed me her childhood Bible. In the pages at the back were several inscriptions her father made when he visited his children in the home. It made me sick. His religious drivel mixed in with alleged concern for his family nauseated me. In one he had actually written that my friend should pray for God to restore their family. Unreal! What kind of sicko was this guy, I wondered. (Later I found out he was a petty criminal and drug abuser as well as a pedophile.) And up until the time he was exposed, he was also a regular churchgoer with his family.
I stood by my friend through years of counseling, institutionalization, drug therapies and even two suicide attempts. In the last of those I had to actually break into the house she was renting in order to get to her. She had left a suicide message on my answering machine which I got when I got off work.
Along the way I discovered she had a love for doll houses and miniature furnishings. I indulged her by purchasing one for her and helping her construct it. I helped as she carpeted it and bought and constructed furniture for it. She spent hours "playing" with her doll house, which really seemed to be therapeutic for her. She constantly rearranged the furniture, bought new furniture, remodeled, recarpeted, repainted her doll house repeatedly. It all hit home for me one night as she was working on her doll house and she suddenly looked up at me and said: "In my world nobody gets hurt." She was trying to build a model of something that was missing in her life. 
I wish I could say this story has a happy ending, but it really doesn't. Sensing that I needed to get away from this horrible situation, I began to ease myself out of her picture. Abusers tend to become abusers and she was mentally abusive. Very much so. That was bad. But I also began to feel I was becoming affected myself as I stood by her through the long years of attempted mental rehabilitation. After eight years she was no closer to healing than she had been when I met her. Worse, she had become addicted to drugs - both to the prescriptions that were part of her treatment, but also street drugs which her "friends" plied her with. We drifted apart and at last I could breathe again.
I unexpectedly heard from her a couple of years backs after more than a decade and a half of non-contact. She looked me up in the phone book and called because part of a twelve step program she was going through was to reach out to people she had hurt and ask for forgiveness. No problem there. I understood that the person I had known was a troubled, sick soul. We talked several times and she even asked about coming to visit me (she had moved back to her home state of Alabama).  I declined the invitation. She was still on drugs (at least of the mind-numbing, speech slurring variety of prescriptions), still unable to hold down a job, still involved in bad relationships - but, she told me, she had worked out her spiritual problems and had been accepted into a group which practiced Native American spirituality. Oh, and she still loved doll houses and reminisced about the one we had built together.
Her attempts to find her inner "lost child" have not been successful that I can tell. The world she tried so hard to create, where "nobody gets hurt," never materialized and, as I sadly found out, anyone who gets too close her does get hurt. Her grandmother is now dead, her mother is still distant (but perhaps not quite as distant) her siblings are still somewhat condescending towards her. Her psychosis is still a constant problem, but at least she has apparently gained some understanding of her condition. But I have healed from my painful experiences with her and find no desire to go back.
What lingers with me to this day is the way I will never be able to reconcile the God of the Bible with the real world of superfluous evil. One really has to hide his head in order to accept that - at least that is the way it seems to me. A God who would "plan" something along the lines of what my friend went through is not a God I could worship. Any religion that teaches that such evil is necessary for the greater good is also a religion I have no interest in.
However, what I do find very much worthwhile is the effort to build a world where nobody gets hurt. For me that is the ultimate goal of spirituality.


  1. Very heavy. I saw such hypocrisy in religious folk,...still do. I think no one gets out without being hurt.

    1. There is, in my opinion, a real danger in patriarchal religions: the abusive male leader factor.

  2. Thanks for sharing your friends story Doug. My heart aches for her and all children who suffer abuse. Hopefully one day she will find peace.

  3. Oh Sylvia, this is just such a sad case. One of the saddest cases I personally know about. My friend's wounds will always fester, I fear.

  4. I have led such a easy life by comparison to yourself and those you've known and chosen to share with us, thanks to loving parents and what I consider a good upbringing. My primary struggles have been of the spiritual/religious type. It has taken me over 60 years to come to grips with that struggle. I have reached a place where I no longer struggle with who I am and am satisfied and at ease with the fact that the older I become, the less I know for certain. Amazingly, I am at peace with that. It doesn't mean that I don't continue to search, through reading and other media for answers or for things to think about concerning this life I lead, but I am happy.

    As an aside, I watched "Aerial America" the other night on the Smithsonian Channel. (It is a program which takes you on an aerial tour of a state). Tennessee was the subject. I spent some time on Chattanooga, and I thought fondlly of you and even looked for you as it showed close-ups of the streets and highways! I hope you are well. Maybe someday we will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face.

    1. What a nice thought - meeting face to face! In the meantime, just know that I have missed having your input here at my blog. Welcome back!