[Originally a Facebook note, meant to explain to my friends (including mutual ones with my abusers) why it was so hard for me to just forget Richard and move on. It turned into a much larger blog post when I began adding more and more to the note. At that time, my blog did not have the details of my story publicly posted, as it does now. Written Tuesday, December 27, 2011.]
Some friends just drift in and out of your life. Some hurt when they drift away, but you deal with it and move on. Some may anger you so much that losing them doesn’t bother you. Losing a friend is not easy in any case, but it’s far more difficult when it was that one extra-special friend, the kind that’s so rare.
All my life I had wanted the elusive bosom friend that Anne Shirley spoke of. The friend who sticks with you for life, not a romance, not sex or marriage, which I already have, but a platonic friend. Frodo/Sam.
It just seems impossible to replace him. These were elements of our friendship which I found especially valuable and important, especially appealing, and these were the reasons I was so attached to his friendship…..
Where else am I to find someone like this? I try to remind myself of all the violence, the self-seeking, the betrayal, yet I’m left with this gaping hole that it’s impossible to fill with anyone else, as if he were a car or a computer that can just be exchanged for something new and better.
And that, more than anything, is why I just have not been able to get over our friendship.
That’s why I still haven’t let go of the hope that one day, somehow, some way, he will repent and come back to my husband and me, ready to abandon the violence and arrogance that pushed Jeff and me away, ready to start anew.
That’s why I’m filled anew with grief every time I see him at church, he says not a word to me, and I feel I must avoid him, push him away, because of his violence and betrayal, because I can’t trust him.
And the most tragic thing is, I have no clue what happened. The winter of 2009-2010, everything was fine between us all. I don’t recall much bullying of me going on at that time, I was led to believe that the wife had long since stopped holding her inexplicable and irrational grudges against me, and everything was fine.
But somehow, over the spring of 2010, for no reason I ever knew, they just both started being mean to me.
But as for him–I don’t know that I’ll ever get over what he did, unless he stops justifying his behavior and comes to me, and repents. Forgive perhaps, eventually, but lose the hurt feelings? Stop feeling betrayed by my best friend? Stop wishing that he would do the right thing? Probably never…..
Back in May 2012, my abusers, Richard and Tracy, discovered this blog, then threatened and began to stalk me. You can read their e-mail below.
Especially note that whichever of them wrote the e-mail (it “sounded” like Tracy’s “voice”), accused me of making things up and accusing Tracy falsely, downplayed Richard’s criminal conviction of choking his daughter, warned me not to go to the priest/church, and threatened to sue.
And yet–Through our own local version of a “police beat,” Crime Reports, published for all to see on the Fond du Lac city website, I have discovered that a domestic dispute occurred in May.
The report points to Richard and Tracy’s last-known address, at least according to Google Earth, which is used by the website to locate each crime event. A follow-up occurred about a week later, so it appears that an investigation was begun into the incident, beyond the initial police report.
No charges have been filed as of yet, so I don’t know what happened, who was involved, or if charges ever will be filed.
But it–along with Richard’s conviction of choking his daughter–supports my statements that Richard and Tracy are abusive, and that I am not making up “false facts” out of a “not-all-there” brain.
And gives more strength to my mind to resist their attempts to gaslight me, and attempts to intimidate me into silence through constant surveillance of this blog. This discovery has even more emboldened me to not be silent–and to laugh at their attempts to scare me.
It gets easier all the time, when reading old posts or remembering things that my abusers said or did, to laugh it off.
Yes, laugh it off. I see how ridiculous it all is, and see right through it all.
Not only does it help pull me out of the pit and back where life is beautiful again, and I am no longer a “victim,” but it should help me identify such behavior in others, before I get pulled in again.
(Not that it is in any way a character failing to be a victim of someone abusing you. Victim-blaming and -shaming is a huge problem these days. The only one who should be ashamed of how the victim is affected by the abuse, is the abuser.)
Nowadays, when I remember what happened, it no longer affects me, just as it no longer affects me to remember what Phil, Peter or Shawn did back in college. It’s become a story I revise for the masses to read, which may inspire a brief burst of anger, but then I forget about it again.
I see right through the things my various abusers did, and no longer let it worry and oppress me the way it used to for years.
Yes, it took me years to get past what those guys did, just as it has taken years to deal with what Richard and Tracy did. But eventually I got through. As Trent Reznor titled a song, The way out is through.
Because of this, and the discovery above which provides even more evidence that my abusers were full of bullsh**, I am now ready to turn my abusers’ threatening e-mail to me in May of 2012, into a piece of high comedy, by running it through my own brand-new narc decoder.
Blogger Tina Swithin has popularized the idea of a “narc decoder,” through which you run messages from your abuser. This handy little “machine” translates those messages which fill you with fear, dread, anger, and the like, into what they really mean.
First, read the e-mail from Richard and Tracy:
We read this in amusement. It gave us a good laugh to find that almost 2 years later you are still fixated on something that we forgot about a long time ago. As for your threats, promises whatever to expose us you can take out a law book and read about defamation laws. Richards’s court case may be public access and you are free to speculate all you want without having all the information and facts. However the rest of your writings about how horrible a person Tracy is and abusive mentally deranged etc. have gone beyond statements of opinion. You have represented in your writings false facts, not just opinions, about Tracy that constitutes an actionable lawsuit. You are free to have your opinion and feelings however the minute you go public to the members of the church or community as you have threatened to do we will exercise our rights to sue you for defamation against Tracy’s character.
You talk about threats and bullies yet what are you doing? You are threating to falsely accuse and expose lies about an innocent person if they do not concede to your demands. We will not be threatened or intimidated. We are free to go to church to worship our Lord God without fear of retaliation from someone we see as not all there. You want closure here it is. We are not sorry. We did nothing wrong. You will never get what you want from us because we do not feel we owe you anything. We will continue to be active in our church our community and our town; if you cannot handle that then that us your problem not ours. We will not move or change our faith to make you happy and comfortable. As for the local parish being ‘your’ church. I think the archdiocese would have a thing to say about that. The church is for everyone. We have stayed away out of respect to give you time. We have gone to other churches in town outside of our faith when gas prices or work schedules prevented us from driving 40+ miles one way to church. However we miss going to a church of our faith, participating in the mysteries having that commune with our Lord, so we decided that when we can’t drive out of town we will go to the local parish. We will not be pushed out of the church by you, two years is enough time. So as fair warning for the perceivable future our work schedules make long distance an issue as the other parish is moving to summer hours and Divine Liturgy starts early. So we will be attending locally A LOT this summer, we will even show up on Saturday nights.
And now I run the e-mail from Richard and Tracy through the narc decoder…..
Snap, crackle, pop….
And here it is, all decoded:
How dare you ever speak a word to anyone about how we bullied, abused and gaslit you for years? How dare you ever speak a word about Tracy’s abuses of Richard, the children, and others?
Tracy tried her hardest to shut you up so that only you knew what was happening, so we could keep you under our control and even your husband wouldn’t know the truth. We wanted even him to think you were crazy. We wanted you to think you imagined it all.
How dare you break out of our control and think for yourself? How dare you tell your husband and all your friends and family what we did? How dare you have a mind and will much stronger than we gave you credit for?
You were so nice and easily intimidated that we thought for sure we could twist you every which way we wanted to, and continue to use you and get money/stuff/living space out of you.
It scared us when you showed signs of wanting to kick us out of your house years ago for bullying you and being generally abusive, so we had to re-assert our control and make you think you were in the wrong. We had to make you think YOU were the one with the problem, so we could stay put till we were good and ready to leave.
Now, a few days ago, you actually stood up for yourself and told us to stay away from you. But we don’t want to leave you alone.
We’ve always hated your church, and barely stepped foot in it even while we still pretended to be friends with you. But we want to guilt you into thinking we’re pious Christians who long for the Mysteries, even though we have never lifted a finger to resolve this like Christians, have never behaved like Christians.
We have no interest in actually behaving like Christians, or in getting the Mysteries out of any sense of longing for Christ. No, this is only so we can harass you and pretend to be pious, by making big shows of making the sign of the Cross, just like Pharisees!
We want to shove up against you, breathe down your neck and snarl in the Communion line. We want to pretend to everyone at your church that we’re just innocent Christians, so that no one will believe you if you try to tell them what we really are.
We want free reign, so we can control you at church, too, by forcing you to keep quiet and telling everyone you’re a nutcase and not all there.
We know it’s a lie.
We still think you’re easily manipulated through threats. The truth is that we are afraid of anyone else knowing what kind of people we really are. We don’t want your priest to know, either, especially since you spoke of showing him Richard’s criminal records. This is why we repeatedly threaten you and tell you to shut up.
We don’t want you to get help from the church. We want you to be destroyed because you know what we really are.
We are well aware that you never made threats to retaliate against us.
But just as Tracy did with Todd, when she accused him falsely and smeared him all over the game forum years ago, we will try to make you think you made threats. We will tell others that you made threats you never actually made, to get them on our side and turn them against you, make them think you’re crazy, just as we successfully got all those people thinking that Todd was crazy.
We have already done that, by telling some person Tracy goes to school with, Chia, that you did these things you never did, that you lied when you told the truth. She never even met you before. Then she changed her profile to a passive-aggressive diatribe against you, and “friended” you on Facebook. But it was only so we can peruse your Facebook for posts about us.
Of course you never threatened to push us out of the church or Fond du Lac. We just suffer from poor reading comprehension, combined with our fear of somebody exposing our real selves to the whole world.
We have worked very hard to suppress our real selves around other people in Fond du Lac, so that we can make inroads in politics and other circles, but your very knowledge of our true selves–and Richard’s conviction–threatens our feeling of security.
It is all a lie. But you’re not supposed to recognize that. You’re supposed to doubt yourself and come under our control.
The true threat is that because you know the truth about us, your very existence is a threat. We are scared that because of you, that perfect image we want to present the community, will come crashing down as the facade that it is.
You have kept careful notes of our abuses, and that frightens us. We want you to think even those records are fake. Even though everything you wrote is the truth. Even though Richard sent you an e-mail years back which proved your assertions.
This is why, years ago, we tried to make you think you were a stalker for keeping such notes, so you would stop doing that. This is why we are now trying to gaslight you into thinking that Tracy has never abused anyone and that you’re just lying.
So we will ridicule you and make you think you’re the one with the problem (even though your reactions to being abused and seeing your abuser again are all perfectly normal), because we never matured past elementary school.
We will pretend to be amused by your blog, when in truth it scares us to death–or we never would’ve threatened you. Especially your knowledge of Richard’s conviction. We read that page of your blog constantly.
Though your pain, your desperate suffering, caused by us and our actions and words, so much so that only blogging could get it out, does amuse us, because we are sociopaths.
Though we are so faulty with reading comprehension that we did not get that it’s not “closure” you need, but for us to recognize we have done wrong, and make it right, through apologies and changed behavior. This would make a Christian restoration of friendship possible.
But that won’t happen, because we are superior to all others and never do anything wrong. And because we were only pretending to be your friends to begin with.
We even laugh at the collapse of your faith, even though Richard claimed for years to want to be a priest. Which shows our own faith is actually an act put on to fool you and others, to give us an air of respectability.
We want you to think that even your perception of Richard’s conviction is wrong, even though you have official, public information saying otherwise. We want you to think Richard is innocent, even though he himself admitted to choking his daughter. All to further gaslight you into our control.
We easily got over the breakup because you were blameless, so we had nothing to be angry about. Well, other than the fact that you broke free of us before we could dump you first.
But you had been showing signs of breaking free from our control for years, which is why we let you go so easily. We knew you would be trouble, that you already saw Tracy’s true nature and were beginning to see Richard’s as well. We knew you may even report us to the police or Social Services–which you did eventually do. That scared us.
We would never admit to being to blame for the suffering you’ve gone through. It’s your fault, after all. It’s never the abuser’s fault. How dare you try to make us take responsibility for how we treat and hurt people, including our own children? We are perfect, can’t you tell? It’s never our fault when we abuse someone! It’s always the fault of the person we abuse!
It infuriates us that you are sticking up for yourself and telling about what happened! So we will make empty threats, hoping to shut you up, even though we know we could never have the legal basis to carry them through, and no lawyer would take us on because we have no case or money! We talk about Constitutional Rights, but that’s for US, not for you!
How dare you insist that we never contact you? Just by sending this e-mail we are violating your rights and request to be left alone! Because we don’t care about anybody but ourselves.
–Richard and Tracy Doe
Ah, that was therapeutic. This is a good way to turn the horrid e-mails/messages sent to you by your abuser, into a piece of see-through garbage that no longer bothers you.
Attempting to obtain closure with an abusive, narcissistic and/or borderline woman (i.e., Crazy) is almost always a maddening exercise in futility.
You’re not going to get closure with this kind of woman for several reasons. First, she doesn’t meet the three most important prerequisites for giving and receiving closure:
A reasonable degree of sanity
A foothold in reality
Being able to give an ex closure means you’re able to accept your share of responsibility for the demise of the relationship and when has your BPD and/or NPD ex ever taken responsibility for her behavior, especially when she was clearly in the wrong?
…I hate to break it to you, but if you’re waiting for this to happen or, heaven forbid, an apology from this woman; IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. If you try to get closure from your NPD and/or BPD ex by detailing the many ways she hurt and tortured you, she’s unlikely to acknowledge what she did. –Dr. Tara, Shrink4Men, There is No Closure with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman
Her husband was a pastor with the church for a time, until he was abandoned and smeared by Mark Driscoll.
In this and in other stories I’ve read about abuse at Mars Hill Church, I was struck all along by things that sounded very familiar, in my own experiences with narcissistic abuse, from exes (especially Phil) and from Richard and Tracy:
A person/place who at first seemed like God’s gift to you.
Pressure to conform.
Shunning someone you are told is bad.
Abuse and getting kicked out for questioning, disagreeing, speaking up about problems.
A person who throws tantrums and verbally abuses you for the slightest offenses, even when the offense is only in his own mind.
A smear campaign.
Others encouraged to shun you.
A kangaroo court in which you have no real chance to defend yourself.
Others put through the same abuse if they stick up for you.
A “conference” which is meant not to hear your side or your grievances, but to coerce you into agreeing that the abuse against you is justified.
A refusal of the abusers to admit they’ve done anything wrong. As Driscoll and his henchman wrote to Jonna and her husband, “We still believe we have done nothing wrong.”
Begging others to help, but no one will.
Discovering this abuse is a pattern, that it neither began nor ended with you.
The hurt, pain and confusion as you long desperately for reconciliation:
In shock and heartbroken, Paul and I tried desperately that first half-year to bring about some level of reconciliation.
We so longed to be restored to our friends, to have our name and reputation exonerated, and to have peace in our relationships.
This had become our family that we loved and served and ministered to as our own dear children and as brothers and sisters. These were our dear friends.
How could they do this to us? Words do not adequately describe the shock, horror, betrayal, and rejection we felt. The weight of the loss was excruciating.
The PTSD and shaking of faith:
During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated.
I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children.
If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have.
I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork.
I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right?
But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this?
Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse.
Spiritual abuse occurs when someone uses their power within a framework of spiritual belief or practice to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. It is a breach of sacred trust.
Christians are commanded by Jesus to love one another. When that is projected, articulated, enjoyed and then treacherously betrayed, the wounded person is left with “a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually” not by a stranger, but by someone who was deeply trusted. (See Recovering from Church Abuse by Len Hjalmarson)
At the beginning, Jonna wrote,
This past summer I saw the movie, “The Help,” and a seed of courage was planted in my soul. One of the last lines of the movie:
“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.”
This story is an earnest attempt to speak the truth in love that freedom and new life may flourish.
At the end, she wrote things which encourage me to continue telling the story of Richard/Tracy–and express the same hope I hold, that one day my abusers will recognize their abuse and change:
In Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders to pay attention and guard the flock.
This admonition, along with the mounting stories of abuse and misconduct coming out of Mars Hill Church, has added to our conviction.
We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God. As my husband stated earlier–if we fail to remember our history, we leave it for others to re-write. And, unfortunately, some of that has occurred.
And, in Mark’s own words from his book, Vintage Jesus:
“People are not perfect. As sinners we need to be gracious, patient, and merciful with one another just as God is with us or the church will spend all of its time doing nothing but having church discipline trials.
“It is worth stressing, however, that we cannot simply overlook an offense if doing so is motivated by our cowardice, fear of conflict, and/or lack of concern for someone and their sanctification.
“In the end, it is the glory of God, the reputation of Jesus, the well-being of the church, and the holiness of the individual that must outweigh any personal desires for a life of ease that avoids dealing with sin biblically.
“Sometimes God in his providential love for us allows us to be involved in dealing with another’s sin as part of our sanctification and growth. It is good for us and for the sinner, the church, and the reputation of the gospel if we respond willingly to the task God has set before us.”
What happened to us was very wrong. The way it was publicly described by Mark and the elders at the time was completely exaggerated and deceptive. The way the media and blogs have since reported on it has many holes and errors. Now it is open and plain to everyone.
If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future.
We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse.
Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.
Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots.
Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.
We are all in this together, no matter what kind of abuse we suffered, or from whom.
We did not deserve it, and need to learn and remember this. We need to put the responsibility for the abuse, and our subsequent hurt and pain, where it belongs–on the abuser–and take none for ourselves.
And we need to NOT look at each other and think, “I got it worse than you, so why should I bother with your story and pain?”
We also need to learn from each other, take courage from each other to speak up and tell our stories, and heal each other.