Today's little blog entry is a deep one. It speaks to the effects of a religious upbringing on children's sexuality, focusing in particular on the children who don't receive the necessary confirmation within their flock and start looking for it anywhere they can.
Specifically, I wanted to share a story I'd heard from a close friend who suffered a lot of rejection from her parents and the majority of fellow peers within her church class. It is astounding how she, and several others, shared a very similar fantasy, as well other incidents of deviant desire in order to somehow provoke a direct response from God or Jesus, thus giving them the confirmation they needed that there was indeed a supreme power in the Universe. And that they would be okay despite the turmoil in their life.
I haven't heard from this girl in many, many years. At least twenty-five years I would say, and not a day goes by that I don't think on her experience. She was part of a Pentecostal church, much like myself. Her home life was difficult. On the outside, they looked like an all American family, with a hardworking blue collar father, and her mother was teaching at a school nearby. They had a great house, the daughter had her own room, a nice playset out in the yard, and a dog to play with. Hardships were rare. Now and then the family would pass on going out to eat for their weekly dinner, usually because of an upcoming house project in the budget, but overall, things were beautiful. All the way down to the lovely iris beds that lined the fence next to the sidewalk that followed alongside their two story house in a small county capital in Ohio. Loyal church members for at least a decade at the point of this story's telling.
Yes, for intent and purposes, their family was ideal. Like a lot of families, family business stayed in the home and wasn't supposed to be discussed with anyone outside the home. The daughter learned early on that she was a burden. Her father was fickle in his attentions, and her mother was constantly depressed and uninterested in having much to do with her after getting home from teaching a large classroom of children everyday. There were many instances of verbal abuse, and at times, this child would act out, trying to get whatever attention she could at this point because innately, she knew it wasn't natural for her father to reject her like he did, nor for her mom to just lie around the house, showing little interest in what her daughter was doing.
Eventually, the verbal abuse became physical. Sexual abuse occurred by the hands of her father as she got older, and the daughter struggled to find anyone she could connect with at her church. She would try to hang out at friends' houses, willing to even massage a parent's feet one time in order to secure permission to stay the night and not have to go back to her own home. She loved staying away from home, being an adopted child for a night elsewhere. This child would do anything the host home asked of her. Washed dishes. Ran errands. Anything, and these homes shared a love for God and firm belief that all things come to those who waited.
This daughter of God waited. Having the Bible thrown in her face when she made mistakes. Being told that she didn't love God when she would show signs of stoic resignation as her parents screamed at her when she didn't behave honorably. She began to have doubts. After the abuse started in her home, she wanted to have proof. She started daring God to hurt her. Having already experienced what she thought was God's closeness when she prayed, her reasoning led her to believe that God would physically manifest and speak with her one on one if she committed heinous sins. Surely He would help her be better. She couldn't help herself when it came to lying. She couldn't help herself when she stole her mother's jewelry and destroyed it.
Surely He would deprogram all these desperate rituals for attention out of her and help her parents understand she needed help.
She knew what the ultimate sins were. She heard it every week in Sunday school. One of the worst things she could do would be to deny his existence, but she didn't feel He wasn't real. This daughter thought He didn't care, and she couldn't believe this was true. Surely not. So she at first began talking out loud to God. Saying how she hated her mother and wanted to kill her. How she wanted to peel the skin off of her while still alive.
God didn't calm the rage, and when she said these things, she could visually see these things happening in her mind. She would stare in her dresser mirror for hours, studying her face, and one day she saw something. Her face, while her own, wasn't her. There was a hardness in those eyes. The girl touched the glass, hoping in her deepest thoughts that the creature in the mirror would reach through and grab her. Nothing grabbed her. The glass still felt cool to the touch, smooth and lifeless. There was not another side to the looking glass for her to escape, but she swore to herself that wasn't her looking back in the mirror.
She realized a few weeks later that what she was seeing was a demon. This was classic Sunday school demon encounters. They didn't just haunt the invisible dimensions around us, but held onto us. Possessing our flesh.
Was this the confirmation she had been waiting on? If she had proof of demons, then that meant proof of God, right?
This eleven year old daughter of disdainful Pentecostal parents completely believed she had received a small window into the supernatural world of biblical reality. It wasn't enough though. Everyday she would have a few moments in front of that mirror, and everyday this stranger would stare back at her. Unemotional, cold, calculating. Mimicking her every movement and mouthed words, but watching her, intentions masked in cold observation. What would it take for this girl to bring this thing out into her world and prove once and for all that everything she had been taught in church was real?
It wasn't enough to talk to it. The "who are you" and "I see what you really are" statements didn't seem to do anything. The girl thought she felt the environment around her change a bit, similar to what she felt when deep in prayer at church. So, there was some effect, but nothing that triggered an outright reaction from it in the mirror. During this time, sexual abuse took place and she became keenly aware of what her body felt with certain touches, and while secretly exploring her body in the dark at bed time, she would look over at the mirror, wondering.
She started to challenge in hushed whispers for the evil thing that would watch her from the mirror to come and attack her. Reflecting on her own experience at the hands of her father, she would try with all her might to summon this thing forward. Demanding it prove itself or she would no longer think it were real. Willing to allow herself to be sexually assaulted in order to receive confirmation that God was real, even if by the hands of his fallen minions.
This demand went on for years.
When she hit fourteen years old, she didn't notice it in the mirror any longer. It had progressed into something that was following her around. Manifesting in the paneling of her room. I remember her room pretty clearly since we spent a lot of time up there together. Her walls were covered with that 70's style dark oak wall paneling, with the rough surface that had the wood grain look to them, and her door to her room was also a wood grain door, but a lighter pine finish. I remember how odd it was going up there to her room. The outside of her door had a little loop and hasp lock on the outside of it. Apparently her dad put it on there to make sure she didn't sneak out when grounded, preventing her from accessing the restroom. Luckily she had figured out how to slip a piece of construction paper through there and pop it out when she needed to really go to the toilet, but then would get in a lot of trouble when it was found unhasped later on when her dad would let her out. Truly a fucked up situation.
Regarding the paneling and her door though. She began to see faces watching her in the swirls of the wood grains, one in particular on her door. I remember her talking about this, and looked at the swirl she was talking about. It was spooky and I can see how she thought it looked like a tormented face, but the rest of her experience was disturbing as well. Not only did she see these faces watching her, she would masturbate in front of them demanding they come out and punish her. Prove they were real and that God did mean business when it came to belief and sin. She would cuss at them. Claim they had no power or weren't real. Purposely seeking to provoke a reaction of any type in order to give her conscience ease. Again, for a few years, nothing would come of it, but she wouldn't give up. Convinced they were toying with her, waiting until just the right moment to pop out in front of her and prove their reality by heartlessly torturing her for her grievous behaviors.
The time came when everything between her father and mother blew to bits. She was sweet sixteen. She demanded freedom. She demanded respect. She declared she didn't have to put up with their mistreatment anymore and that if they didn't let her move out, she would end her life. They took her to a mere two visits of crisis counseling, and faced with long term therapy costs opted to let her leave the home and venture out on her own. Essentially washing their hands of her and opting to save their marriage instead. It was an amazing triumph for this young woman.
And do you know what happened the same night she left that house filled with trauma and haunting demonic influences?
All of these behaviors ceased immediately. Her doubts about God's true power had lessened. What changed her? I honestly believe it was the relief of the stress she was enduring. This little girl, since the age of eight, was desperately seeking anything in her life that would give her attention and assurance about how the world truly was that of the Bible. She needed proof that she deserved her suffering. Even if it meant courting Lucifer himself. Once she got out of her parents' home, she had less pressure to seek relief from the conditions she was living under. She had a boyfriend to love, a new place to live without fear of a father hurting her or a mother just standing by while it happened. She had a future in front of her with friends around her that didn't judge her and offered advice outside the normal realm of Pentecostal guidance.
I went to the same church as her until she was eleven. I left the church about the same time, and knew several people who suffered the similar struggles with getting confirmation in their beliefs any way possible. Some would try to kill themselves, others did deviant sex acts involving relatives, objects or animals, and one in particular delved into drugs and higher consciousness to seek out God. I never saw her again after she turned sixteen.
I talk about this girl so much because she was me.
I really don't know who she was when I look back on it now. Seriously, I have zero connection with who that was. Sometimes, I wonder if that hard faced nightmare in my skin that was staring at me from the mirror is the person I am now, only muted due to the then current terror of a life I was living. Maybe it was just my disassociated self making an appearance. I know one thing, I was desperate for proof, willing to be hurt by the baddest of the bad in order to receive it. I was desperately Lucifer's little offering for the taking, and even he wouldn't have me, and for the longest time the reality of the rejection crushed me because it led to a deeper understanding that I wasn't going to accept until I entered my twenties.
There is no God, and that is a good thing because now I don't have to tolerate being hurt anymore.
Additionally, I took away the fact that there is not a kewpie prize for being a martyr in this world unless you are rich or religious. Count on that.