Trigger Warning: Extensive Discussion of Sexual Abuse
Nothing sheer, clingy, revealing.
Nothing that admitted the ugly truth – that I was in possession of a human body. That these hands that people admired for their strength, belonged to ribs and bones and a heart that would bleed for someone she never met or heard of before. That the feet, so capable and sure, belonged to skinned knees and curving thighs. That the pretty face belonged to a mind so delicately balanced that a frown would send it spiraling downhill, but so brilliant that it could decipher things upside down and backwards, inside out and hidden.
I played by the rules. I believed what I was told, that I needed to be a good girl and keep myself covered up and that would keep me safe. I wore the long dresses, the bulky jeans, the square t-shirts.
I was ten.
All the books seemed to say that purity was the ultimate goal for females. That being pure and unblemished and a delicate, fragile white rose, was the only way that you were going to get anything good out of life. That if your purity was questioned, you were a sinner, even if you had done nothing wrong. The fact that the questions arose was the sin. You were supposed to do everything in your power to ensure that no one ever doubted your zeal for purity. Modesty and purity went hand in hand – you couldn’t be pure if you wore immodest clothes, and you were modest because you were pure. It was a mark of status for your family and church that they had such lovely God-fearing girls who always dressed modestly. Purity was the area in which girls were allowed to speak, but they couldn’t ask questions about it, they could only promote it and shame those who didn’t follow the rules. They couldn’t ask whether it was okay to hold hands with a boy. And what about kissing on the cheek? That’s in the New Testament, that they greeted each other with a holy kiss. What makes a kiss holy? What makes it okay?
No no, bad girl. You’re supposed to be promoting purity and modesty, but that doesn’t mean you need to understand it. If you’re asking questions about “is it wrong”, then it most definitely is wrong, and you are a sinner.
And for some inexplicable reason, divorce is okay, adultery is okay, murder is okay – by okay, I mean forgivable. God will forgive you if you repent. And because God has forgiven you, the Church must forgive you as well.
But immodesty is unforgivable. Asking questions is unforgivable. Wanting to know how life works is unforgivable. Repent or not, it doesn’t matter because that is unforgivable. Even if God takes it in His head to forgive you, His Church will never forgive you and you will forever be marked as one of those women who get called four and five letter words by people less holy than church members.
So of course I never told anyone when he kissed me. When he held my hand. When he rubbed my back. When he slipped his hands inside my shirt.
You must not ask questions.
You must not speak.
I played by the rules and it didn’t matter. I wore long skirts and turtlenecks and bulky sweaters to hide the small curves on my twelve year old body and it didn’t stop anything. I wore horrible ugly swimsuits and I wore colors that were bad for me, to make fourteen year old me unattractive. And it didn’t work.
Because it’s not really about the clothes.
It’s not about how much skin is showing.
It never has been.
And clothes will never be enough.
A lock on the door doesn’t prevent thieves from breaking in. The thief is at fault for entering a place that was not theirs, whether or not the door was locked. You can lock the door and make it a little harder but in the end, it is still the thief’s choice to enter.
Sexual assault and abuse, molestation, and rape, are not the victim’s fault.
It’s not my fault.
It’s not your fault.
I struggled so long and so hard with that. On my sixteenth birthday, my journal reads,
Sweet sixteen and never been kissed. Because kisses from him can’t count, can they? I don’t think they do. We’re practically family.
I hope they don’t because if they do, I’m lost.
I prayed, begging God – not that the hands would stop, but that no one would ever find out. I trusted God to forgive me, because surely He could understand that I didn’t want this, but I knew that I would never be forgiven by the Church. They would never forgive me. And I didn’t feel like I knew how to ask forgiveness, because no one ever told me how to be forgiven for something that wasn’t my fault in the first place. I wanted to believe it was my fault, and I forced myself to believe it, because then at least I wasn’t doing the second worst sin a female could do – pin the blame on someone else. That was what happened in the garden, right? Eve blamed the snake. I had to make it my fault.
Modesty wasn’t enough because modesty was never the problem. Modesty was a bandaid thrown at a problem too big to deal with, so we’ve blinded ourselves from the real problem. We refuse to take the time to mend the hurts so that we can become whole. We’re so busy being holy that we refuse to be human. We won’t be members of the planet we’re supposed to be stewarding. And in our struggle for appearance, we ignore the hurting that is happening right under our noses. We refuse to see the problems that are all around us and we force things to be just fine, rather than admit that it’s not fine and take the time to fix it.
If I had felt like Christians were allowed to make mistakes, maybe I would have told someone that first time I was kissed and maybe it would have been explained that it wasn’t a good idea and maybe I would have been saved the subsequent seven years of hell. But I’m a Christian and they’re not allowed to have problems. They’re not allowed to mess up. They’re above that.
GRACE IS NOT A FRAGILE THING.
It’s not my fault.
ANYONE WHO SAYS IT IS, HAS SOME SERIOUS RECONSIDERING TO DO.
It’s not your fault.
You are radiant, darling.
You deserve better than this.
You are worthy of the stars. You are worthy of love and adoration and happily-ever-after.
I love you, dearest, and I want to help if I can.
~Love, Butterfly Emergent~