reporting abuse

Persephone confronts me about the letter–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–November 1994, Part 5

The following is adapted from a diary entry, which I copied and added many extra details to about two years later.  Those details were as accurate as I could still remember:

11/15/94–12:23 AM

Blackness again.  The letter is known to Persephone, but I’ve cleared things up with her, and she’s not mad at me anymore.

It still angers me that she even knows about that or the one before it.  She refused to see the first one–he offered to show it to her!  What a creep.

I thought, after the Tracy letter, which he didn’t show me out of respect for her, that he was more trustworthy than that.  But no, he is not to be trusted.

The spiritual marriage has entered the grapevine–probably through Dirk, Persephone says–and is known to people who have no business knowing.  She says, “Tell a world, tell a Dirk.”

She herself heard it not through Phil, but through a freshman girl in Muehlmeier who said to her, “I’m really not supposed to tell anyone this, BUT…”  I have no idea who all it’s spread to.

I feel weird and indignant at everyone, just when I’m walking around the cafeteria!  I feel like they’re all looking at me and judging me now.  This could even reflect on InterVarsity.

I don’t like these small-town grapevines.  People always have to know other people’s business.  Well, get your nose out of my affairs, you busybody!  I feel so humiliated.  I don’t even like to leave the apartment.

I’m beginning to think about pressing charges, even–breach of contract plus rape. Yes, there have been several times he’s raped me, and only once did I realize that’s what he did.  It took a speaker here at school the other week to help me realize that.

God, convict him!  That week we were back together, engaged, married even–he apparently wasn’t intending to honor the marriage contract–that’s rape because it was false pretenses!

Persephone pulled me aside after lunch on Sunday to talk to me, and to give me a letter she had written to me.

As I sat there reading it, I felt more and more indignant, and had plenty to say on it because it seemed written by someone who didn’t even know what my letter truly said.

It sounded more like Phil had totally distorted everything for her.

It talked about forgiveness as if it never even entered my mind!  I explained that the purpose of the letter, as clearly stated in the letter, was so I could forgive!

There were other things, too, which I’ll mention later, though I won’t necessarily say if they were in the letter or not.

I was mad that Phil had told her about it, but she said that some things should be told.  I don’t think this was one of those things, though.  I said that nowadays I do nothing without God’s okay, and this I felt had God’s okay.

Persephone thinks Dirk thinks he knows everything.  Considering the things he’s told Phil (who listens to him) and me (who doesn’t), I agree.  She doesn’t like him, and doesn’t like having to see him all the time because he’s Phil’s best friend.

There have also been things Phil did to me or that we went through that he told her about, without respect for me, thinking she would take his side.  Instead, she told him he’s an a–hole.  He also doesn’t like that she’s friends with me!  She thinks he’s afraid of something.

She says her dad … is very much like Phil.  Her mother wonders why she’d want to date someone so much like her father.

She said if I think what he did to me on certain occasions was rape, there are people I should talk to about it.  [I didn’t because I didn’t want my parents to find about the spiritual marriage/sex.]

I never told him I could sue him for breach of contract, and he didn’t realize I could until she told him, and that shocked him.  [I didn’t want to, but felt empowered simply because I could do it, but didn’t.]

She said it probably wouldn’t work anyway because, in this day and age, people break engagements all the time.  But I saw a promo for a news story recently that said people can sue for it, and my dad had brought it up in the first place.  I’d never heard of it myself until then.

Persephone said in her letter that, in the Old Testament, when the husband put the wife away, they were divorced.  I don’t know why she thought it necessary to say this.  I’ve never said, and I don’t believe, that Phil and I are still married.  It’s a divorce, and I admit it.

But, though I’m allowed to marry again, having been put away for no fault of my own, if Phil were to marry another, he’d be committing adultery.  [I was following Christian rules on divorce, which are different from legal ones.]

Persephone says she doesn’t intend to marry anyone because she knows she herself is grounds for divorce.  Phil doesn’t like this.  Apparently, so soon after throwing aside his wife, he’s talking about marriage with another woman.

She says Phil says he loves her and she says to that, “No, you don’t!”

She says she knows from her parents (actor-father, maybe?  I forget) what real comedy is, and that Phil doesn’t.  (Phil makes constant jokes and references that are often lost on others.)

After the Bible verses in my letters were mentioned, the things I said about sin and such, Persephone said, “One thing I’ve seen is that when a person starts using the Bible as a defense, they’ve lost the argument.”

That’s a load of hooey when you’re dealing with Christians.  Christians are the ones who usually respect the Bible–who count it as the Official Guidebook, the Final Authority on anything.

When you use Bible verses taken in context, you use the strongest argument you could possibly use with another Christian.  That’s the thing that I have seen.

I remember Phil telling me at the beginning of the semester that he was starting to practice better hygiene so he’d be attractive to other women, but I guess he hasn’t kept that up.  Persephone keeps having to throw soap and a towel at him and tell him to clean up before she’ll let him in her room!  (In some ways, I do admire her spunk.)

He shaved his beard soon after we broke up the first time, I guess as another way to appear more attractive, but probably not until after he tried out for a part in the play and knew whether or not he’d need a beard for the part.

I think he looks silly without a beard and Anna agrees with me, but Persephone says she won’t let him grow one because he looks like a scuzzball and kind of scares her.

When I mentioned the time I snubbed him in Jubilee, she said she heard about that.  She thinks that the way to effectively ignore a guy is not to treat him differently from other guys–not snub him completely, because that makes him feel special, set apart from other guys.

I’m not so sure this is true.  Mom always tells me not to talk to the guy who’s done me wrong, but to ignore him–first Peter, now Phil.

And Dad thinks the effectiveness of the “snubbing” method you choose depends on the guy.  He doesn’t think anything else would get through to Phil but to snub him completely.

In the letter she says that instead of “marrying,” we should’ve just called it premarital sex and taken the responsibility and consequences “like adults”–an unfair judgment of something she wasn’t even a part of.

And Phil and I had agreed with each other that just being engaged doesn’t mean you can sleep together, so if we hadn’t been married, we would’ve been wracked with such guilt if we’d had sex!  This way, there was no guilt or shame, because it’s not a sin to have sex with your own spouse.

She tells me that the first time we got “married,” Phil really thought he’d marry me.  The second time, he was just horny! Isn’t that rape?–

–Oh, gosh, and I remember how pushy he was, too, that second time!  How he’d push me on the bed as soon as we got into my room and we were alone, without a “how’d you do,” and cover us with my afghan. 

Once or twice, when I was preparing for the usual position, he poked his thing in my face–and it was smelly this time, unlike before–for me to suck, and held onto my head so I had to do it.

I told Persephone how he’d also say last summer, when I didn’t want to do anything but vaginal sex, “Sure, have your way, you always get your way!”–Persephone said, “It’s your body!”

She and I both agree he lays on guilt trips all the time.  She also says he gets horny and says to her what he often said to me: “Don’t you want a beautiful baby?”–

But she doesn’t even want kids, she wants her tubes tied at a certain age (twenty-two or twenty-five, I believe), so whenever he tries anything with her, she hits him in the balls.  She says he’s “an idiot, sexually.”

I told her about the time Phil threw a tantrum and I thought it was his dream-self, not his real, conscious self.  I spoke of how awful it was, how awful he acted.  Persephone said something like, “Well, that’s over now,” and I should get over it.  Her words seemed callous.

[I thought we were sharing? Why did she say this about this particular incident, but not about the others?  That makes no sense at all!]

She spoke of Phil’s increasing troubles at home and called his mother a dragon.  (Later, she would tell me he practically lived with her in Muehlmeier for a while because of his bad homelife.  I remembered I didn’t allow him to stay overnight in my room in Krueger, for two reasons: 1) It was against the rules, and 2) Clarissa wouldn’t have liked it.)

She says even Tracy agreed to do something with him and Persephone recently.  It shocked us all–Persephone, me, probably Phil.  He ended up driving so erratically that Tracy (obviously when the minivan was stopped) got him to go down on his knees, and demanded his keys from him!

What’s really odd is that Persephone says she doesn’t even like Phil!  At least, not as a boyfriend.  She rips on him whenever he’s not around, and would have preferred dating James, whom she liked at the beginning of the year.

She said she’d just sent James a letter saying how she felt when Phil asked her out, and then James tried to talk to her but Phil came over.  She thought James was sullen after that because: “I think I was the first female to get through to him, and then he saw me with Phil, and he didn’t like that!”

I liked him once, too, and thought he liked me, and then finally ended up with Phil; I wonder if he ever knew I liked him?  I know I started dating Phil maybe a few months after I first tried to ask James out….

She thinks it’ll take me at least a year to forgive Phil.

She also says she was taught to believe in the Bible, but be wary of it because it was written by man.  I don’t agree, since I believe it was written by God through man….

She also thinks that she, the freshman, knows more about human nature than some of us in the group who are older, but I don’t really think that’s true.  She doesn’t even know some of the things I’ve gone through in the past, and I don’t think she should judge us so quickly.

Persephone says Phil had another nervous breakdown after he got my letter….Two breakdowns in seven months?!…Why doesn’t he get help?  He doesn’t need a girlfriend, he needs a psychiatrist!

Pearl says so, too; she says he totally doesn’t seem ready for a girlfriend.

Dad already thought he was psycho and on the edge, and he said the other night that he didn’t even know about the first breakdown!

Persephone didn’t even stick around to take care of him–she stuck her roommate Trina with him while she went to do something with the Mirror!  I thought it was so very un-loving of her.

I gave up a review for the Botany lab final to take care of him, a review in the woods that sounded like so much fun, and Mrs. Rev understood and said he was lucky to have me!–I held my tongue, though, when Persephone told me what she did.

At the end, she said that not only does she have no reason to be mad at me after all–she took away her letter, which no one else had seen, and started folding it up, like it wasn’t needed anymore–but she will also try to steer Phil away from me, out of respect for my feelings.

Also, I said that, as I told my friends, the breakup with Charles didn’t bother me at all.  I mentioned my crush on Mike, and she said he must be an acquired taste.  She said she’d like Jim Carrey, and I said, “He must be an acquired taste!”…

I find my observations on Phil are the same as Persephone’s on many counts.  She knows exactly what he’s like, things it took me months to find out.  For example, he rips on things important to her–i.e., the Mirror–like he did to me–i.e., InterVarsity [and my friends].

There are plenty of other things, too, but I really must go to bed.  First class is canceled tomorrow, but not my 10:30.–1:43 AM

I heard later on that, the next school year, Persephone chased Mike!  She must have acquired the taste.

So at first, I was the victim being blamed, the victim being told to shut up, the victim being told it’s wrong to confront my abuser. 

But by the end of the conversation, she realized there was nothing for which to be angry at me.  She took her letter back.

Also, on November 30, I saw in action how Phil ripped on the thing important to Persephone: He wrote a letter to the editor about how terrible The Mirror was, with inaccuracies, proofreading problems–and even accused the staff of lying about addressing student concerns, and only printing letters from staff members!

His letter was often confusing.  I wonder what Persephone thought of this baffling and flaming letter against her important thing.

As far as I’m concerned, though she kept telling him he was an a–hole, Persephone knew what Phil did to me, so every moment she stayed with him she was telling him through her actions that it was OK!

As for what she said about knowing more about human nature than my friends and I did–She was dating a guy she didn’t like, she didn’t even seem to like him much as a human being, and knew full well what he was and what he’d done to me, but stayed with him–and she said she knew more about human nature???

I certainly was reassured to hear she took pains to keep from sleeping with Phil.  I didn’t like to think of Phil sleeping with anyone else, not while my body still remembered what it was like to sleep with him and still longed for his touch, and physically hurt to think of him with any other woman in his bed.

Phil had argued that I should find someone with my own ideas of fun and partying, as if that somehow determined lifelong day-to-day happiness.  Well, he found someone who liked to party, but seemed to forget about the things he said were most important to him in a wife.

Phil refused to use birth control for religious reasons; Persephone did not want children and planned to get her tubes tied.  I had agreed to use natural family planning because it meant so much to him, but she would use a permanent form of birth control.

After he complained so much that I would not convert to Catholicism, I don’t know why he wanted to date someone who would have obviously refused conversion even more fervently than I (she was Methodist and later became Pagan, even using spells and seeing ghosts).

He didn’t want “one of those feminists” who didn’t want to obey her husband, but she was far more of a feminist than I was.

Phil followed the Catholic teaching on birth control, but no longer wanted to follow the Catholic teaching on premarital sex.  Those two things together are a recipe for trouble, as he learned the hard way eventually.  (He had to marry his next girlfriend.)  This is probably why Persephone called him “an idiot sexually.”

She hadn’t realized how soon after our breakup they started dating.  Apparently he lied to her.

So, just walking around the cafeteria, I felt like everybody knew about the secret marriage and was judging me.

Of course, now that my friends, Phil’s friends, and who knew who, knew about the secret marriage, you could say that we met another important criteria of marriage: common knowledge that we were married.

(There are those who say a marriage isn’t valid unless it’s public–discounting even a legal elopement or Romeo and Juliet’s marriage.)

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

Different kinds of abuse–same feelings: How Mark Driscoll reminds me of Tracy, Phil, and others

One reason why I read blogs and articles of all different kinds of abuse, is that I find the reactions of the abuse victims are the same everywhere.

Of course you’ll have differences here and there: Being molested by a parent is not the same as being psychologically manipulated by an ex-boyfriend, for example.

But everywhere you find the same common themes: loss of trust, hurt, pain, confusion, longing for the abuser to acknowledge the abuse and make up for it.

The other day, I read this account of narcissistic abuse and a smear campaign at Mars Hill Church:

My Story by Jonna Petry

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.