Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Is Real(?)

I put the phone down and lean my head against the steering wheel. Rachel* from DCFS just told me that my five year old needed counseling because of the story she told about seeing an inappropriate movie at her dad’s house. Either way, true or fiction, the “dynamic” between my ex-husband and me was probably causing her stress that she needed to talk out.

Despite my best efforts, I feel the tears in my eyes, the familiar tight burning of fear. I want to tell her that it isn’t a dynamic. His abuse. The ugly, dirty word that has transformed my life from that of a rather selfish, but well-intentioned young adult to a thirty-two-year-old woman who has learned to accept that there will always be fear in her life.

But I know by experience that speaking that word, telling the truth, does little good. I am not believed. To them, what I have survived is always at least partially my fault. I participate in the “dynamic.” I help create stress for my daughters. I am only speaking out of anger or viciousness, never because it is the truth. If only they knew how hard it is for me to say that word, how humiliating.

Another day, I click open a blog post. It is another criticism of “the Church.” I feel defeated. I know I won’t comment, but still I read, hoping to learn. It is a typical blog post. Women should have the priesthood, we should focus more on Christ, men don’t get enough attention. Singles don’t get enough attention. The leaders said too much. Not enough. It doesn’t matter what it is, except it is about how the Church should change.

I read it. Click it closed. There is nothing I could do or say to have any effect. I know what I feel, I know what is true, but there is no way to be believed unless they were to see what I have seen, experience what I have.

It is possible that I’m wrong. I might be the crazy, hateful ex-wife he paints me to be, though even after nearly three years the only thing I feel is fear, not anger. All the things I remember happening could be delusion. Maybe I really have made it all up. Maybe I’m still making it up.

It is possible I am wrong. That the God I have felt and experienced is nothing more than illusion. It is possible that all the difficult things relating to the Church really do betray more than simple human weakness. But I know one thing. All I can do is hold on to what I know.

I was abused.

God is real. He leads the Church.

I am believed and loved by Him.

*name changed


  1. Silver Rain,

    People will try to project their own experiences on to you. That tends to make even more difficult the very very difficult process of knowing what is true about ourselves. I have no idea what the circumstances were in your marriage, nor do I feel the slightest need to know. In a distant position like mine, my only involvement is to wish you well. You seem to have plenty of tools, personally, intellectually, spiritually, and every indication from where I sit is that you will come out just fine.

    Let me tell you something about my experience. In my first marriage, my wife hit me fairly regularly. This is quite an ordinary thing. She also once held a knife at my throat, and did things like break china dishes over my head. Those are a little more unusual, but not so far out of the realm of what many people experience. Nor would I say they were the most damaging kinds of things that happened in our marriage. I never hit her back. Near the end of our marriage, she was pounding on my chest - heaven only knows what the problem was, I was never really sure what it was that triggered these things. I always felt I'd been transported to some alternate reality. Anyway, I was pretty much done, and I took hold of her shoulders, pressed her back into the wall and told her that she would never hit me again. That week she apparently told the RS President, and who knows who else, that I had been "physically abusing" her. Now I may have been inadequate to that marriage in any number of ways, both ways I am aware of and ways I am not aware of, but I was certainly never physically abusive.

    These were powerful experiences in my becoming the person I, for good and bad, am. Due to the strong feelings these memories bring with them, it is difficult for me to not project myself on to other people when they relate things about their marriages and relationships. These kind of projections distort my ability to perceive reality, and the only way that I know how to minimize the impact of those distortions is to say "I don't know." And go from there.

    I've had the same kinds of experiences you've had, that lead me to the same conclusions you have come to about God leading the church. Powerful, undeniable experiences. The Holy Ghost is absolutely an agent of knowledge. I try to remember when other people criticize the church or its leaders, they to have experiences that are at the bedrock of their experience of reality. Things have gone wrong, for them, and they are trying to figure out why. I may not come to the same conclusions they come to. But neither do I feel their experiences, whatever their fundamental nature, threaten mine.

    Cool. Best.

  2. Nothing to add, except that I believe you are honest and truthful to yourself and to God (and thereby your children and fellowman), and as you say -- it is enough. Your sphere of influence doesn't mean much if you are not the main receiver. You get it, though. It's hard and awful, and heaven knows I'm no expert at lessons learned, but you, my friend, understand so much. And step by step, you'll get there. Kind of weak words coming from me, but mostly I just wanted to say you are amazing to me. And thank you for your willingness to share your pain and your journey. That's all. <3

  3. Hugs to you.
    I wish my words could take some of the pain of having to live with abuse in your life and your daughters' lives. The word got easier for me to say. It took time, but I don't feel shame now... Even when others tell me I should feel shame, or they look at me like it's partially my fault, or they say all the things ignorant people say. I hope it will get easier for you too.

  4. Abuse is a circle the abused often become abusers they are simultaneously persecutors and victims. Add a rescuer and you have drama - see

  5. I had one person who believed me, all the time, everytime. That helped, Jesus Christ. The only one but He got me through. I can tell you know Him, I'm sorry it is so hard.

  6. I wish I could take some of your pain.

    I know what it is to live in an abusive marriage, and be told about "the dynamic". Be told it's your fault. Or it isn't happening.

    I know what it is to be told that your faith is no more than the delusion of a broken mind, desperate for something to cling to. It is a LIE.

    Marital abuse is real.

    Christ is real.

    And He is going to help us to heal.


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