"Me Too" has been a common phrase we use at church. I've always loved the phrase because we all suffer from sin. We all have our own personal demons that we struggle with. "You cuss? Me too!" "You struggle with a gross addiction to nicotine? Me too!" The list goes on. It's helpful, right? We're not alone in our sin. But more recently, I've seen the phrase been used in regards to our Pastor and his "confession" that led to his resignation. When I see the phrase used in this case, I am overwhelmed with hurt and anger because I don't know if people would be saying, "me too" if they knew the truth. Our congregation deserves to know the truth. And after weeks of silence, I want to share it.
I have spent hours praying and talking with friends on how to handle this situation. When you're sexually assaulted by a dear friend and Pastor, how do you go about handling it? I don't have the answer to that. All I know is that trying to heal from something that my predator has yet to acknowledge is very difficult. Trying to heal from something so horrific to only see people in his corner because they don't know the truth is maddening. How does one heal after being sexually assaulted by a dear friend and Pastor? Anyone?
As my Pastor has said in his recent FB post, good friends were apart of his sexual sin. What he fails to mention is that we are victims of his sexual sin. I loved him as my friend, Pastor, he called us family. I considered him my family. I trusted him, my husband trusted him and my children trusted him.
Like many evenings, one particular evening was spent with said couple. I started this evening like any evening spent with them -- Lightheartedly. It turned into an evening that is one of the most traumatizing of my life. My Pastor and dear friend sexually assaulted me. He forced his will on me, under the table, while our good friends and my husband sat feet away. When he started, I sat like a statue, unable to react, speak, think. I wanted it to go away. I didn't want to believe my dear friend and Pastor was capable of this. I was numb and heartbroken. My friend who was sitting across the table saw what was happening. We both kept quiet, we both pretended it wasn't happening. We both wanted to protect our good friend and Pastor.
The sexual assault didn't end there. It continued throughout the evening. My only thought was, "I can't let my husband see this, he will kill him." But I had no intentions of ever telling anyone, at this point I wanted to protect my friend and the thousands of people who believe in him. The thousands of people who attend our church to hear him speak. HOW can this be happening? I'm being sexually assaulted by a man that thousands look up to. I continued to endure the sexual assault and did my best to keep everyone's attention elsewhere. "Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down. I'll keep talking about nonsense so they don't look down."
Eventually, it was the end of the night and my husband abruptly whispered to me, ”We are leaving, NOW." We walked to his truck as said couple followed us out. My husband sat in the driver's seat, I'm in the passenger and my children in the back. His wife was at Kevin's window and my Pastor was at mine. She distracted Kevin so my Pastor could continue his sexual assault on me. He reached into my husband's truck and continued to touch me while she kept my husband's attention. Meanwhile, my innocent children were in the back seat and that realization is physically painful, thinking back. What if they saw their Pastor's hand in my lap? I tear up thinking about it. With that, I have a very hard time believing his wife didn’t see what was happening. In fact, I whole heartedly believe she saw after hearing a confession from another victim. Again, I sat in silence. I thought if I ever told my husband, he would kill him. I just wanted it to go away.
On the drive home, Kevin shared with me why we needed to leave immediately. He saw our Pastor touching my friend's leg in the hot tub. My husband was sick about it, I sat it shock now realizing I'm not the only one. I confessed to my husband what happened, we spoke with the other victim that eventually turned into victimS and the rest followed.
I am so fearful to share this. Fearful that people who don't believe me will do ugly things that will indirectly affect my children. I'm afraid to come across as vengeful. I'm afraid my predator will come after me in some way once he finds out I've told everyone. But the truth is, I live in fear every day since this happened. I live with a heavy heart, I live in pain. Because of one man's selfishness, he's affected so many aspects of my life. My life is already lived in fear/sadness/anger, so why not share the truth? People deserve to know.
I believe everything our Pastor said at the pulpit. I believe every word. My faith has not changed, Jesus is King. Jesus will heal me. He has never left me. Where was Jesus when my Pastor was touching me? I'm still having a hard time with that. Our Pastor was capable of doing this and getting up the next day and speaking God's Word. I can't wrap my head around that. My heart aches for everyone, but not for our Pastor. My heart aches for my children who have had to witness a broken mother. My heart aches for the other victims. My heart aches for the congregation. My heart aches for the church as a whole. My heart just aches.
I struggle with knowing if this is an appropriate thing to speak publicly about. I've stayed silent out of fear but I don't want fear to control me anymore. I allowed fear to control me that night and allowed a man to touch me only where my husband has, something I still don't understand and hate myself for.
Weeks after this happened, I am left with feelings as though it was yesterday. My heart physically hurts. When I hear of different things being said, I am sucker punched all over again. The truth not being told is continual torture for myself and the other victims. I hope my post helps the other victims come forward because what happened to me pales in comparison to what has happened to them. And I hope sharing this painful experience will protect women. I feel responsible to protect potential victims from this.
I do believe in our common phrase as a church, "Me too." I believe in supporting others through their sin because we are all sinners. But I ask of those who are full supporters and will continue to be full supporters of our Pastor, remember the women and husbands of the women he has victimized. Please remember the daily struggle it's been for us. There will be years of healing for us.
And for those who may hurt as I am right now after reading this, I want to apologize to you. I am sorry you're hurting. If you're hurting, I'm right there with you. Me too.