I am Sarah and this does NOT define who I am- 18/30 Forgiveness

Okay I'm finally back to the 30 Days Series.. If you are new and have no idea what I'm talking about-    Start here. The "Real Stories From Real Mommas" series are about to begin so keep a look out! (Hoping to start Tuesday)


18/30 What is the hardest thing you have had to forgive? Explain why.

I have been waiting for this one, counting down the days.
 I have butterflies in my stomach.

I'm Sarah and I was molested. 

This isn't so you feel sorry or sad for me.. Please don't, because I don't.
I have been honest and open on my blog since day one. This experience, being as sensitive as it is, has taken me a while to write in words. I've debating whether or not to write this for months now and I think I have finally built up the courage. I have been wanting to share this experience and am writing this for a
couple reasons..

 1. To break the silence. Sexual assault, molestation and rape are far more common that we think. People, parents, and children need to be more educated. (I am not saying to sit your child down and scare them..) But to teach them about their body and private parts. That they are never to be touched by anyone. This is just as or more important than teaching your child about kidnapping, bullying,etc. We live in a world infested with people who do horrible things. More common horrible things than we think. This isn't a downer post, there are also incredible people and beautiful things.. But just because there is good, doesn't mean we can ignore the bad. I would love to see the world through rose colored glasses, but let's get real, we just can't. Here are just a few facts about sexual assault and rape.
  •  One in four women has been raped or sexually assaulted and one in five girls (age 12 and under) are  victims of sexually assault or rape
  •  80% of victims are under age 30 and 44% are under age 18.
  • There are 237,868 victims of sexual abuse a year
  • 60% of those are NOT reported.
  • 97% of rapists will never see the inside of a jail cell
  • Every two out of three assaults are committed by someone the victim knows
  • 93% of juvenile victims know their attacker
  • Those children are three times more likely to battle depression, 13 times more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse and 26 times more likely to struggle with drug abuse
  • There are 400,000 registered sex offenders/child molesters
  • And 500,000 pedophiles online at any given time
(Statistics found at joyfulheartfoundation.org, www.oneinfourusa.org, and www.rainn.org)

2. To share, and by doing this I hope to help heal, encourage and give hope.

I'm Sarah and this does NOT define who I am.

For years this affected me in ways I didn't understand. Then the light bulb turned on and I realized I am the one letting it affect me. 
I'll let you in on the ending though..
I win. 

When I was five I was molested by the teenage boy across the street in Riverton, UT. Five years old and I remember. They were good friends of my family's and in our ward. His two younger sisters would babysit often, braid our hair, play Barbies', we loved her.

This is what I remember- My mom was visiting with his mom upstairs, I asked to play his drums (a favorite of mine), he said sure and led me downstairs. I remember a condition to be able to play on the drums. I had to pull my pants down and lay on the bed. Then I remember crying.


This is the rest of the story my five year old self used as a coping mechanism- Dad and mom came in to check on me. Seeing my dad's eyes filled with rage and my mom looked terrified. Dad throwing him up against the wall, swearing to kill him. There was a lot of crying.

Soon after this my family moved away to Ashland, Oregon. I remember my parents wanting to go visit some family in Utah and the old neighborhood friends in Riverton. Just talking about it with me, I started to panic. I got very anxious and nervous. This was when I told her what the neighbor boy did to me. This was the first my parents had heard of this. They called our new Bishop who then called our former Bishop. Our former Bishop called the neighbor boy in. He asked him if he had done this- he said no. He denied it. Said he didn't do anything.

I didn't know any of this had happened.. I didn't know the Bishops and my parents had talked. Later on when this was brought up again, my mom informed me on everything. I told her what I thought had happened and she corrected me. My dad never came in and hurt him. My mom didn't save me. My mom didn't know. My dad didn't save me. He didn't know. Which meant that..

  nothing happened to him?
 How could this be? 
I remember dad threatening to kill him! I do. 
Do I?

It was left at that. Nothing happened to him and nothing will

My parents were put in an indescribable situation. Do we try and fight it? Drag our eight year old though court? And seeing his face again? Or do we leave it be, pray that she doesn't remember and let God take this one? So they did just that, let God take over.

 I can sincerely say now that I think it was the right decision. I haven't always thought this way though. There were times I hated that he got away free. (I actually still don't like that). I wished my parents would've fought to hurt him, put him in jail. Take him out in the dessert. Something. But it isn't that way.

Because I need it to be.

The thoughts of him were always in the back of my mind. I was a pretty happy kid and had the greatest life my parents could give. But he was always there..I hated him. I wanted forget all about him. If I ever got the chance to meet him, I would tell him he was worthless. He disgusted me. He deserved to die. How could he do that to a five year old? He must be sick.

This wasn't a constant thought, but more than I would've liked. I still had friends and a life. High school came around and I played sports and kept up on my callings, not my homework but callings... For years I had nightmares. Gruesome, cruel, horrific nightmares; not normal nightmares. But of murder, rape and  kidnapping. In my teenage years I rarely went to sleep before one or two in the morning in attempt to hold back the night terrors. I just wrote in my journal or worked on my scrapbook. (Time I could have used to do homework). That usually kept me happy. Oh and I didn't realize this was a problem until I got married so it wasn't too horrible. I thought these night terrors were a normal thing so I just dealt with it.

Then I met Chris. We got married soon after we met and I struggled. A lot. I think that's pretty normal to struggle figuring out your marriage and relationship. The difference being, I didn't know Chris. I knew he was a good man. I knew he loved his mom and I loved that. I knew he would take care of me but that didn't make it easy.

We moved to Hawaii and I really struggled. I couldn't sleep, ever. I had nightmares almost every night. It got pretty awful. Not a day went by that I didn't cry to my mom and beg her to take me away; to get me out of there. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, in the middle of the night, crying and writing in my journal while Chris slept. This went on for a while but very slowly got better. We moved to TVA (BYU-H married housing) and made so many friends. I was finally fitting in. I became a nanny to a few different families and loved it. We were invited to so many activities and explored the beautiful island. (I hate that I took that for granted)

Several months in, a good friend and I got into an argument, a pretty ugly one. We were almost kicked out of the campus housing because of a misunderstanding between her and her husband. Chris and I went to talk to my bishop about it.

 This really needed some bishop-ly advice. I went to the meeting feeling bitter toward her, going over what happened and rehearsing what I would say. He told me to forgive and forget. He didn't seem to involved/interested about my drama with friends.

And now, I see why.

 Instead, he asked me how I was doing, like really doing and I was honest. (Possibly too honest). I had never met him before and I now consider him a mentor, a role model and a dear friend. He took the time from his insanely busy schedule, as a professor, bishop, father and husband, to really help me. I told him I was having trouble sleeping. I told him about my nightmares. He asked me where they stemmed from and we talked about my past. We talked about the neighbor boy.

He said that he wanted to meet with me every week. The next time we met, I told him all about what my version of the story was. How I thought, for a good fifteen years, that my dad had hurt him and it was all taken care of. And how I found out that nothing had ever happened to the neighbor boy. How painful that was to hear..

We talked about what the next course of action would be.. How do we get past this?
I told him I wanted to write him a letter. A mean, ugly, hurtful, painful letter telling him just how disgusting he is and my bishop said "Okay" as he turned his chair around to get paper and a pen.

Grabbing the pen, I couldn't think of a single thing to write.

I told him how long I've wanted to do this. Or to show up at his door and just see if he has any idea who I am. Would he be sorry? Would he even recognize me? How many other little girls has he hurt? Has he thought about me since? So many things to say but what would it do?

Bishop asked if I would feel any better after writing a letter, and  I wholeheartedly said yes.
The letter never happened. I couldn't do it. As much pain I thought he had put me through, it wasn't him who did it, it was me. I was putting myself through this torture of reliving it. I was the one reminding myself. ME.

He recommended that Chris and I go to the temple. That we read scriptures every night and get even better at saying our prayers. But to be honest, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I was so angry. I didn't feel like they would let me into the temple. That they could somehow feel the hatred in my heart. My thought was that something should happen to him and praying wasn't going to do that. The next several months were difficult for me.

I can't remember what sparked it, maybe a Relief Society lesson about forgiveness or talking to a friend but something changed over the course of a year..I had been praying about the nightmares. I was begging Heavenly Father to get rid of them. All of the sudden I felt better, kinder. My thoughts about the neighbor boy weren't so bitter. I still didn't like him at all but I didn't exactly despise him. I noticed this and it worried me. It was scary. The fact that I didn't want to see him in pain made me question myself.

The last time I went back in to see Bishop, I felt peace.. Complete peace. This is such a strange feeling for me. I no longer wanted to write a letter or try to hunt him down. It took a lot of work and a lot of prayer.

 He helped me see that there is a light in the end of this long, exhuasting tunnel. That the more I let this go and gave it to the Lord, the better I felt and even more important, I could move on. I could progress. For some reason, maybe naivety, I never thought of the Atonement as a tool for those who needed to forgive. I have always thought of it just for those who need to be forgiven. And boy was I wrong. When they say it is meant for ALL of us, they aren't lying.

It wasn't easy. And I still think about him, not very often. But I don't intend to ever forget. I believe we are made to remember trials and mistakes to use as a helpful reminder for trials and mistakes to come. I am happily married to a very good man and we have a crazy, fun toddler, I have a great life. It is possible. You just have to let it be. It took me years to give this to the Lord. What if I hadn't? Where would I be now?

 I can now say the words "rape" and "molested" without feeling guilt, feeling sorrow, 
feeling hate, feeling sadness.

I have the gift of empathy for those who have been in a similar circumstance. This does not define who I am. I am a daughter of God, a wife and a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lover, a volleyball player, a crafter, a cleaner, wannabe interior designer, a cub scout leader 
and having been molested will never change that. 
I don't like the word victim. It sounds too permanent, to current. I am not. I use to think I was. I am a champion, I'm victorious. You're only a victim as long as you let yourself be.

 That was my prayer in writing this, so I can help, encourage and inspire. I know many of you who may read this have been through something alike and I really hope you feel like you can make it. Because you can. I did and I'm proud of myself for it. Let yourself progress and move on.

 Life is so much better when you do.




Comments

  1. Hey Sarah, you don't know me at all but I've read your blog for a while now. My cousin (Sadie Leavitt) has your blog as a link on hers. I just wanted to thank you for all of your writing and for being honest about your experiences and I admire the insight, perspective, and grace that you have. Good luck with life now and in the future, I'll keep reading!

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  2. Elaine- That is the sweetest note, thank you so much for your kindness. It really means a lot to me that you like my writing and my blog. I love doing it and I sometimes question if I get too honest, so this is so incredibly wonderful to hear. Thank you again!

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