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Posts tagged ‘rape’

When PTSD tries to derail my day…

It is not the right time of the year to plant seeds.

I had two farming grandfathers. I know this. I have also lived in the Midwest most of my life. The farmers are getting ready to pull out the combines, not the plows or planters.

But I have found that planting seeds in potting soil and seeing the seeds germinate has a healing quality to it. Tonight, after we wrapped up our evening meal at Olive Garden, I told my husband I needed some more seeds.

That is code for I need a distraction.

I have no reason for PTSD to surface today. But, it does that sometimes.

We stopped by Rural King, and I scanned the low stock of seeds. Even the rack had a label on it that said, “Do not inventory.” Basically, there is no need to reorder this product until 2018.

Nobody wants seeds right now — except me.

John suggested jalapeños. What the heck. Jalapeños it is.

I have a counselor who is a specialist in sexual trauma and delayed onset PTSD. I see her every other week. She asks me frequently what I do for fun.

Sometimes, you don’t need something that is fun.

Sometimes, you just need something that is different. Out-of-step with everyone else. Something that grows and doesn’t know that bad stuff happens to children. Something that isn’t going to control you. It will just shrivel up if the soil isn’t right or it gets too much sun.

Sometimes, you just need to watch things that have a cycle. Something that grows for you. It gives. That is what it was created to do.

As night falls and it is almost time to go to bed, I wish I had more daylight–especially when I have a new packet of seeds.

Jalapeños.

It doesn’t matter very much that I won’t be eating them. It is just a positive action. Planting. It heals something that died, something I am trying to resurrect.

Seeds are good.

And sometimes, they grow and defy the odds–especially when they have a little pot indoors where they are protected and nourished.

I suppose that is how my counselor feels when I dig in my heels and determine to get better and stronger.

There is a difference between me and my plants. I am not growing for her.

I am growing for me.

 

 

Wounded, but put me in coach

This has been a rough year.

I was at the top of my game. Syndication going well. Published author. Travel writer. Catholic Liaison for Israel. Yes, Israel.

Traveling Catholic speaker. Keynotes and everything.

And wham. PTSD. Quit my job. I had stopped writing the year before–all but the blog. I still traveled to Israel, but on my own, a kind of personal and mostly quiet retreat.

The speaking engagements kept coming. And the Holy Spirit always showed up.

But in between, I was dry. No. That’s not quite right. I was broken. Hurt. Wounded.

I didn’t faint and collapse in the middle of the fifth inning, but it sure seemed like it. It seemed like they whisked me off the field and I found myself on the bench, disoriented, a little incoherent, but wanting to brush aside their arms and say, put me in. Come on. I’m okay. Just put me back in.

Only I wasn’t okay.

I wrote about this in my book. One day, I would be out of the Catholic hustle and bustle. God would call me to “higher elevations,” I wrote, “where the crowds don’t gather but the view is amazing.”

Only the view didn’t seem so amazing.

I just wanted to go back to what I knew. The familiar. And being busy made me feel like God liked me at least a little. He took joy in using me.

“Just sit there for a while. I’m taking you out of the game. Cheer on your teammates all you want. But there is no way you are going back out there for a while.”

That’s what it is like when you are a writer and you have absolutely nothing to write. You love the Eucharist, but you can’t seem to get yourself to be around people.

You go to Mass on Sunday and Adoration because there is nobody there but you and the Lord. The rest has become practically impossible.

You aren’t depressed.

At least you don’t think that’s it.

Only God knows. So He is telling you to sit there on that bench. It’s like you have the “Mysterious Malady” that some baseball players get. You suddenly can’t do all the things you once did. You don’t have the it-factor anymore.

Just fix me and put me back in. But that’s no good. That won’t work.

In the spiritual realm, God needs to spend some time on you, and you need to let Him do it. It isn’t that you are suddenly ill, you were a little screwed up the whole time. The Mysterious Malady is not so mysterious.

Once it gets quiet, once you are pulled out of the game for a bit, you begin to see the wounds. You remember the day a young man had a knife and sexually molested you. You realize it made you fear anyone who could overpower you.

You remember the nights your husband in the non-Sacramental marriage waited for you to fall asleep so he could take you without asking. You think of the night he did it on purpose because he knew you were in the middle of your cycle and you would get pregnant. He did it to control and manipulate fate – and you. You became angry when anyone did things behind your back that seemed to take advantage of you or sabotage your life in any way.

You have trust issues.

Yet you say, Jesus, I trust in You.

Let’s get to that. Let’s analyze it for a while.

And the only way to do that is to take away everything that keeps you busy — until you see.

Practice setting good boundaries on everyone you need to, except Jesus Christ. Learn that He can be trusted…even in the quiet. Even when writer’s block shows up for a whole year. Even when you aren’t sure about anything except Jesus and His Church.

You get back to your motel room, shut the door, and cry. Still wearing the team uniform, you stumble to the mirror.

I have a few wounds.

But the good news is that the coach is also the ultimate healer. He knows how to heal these wounds, and He also wants to put you back in more than you want to get back into the game.

You sit on a chair. Alone.

And then someone knocks on the door. The healer wants to come in. And you realize you desperately want that, too.

Can the Catholic Church Have the Best Response to Sexual Trauma

Not that Church. Not the one with all the scandal.

Yes, that Church.

She could have the best response to sexual trauma. The secular world is addressing it, even though rape, molestation and incest have found a way into every corner of the secular world.

Fatherhood is still good, even if some fathers have not been good.

Coaching is still laudable, even though some coaches have been disastrous.

Teaching is still a wonderful profession, in spite of the fact that some teachers have misused their positions of authority.

When each of these is at its best, it is quite beautiful.

So, while the secular counselors and coalitions have done a tremendous job of helping to heal the wounds of sexual trauma, the Church could (and should) be the home for the greatest healing of all.

What we have going for us.

  1. We believe in the power of a fiat. A yes. God, being omnipotent, didn’t demand anything of the Blessed Mother. While He could have, being her creator, He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He asked for Mary’s permission. And she said yes. She gave her consent. A few years ago, the Department of Justice changed the law. Assault and rape are no longer defined solely by force. The legal definition now includes the issue of consent. One must be able to give a yes. Children aren’t old enough to be able to do that. Sleeping wives, exhausted by raising children, aren’t able to do that. A young person who has had too much to drink… not able to give consent. In most places, spouses and intimate partners must have freely-given consent. We call that Free Will. It must be respected. It cannot be coerced. Not even in marriage.
  2. We believe in the Theology of the Body. It all has to make sense. It has to be rooted in dialogue between husband and wife. Sexual intimacy requires the highest degree of respect. Let me be clear. It requires marital love.
  3. We believe in redemption and healing. Our whole faith is centered upon the Person of Jesus Christ. He came so that we might experience the ultimate healing. He came to heal us from Original Sin and liberate us from Personal Sin. We are taught a new way. A Way of the Cross. An offering up of ourselves for another. Embedded in the whole Gospel message is the teaching that no damage or trauma is so great that God’s love cannot overcome it. Obliterate it. We don’t believe in the possibility of transforming from a victim to a survivor. We believe in the reality of transforming from a victim to a victor. Through His stripes, we are healed. He can redeem anything. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.

Freedom. Love. Healing.

These have become part of my journey. I am learning to set boundaries, that I possess a freedom to set boundaries and to firmly stand my ground. I am learning to love and sort through what love is and what love is not. How love acts, how love does not act. And I am learning how to heal. Up to 80% of those who have experienced sexual trauma have some form of PTSD. For some, it is a delayed-onset PTSD. Nightmares. Difficulty with relationships and boundaries. Addictions. Social anxiety. Generalized anxiety. Struggles in the workplace.

This brings me to the final reason why the Church has the potential to be the best response to sexual trauma.

4. We believe in Confession and spiritual direction. When these two come together, the soul experiences something miraculous. It is Easter morning kind of stuff. You see things more clearly than you have ever seen them before. You have strength to sweep away the hurt and those who have hurt you and receive the greatest love of the universe. You begin the amazing journey where every experience past, present and future is connected organically to the One who made you and has called you into His glorious Life. You are no longer feeling like you are being swallowed up by memories and hurts and horrific experiences and people who assert control and power and are masters at gaslighting and secrecy. You are able to walk into the Light and bring all of it with you. There, in the Light, the darkness flees.

5. We believe in new beginnings. You take baby steps at first. You keep going back to the Sacraments, especially Eucharist, Confession with spiritual direction and perhaps even Anointing of the Sick. You find that Truth has set you free, is setting you free, will set you free. What is Truth? Jesus Christ is Truth. And His Church has the best response to the wounds you carry.

Our wounds are offered up and placed in the Wounds of Christ, and talk about power! This power has overcome the world.

Get creative. Turn to the Stations of the Cross and make your own booklet. Include the fifteenth Station. (Or I will come to your group and share the Stations of the Cross that I developed for my own healing.) His Resurrection has made a way for your redemption. He redeems all things.

Go to Adoration. Write down what happened to you, the wounds you have, write them down and lay that paper on the Altar.

Light a candle, and burn the paper. Say this prayer:

Jesus, I give it to You. Now is the time. Change my wounds into scars that are healed and redeemed. Let me walk in Paschal Power. Let me know joy once more. Amen.

Denise Bossert is a nationally-recognized Catholic speaker, author, syndicated columnist and convert. She is a survivor/victor over sexual molestation as a child and rape in marriage. She is the mother of four children. One of her children was conceived in rape. That child was also a victim of sexual molestation. Use the contact form in the menu to reach Denise and invite her to speak about the Catholic faith and how true healing is there.

 

Wandering Lonely, but not like a cloud

Wading through PTSD years after one is violated is a lonely thing. And it is not like wandering lonely as a cloud. It is not a sunny day. It is not day at all, and it is not now either.

It is then, but not then. It is you, and yet there is a loss to the you that is now. The you that is strong and grounded, with roots that go deep in faith.

It is a fog. And once in a while, the fog clears for a moment.

In spiritual direction, it lifts, which is why a confessor/spiritual director is so important. How could one do it without the Catholic faith.

I wonder.

A counselor, too, helps to guide. Tells you that you are normal in this journey to somewhere other than here.

And, Lord, how I need to know that.

The daily readings are an anchor. My Missal doesn’t know what I need to hear today, but the Holy Spirit knows. And provides.

Like today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles – which is really a quote from Isaiah and is for me.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

I have thought of the word justice often these past few months. I have felt the judgment of others who want me to keep it quiet, not talk about old things, the humiliation is not mine alone, they think.

Odd how the soul knows this is not true.

It is my humiliation. Crushed. Made something less for a space of time than what you are. Not wife. Not even a woman who is paid for services.

You are less than even that. Something like a slave for another’s use.

The King of kings was nailed to a cross. For a little while, a space of time, made something He was not.

Humiliation. And justice was denied him.

The cry for justice comes up from the ground. It moves up through our toes and into our souls.

Even when the cry is buried for thirty years. Especially then.

And I read the words of St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles; I read the quote from the Old Testament.

With the backdrop of Easter, something else came to mind.

The fog lifted, as it does during spiritual direction and counseling. The fog lifted as it does when I read the day’s readings.

He is with you. Was with you. This is an echo of the old story.

Out of the curse, came life. And you let it be.

You loved it, loved that life with a fierceness that grew with the years.

Life conceived in rape is not a curse. It is not.

She is my beloved daughter. Overflowing with life. Abundant with a salve that only she could render. Soul of my soul.

From my body, yet beautifully independent.

My healing began with her and the yes to life. Her life.

Some think that healing after rape would begin with a no to life conceived in such a way. Some may see rape in marriage as a humiliation for the woman and the other children who do not need to know what their father did. Some would call it no humiliation at all, no violation. Some would think that the need for justice lessens with time, certainly does not grow with the years.

Some.

It is all part of the fog.

And I long to command the fog to go now.

Humiliated, without justice. But life took hold of me. And it was good. Is good.

Is the salve like no other.

This child is a precious gift. Conceiving a child in rape, it is the closest I have been to sensing the cross and resurrection.

Top Three Easter Resolutions

Lent was not easy. Perhaps you can relate.

I began with a simple plan: Trust Jesus more.

On Ash Wednesday, I spent my last full day in Jerusalem, and I promised to trust Jesus.

Easy enough. Wrong. Then it all came to a head. The trauma of rape – though it all happened 30 years ago. The hurts I had sustained from others. Some I loved. Some I had trusted. Some new wounds. Some old.

Some minor. Some life-changing, personality-altering.

Jesus, I trust in You.

A person who prays as much as I do… shouldn’t feel like life is coming apart at loose ends.

A person who goes to weekly Mass, sometimes daily Mass, always remembers to take her hour of Adoration at midnight on Thursdays…shouldn’t feel like she doesn’t know who she is anymore.

She should have her act together.

She should be able to stand up straight.

No self-doubt.

Only self-doubt was all around me and in me and above me and beneath me… the opposite of St. Patrick’s Prayer.

Jesus, I trust in You.

And the words and letters seem to slip around on the page and fall off the page or slid down the page or disappear altogether.

J s  , I   st  n  .

e  s    tr   i  Y

u       u    ou

Nonsense. It doesn’t make any sense anymore.

What is trust? How do I do it?

And you find that you need your husband more, and your priest-who-is-also-your-spiritual-director, and a counselor, and a friend.

You cling to them, and begin to realize… It’s Jesus in disguise. Yes, Jesus, I do trust in You.

And when Easter comes, you find that you can stand on your wobbly legs though they feel like you just climbed Mt. Arbel all over again.

I can do this.

You are resolved:

  1. I will not be silent. I will speak out. I will keep speaking out. I will not be embarrassed by what happened to me. Jesus, I trust in You to help me be vocal about it.
  2. I will affirm life, even the life of the unborn conceived in rape. I will speak out. I will keep speaking out. I will not be embarrassed by what happened to me. Jesus, I trust in You to help me be vocal about it.
  3. I will continue to heal. I will not be weak. I will not quit. I will do the things that are hard for me. I will not hide. I will not cling to what is easy or familiar. I will not sit more than a few seconds in a place of old memories. I will not let unwanted dreams linger when I wake from them. I will reach for everything that heals. Jesus, I trust in You to finish the healing You have begun.

I will not be silent. I will affirm life. I will continue to heal.

So be it.

Amen.

The only wise choice: having the baby conceived in rape

I had the dream again last night. Same, but different.

That’s the problem with dreams. You can’t make them stop out of an ironclad will. Those who are walking with you as you sort through the buried violation of an old rape aren’t there either.

You are there all by yourself, and you aren’t even you.

That is to say, you feel all of it. Every emotion. Every fear. Every injustice. But you are in a weakened state without your coping strategies and the advocates who stand beside you in the waking hours of life.

I read an article yesterday.

It was about the road rape survivors walk. But it was from a secular viewpoint. The baby conceived in rape is the alien, unwanted, a constant reminder, something far from the human created in the image and likeness of God.

The unborn child is an extension of the violator.

Like they are joined more than the mother is to her child.

I wonder, sometimes, where I fit in this modern hashing out of the conception-in-rape scenario.

I feel the burden of memories and dreams-I-can’t-stop.

But I do not, at all, in any way, feel what the world says about the unborn-conceived-in-rape.

I’ve lived too long with my daughter who is a gift. A gift. A gift. A gift.

A GIFT!!!!!!!

She is the only good that came from those nights when I was violated.

Even in the dream last night, she was there, and I was protecting her. Getting her away. By force. By ingenuity. By biding my time. By any means.

She does not belong to him.

She doesn’t even belong to me.

She belongs to God, and I am entrusted with protecting her.

It is, perhaps, my only weapon against the violation. What was meant for evil, God has used for good.

And He has given me a path to something good and beautiful through the memories and dreams-which-are-nightmares.

Conception-in-rape is a topic used for the advancement of abortion.

Even the pro-life community doesn’t go there because it seems to be a difficult point to refute. Especially for a pro-life man. Especially for a pro-life woman who has not been raped. Even for a pro-life woman who had a child in less than ideal circumstances.

You just don’t know what it is like for the woman who carries with her a violation. A conception without a yes.

But I do.

And the only wise choice is life. It becomes the only good in a swirling mix of memories and nightmares.

It is a triumph over violation.

A living, breathing triumph.

Silent No More

Did Lazarus want to be known as the stinky man raised from the dead? Did he want everyone throughout history to imagine a raised corpse in grave clothes walking from an opened tomb?

Did the woman with an issue of blood want to be remembered in such ghastly terms?

The woman caught in the act of sin. Did she want her story to be told and retold, how the men gathered around her to throw stones?

Did Mary Magdalene want to be remembered as the woman from whom the demons were cast?

For that matter, did St. Augustine want to be remembered as the man who had a child with his mistress?

Did St. Maria Goretti want to be remembered as a rape victim? A young woman murdered because she fought back?

St. Maria of Egypt, did she wish to be remembered much the same as the woman at the well?

Did St. Paul want to be remembered as the one who persecuted Christians?

*************************************************************************************

Yes and no.

No, if that is all there is to it. No, if the story ends there.

But yes. They shared their stories. Spoke of them. Wrote of them. Their stories were lifted up and attached to the Cross of Christ for the glory of God.

I wonder if there were some who shook their heads. Talked about them behind their backs. Assumed they just liked to wallow in the old stories because they wanted their names to be remembered.

Were they judged and misjudged?

The stinky man?

The trashy woman?

The victimized girl?

The murderous zealot?

The disbelieving, womanizing orator?

Their stories call to us. It is okay to have a past that frightens you. A past that horrifies you. A past in which you were victimized or victimized another, when you love Jesus Christ and give the past up for His glory.

In fact, you are supposed to do that with your past.

Let them think you are talking about yourself. Let them feel justified in saying whatever they want to say.

They can be angry. Or hurt. Or judgmental. Or confused. Or scandalized.

May Jesus Christ be praised, both now and forever.

May the ones who are lifted up from the mire because of your story be healed and redeemed.

May all things work together for the greater glory of God.

So let the stories come up and out.

Jesus has always used our stories to bring others to Himself. And there have always been well-meaning and mean-spirited people who wanted to suppress and silence the witnesses.

Can I have a witness?

Yes.

I am silent no more.

Conception after Rape

Last night’s dream could be analyzed by an amateur.

I was pregnant with my third child. I was back in high school taking a class or two, embarrassed that others were finding out what happened because it was all coming out, spilling out on a public stage.

I wasn’t a teenager. I wasn’t even the young mother I had been with my third pregnancy. I was my age. Me. Right now.

And it was all coming out.

There was a swimming pool at our high school, which there never really was and still isn’t.

I had to get in the water, with that six-month-baby growing inside of me.

I loved that child. Fiercely.

But what was everyone thinking? They were staring at me. And now they knew.

The child was the product of a rape-in-marriage.

 

I woke up then. I do have three children from my first marriage. The third one was a girl. I love her fiercely.

She is six months pregnant with my eighth grandchild.

We talked yesterday, and that may have seeded my dream. Not that we talked, because we do that every day, but the content of this particular conversation was new. Healing. A treasure that will stay with me always.

We talked about her conception. It was one of many conversations we have had about that night. She asked me questions with love and so much gentleness that I cannot write it now without a few tears.

“Mom, she said, “what else could it have been if not rape? I have always known that was what it was even if you didn’t use the word.”

I have always thought of it as molestation. Middle of the night. Sound asleep. Just a month after a marital separation.

Back then, I wasn’t Catholic. I had been on the pill. But during the separation, I had stopped taking it while I was living with my parents.

Then, he changed his mind about not loving me anymore, deciding that he did want to be married, that he wanted me back.

I went back. It’s what you did when you married at 18 and your dad was a pastor and you didn’t know there had been infidelity, especially when you had children together.

It’s what you did.

But the middle-of-the-night-thing needed to stop. It had become a trend with him. I hated it. If I wasn’t good enough to love in the middle of the day or at night before we fell asleep, why was the middle of the night the time? Wake me up out of a dead sleep? And, wow, could I go into a deep sleep after a day of running after two toddlers!

I made myself clear:

With moving back home after a separation, no longer on any contraception, I underscored the stipulation and doubled down on it. Don’t touch me. And especially not during this week.

Lord, I could not get pregnant now. Our marriage couldn’t take it. I didn’t realize that there wasn’t a marriage. Not really. Even though the truth was pretty darn clear.

I’m saying no to that intimacy. No to the middle of the night whatever-that-is. And no especially on the precise night that I am most likely to be fertile.

I blocked off a week and highlighted the three most worrisome days.

I woke up to the moment of our daughter’s conception. I knew immediately that I would conceive. It shook me to my core.

For years, I thought of it as a kind of marital molestation. But yesterday, my conversation with my now-grown daughter was incredibly healing.

“Mom,” she said, “what else could it have been if not rape? I have always known that was what it was even if you didn’t use the word.”

I suddenly felt free. I felt a bond with Kari. Love beyond description. She let me talk about it. Encouraged me to talk about it. Called it what it was. Gave me the freedom to do the same. And she is the only one who could free me from the memory. Redeem it, in a way.

This is it. The gift of yes to a little life that grew within me in the darkest hour. A gift I didn’t fully accept for five or six months into the pregnancy. But a gift that has become one of life’s best surprises and greatest treasures.

She looked at me and smiled. She gave me the freedom to see the truth, to call it for the first time what it was. And there is no pain in naming it because she said it from her own lips.

Man, I love that girl.

The last six months haven’t been easy. I have been thinking about this, in a kind of desolation spiritually, contemplating whether or not to write it, to include it in a new book.

It is so much easier to keep it tucked away in a room with a door only a few people could open, a door marked “molestation” and not “rape.”

I have come full circle, and it is a peaceful, grace-filled, miraculous embrace by the Divine One who makes all things new.

The water in last night’s dream? I think it was a beginning, a cleansing. Sure, I am still nervous about the crowds knowing. But it happened.

And there is joy and beauty on the other side of dark nights. There is peace in the middle of a terrible truth. There is laughter that gets multiplied when the grandbabies come along.

I won. The pearl of great price. It is mine to behold.

The non-Sacramental marriage fell away, but my yes to God and to a little girl made all the difference.

Kari, I love you.