Editor’s Note: One of the most pivotal moments in life is the day your heart realizes that you are not alone. Even in the depths of despair, in loneliness, in pain – there are others who have felt this way. Others who have thought these things. Others who have suffered, pressed through, and somehow, they have made it. Today’s story is this kind of story. Simple, and necessary. If you have left an abusive relationship, are in the process of leaving, or feel as if you need to, the following words are a gift. Others have gone before you, and you are not alone. You are not crazy, you are not unheard, and it takes EVERYONE a long time for their heart to recover. Today’s author is Anonymous. – Lauren
It was a cool, drizzly day two weeks before Memorial Day as my dad and I drove back to my apartment just south of Pittsburgh. The radio was playing a Yiddish version of Peter and the Wolf called Pinkus and the Pig, and I should have been splitting my gut with laughter. I barely heard the stereotypical Yiddish phrases spoken in a thick New York accent, and my gut was splitting with sheer agony and terror. It took me two hours to get the words out and I fought them every step of the way. Even when I spoke, my dad made me repeat them and asked what I meant.
“I know what I have to do, but I don’t want to do it.”
The moment I opened my mouth to speak I started sobbing. Right before we reached the tunnel I got a text from the woman I had come to know and love as “mama”.
“Are you all right?”
Dad said not to reply, that I shouldn’t talk to her ever again. Or talk to my second dad. Or talk to the man I loved and was planning to marry. I couldn’t bear to think that the last time I’d ever communicate with any of them was that morning when I sent a frantic text to mama saying that I was crumbling. She reminded me of Esther and told me what my almost fiancé had told me two days ago as we stood on the train platform, “stay strong.”
Stay strong? I had to decide who to give up, who I would call “family” for the rest of my life, and whatever path I chose I was going to lose.
I chose my biological family, and I prayed that they were right.
Over the months of healing from being sexually abused by someone I loved, those words, “stay strong”, stayed with me.
Stay strong in doing right, in doing the most difficult thing I’ve ever done; even when the pain makes me want to throw myself out the window, and when the dreams come at night that remind me how much I miss my best friend. Most importantly, however, is to stay strong in believing God is who He says He is even when I am mentally assaulted every minute of every day, hearing the voice that says God has taken away every good thing in my life and abandoned me.
It’s brutally hard to remember that God is still good and still loves me.
For almost ten months I was caught in a terrible tug-of-war between my family and my boyfriend, and I believed with all my heart that God was telling me I could have both as long as I kept fighting. Then, one bleak day in the car I realized that God was asking me to give up everything; to do what I had told Him I would if He asked me.
God held me to that promise, and I started hating Him for it. Hating that I abandoned people I loved, lost my little home I had come to love so much, walked away from the most perfect job I could have ever dreamed of, even leaving behind everything I owned.
I came home, but I felt homeless. Cast out into a world where I became a statistic in the abuse records.
My family was ecstatic that I was back, but they didn’t understand what I had left. Every time I meet someone new they ask why I moved to the city I now live in. The energy I spend trying to decide what I explain and what I don’t is mind-boggling, as is the stress caused by wondering what will happen if word gets out that I was sexually abused. How can I possibly explain that I desperately miss the person who abused me? That I still care very much for him and wonder if he will be ok?
My ex-boyfriend pulled me out of myself and wouldn’t let me get away with hiding behind my mask of pretending my life was perfect. But if I let that mask drop now, to everyone? I risk the unbelievable pain of my fellow Christians rejecting me. Perhaps I can say that I’m struggling with depression, but certainly not struggling with feelings that should never have been aroused until marriage. And I absolutely can’t let slip that I feel rejected by God. After all, He’s the one who gave me strength to leave everything and move to a city where I knew no one and didn’t have a job. I thought God honored those who strove to live righteously, not rip all their dreams away and shatter their hearts.
I have to completely start over. Maybe I can only start believing that I have the chance to completely start over.
I can finally get rid of the lie that a really godly, wonderful man will be attracted to me only if I am modest, pure, and never flirt. The lie that guys are intimidated by me because I’m so different.
The rule-book I’ve created in my head that forces me to suppress what I’m really thinking and feeling in an effort to appear godly? It must be destroyed and replaced with the God-given truth that I am beautiful and can proudly be a woman in all her emotional, flirty, sexy, and confident glory.
The rule that says I can’t wear a halter-top and still be righteous must go, as must the rule that touching a guy’s shoulder when he tears up is a sexual advance. Modesty doesn’t mean covering up from head to toe, it means being confident that Jesus would smile at seeing the woman He created not ashamed of the figure He gave her.
All of it is extremely scary, but that’s okay because at the same time I’m starting over with who I am, I will also be starting over with who God truly is.
I have the chance to rebuild my faith as it should have been from the beginning, and because of that I am thankful for the pain, the tears, and the horribly lonely nights.
Maybe someday I will even thank God for the abuse.
Editor’s Note: Today, Jessica Hurst shares her story. So often we breeze over what we actually do and think and feel that bring comfort to the pain of our past, and I love how Jessica lays out exactly what she did and believed that healed her. She tweets at @jhurst21. – Lauren
12 years. 12 years that my voice fell silent to pain, embarrassment, and anger. I was angry. Angry that I was molested. I couldn’t come to terms with it, didn’t want to accept it, and acted like it never happened to me. In my mind, if I didn’t think about it or talk about it, it didn’t happen.
I was ten. I wanted to have a “normal” childhood, but even up until the abuse happened, my childhood was far from normal.
By age ten, I had gone through things no child should ever have to endure. Abandonment, physical and emotional abuse, trust issues, self-loathing — so that by time I was molested, I completely shut down.
All I wanted to hear was, “it’s going to be ok, I’m here for you, it wasn’t your fault,” but I had no one, and still wasn’t telling a soul. I was scared and embarrassed about it. I didn’t want to talk about it, so I conjured up a smile and rarely let it leave my face. I was always a
joyful person, so if I’m always smiling and happy, no one will suspect a thing right?
People close to me started noticing something was different about my behavior though. I had problems with authority, and had the attitude of, “it’s my way or the highway.” When people brought it up, I tried to blame it on my parents not really being around. Slightly true, but not the real reason for my anger. I was angry at God.
I went through phases where I was so angry at God that I couldn’t bear opening my Bible. I didn’t understand why this it had to happen to me.
In my mind, he should have stopped it. In my mind, God was done with me, so I was done with him. I still attended church regularly, but I was just going through the motions. There was one thing that I couldn’t pretend didn’t grab every muscle of my heart: worship. I’ve always loved singing, and lyrics have always spoken to me, so of course in church, worship was my favorite.
Song after song resonated with my broken heart, and I could tell God was tugging me back into His arms, ready to welcome me back to His heart. The song “How He Loves” got me every time. I just heard this little whisper, “Oh how I love you, Jessica.” I knew right when I heard the line “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,” that it was time to let go. Time for healing to enter my life. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready and felt I had no one to lean on to help me through.
As the years went on, big changes happened in my life that helped me see how faithful God is and His grace in my life. I also realized God was preparing me, reviving those things in my life I thought were dead the day I was abused. I started building community, sharing little pieces of my story, strengthening my relationship with God, and ultimately believing I was strong enough for the story God gave me.
One day I was so overwhelmed with everything and was texting my mentor. She asked me what was making me so anxious, and I simply told her “things from my past keep coming up.” Never in my life had so many TV shows, messages from church, or books I was reading addressed sexual abuse as it seemed they had been in the past months leading to that conversation with her.
I got away from the topic with her by saying that it wasn’t a conversation you have over text. The next time I saw her in person, I couldn’t avoid telling her. I stalled and stalled, and finally uttered out the words I’d never spoken aloud: “When I was ten, I was molested, and haven’t told anyone.”
From there, I started feeling free. I started seeing a counselor, and slowly started telling a few close friends.
Four months later, in Uganda on a missions trip, I started by telling my team my WHOLE story (not the one I used to tell that left out parts) and then asked them to support me, and just be there for me. They constantly encouraged me even when I thought I couldn’t go on.
Not once, until I was in Uganda, did it occur to me to let God into the pain because He felt it as well. I realized on my trip that God was with me during everything. Psalm 147:3 became sort of my go-to verse. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Here I thought I was going for a mission trip to help and love on those in need, when I was the one most in need. I needed love. I needed help. I needed to be healed and put back together. The trip was more than I could have ever expected. It was the turning point.
I was able to declare truth over myself. I went on a rooftop in Uganda, my team circled around me, stood on a chair, and boldly declared truth. “It wasn’t my fault. I am not defined by my abuse. There is power in my story. I am strong enough.” and so on.
Not only did I declare these things, I believed them, and I could feel the weight leaving. I realized my voice held so much power. I experienced something that day I had been waiting so long for: FREEDOM.
I was able to finally put my burden at the feet of Jesus and rid myself of it. I am free and will continue living in that freedom.
My voice is no longer silenced by fear or shame. Instead, my story is being told because I know there’s a purpose behind it.
Editor’s Note: So much thanks to Katie Phillips for having the courage to share her story. She blogs at Lessons The World Has Taught Me. If you are in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship, please visit our “Abuse & Unhealthy Relationships” section. You aren’t alone, it isn’t your fault, and there is a community of women ready and willing to hear your story and stand next to you as you learn to stand your ground all over again. – Lauren
When I was nineteen, I was kicked out of my mother’s house. At the time, I understood abuse as hitting or raping; I didn’t know that such a thing as emotional abuse occured, or that it could be just as damaging as the physical or sexual varieties. Nor did I know that it could rear its ugly head in so many different ways.
Very soon after I was kicked out, I met a man whom I will call Aaron. He seemed beautiful, in every way. We got very close very fast, and within a matter of weeks, claimed each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. To escape my living situation (I had an apartment with horrible roomates), I spent more and more nights in Aaron’s bed. Soon, I was spending whole weeks there without once going home. After a few months, we decided to get an apartment together, but I had to move between states on a low income. I remained on the lease with my roomates to keep my vehicle legal while I worked to fund the repairs for state inspection, and was unable pay for rent at Aaron’s house during that time.
I should take a minor break and tell you that I believed myself to be a strong woman. I had been abused in my parents’ house, and I thought I knew what abuse was all about. I knew all the facts: abused people abuse others, women who are abused as children are much more likely than their unabused counterparts to be caught in the same cycle. I remember hearing about the incident with Rhianna and Chris Brown, and I remember thinking “That will never happen to me.” I understood that my best friend was caught in a cycle of abuse, but I had no clue that that was exactly what was happening to me.
You see, as time passed, Aaron slowly caught me up in that same vicious abuse cycle. It began with little comments made in a temper fit, easily justifed by his “bad mood.” Those comments got worse, especially when I lost 20 hours a week at my job and lost my car, and had to rely on him completely. He blamed it on stress. He told me I was a loser, he told me that I had a million problems; that I was a workload and a codependent. He told me that I was broken, and that I always had been, and only he could fix me. I never questioned him. I believed him.
In the span of a year, he stole my confidence, my self-esteem, and my self-reliance. He removed me from my position of stability and put me in a position where I had nothing to give to myself, emotionally or economically. I was trapped.
Then, one night, after the only fight in which I held my ground, he did what he had never done before and started carting my possessions down to the street. He said, “you don’t live here, your name is not on the lease, you need to leave or I’m calling the police.” I left, I found myself a one-bedroom apartment, and began with nothing, not even a bed.
I stayed with him for another year, enduring the emotional turmoil because I loved him and because I didn’t believe I was worth a better man. Then, one night, he told me that he had dropped his standards to be with me. I tried to leave him then, but he begged me to stay. A week after that, in a “stressful” situation, he kicked me out of his car on a dark, cold, rainy night, miles from the nearest town. He did swing back around to pick me up, but I demanded to be taken home, and he said “If you ruin this night, I’ll never speak to you again.” I said: “OK.”
Right now, I’m working on a degree in psychology. I plan on taking it all the way up to the Master’s level so that I can practice psychotherapy. I’m still poor, but I have resources and connections now that I never would have considered when Aaron was my entire reality. I know men whose only agenda for their women is to provide for, protect, and love them. I also believe in myself, I discovered the vast potential within me that exists in every human being.
What did I learn about abuse?
Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual, albeit in different ways, and is often more dangerous because of its subtlety. It can happen to anybody, even the smartest, most ass-kicking woman on the planet.
Abusers don’t abuse you because there’s something wrong with YOU. Something inside of them is broken, and you can’t fix it. Oh, they may blame you for it all the time, but that does not make it your fault, or your responsibility.
What did I learn about myself and my relationships?
1. NEVER let another person make you believe you are broken and they are the only one who can fix you. Your flaws are your responsibility. No human can be your savior.
2. NEVER let another person define your mistakes or imperfections for you. What you like about yourself and what you don’t like about yourself are up to you to decide, no other person has that right.
3. KNOW that a man who’s worth that title will provide for you and protect you, that he will never trap you, and that if he does hurt you, he will shake the world to make it better.
4. KNOW that you, yes, little old you, are a gift to the whole world. You are not a workload, a project, a security blanket, or a sidekick, and nobody should ever make you feel that way.
You have it within you to move mountains and boil seas. You are the person who endures immeasurable pain to bring life into the world. You are the person swimming against the socioeconomic tide to make something of yourself. You are the person who will give every little bit of yourself to make another person happy. Love yourself for what you give to the world, and never settle for a man who doesn’t see what you give too.
Editor’s Note: So, so many of us women have had broken mothers and fathers in our lives, and it is crucial that we not sweep our past under the rug. If you’ve been hurt, you will only further hurt yourself and the men in your life if you do not get healing. What does “get healing” mean? I love Jen’s words: Replace your perception with God’s truths. Pursue finding someone to open up to and talk with about your past. And take it to God with them. – Lauren
There’s a lot of us out there who grew up with distant, abusive, absent, volatile, and/or immature fathers.
Fathers who didn’t cherish us the way we should have been cherished when we were little girls. Fathers who didn’t guide us in the right paths, fathers who didn’t tell us we were beautiful and worthy of only the best. Fathers who cheated on our mothers, looked at porn, or openly talked about women as objects.
Maybe it was our mothers who taught us to place far too much importance on our bodies, or who taught us to use our sexuality as a tool to get what we want.
A lot of us have scars from this, or even open wounds.
I don’t know about you, but looking back, I developed some serious self-image and sexuality issues from the way I was raised.
I was taught that I was a burden instead of a blessing, and that a woman has to give a man her body in order to make him happy. I believed that a woman was worthless to him unless she gave herself to him. I was taught that in order to be loved, a woman must be willing to do anything sexual that the man asked for. Otherwise, she wasn’t any fun and would be replaced by someone more adventurous.
Was I aware of these perceptions? Not at all. It was the only reality I knew, and it caused me to give away my body far too easily at far too young an age. I thought my body was the only valuable part of me, and that I couldn’t be loved unless the guy had it. I said ‘yes’ to everything asked of me, because I was too afraid that I would be rejected and unloved if I said ‘no’. To any of it.
And then I found God.
I thought that would be enough. I thought that along with my sin, my past thought patterns and perceptions would instantly be washed away. I wouldn’t need to work through them or acknowledge their existence, I could just hide in my new found faith. I thought that now, in my relationships, I surely wouldn’t have a problem with sexuality. It would be simple to just wait until marriage, because God was on my side!
Just because you find God’s love and have the best intentions, doesn’t mean you don’t need to face your past issues. God wants to heal you, and He is able, but healing is a process.
My point? Face these issues and find healing before you focus on dating.
As a brand-new Christian, I entered into a relationship with a guy without addressing and evaluating the “daddy issues” of my past. It was extremely difficult to break out of the patterns caused by those issues. I still had the urge to use my body to make him happy when he wasn’t happy. I still felt like I wasn’t worthy of being loved. I still felt like I couldn’t fully trust him, because every man in my life who came before him had hurt me.
God was trying to tell me differently, but I never opened myself up to true healing. I pushed my problems under the rug and tried to deny their presence in my life, because I didn’t want to face their existence. I didn’t want to think about the past, I just wanted to focus on the future. I found myself unable to be assertive in my relationship and unable to say ‘no’ when I needed to.
I needed to work through my feelings about sexuality, love, my childhood, and my dad with a pastor, therapist, or someone with some sort of wisdom and experience. I needed to examine my perceptions on these topics and replace them with God’s truth. And I desperately needed to do this before getting into another relationship.
Instead, I denied that my childhood had any lasting effect on me, and didn’t allow myself to be healed. I knew that God loved me and that I had more worth than just my body. I knew that in my mind, but I didn’t quite know it in my heart. I didn’t allow the truth to go as deep as it needed to, because that place was filled with pain and it was easier to ignore.
If there are issues in your past, if you have ugly perceptions of relationships or sexuality or your body or your heart, face these and replace them with God’s truth before you get into a relationship. Get healing.
A guy cannot “fix you”. He will not fix you.
God can fix you, but only if you open yourself up to it..
Editor’s Note: This is a recounting of a young woman’s affair with an older man, and what it’s like to be the Other Woman. In sharing this story with me, she told me, “The only thing that broke and saved me was hearing other women’s stories. Hearing that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t the only one.” It’s a hard truth, but affairs will weave themselves to make you feel like you are a special case, but in actuality, they are cookie cutter. In all the love in the world, I ask you to find yourself somewhere in this story. Give yourself grace, and then find the strength to fight for The Best. You are not ruined, you are not alone, and The Best is attainable. And so worth it. – Lauren
I wore the mask for a while. Except instead of covering what was underneath, it exposed the ugliness and desperation inside.
It was innocent at first. He complimented me. I began to notice him. The compliments began their slow turn into minor harassment. I never acknowledged it because I secretly craved the attention, deciding to dismiss it as regular work banter. The tension mounted between us, turning into an ugly distraction from my job. Yet I thought about him often, as unhealthy as it was. I tried to ignore him. I ignored his undressing stares, his enticing eyes, his remarks about my beauty. The more I denied my attraction to him, the stronger it grew. It left me overwhelmed, confused, and ashamed because I was dating a man who I loved completely. How could I love my boyfriend and have such a strong pull towards someone else? Someone who was fifteen years older, married, and a father of two beautiful girls.
That tension between us grew over the course of the year. He continued to ask me out, I repeatedly refused. He kept reassuring me it was just a meal, innocent, and that his wife would know. I refused. I even took some time off, but when I returned to work the heat between us had escalated. He and I became the dump for each other’s garbage. He’d complain about his rocky marriage, I’d complain about my dissatisfactions with this life.
Then, the relationship with the man I loved ended.
One night soon after he invited me out with a friend. I somehow convinced myself it would be okay to go. And it was. We sat at a bar. We talked about ourselves. Two unhappy people enjoying simple bonding, right? Maybe he did just want to me by friend. Maybe he wasn’t trying to just sleep with me.
The lies started. My lies. I began inviting him out. Our conversations quickly became about the sexual tension we had felt over the past year. He said things like, “I always think about you.” That, “You made a man who others claim has ice in his veins quiver with nerves.” And my beauty, my smile, made him unsure of his surroundings. These words shook me. How could this be happening? I wanted him more with every sentence that rolled off his tongue. I fell for every word, every pause, every breath. Oh, how he was so enticing. I was needed. I was wanted. I was desired. He touched me, kissed me, in all the right ways. (more…)
Editor’s Note: The relationship we witness between our mother and father define our expectations of marriage from a very early age. Normalcy ranges from the strongest, most loving and affectionate of marriages to homes filled with abuse of all kinds, neglect, anger, violence, tension & abandonment. Unfortunately, we are built to mold ourselves around our definition of normalcy, putting our hearts, bodies and future marriage at risk. Sit down and face your parents’ marriage. Write down what you want of it and what you don’t want. Don’t be afraid to want the best of the best. The good women wait and fight for that. Rachel shares her story of an unhealthy relationship; one that she accepted as normal and acceptable, as defined by watching her parents’ marriage. Thankfully, she escaped. She chose to wait, and she fought for better. And now, (I can personally attest to this), she has a man who loves, respects and protects. A marriage & life that she LOVES and thrives in. – Lauren
“I can tell you haven’t been to the gym in a few days.”
I was setting up our church for a youth event when heard those words and felt two hands pinch both sides of my size 4 waist. Tim, my semi-serious/on again-off again boyfriend, was a real stickler for fitness, style, and pretty much everything about who I was. (more…)
Editor’s Note: Hey ladies! Last week I threw out a request for women who had been through verbally abusive relationships and made their way out to find better men and better lives. Several women contacted me, eager to tell their story, and Trish is going to be the first. As a dear friend of mine, she broke my heart telling this story – and I can be the first to tell you how much she loves and raves about her now-husband. But, as we know, it takes letting go of the wrong one to find the right one, and usually there is a lot of pain along the way. I asked Trish to be as honest as she could with what kinds of things were said to her in this abusive relationship, in hopes that you, the reader, would know there are other women out there experiencing exactly what you are. And that you can always, always fight for better. – Lauren
Fresh from a serious relationship, meeting a cute guy my first year of college was thrilling. He was tall, handsome and interested. And I was done for. After a few short months the relationship turned bad, fast. The cards were stacked against me and the game was fixed. I had lost before I knew I was even playing.
What began as a playful, “Pretty girls like you can’t seriously get away with eating things like brownies!” became a belittling “Are you seriously passing up salad for pizza? You know you’re going to gain the freshman 15, if not 50, if you keep that up.”
And that escalated to a hostile “Trish, you’re getting fat and I seriously won’t be attracted to a fat girl.”
The harassment started with what seemed like loving encouragement. Only after the fact did I realize that all the things said to me deflated my spirit and crushed my self esteem.
“When I graduate and make good money – I’ll pay to get your teeth fixed. If you’re going to be a nurse you need to be appealing to the public and your teeth are distracting.”
“Why in the world would you pursue writing? Even on the side. You’ll never make money off of it and I really don’t think you have the talent to compete.” (more…)
Editor’s Note: I recorded a short video to intro this submission by Calla Montgomery. Please take a moment to watch. Also, I want to encourage you that if this is also your story, know that it can and will be your blessing. On my personal blog, I elaborated on this, and how your handicap is to be loved. While The Good Women Project is entirely non-partisan and non-religious, my personal blog is religious to some extent; please read appropriately. If you would like to speak with Calla, please email me at goodwomenproject[at]gmail.com. – Lauren
Looking people in the eyes was always very difficult for me. Even as a young child, people noticed this and ridiculed me, particularly in school. Later in life, I learned that the inability to maintain eye contact is a sign of low self esteem.
Verbal and emotional abuse was the norm in my home. Although I was consistently shamed during discipline by my father, I believed it was normal, even appropriate, and never felt any resentment toward him as a child. I was in my twenties before I finally understood what my father had been implying my whole life: “Sometimes I feel like such a failure because you and your brother have been such a disappointment to me.” Growing up under that, it was no wonder my choices in men were less than stellar.
I was bullied during almost every year in elementary, middle school, junior high, and high school. It was not always the same person, but I was a very easy target. I was often at a loss for words to stand up for myself, particularly when the aggressor had drawn an audience. I was a nice girl, I followed the rules, I did not dress or act funny, I was smart, I was a compassionate and loyal friend, but the “right people” always found a way to get to me.
My story really begins the summer after I graduated from high school. I had dated a few guys here and there for a few months at a time during my late teen years, and they were mostly nice guys, even if they did break my heart. The abuse began with my first “real” boyfriend, Cory, the guy I gave my virginity to. He was a master manipulator. He had me absolutely under his thumb, and I guess I had lost my ability to think for myself by the time sexual intimacy entered our relationship. Even being in a relationship with a guy like him was somehow a culmination of all my past experiences and total lack of self esteem. (more…)