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“If you say anything, I will tie up your family, just like I tie you up. Then I will make you sit there and watch as I kill each one of them in front of you. Will I kill you? No! You I will leave alive, so that you can spend every day of your pathetic, miserable life, knowing that it is your fault that your entire family is dead.”
Those were the words that I heard over and over again growing up as a child. I believed those words because part of my abuse proved that my abuser was capable of carrying out her threats. Games of roulette would be played over and over again with my life. I was repeatedly raped with a loaded gun with a single bullet in it; the chamber was spun; the trigger was pulled. I am amazed that never once did the gun fire. I am convinced that it is only due to a higher power that I am here today.
Granted, my sexual abuse was not related to the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) in any way. It would have happened regardless. But the words that evil, wicked woman spoke were the beginning of years of brainwashing that convinced me that everything was my fault. I must have done something wrong. I must have invited the abuse somehow. Maybe I was just a bad, evil child. Maybe I deserved it. It wasn’t just the threats that my abuser heaped on me that kept me from telling my parents what was going on. It was also the fact that I knew, deep down, that even if I turned to my parents, even if my abuser was prevented from carrying out her threat, my parents would also blame me for what was happening.
As I look back, the question comes up: How could my family not have known what was going on within their own home? How could they turn a blind eye to the abuse? How could they not wonder why I spent endless hours in the basement? How could they not come looking for me? How could they not know that I was tied to a bed, blindfolded, gagged, unable to move, while they walked blindly above my head, oblivious to what was happening?
And as I have struggled to come to grips with everything in my past, I have come to the painful realization that they did know! They must have known. Yet they did nothing. It was ignored. I remember the rashes that I developed in certain areas. I remember the visits to the doctor and the fact that I was sent out of the room while the doctor talked to my dad alone. I remember the instructions that, if the Department of Children’s Services ever came to the door, my sister and I were to escape; we were told where we should run and hide. Yet nothing was ever said to me. The pain that I suffered through was never acknowledged. Never.
By the time my abuse came to an end, we had joined ATI. And the teachings in the Basic Seminar answered all of my questions! I must have been out from under my parents’ umbrella of protection! My abuse must have been because I liked to sneak evil music tapes into my Walkman when my parents weren’t looking! I was consumed by guilt. Guilt because not only was my abuse my fault, but also, while I was being abused, I acted out that abuse with someone else, someone who was also being abused by her father. We were only kids. It was all we knew.
So I decided to get under my parents’ umbrella and stay there. I was the model son. I went to all of the Basic Seminars and worked in all of the Children’s Institutes I could. And then came my year of working at the Indianapolis Training Center (ITC), doing the godly work of Bill Gothard. It was while I was in Indianapolis that my eyes began to open.
One day I opened a care package from home and found a song written by my sister. It was a very nice song, but it was found during a room inspection and I was called in to see Mr. Gothard. During the next hour or so, I was taken apart piece by piece for allowing such ungodly music into my room. How dare I bring a rock music spirit into the Training Center! Apparently my sister’s song had too much “syncopation” in it, and that made it evil. My only thought was “But we always count to make sure that the beat doesn’t fall on the ungodly two and four beat!” But I was not allowed to say a word in my own defense before being sent to write a paper on how having ungodly music was creating strongholds in my life and removing me from my authorities’ umbrella of protection. I was also required to spend extra time in the newly created prayer room, begging forgiveness for my sins.
I was angry and hurt. My eyes were opened. I finished my time at ITC. As soon as I got home, I found myself a job and buried myself in it. Throughout my growing up years, my parents continually told me how lazy I was and what an awful work ethic I had. How I would never amount to much in life. So I became a workaholic. I found that, like alcohol or drugs, work could have the same problem-burying effect. It gave me something to focus on to keep the pains of my past at bay.
This worked well until I decided I wanted to go away to school. My parents refused! My plans didn’t fit in with their dreams. Broken, and too tired to fight after surviving two suicide attempts, I decided to follow their dreams. But it soon became apparent that their dreams were not mine, and that I could not live their dreams. In defiance, or desperation, I quit.
That was the start of another downhill slide. Even now, years later, I am constantly reminded of how much I have let everyone down and how disappointed they are that I didn’t pursue their dream. I hear constantly how I am running from “God’s Will” for my life and how backslidden I am. One year I even got a Christmas card from someone with the message, “Merry Christmas! You are going to hell unless you repent.”
To this day, I struggle with guilt, with feeling that it is somehow all my fault. In a recent conversation, my mother laid all the blame on me for even being in Indianapolis. She said that because she has suffered from health issues throughout her life, she can’t be held responsible for anything from my past (she didn’t acknowledge the abuse) and that I need to just “grow up and move on.” Her words that day made me glad that I have never discussed what happened to me with them. It would only drive home that ingrained belief that it must have been something I did wrong!
I am beginning to understand that a lot of lies have been drilled into me over the years, but the struggles continue every day. My way of handling my pain has been to bury it. To hide behind a mask of work, or humor, or giving the appearance that everything is okay. That is not true. I realize more and more that I am not okay. Relationships have been destroyed, friendships have been strained, and my life has ultimately suffered. Attempts at finding help have ended in disaster as therapists have refused to speak with me. It has been a lifelong struggle in solitude until finding support through Facebook groups and the Recovering Grace website.
I do not write this out of a spirit of pride, or bitterness, or anger. I write this out of a deep desire to heal and to help others know that they are not alone. I write this with great fear, however, as I still have no intention of speaking to my family about any of this. My desire to heal comes from knowing that I am being given a chance to be whole again. To overcome the past and look forward to the future. May those who also need it find their own healing, peace, and grace.
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