Browsing Tag

sexual abuse

Feminism, Theology

"How to Win Over Depression" review: 113-136

For new readers: this post is part of a regular blog feature, where I read through influential books on Christian living. The beginning of the series covering Tim LaHaye’s How to Win Over Depression is here; you can also read through my series on Helen Andelin’s Fascinating Womanhood, John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating, Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage, and Rob and Kristin Bell’s Zimzum of Love.

~~~~~~~~~

These two chapters were repetitive, so I’m going to do my best not to rehash things I’ve already commented on. A few things jumped out to me on this reading of “How to Overcome Self-Pity,” especially one thing in particular:

Facing self-pity as a sin is the initial step toward victory over this cruel slave-driver … instead of commiserating with yourself and blaming other people for the insult, injury, rejection, or tragedy, face self-pity squarely as a giant mental sin that will destroy you. (114)

I’ve mentioned before that when Tim is talking about “self-pity” he uses very similar language as when evangelicals start talking about “bitterness,” and this passage is a good example of that. In recent conversations about the Duggars, many people have pointed out that any “counseling” Josh’s victims received would have been accompanied with a heavy dose of the sin of bitterness is worse than his attacking you– after all, bitterness damages your soul and mind. Anyone who thinks that thought only exists in Christian fundamentalism need to look no farther than this book, which is about as mainstream evangelicalism as you can get. I mean, Nicolas Cage starred in a movie based on Tim LaHaye’s books.

The most frustrating thing is that Tim never comes right out and says what he means. He talks about “injury” and “tragedy,” and those words cover up a multitude of horrific nightmares the likes of which he will probably never experience. Tim would look Josh’s victims in the face and tell them that they need to “confess the sin of self-pity” for the lingering affects of severe childhood trauma. He would, all while never once acknowledge exactly what the “tragedy” actually is.

However, he has to breeze over exactly what the “tragedies” are that befall people, because the crux of his advice in “Depression and Your Mind” is to “forget those things which are behind.” It’s a lot easier to leave behind some nebulous “tragedy” than it is to forget the fact that you’ve been raped over and over again.

Interesting fact: I followed that advice doggedly. I wholeheartedly threw myself into forgetting that I’d ever been abused or raped. I did it, rather successfully, for four years. And then I started having night terrors and panic attacks. It wasn’t until I was able to process what I’d been through, to name it for exactly what it was and to start talking through it, that the night terrors and the panic attacks started to subside. “Forget those things which are behind” flies in the face of what we know about how to heal from trauma.

One hilarious thing in the chapter “How to Overcome Self-Pity” is when Tim references a story about Moses, found in Number 11.

During the course of his prayer, which began in anger and progressed in self-pity, Moses became so depressed that he actually asked God to let him die. Poor Moses! Resenting the clamor of the people and his leadership, he disregarded God’s supernatural supply of his needs.

Specifically, Tim has “Numbers 11:11-15” as the citation for this story. Here’s what God does in verses 16-17:

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

If “self-pity” is what Tim thinks Moses was experiencing in verses 11-15, and “self-pity” is a sin, then what in the world is God doing responding to this prayer with “you’re right, you’ve got too much on your plate, let me help you out”?

Just an idle question.

Chapter ten, “Depression and Your Mind,” can be summed up thusly: Tim thinks all we need to do is imagine our depression away. We just have to constantly tell ourselves that God loves us and BAM! depression cured (129). It’s also a quick summary of everything else he’s said so far, so we can just move on with our lives for the day.

Although, of the six examples he includes this chapter, four are about women, and involve 1) obesity, 2) weeping, 3) menstruation, and 4) menopause. Because of course.

Theology

American Christianity is broken

[content note: discussions of child sexual abuse, rape apologia]

Growing up as a Christian fundamentalist meant that I was supremely good at judging people. I could tell, usually with the briefest glance, exactly who was in and who was out. I could winnow out the chaff of liberal and “lukewarm” Christians in an instant, but I could also spot a legalistic Christian– untrimmed hair, no makeup, no jewelry– five miles off.

That skill hasn’t gone away simply because I’m a liberal now. I have to fight off the urge to circle a completely different set of wagons and refuse admittance to the people who don’t agree with me. My theology has changed, but the desire to keep a mental checklist of doctrines to compare everyone to is still there. I’m on the opposite side of the question, but the problem is that I’m still asking it, and it’s difficult to stop. I’ve been reading through Searching for Sunday again with my small group, and one of Rachel’s challenges is to have room for all Christians in your faith– even the Christians you really don’t want anything to do with.

I was getting more comfortable with the idea, slowly, but this last weekend threw a whole monkey wrench into that process.

For the first time in a long time, I am truly astounded by the depths of depravity that American Evangelical Christianity is capable of sinking to.

For years I’ve heard preachers make jokes about beating infants and breaking the arms of toddlers. I’ve heard calls for genocide. I’ve seen Christians blame natural disasters on innocent children. I’ve watched as our leaders remain silent and complicit amidst horrible abuse. I thought I’d seen it all. I believed there was a line– surely there was a line. Surely we couldn’t be capable of defending a confessed child sexual abuser. We couldn’t.

I was wrong. Turns out, yes, we can. Easily.

I didn’t go to church on Sunday because of how exhausted I was and because I knew that if I heard a whisper of someone defending Josh Duggar I’d start screaming. I still can’t quite process the idea that I could encounter someone who thinks that child sexual abuse isn’t that bad, that people like me are merely “bloodthirsty,” that we’ll do anything to make conservative Christianity “look bad.”

I am repulsed. I am absolutely stunned by the amount of stomach-churning evil pouring out of keyboards and mouths. These people– supposedly good people, supposedly faithful Christians– are defending a young man who crept into bedrooms in the middle of the night and groped and fondled little girls. If they’re not saying it was a “mistake” or a “childish indiscretion,” they’re calling it normal.

Normal. To thousands and thousands of Christians, child sexual abuse is normal. We should be ignoring this and moving on because it isn’t that big of a deal. They shrug their shoulders at something that should be making every single one of us pull back in horror. They’re saying things that should make good people vomit. Anyone making the argument that child sexual abuse is dismissible should make us grieve, but we’re not. Instead I see thousands of Christians nodding their head in agreement.

That is sick.

All weekend, I couldn’t help but think of I Corinthians 5:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Only now it’s worse. Now it’s a teenager attacking a five-year-old little girl, and we are just so proud of the Duggars. Look at how wholesome they are, look at how they espouse family values, look at how radiant and spiritual they are!

I read an article on Saturday that argued how it would be “wrong” for someone to criticize conservative Christianity because of this, but oh, I am. If the reaction from all these self-proclaimed “true Christians” is so utterly despicable, how am I supposed to rectify this with the notion that being “saved” means we have a relationship with Jesus, that we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, calling us to a more holy life? How is this possible?

There is something defective in American evangelical Christianity, something rotten in the core of it. We’ve created a culture conducive to almost nothing else besides defending predators and abusers. Right now, that seems like all we are: a way for predators and abusers to shout “do over!” and escape justice.

Photo by Rodrigo Parades
Social Issues

how Josh Duggar is getting away with it

[content note for discussions of child sexual assault]

Before we get started with today’s post, I’d like y’all to read these two pieces, especially if you’re not aware of what came out yesterday:

What you Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report” by Libby Anne
Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?” by Kathryn Elizabeth Brightbil

Libby Anne and Kathryn address many of the things I would have said, which I’m thankful for because now I can focus on making a broader point that I think applies to conservative evangelicalism as a culture and not just the Duggars as a family.

~~~~~~~~~

A close friend of mine has spent most of her adulthood in Spanish-speaking countries. During a recent visit, she told me a story about what it’s like to make the adjustments between languages. She was working with a bus ministry at her church and had to deal with a rambunctious boy who was invading the personal space of other children, including touching them without their consent. In order to try to reign him in, she wanted to tell him to “stop bothering her,” but what came out was “stop molesting her.”

In Spanish, the word for bother is molestar.

It was an amusing anecdote, but then she made the point that English tends to soften concepts that Spanish doesn’t. As a culture, we call what Josh Duggar did to his victims child molestation; even though we understand the connotation of the phrase, it doesn’t have the clarity that child sexual assault does.

Our culture is set up in almost every conceivable way to harbor abusers.

For example: racism, sexism, and any other form of systemic bigotry is, essentially the abuse of one people group by another. Individual white people benefit from a system that abuses people of color. Certain men receive benefits from rape culture, which allows the worst among us to take advantage of everything we collectively believe about women and sex.

Another way that our culture allows abuse to flourish is that we refuse to really deal with what is actually happening. Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

But, in our culture, abusers can “apologize,” and that becomes the headline. And, as Kathryn pointed out, it makes the victims look bad in Christian culture if they don’t immediately “forgive.” We saw this with Sovereign Grace, and we’re seeing it now.

This is why I never use softening, minimizing language. I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.

The words we use matter.

~~~~~~~~~~

The biggest reason why Josh will get away with sexually assaulting five girls is purity culture. If you’re a regular reader that connection should be apparent right now, as I’ve frequently talked about how my belief in “purity” kept me from talking about my rape for years.

Everything about this situation was not just mishandled, it was covered up. On purpose. That makes any mandatory reporter that knew about this a criminal (at the minimum, the church leadership and the original police officer, who did not file a report), and it makes Jim Bob and Michelle, in the words of Jesus, hypocrites and vipers. White-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones and rotting corpses.

However, Jim Bob and Michelle and the church leadership and the police were able to cover this up because of the culture his victims belong to. They have been taught since they extremely young that women are capable of tempting the most holy man to sin, that women can provoke men into raping them, that if something bad happened they must always look for their part in the blame. The Duggars belong to an even more nightmarish subculture than I was exposed to, since they follow Bill Gothard. If you’re not familiar with ATI/IBLP, this is what Gothard teaches about sexual abuse.

Counseling_Sexual_Abuse

That is the only framework that Josh’s victims had to process their assaults. Like me, they were forced by the only things they knew to evaluate how they could be responsible for what Josh did to them. It was their responsibility to repent of “immodesty” or any “sensuousness” they may have displayed, however innocently. Then, because they contributed to their own assault, they don’t have the ability to pursue justice. They were duty-bound to “forgive” their abuser because, after all, it was their fault, too.

If his victims were to come forward, to make police reports within the limited three-year window they had to get justice, they would have been dragged through a nightmare the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine. It is extremely likely that every single last person they knew– their family, their church– would have turned their backs and rejected them. They would hear sermons preached about them about the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman. They would have been sternly reminded that Christians handle problems among themselves and don’t involve the courts.

In ATI/IBLP, if they received any “counseling” at all (which seems unlikely, considering Michelle Duggar said that Josh’s “counseling” involved helping a family friend remodel his house), it would have been laser-focused on figuring out what the victims did “wrong” so they could be shamed for it.

This is what purity culture does. More than anything else, it silences victims.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading:

When my abuser is welcome at the table, I am not” by Sarah Moon
Josh Duggar and the Purity Lie” by Sarah Posner
Josh Duggar and the Problem of Easy Forgiving” by Mary DeMuth

Photo by Vincepal
Feminism

the lie that made me give up

[content note for explicit discussion of rape, emotional and sexual abuse]

I was raped twice.

And that statement, right there, as straightforward as it seems, is fraught with the complexities and ambiguities and lies and mixed-up realities of living in an abusive relationship for almost three years. I say the word twice and I’m not lying but it doesn’t communicate the heavy weight of the truth. The truth is that I point to those separate instances as rape because they are, in retrospect, very clear: I said no. Repeatedly. I physically resisted. I cried. And still he didn’t stop– he did whatever he wanted and then said you Goddamn fucking bitch this is all your fucking fault when he was done.

At the time I didn’t understand that saying “no,” out loud, made it an open-shut case of rape. There was no consent. He knew there was no consent, that I did not want to have sex with him, at all. He just didn’t care. What he wanted mattered more, and he could trust that I was so entrenched in the lies of being worthless and unlovable and no good for anyone else but him that I wouldn’t tell anyone. He knew that I wouldn’t think of the word rape and apply it to what he’d done. And he was right– I didn’t realize he raped me until years later. Even though I’d said no, stop, please don’t, I don’t want this.

Until I gave up.

I gave up because I thought that if I stopped resisting it would be over faster. I gave up because I thought that maybe if I stopped being such a buzz-kill he’d be able to become fully erect and it wouldn’t hurt so goddamn much. I gave up because, really, fighting was pointless.

The reason why I knew it was pointless was all the times that came before. The times that I don’t call rape.

~~~~~~~~~~

We’d both grown up in purity culture. We both had absorbed similar messages about sex and abstinence and while I got a lot of if you have sex you’re worthless garbage ideas, he knew that it was a moral failing for him to “take advantage” of a woman and that any sexual contact at all with any woman who wasn’t his wife was some form of sexual predation– that wanting to be sexually physical in a relationship made him a “wolf.”

It was a reality we struggled with. I thought that because I’d “surrendered my purity” in a thousand insignificant ways (wearing fitted clothing, leaning over in front of him, kissing him) I’d have to stick this relationship out, no matter what. I was done. If I didn’t marry this boy, then it was all over for me. I’d ruined any chance of happiness I had with another person. But still, the niggling thought of I shouldn’t let him kiss me anymore was a pinprick in the back of my mind.

I also loathed our physical relationship. Everything he asked me to do made me feel degraded and dirty and hardly anything felt good. I’d thought kissing and “heavy petting” and third base was supposed to be this inexorable temptation, as compelling as the Apple in Eden. Not revolting. Not repulsive. But, I figured I was just one of those women where sex would be a sacrifice for my husband.

His feelings were different: he thoroughly enjoyed everything he made us do, but occasionally would enter a fit of conscience. We can’t keep doing this, he’d say, and I’d agree, and do everything I could to keep the relief off my face. Finally, I’d think, it could stop. He wouldn’t keep badgering me into giving him a blowjob. I wouldn’t have to keep the pain off my face when I could feel his fingernails scraping inside my dry vagina. If I thought about the future, after we were married, it was always with the optimism that things would be better then. Marriage would be a magic wand and solve all these problems.

What I came to realize, eventually, was that he didn’t really want us to stop. He just wanted to think he was a good person who didn’t take advantage of women– it was me. It was my fault. I was the temptress that lured him back in, again and again.

It was a Wednesday evening, after church. I’d worn a fundamentalist-appropriate going-to-meeting skirt, but it was a nice one that I didn’t want to rumple while we watched a movie. It took me a few minutes to decide what I wanted to change into, studying a loose pair of pajama pants and my jeans. We were in the middle of one of his purity fits, and so I decided to wear the jeans. They were tight and he wouldn’t be able to get his hand down them. But as I put them on I knew — I knew— he wasn’t going to be happy. I felt choked. I couldn’t swallow around the constricted feeling, and my heart was a terrified fluttering bird inside of my chest. My fingers turned ice cold and I could feel myself shaking as I pulled on the jeans and buttoned them up.

He was waiting for me outside the room, his mouth open to say something; then he saw me, and it shut. He stared, coldly furious, at what I was wearing. And then he hissed “what the fuck are you wearing?“, grabbed my arm and hauled me back into the room. He kept his voice low– can’t have anyone overhearing what he was about to do– and I braced myself. I knew how to weather this storm, I knew what the end result would be.

“Uh … jeans?”

He rolled his eyes. “What are you, an idiot? Of course they’re jeans. Why are you wearing jeans?”

“Because they’re comfortable?”

“As comfortable as pajamas? Seriously, Sam?”

I stared at the floor.

Mercurial, he switched tactics. “Baby, baby, don’t you want to … y’know?”

I managed the smallest nod and hoped to God it was perceptible.

“Don’t you know how much I love you? Don’t you understand that I just want to be with you?”

“I know.”

And so I changed. I endured an entire film of him stuffing his fingers inside of me, scratching and clawing, and I, again, did my best to pretend that it was good, so good, for me. I think I was convincing.

~~~~~~~~~~

It’s months later. It’s after the rapes, after so many threats and half-breaks-ups and so many pinches and so many times of being hauled out of rooms. We’ve just listened to a chapel message, and I’d learned to identify Dread curled up in the pit of my stomach. It was coming. That conversation was coming. Again. He’d have another purity fit, and I’d have to deal with the mountains of shame he’d hurl at me after it was over and he’d given up.

We were supposed to meet in one of the atriums to go to lunch. I saw him waiting for me, and it was all there: the slumped shoulders, the facial expression that I knew to be the one he put on we he wanted people to think he was convicted and sorrowful and spiritual. And we had the conversation, only this time I was done. I was done pretending. I knew how this was going to end– with him screaming at me and blaming me and mountains and mountains of goddamn you fucking bitch. So I decided to skip it. I decided that instead of agreeing, I was going to soothe his conscience. I was going to tell him that no, no it’s fine and I was going to make up some reason for him not to feel guilty anymore. I was going to smooth over whatever ruffled feathers he had and move on.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I was giving him all the ammunition he’d ever need. I gave him exactly what he wanted, actually– proof. I was the temptress, the Apple, a reincarnated Lilith. I was the problem, not him. I didn’t just soothe his conscience– I expunged it of all guilt. I gave him the power to destroy me and then abandon me and then tell everyone who would listen that it was me. I was the one to blame.

~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve talked to many women after I put all of these pieces together, and I started seeing patterns in what he’d done. Other people have been through this, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned since I started blogging is the breathtaking power in “me, too.” I don’t know how many people will read this and identify with it, but I hope that if you do you’ll see what I eventually saw.

This is one of the ways we are kept silent. This is one of the ways that you don’t hear us talking about what we’ve been through. Because we feel guilty, and complicated, and confused, and we don’t know how to name what happened. We feel that it’s our fault, but we also feel used and robbed of … something. For women who grow up in purity culture, it’s common to look at all of this and tell ourselves that we’re just feeling the after-effects of “losing our purity.” Next time, it will be better. Next time we won’t let this happen.

And the word for what all of this is goes ignored.

Coercion.

Photo by Helga Weber
Feminism

"Real Marriage" review: 123-138, "Disgrace and Grace"

[content note: sexual violence and victim blaming]

This chapter was a … struggle. I’ve known it was coming for a while, but I wasn’t certain how bad it would be. It deeply concerns me because if this is how Mark and Grace Driscoll and the pastoral staff of Mars Hill has been counseling sexual abuse survivors I’m horrified, and I’m grieving for all the men and women who have been harmed by their teachings.

There was one section that I didn’t have a problem with, and was encouraged to see– the one headed “Serving and Protecting your Children” on 136-37. She recommends giving children the words they need to describe their abuse, about the difference between good and bad secrets (surprise parties vs. “this will be our little secret”), and assuring them they won’t get in trouble if they relate something that happened to them. She also makes it clear how important it is to believe your children, no matter who they tell you harmed them, and I was grateful for that.

The rest of the chapter, though, was a nightmarish trainwreck and in my opinion is totally irredeemable. Everything she says is not just wrong but actively harmful.

I also think it will be helpful for me to simply allow what she says to speak for itself. Often I get asked why I’m reviewing this book, and this chapter is a perfect example. Grace says some horrific things, but Grace is not alone. She is one evangelical Christian woman among thousands of others and “biblical” counselors who will all tell sexual abuse survivors the exact same thing, and they’ll probably say it in similar ways.

Before we get to that, though, I want to highlight something that I think is revealing:

Was Mark really safe to talk to about it, or would his response cause more pain (123)?

What will happen to our church and our life if they know about my abuse (128)?

The first time I told Handsome about my rape and abuse, it never once occurred to me to wonder if he was a “safe” person. There was not a single second that I was worried if his reaction would hurt me. I was nervous about telling him, but not because I thought he would possibly think of me differently. And this breaks my heart for Grace because her gut knew that Mark’s reaction wasn’t going to be the right one (“Sometimes his responses caused fear all over again” 132); she makes casual references all through this chapter about how Mark had to learn and adapt in order to respond “appropriately,” and she talks about that as if it’s normal.

That is not normal. That is disturbing.

Also, the fact that she was worried about what the congregation at Mars Hill might think tells me that they had not been building a church that was safe for survivors. If a church hears “your pastor’s wife was in an abusive relationship” and reacts with judgment and condemnation, you have not been responsible leaders. Unfortunately, this is a failing endemic to evangelical churches everywhere.

Anyway, I want to spend the rest of the post showing how evangelicals use Christian-ese in order to victim blame survivors.

We wondered if it was really possible to trust each other again … (126) [implying that she had done something by being abused/telling him she’d been abused to be untrustworthy]

I had lived a double life, a pastor’s daughter and wife filled with deception and fear. (127)

That meant asking the Holy Spirit to restore any memories that needed to be brought into the light so I could be cleansed … and it meant Jesus’ righteousness alone had to replace all my old identity of abused, neglected, dirty, and worthless [sic]. (127)

We quickly realized there were large numbers of abuse victims attending our church … Mutual, honest accountability had always felt too vulnerable but it was part of the process I needed to prayerfully participate in. (128) [“accountability” is a term used among Christians that is intrinsically linked to sinfulness; men who struggle with porn have “accountability partners,” many small groups have “accountability times” where they confess sin to each other.]

I finally wanted to put my own sin and shame to death, through Jesus’ death on the cross. (128)

God gave me a few trustworthy women to encourage and exhort me and love me, despite knowing the truth about me. (129)

I never thought [healing] was possible, but that is what repentance and redemption feel like. (129)

To cope with the pain, I initially pretended to be a “good girl,” … without true repentance. (130)

It was an identity crisis [referring to different common coping mechanisms experienced by many survivors] because I wasn’t rooted in Christ. (131)

But we each need a new identity so that we don’t feel condemned by our sin. (132)

I sobbed off and on for hours over the pain of abuse and the conviction of my own sin. (133)

I could give many other examples, but the others need more surrounding context and I’m trying to keep the length of this manageable.

Survivors of abuse– any form of abuse– have not sinned. I don’t know how to stress that any more emphatically. The only person responsible for sin is the one doing the abusing, not the victim. Trusting someone not to hurt you? Not a sin. Expecting someone to be a decent human being? Not a sin. Hoping that your abuser is capable of change and growth? Not a sin.

There is a common argument among evangelicals, especially “biblical counselors,” that it is important to claim “responsibility for your choices”; very often they frame this in terms of “autonomy,” appropriating feminist vocabulary in order to cloak what they actually mean. In reality, what they’re doing is a logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc, more commonly known as “false cause.” Grace argues that because she chose to date her abuser and chose to have sex with him willingly, she is partly at fault for what happened. If she had not chosen to date him, or chosen to have sex with him, the abuse would not have happened.

And, in a ridiculously literal way, that’s true. However, just because the abuse happened after she started dating him does not mean that she was abused because she dated him. It happened because he was an abuser.

In my opinion, there are few “counseling” ideas more poisonous. I spent so many years trying to do this, trying to be “responsible by recognizing what I had done wrong,” not allowing myself to have a “victim mentality,” and all it did was cause agony.

There’s a secondary problem going on in this chapter, most clearly seen in this:

My judgment was clouded once I had sex with someone outside a marriage relationship. The abuse made me feel dirty and defiled, and the lie that I had no value became even more believable. (136)

This is what purity culture does to sexual abuse survivors. I don’t want to say that without purity culture no victim would ever feel “dirty” or “defiled” after being abused. Abuse is intrinsically a deep spiritual, emotional and physical violation and it will cause pain and suffering, regardless of whether or not purity culture exists. However, Grace feels that because she’d consented to sex that her abuse was inescapable (“I was filled with my own guilt from fornicating and told myself if I married him it would cover my sin somehow” 124), and she felt that way because purity culture teaches women that sex– even rape– makes women dirty and defiled.

And she’s clueless that the “lie that I had no value” comes from purity culture, the exact same lie she’s promoting all the way through this chapter.

Feminism

reproductive coercion: Rhiannon's story

handcuffs

I am a feminist who supports contraception coverage for every person who needs and wants it. However, that does not mean that I will be blind to some of the ways that hormonal contraception can be used as a weapon against women; some have criticized the ever-growing expectation for women to be the one primarily responsible for contraception. Since hormonal contraception is a medication that is not right for every person, that expectation can harm women and needs to be discussed. This is Rhiannon’s story.

No one else from my high school was going to the same college as me, which was exactly what I wanted. As the youngest in a fairly large family, I always felt like I wasn’t allowed to be my own person. This would be just the fresh start that I needed. I bumped into a friend I’d lost touch with after middle school, and she invited me to an 18-and-older club. I walked into her dorm room before we left, and there he was.

Joey was a textbook bad boy – he had a mouth like a sailor, he smoked like a freight train, and he often had a flask of whiskey in his boot. He was every boy that I had never been allowed to hang out with at all, let alone date, and I was drawn to him because I was starving for adventure.

Things started out fairly innocently, I suppose. We danced at the club and ended up spending the night together a few nights later. Slowly, he started taking up more and more of my time. Things were always a little on the rough side. I cared about him and wanted to make him happy. He was afraid to commit but he would tell me that I was the first girl that ever made him feel the way he was feeling. His parents had been married for nearly thirty years and suddenly separated and got back together multiple times, and he was angry. He was always so angry. I was terrified riding in the car with him in traffic because I was afraid of his rage at simple things, like a traffic light turning red, or another driver forgetting to use a turn signal. If I got out of class and walked to meet him at the café with a male classmate he would get a sullen, resentful look on his face and ball up his fists until we sat down and our other friends arrived.

I never thought much of it because guys are jealous, right? He never got angry with me, so it was okay, wasn’t it? He’s just going through a lot right now, I told myself. He won’t always be like this.

Although he had never slept with anyone before we met, he still wanted me to perform sexual favors for him, with little to no reciprocation. We did begin a sexual relationship not long after we started dating officially. He was more paranoid about pregnancy than any person I had ever met. We always used condoms and he always pulled out as well, so I wasn’t concerned about pregnancy. He kept up with my menstrual cycle and when it was close to time for my period to start he would constantly ask me, to the point of harassment, if I had started yet. I thought maybe he would settle down after a while, but he didn’t. He just got worse. He started making threats, thinly veiled as jokes, about what would happen if I got pregnant. Most of his “jokes” involved coat hangers and flights of stairs.

I was too consumed with this relationship to see the warning signs of the depression I was falling into. I never had even a drink of alcohol before I went to college, but he and his friends all drank fairly heavily, so I started. And I liked it. I liked that it made me feel warm all over and I liked how it always felt like I was completely removed from my emotions when I was drunk.

He pressured me to get on birth control. At that point in my life, I was terrified of medication in general. I hated to even take an ibuprofen for a headache. The thought of taking artificial hormones and manipulating the natural processes of my body made me feel sick. He wouldn’t let up, though, so I made an appointment with the student health center to get a prescription. They prescribed me a $9 generic from Wal-Mart, which was more than I could afford at the time since I was in school full-time and living off of my financial aid. Joey wouldn’t help me. His reasoning was that I had better financial aid and therefore more money than he did.

That birth control made me feel awful. I was nauseous and I had heart palpitations and sudden, stabbing headaches. I stuck it out for a few months before I gave up. At that point, our relationship deteriorated pretty badly. I knew I wanted out but I didn’t know how. All of my friends were also his friends, because I had slowly cut my own friends out of my life.

One evening after a practice session where he was teaching me MMA-style fighting, we were sitting in the living room of the apartment he shared with some friends. There was a friendly but very lively debate going on about something in the Bible – I don’t remember what it was, exactly. I disagreed with something that Joey said and he got angry. Angrier than I had ever seen him. He had a mouthguard in his hand from our fighting earlier, and he threw it at my face. I was across the room and he was mad enough to mess up his aim. It didn’t hit me, but I felt the air rush past my face. Immediately, I calmly got up, walked to his bedroom, and started throwing all of my things into a bag. He ran to apologize, spewing a lot of total crap about how much he loved me and how “you just make me feel everything more strongly!”

I left.

I wish I could say that I left for good that night. In reality, it took a couple of months. But that was the start.

He never physically hit me (other than in the practice sessions), and he was very good at framing his manipulative words in a way that made me feel like I was being irrational and overreacting. Actually, his arguments followed a pattern similar to all of my parents’ tirades. My whole life, my parents told me that they loved me unconditionally, but then they turned around and screamed me into submission with implications of my sinfulness for “dishonoring my father and mother.” I didn’t have any kind of experience of a relationship without fear and emotional manipulation as the backbone, so how was I to recognize my relationship with Joey as abusive?

It was abusive. Abuse isn’t always sexual, although I do recognize some of my encounters with Joey as assault now that I know better. Abuse isn’t always physical. It’s not always bruises and black eyes and bloody noses. Abuse is often invalidation, emotional trauma, and power play. Joey figured out that I was vulnerable to being manipulated and he used that to keep me in his life when I should have been running far away from him.

Feminism

Moni's Story: How PCC Re-Victimizes Students

listening

As I was interviewing people and researching their stories for my article on PCC, I had to make a tough decision about the stories that I would include. I didn’t have space for everyone, and I needed to be able to tell the stories clearly, but succinctly. There is not a whole lot of time for nuance in 1,200 words. A lot of people assumed that I chose the stories I did because they were “sensational,” which they are, but I actually chose them because their stories were simple, easy to explain, and easily understood by those who aren’t familiar with how predators operate and how they groom their victims.

However, I believe that the vast majority of victimized PCC students don’t have such cut-and-dried stories. So far, most of them have been far more complicated—however, they are also far more typical of what happens on the campus of Pensacola Christian and in the broader culture.

Monica Varela, “Moni,” has a typical story.

She is from Taiwan, the child of missionary parents, and started her freshman year, her very first semester, at PCC this January. As I’ve been talking with her, I’ve gotten to know a very gentle and incredibly sweet young woman, but she’s also incredibly brave—she decided to attend college in a foreign country, reached out to me, and is sharing her actual name. I am fiercely proud of her for being willing to do this.

After she arrived on campus, she quickly became friends with a young man who had also started in January. Her first impression of him was that he was a little awkward, but when he initiated a friendship with her, she thought that she should give him a chance. At first, everything seemed to be going well. He was incredibly sweet and generous—he gave her his favorite hoodie, and showered her with attention and compliments.

As their friendship progressed, he began “opening up” to her, telling her that he had never been able to open up to any other girl before, that he trusted her and valued her. She was helping him. He told her about some horrible things he’d experienced and said that her friendship with him was allowing him to trust people again, to realize that maybe people weren’t so bad.

If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, you will recognize this stage. It is one of the very first things that some predators do to groom their victims—they make their victim feel needed. They do everything they can to make sure their victim has bonded with them emotionally; the goal is to ensure that their victim feels compelled to stay in a relationship with them once they begin the abuse. You’ll hear this sometimes from domestic violence victims: they’ll excuse their abuser’s actions as part of them being “troubled,” and they see it as their responsibility to remain in a relationship with them in order to “fix them.”

The abuse in Moni’s relationship, like in most abusive relationships, began very slowly. One of the first steps he took was to isolate her from her support structure—she had family on campus, and had made other friends. He began asking her to go to dinner “just the two of them” because he wanted to spend time with her. When she would protest and say that she wanted to spend time with other people, he would ask her to accommodate his “social awkwardness.” He didn’t like big groups, he didn’t feel comfortable. Being the sweet person that she is, Moni capitulated to what he was saying he needed. Over time, she began seeing her friends and family less and less.

Another thing that predators do is test boundaries, or to outright violate them and see how you react. He began doing this to Moni, asking her to send him pictures. At first it was all incredibly innocent—he wanted a picture of her wearing the hoodie he’d given her, for example. This made her uncomfortable, but he would insist and eventually convince her that there wasn’t anything wrong with his request and she shouldn’t freak out, it wasn’t a big deal.

That is called gaslighting, and it is a very common abusive tactic. Predators employ gaslighitng in order to make sure that the victim doesn’t trust their own instincts or to respect their own boundaries—abusers convince victims that they cannot trust themselves or their perceptions.

(I explain more about how abusers can operate here and here.)

~~~~~~~~~~

shh

As Moni’s relationship continued, the abuse progressed and he began using threats. He carefully never threatened Moni, but he started saying things like “I’ve never wanted to punch someone [referring to a female friend] so much” or “I could totally beat up your brother.”

Moni’s reaction to these threats was the reaction that most people would have: he could not possibly be serious. He must be making a very bad joke, she thought, and she blamed it on his “awkwardness.” She responded with “that isn’t funny” or “please don’t say things like that.”

Personally, I believe that abusers might use ridiculous threats like this in order to further isolate their victims. At one point during my abusive relationship, my ex threatened to hire a hitman to assassinate my two closest friends. It just sounds so crazy—who exactly are we going to tell? I didn’t really take him seriously, but it did make me horribly afraid. I knew he was capable of violence, and I had no idea how far he’d actually go. Moni began feeling and thinking very similar things—what was this young man actually capable of? Who would he hurt?

He continued his threats, continued gaslighting her, and began coercing her into sexting with him. When I asked her to describe those interactions, it all felt so familiar to me. In the early days of my abusive relationship, John* had pressured me into sexting and, eventually, phone sex. It’s difficult to explain how that process works if you have never experienced it, but the constant needling, the never-ending drone of “please please please please please” eventually wears you down to the point where you give in. When you’re simultaneously being gaslighted and drowned in flattery and “affection” and “baby I need you so badly,” things can get incredibly confusing, especially for a young woman who has nothing to compare it to. Especially for young women who belong to a culture that puts what men need at the top of our priorities.

During this period, he sexually assaulted her twice—while they were on campus.

After all of this, Moni still had the courage to stand up to him: she told him that she did not believe him, did not trust him, and that she did not like their relationship. She says that he “blew up” and broke up with her. She was relieved, and thought “finally, he’ll leave me alone now.”

That is when he began stalking her.

He followed her all over campus, even when she was in a group. Her friends noticed, and commented about the way he was looking at them—he made them feel unsafe and was giving them “evil looks.” A cousin asked her about what had happened, and when she heard everything Moni had been through, told her to take it to her floorleaders (which is exactly what PCC tells students to do).

The second her floorleaders heard what was happening, they were appropriately concerned and immediately sent her to Student Life the next day.

~~~~~~~~~~

pointing finger

Moni went to Student Life feeling hopeful. This was her first semester at PCC, so she innocently believed what Student Life said—they claimed to care about students, and they had publicly assured the campus that they take things like what Moni was going through very seriously. It’s even in their handbook, the Pathway, that they respond to “harassment” (which supposedly includes stalking and sexual assault) very seriously.

However, the several women that she spoke to in the Student Life office did not take her seriously. They told her that because the threats he had made were verbal and not written that there was nothing they could do, and their only “solution” to his stalking was to tell her to “remain in groups and very public places,” confident that he would eventually give up and leave her alone, and that she was “letting herself be too controlled by fear.”

In an attempt to explain what this man was capable of, she told them about how he had sexually assaulted her twice, and about how he had been coercing and pressuring her sexually.

That’s when they finally became interested. They switched from being dismissive to being hostile and demanding—they repeatedly asked her variations of “do you know what your sin is?”. After several hours of interrogating her, they concluded that she “had been too willing” and she was sent in front of another “council” and told to “defend herself.”

She explained everything that had happened, and the council decided to expel her for “sexual misconduct.”

In her own words, this is how Moni described her encounter with Student Life:

They treated me like I was a dirty, sexually disturbed person … how they mentally and physically exhausted me that day and then made me defend myself without really knowing how is the most horrible memory I have. I looked into their faces and saw no sympathy and Christian love. Only disdain and judgment as I sat there trembling.

Did the women, when interrogating me, try to comfort me as I cried? No: instead they were trying to elicit a confession of my sins, and a repentance for what they thought was my “seduction.”

This is called re-victimization, and many sexual violence victims report that their encounters with authority figures after their assault is more traumatic than the assault itself. That is what Student Life did to Moni—they listened to a story about verbal abuse, physical threats, stalking, and sexual assault, and instead of reacting with empathy and compassion, they began attacking her.

Instead of helping her, they expelled her.

~~~~~~~~~

That is what Pensacola Christian College does. I’ve heard dozens of stories from other victims in the past few months, and most fit this pattern. The administration, Student Life, and their “counselors” do not understand sexual violence, trauma, or abuse, and so they almost invariably re-traumatize victims.

This must change.

author’s note: I was able to independently corroborate this story with several PCC students and staff, all of whom have asked to keep their identities private for fear of reprisal from the college.

*edit: ordinarily I keep my comment section fairly open. For posts like this one, however, I moderate more closely. Because of the content, it is vital that the comment section remain a safe place for me, Moni, and other survivors. Also, if you believe that whether or not Moni has reported her assault to the police is at all relevant, you have missed the point of this article.

Feminism

PCC starts backtracking

pcc sign

The day my guest post “God is Done with You” came out, I was contacted by a lot of people trying to find out more about what I’d described. One of them was a radio show host, who managed to accomplish what I could not: to get PCC to go on record. Their reaction was about what I’d expected– “categorical denials” and accusing those of us who have come forward of “victimizing and harassing” the college.

Their first statement came out last Wednesday–on March 12. Yesterday, March 18, President Shoemaker read off a statement during chapel. I have an audio clip of his announcement, which Dale Fincher uploaded. I encourage you to read both the official statement and Dale’s response– I think Dale addressed some significant problems with how PCC has handled everything so far.

I’m not going to go over every line of the statement, but I would like to point some things out.

Through the years, the Lord has protected PCC’s students, faculty, and staff; reports of harassment in any form have been quite rare. However, in today’s world there are increasing incidences of sexual violence, assault, harassment, and abuse. I imagine that in a student body as large as this, some of you have had to deal with these terrible issues.

Shoemaker is far from alone in this line of thinking. It seems typical, at least in my experience, for American evangelical culture to turn a blind eye to the harsh reality of abuse today. That attitude probably isn’t that far off from American culture in general– I think we’d all prefer to believe that abuse is rare, so many of us decide to believe that it is. Shoemaker is choosing that option here when he says “some of you” when the horribly reality is that it probably is many of you. Using the most reliable statistics we have, up to 37% of PCC’s student body has probably experienced some form of sexual abuse.

When he says that PCC has been “protected” because “reports of harassment . . . have been quite rare,” he is dismissing  the basic premise of my article– that reports of “harassment” are rare because students are terrified of reporting. From the research I’ve been doing with the Escambia County records department, I don’t think “rare” is a good word to use, either, but I’ll know more for sure when I have all the records from the past 12 years in my hands.

Also, in this speech and in the Pathway, the word that they’ve chosen to describe sexual violence is “harassment.” That happened in David’s story– when he was interrogated by the Assistant Dean of Men, he was asked if he’d been “harassed.” What had happened to David is legally defined as aggravated rape, and the Dean asked if he’d been “harassed.”

That is a problem, because PCC has chosen to use soft, minimizing language. I know that words like rape can be intimidating, but as long as we describe the brutal horrors of rape as “harassment”— and treating sexual harassment as inconsequential by putting the idea inside parentheses– they are handicapping victims. They are saying you’re getting upset over nothing. It’s just harassment.

Reports of sexual abuse can be made without fear of recrimination; and no student is punished for being the victim of wrongdoing.

No, instead they’re punished for being fornicators and liars.

It is the responsibility of any student who believes that he has been the subject of legitimate harassment (not frivolous or groundless allegations) to report the incident immediately to a representative of the Student Life Office who will follow the College’s due process in the investigation of the alleged harassment.

That is one of the quotes from the Pathway that Shoemaker used. I think this passage is especially important, because it highlights the unhealthy attitude that PCC has. If a student has been “legitimately harassed,” it is the responsibility of the student to report it immediately.

There are multiple problems with this policy (“legitimate rape,” anyone?), but the primary problem with this is that it has enabled victim blaming. That might seem like a stretch, so bear with me.

What this policy has done, in practice, has made it possible for victims to be at least partly blamed for what happened to them. It has to be “legitimate” (with zero explanation as to what constitutes “legitimate”), and the report has to be made immediately. I’ve talked to a lot of people about their experiences, and one of the common patterns has been the administration asking them “why did you not come forward sooner?” and then using their delay as evidence that the victim was not really a victim. A true victim would have reported it immediately. Since they didn’t report it immediately, they must have “wanted” it.

The college employs four counselors credentialed by graduate degrees in counseling, and a fifth credentialed by over 40 years of counseling experience. These trained counselors are equipped to provide biblical guidance and confidentially assist students with a variety of concerns include sexual abuse.

I’ve talked about “nouthetic” or “biblical” counseling before, and I believe that PCC is on the extreme end of the spectrum as far as their views on “biblical counseling.” While I was a student there, the only textbook required for the class Educational Psychology was Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, and everything I learned about the “pseudoscience of psychology” while a student there was that it is evil, corrupt, humanistic, and anti-God. Given that this was their attitude (at least, in 2009, but I don’t think much has changed), I find it extremely unlikely that their counselors are “equipped” to “assist students” with any form of abuse, much less sexual abuse.

Anyway, while this statement is “better” than the one they released on March 12, it still is illustrative of larger problems at PCC. They act on the belief that abuse is rare– when it is not. They have policies in place that reflect some of the dominant myths about rape. They minimize the suffering of abuse victims by calling it “harassment.”

In short, I stand by my original statement: that PCC is not a safe place for victims.

Feminism

this is what victim blaming looks like

[trigger warning for rape apologia, victim blaming]

When I announced rather publicly to the internet that I was going to be writing an article on how Pensacola Christian College has treated sexual abuse, assault, and rape victims, I expected to face some pushback. For the first couple days it was rather mild– all along the lines of “you’re sowing strife among the brethren” or “I can’t believe this could happen at PCC” or “PCC is a good school! How dare you!” It wasn’t really anything bad.

But, starting last night and continuing through this today, I’ve been  inundated with comments and e-mails.  I’ve blocked people here, in the comment section, for violating my comment policy. I will not ever tolerate rape apologia or victim blaming. I put up with a lot of stuff– sexism, racism, ableism… but only to a point. I believe in allowing people the opportunity to learn. That’s all I’ve been doing since I was a racist homophobic misogynistic ass, so I try to make sure that growth can happen here. I also love it when people disagree with me– as long as they’re not attacking my character. Disagree away, it’s fantastic.

So, while I will never allow someone to openly victim blame myself or any of my readers, I do want to take this opportunity to show everybody what victim blaming looks like. Normally I do not use comments for blogging fodder– I think that would make it more difficult for new readers to comment, and I don’t want to do that. However, two of the comments I got last night are a textbook example of what victim blaming looks like in real life. One I did not publish, the other I did (although I warned the second that what she’d done is called victim blaming. Since you can reply to her comment, please do not harass her. She’s been corrected already).

The problem with victim blaming is that, ultimately, it sounds perfectly reasonable, even common-sensical. Hopefully you’ll understand why it isn’t by the end of this post.

On to the first comment:

I went to PCC and the rules at that school make it nearly impossible to even get yourself into a situation like this. The school tries VERY hard to prevent it. You aren’t allowed off campus without other girls being with you. You can’t go to the beach without other girls with you. You sleep in a dorm with no one but girls. Guys are not allowed in the dorms. You are not allowed to be in any location with a guy alone; meaning you must be in a chaperoned area at all times, or you are breaking a rule. Cameras are everywhere. Motion sensors are placed on the fences. You scan in to leave the campus, you scan out to leave the campus. Your parking spot is checked by security guards every hour. Security officers patrol every empty building on an hourly basis. You are not allowed to touch members of the opposite sex. You are not allowed to talk in the unlit areas after dark. You are not allowed to stand around with members of the opposite sex after dark.

So I’m highly suspicious of this. And I think the faculty had a right to be somewhat suspicious, especially if the reputation of another person was at stake–and possibly a criminal investigation. So my plea to you would be to be very careful about casting a stone if you yourself are not at fault for bypassing one of these guards that the school put in place for your protection.

That said, the world is a wicked place and I would not be surprised if legitimate rapists attended that school. And I am not saying your story is not legitimate, but I think you owe it to the school to make share everyone gets the whole story here.

Let’s not pretend that PCC does not try to prevent this from happening. I cannot think of any other educational institution that goes out of its way to protect women like PCC does.

First off, his first paragraph is a pretty good summation of how crazy PCC is, which he rationalizes as good because it “protects” people. Some of these rules have softened in recent years, but most of them are still very much enforced exactly like this. It also completely ignores the reality of male-on-male, or female-on-female rape (which also, in an overwhelming majority of cases, has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with power, aggression, and dominance).

And while PCC is a fundamentalist college, how this person views the functions of PCC’s rules is not any different from how rape culture functions. The same exact argument is constantly made about rape victims in secular contexts. Were you drinking? What were you wearing? Did you lead him on?

The point of this line of questioning is: what rules did you breakAnd it’s all based on the assumption that Good Girls don’t get raped. Good Girls follow the rules. Good Girls obey the expectations of the culture. Only girls who break the rules get raped. It’s all over his comment, in how it’s “impossible to get myself into a situation” if I was following the rules like a Good Girl. And, since I obviously wasn’t a good enough girl or I wouldn’t have gotten raped, I owe it to the school to tell the “whole story”– the “whole story” including the part of how I am not a good enough girl. And, since I wasn’t a Good Girl, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to suspect whether or not I’m telling the truth about being raped. Good Girls don’t get raped. Only Bad Girls get raped, and Bad Girls deserve it. If I was stupid enough, or slutty enough, to break the rules, then I stepped outside what was put into place to protect me– so what else could I expect? Duh. Of course I got raped. I broke the rules.

Second comment:

It’s true that bad things happen and positive experiences don’t change them – you’re right. But do not forget to give the benefit of the doubt on both ends.There’s often much more to the story than “They were kicked out because . . .” I know because I have had friends who worked in Student Life who had to deal with situations that were severely misconstrued and turned into hateful gossip. The people at PCC love the students, and they do everything in their power to protect them and do what is right for them.

I can guarantee you that if a girl went to Student Life immediately after she were sexually assaulted, but had been obeying the rules of where she could go during what times with the correct number of friends (all rules set up for her protection), they would not expel her. I also know of people who were sent home to recover from situations, but people who did not care for PCC always referred to them as being “kicked out.” Remember that it’s easy to “tweak” a story so it sounds to be more in our favor – I’ve had to learn this many times even through friends, and constantly remind myself not to do it myself.

This is the same exact argument. If she obeyed the rules. If she told someone immediately. If she were a good girl. If she met with this person’s– or, in this case, Student Life’s– approval, and only then would a rape victim deserve not to be treated like a Bad Girl. If she did something, broke the rules, went anywhere alone, then she deserves to be expelled because she wasn’t a good enough girl. Bad Girls — and, by this definition, all rape victims are Bad Girls — deserve to be treated like garbage. Bad Girls don’t deserve help and comfort. Bad Girls don’t deserve justice or vindication. Bad Girls get expelled.

These arguments both ignore the reality that rape victims are raped because rapists rape them.

Feminism

Pensacola Christian College and sexual abuse victims

crowne centre

I’ve never named the college I attended for undergrad– not here, not anywhere else online. I have never brought it up here on my blog because I didn’t want it to become about the specific place I went to college. The problems that exist there exist at most other fundamentalist colleges, and I didn’t want anyone pigeonholing me. I was also  trying to avoid the harassment I personally know comes with critiquing this college in public.

It’s been sort of obvious anyway– despite my best intentions– that I went to Pensacola Christian College. I even managed to graduate, and I was one of the nauseating people that managed to accrue less than 15 demerits a semester (although I’d completely given up by my senior year and graduated with a whopping 170 my final semester).

The reason why I’ve decided to bring this up now is that I’m going to write an article about PCC, but I need your help.

If you travel in the same sort of online circles that I do, you’ve probably at least heard about what’s been happening at Bob Jones University. I’ve mentioned how BJU fired GRACE recently, and I’ve been aware of the problems at BJU for over a year now. However, yesterday, The New Republic published an article that detailed how the same exact things have been happening at Patrick Henry College.

As I’ve been reading all of these articles, my heart has been heavy because, as a graduate of Pensacola Christian College, I know that what’s been happening at Bob Jones and Patrick Henry have also been happening at Pensacola Christian. I personally experienced a small taste of it– when I tried to explain what my rapist had done to me the staff counselor interrupted me in the middle of a sentence to ask what I had done that I needed to repent of. I also know women who have been expelled because they reported being sexually assaulted.

I am currently outlining an article that I’m hoping will be published in a major online news outlet– like the Times or the Post, who published articles on BJU. In order to do that, however, I have to have more than just my own solitary story.

I need your stories, too.

If you were ever a student at Pensacola Christian College, a sexual abuse or rape victim, and had an encounter with Student Life, floorleaders, residence managers, or the counseling staff concerning your abuse, could you please contact me? I promise that I will keep  you anonymous if you would prefer not to be named, and I will only include as many details as you feel comfortable sharing. I will do my honest-to-God best to make sure I tell your story how you would want it to be shared, and that I will treat you with grace, dignity, and respect.

You can e-mail me at forgedimagination@gmail.com

I know how much emotional strength and resilience it take to tell a story like this one, so please don’t feel any pressure. If you contact me and then later change your mind, I will respect that, as well.

Thank you.

edit: please read my comment policy before commenting.  Victim blaming myself or any of my readers, or engaging in rape apologism will guarantee that I block you without appeal.