Trigger warning – sexual assault
In one of my favorite movies, “Interstellar,” two characters have a conversation about the nature of evil as they go out into space and the great unknown. “You don’t think nature can be evil?” One character asks. “No,” the other replies. “Formidable. Frightening. But… no, not evil. Is a lion evil because it rips a gazelle to shreds?” The other character is silent for a moment, then states, “Just what we take with us then.”
As a Christian and a believer in a higher power, the nature of evil is something that’s always captured my attention. In my faith, I believe that all evil came from an original source, which spread to the rest of humanity through an ill-advised choice. That’s the roughest summary I can give without getting too deep into theology, but the point is, evil is something that has contaminated humanity. It’s everywhere and we all can see it every day when we turn on the news, check our Facebook feeds, or talk with anyone around town. Somewhere, out there, someone is being hurt. Someone is hurting someone else. We know this all too well, yet for many of us, we like to pretend that this chaos and evil is something that happens far away. We pretend that it doesn’t exist much closer to home, sometimes in our own living rooms. Sometimes it’s just down the street. Sometimes it’s in our own churches.
I was sexually abused when I was three years old. The event was so traumatizing that I repressed nearly all of it for sixteen years, only pieces of it leaking through in strange nightmares and flashbacks that I attributed to a hyperactive, and disturbing, imagination. What was most evil about it all, was that it was done to me by a fellow church member who had been trusted by my parents to watch me and my sister.
The husband and wife seemed like good people. They were active in the church community. They’d adopted two kids from another country. By all accounts, they seemed incredibly loving, generous, and God-fearing. Why wouldn’t they be perfect to watch children?
Little did anyone know, the father was molesting and raping his children and was drugging his wife so she was too sick to ever notice what was happening until years later when I would already be a teenager.
He abused me in his basement. I don’t remember if it was one time or many times. My parents can’t remember, for the life of them, how often this couple babysat me and my sister. All they know is that, over a short period of time, my personality changed overnight. I was no longer the curious, inquisitive, and expressive child I used to be. I was withdrawn, “robot” like. All creative expression left me. It was like someone had sucked my soul right out of my body and left an empty shell behind.
They figured out what happened fairly quickly. My dad went into a state of denial over the years, but my mom, who was taught how to talk to me about it, knew the truth. When she went to the church elders for some wisdom and advise, she received something that was the opposite of Christ-like.
“Don’t tell anyone,” they said. “Pray for your child. But don’t go to the police. They’ll just think your husband did it.”
My parents, scared and young, believed them. They prayed for me. I repressed the memories and went back to the closest thing to ‘normal’ I knew. I received no help for my trauma.
As I grew older, I had to deal with unexplainable rage attacks and depression that I could never understand. If I wasn’t busy, I was on the verge of tears. If I was bored, I considered throwing my body into walls just to make myself feel something. I was hyper-aware of everything that went on around me. I could always feel who was breathing, who was moving, which doors were opening and closing, which person was closest to my body, what I would have to do at any given moment to fight my way out of a room full of people.
I thought these feelings were normal. Didn’t everybody feel like that? Maybe I was just too imaginative. Maybe I’d watched one too many violent movies growing up. I pushed these feelings aside, even though they would continue to destroy my school life and ability to socialize.
In elementary school, I was an excellent student. I always needed to stay busy, so I learned quickly and I retained information like a sponge. But when I reached junior high and high school, all that energy left me and I was back to an empty husk trying to make myself feel. I couldn’t concentrate to save my life. I was homeschooled from the fourth grade on, and my mother used to sit right beside me as I did my school work to make sure I didn’t slack off. Sometimes I would stare at a page for over thirty minutes, just disassociating because concentrating hurt too much. Everything was overwhelming.
All of this was compounded when my father lost his mind for two years when I was between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Things started to calm down for the following year, but there had been enough damage that I had spent a full two years hiding everything I did from a father who thought his family was always conspiring against him. The emotional and verbal abuse did nothing to help my crippling sense of shame and self-loathing. I already felt that I was worthless because of my poor grades and inability to concentrate. Now I had to deal with words and taunts that I was untrustworthy, property to be owned, that I had no purpose and no worth if I wasn’t constantly doing everything in my power to make my father happy.
When I turned nineteen I finally got into counseling. I was immediately diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety. No attempt was made to find out if I was suffering from PTSD, but from talks with my counselor, it was quietly accepted I probably had it and should take a test soon. I still have yet to take that test.
When I came out to my family as transgender at the age of nineteen, my father, still healing from his insane years, took me aside and told me I only thought I was a boy because I was sexually abused when I was a child. At that exact moment, all my repressed memories started flooding back into reality. Fragmented thoughts and images that had haunted me for years now strung themselves together in startling clarity and sound. The anger was unspeakable.
As someone who has spent their entire life in the church, serving others, and putting others first, it’s hard to put yourself first for once. To take time aside and allow yourself to reflect and mourn and heal. The sad truth about the church is they never really prepare you for the moments when tragedy happens to you. They prepare you to teach and minister to those who are hurting. But what do you do when the person who’s hurting… is you? There were virtually no resources for me, so I had no idea I was on a path of self-destruction as I jumped back into helping others and completely ignoring my own needs.
I was able to deny my past for another year before I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I had to get my story out. I had to tell the truth about what I was going through. I needed to get help for myself.
That started with getting back together with my counselor. It continued with me getting involved in healing groups on Facebook. It reached out into sharing my story online and getting feedback, knowing that I was not alone.
I’m finally doing all of those things now.
I turn twenty-one in October, and I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I was sexually abused. My state of denial is over, and I’ve entered into the stage of anger. I’m enraged by what my abuser did to me. I’m furious that he’s still out there, free, because when his (now ex-wife) found out what he’d done and gone to the cops, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove it was him. Now, that woman and her children have to live with years of abuse and manipulation, as well as me. And he gets to walk free.
I’m angry at the church for failing my family when we needed help the most. I’m angry that my parents didn’t get me the help I needed. I’m angry that there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I have so much bottled up anger I don’t know what to do with it. But I do know this. I refuse to let it turn to evil. This anger inside of me, I’m actively channeling into good. I will not take this evil with me. Instead, I channel it into my writing. I push it into my art and my stories. I meditate. I’m even going to start doing yoga. It’s important to me that I don’t hurt others with my anger because what happened is in the past. I know this, in my mind. But feeling it like it’s happening now is what hurts the most, and finding ways to breathe through the pain is my main priority right now.
There’s evil everywhere in the world, and nothing makes me angrier than knowing it’s in our own backyards, in our own churches, in our own homes. But sometimes, I think on that conversation. The only evil out there is what we take with us. There’s lots of evil out there, being carried around by people who are okay with bringing that evil with them. But that doesn’t mean we have to join them. I don’t want my justified anger to become something toxic and hurtful. I want my anger to burn with righteousness and power, that it is valid and true, but can be used for good. I will not bring any evil with me out into the world. I’m determined to leave this world a better place than when I came into it. I can do that by not bringing any evil with me. By shining a light, I can encourage others to do the same, and together, if enough of us try, and enough of us remember, we can leave the evil behind. The more of us that stand united, together, and shining, the less evil there will be to harm it.
Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m too optimistic about all this. But I genuinely do believe that we can make this world better by telling our stories, by being honest, and by refusing to carry evil with us. In the end, I truly believe that is what will make all the difference.
I am a Transgender Christian and have spent most of my life serving the youth community through my local church. Ministering and teaching has always been my calling and I have always been driven by my morals and passionate desire to be genuine with others, authentic in who I am, and honest in what I do. Sharing my story has always been important to me in order to help others know they are not alone and that they can succeed and heal. While I am still healing, I believe we can all heal best when we do it together. Kason’s writing can be found here. You can follow Kason on Twitter and Facebook.