How can we really see?

What if we could look at the world and really see it? I mean seeing it through the eyes of imagining. I hope that in reading these posts, the eyes of your mind will open and let you see more, feel more, and think more about the world.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Solutions in the Scriptures

Are we too focused on petty things? Do they take up too much of our time every day? Are we humble in our everyday dealings, or do we look down on the people around us?

Sometimes it feels as though we just get so caught up in the words people say that we forget their actions. We become offended by the littlest things, and ignore the kind things the same people have done for us. You don't always see people's inner thoughts through their words because words can be misconstrued or misspoken. We can see the core of their heart by their actions.

We need to stop complaining about the things that aren't going perfectly right in our lives, and instead focus on the things that are going right or are within our control.

As disciples of Christ we lose sight of this, partly because our testimonies of Christ are not ingrained deeply enough in our hearts. Often this is because we have based them upon the beliefs of our parents or heroes. The best way to grow and strengthen your testimony is to research all of the arguments that combat your testimony before they ever enter your life. Know where you stand. Read the scriptures and pray to know where God wants you to stand. If you know exactly what you believe, and why, then Satan has no way to break down your testimony from the outside. The problem with this is if you allow it to grow weak, or do not put sufficient time into strengthening it. If this occurs, then you become vulnerable to the whisperings of the devil. He begins to entice you to question those beliefs you held so sure only a year or two before. Don't give him a foothold.

If your biggest obstacle to your testimony is the people who say that they love you, such as your family, ponder your options. Sometimes they are against your faith because they genuinely misunderstand it. Have an open and honest discussion with them about your beliefs, and how they correspond to their own. At least in the case of my own family members, this has relieved tension enough to lay a foundation for their loved ones to later accept their beliefs and not persecute or disown them. If your family seems completely against your beliefs, you need to ponder whether you need them or God more in your life. If you tell them unequivocally that you will choose God before them any day of the week, then they may come around when they realize that it isn't just a passing fancy. And sometimes, you just have to accept that by choosing God over your loved ones that you will lose them. If this is the case, trust me when I say that they never loved you adequately in the first place if such a thing as your religious choices caused them to leave you. God will replace them in your life with far more loving and caring people.

You have to have a testimony of Christ completely within yourself, and not based upon anyone else's. It needs to be freestanding and independent. If your testimony is rooted anywhere outside of your own heart, and not rooted deeply, then Satan will do anything and everything he can to destroy it. The sad part is, you will help him without ever intending to if you don't work to strengthen it constantly.

By studying and applying the words of Christ you will grow your testimony and know what you should do in all situations. If it is a place where the scriptures have no comment, then prayer and following the principles that Christ taught will help you come to the right decision. By reading and pondering upon his words, we can extrapolate more meaning from them, especially in situations that didn't exist in his time on the Earth (modern medicine and diet, technology, ethical situations like abortion). We need to rely upon the roots of our testimony to handle hard situations, and we can't do that if it doesn't have strong roots.

I challenge you to fast, pray, and read the scriptures in order to find the truth for yourself.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sexual Assault: Destroying the Mindset, Stemming the Tide

First off, if you believe in a creator i'll invite you to read this really amazing talk that's helped me a lot in my healing process. Talk

Now, let's get down to a very serious discussion: How can we combat the mentality that has lead to rape culture? I have a few ideas, and i'd like to hear your responses to them. If you come up with a better idea, or a way to build upon the ones outlined here, please let me know! This is a discussion that needs to be had, and i'm inviting you to it.

Sexual assault, statutory rape, criminal sentencing for sex crimes, and resources for victims of assault to receive help... Make them ALL a part of regular Sexual Education curriculum. These are things that normally get swept under a rug. They should be out in the open and talked about freely, so that our children are prepared for the real world. If I had been taught about the different forms of sexual assault I probably would have been prepared. If I had known what it was at the time, I would have reported it. If I had known the warning signs of a sexual predator ahead of time, I could have stopped it before it reached the point where I was assaulted.

Teach them about the definition and forms that sexual assault can take. Teach these teenagers to look for the warning signs in the people around them, so they can reach out to their friends if they suspect that person has been victimized. Also teach them the warning signs that lead to someone committing a sexual assault. Inappropriate touching or saying inappropriate things can be the first step toward someone committing such an act. Asking about underwear color, or touching breasts or genitals can be a warning sign. Teach them that can come to any member of the faculty if they are concerned about another person's behavior towards them.

Teach them what constitutes statutory rape, and why. Don't be condescending. Explain that they are emotionally and physically far behind adults, and that sexual relations with adults is against the law. Make sure that both federal and local laws on the matter are clearly defined. Also cover things such as sexting and sending nude photos, which can get them arrested on child pornography charges.

Speaking of pornography, if you are going to allow your children to view it... make sure it isn't demeaning to women. The type of porn that frightens me the most is the kind where women are physically overpowered, made to look weak, or roughly handled. If you are not going to hand your kid porn, make sure they understand from a fairly young age (basically as soon as their body starts developing) that pornography can be extremely degrading towards women, and give them a very messed up idea of what a consensual and loving relationship looks like.

Explain that coercing someone into having sex by threatening to break up with them, is rape. This seems to be a topic that is sadly lacking in most birds and bees talks. Your daughters especially, but also your sons need to be taught that withholding love/kindness/other intimacy in order to gain sexual intercourse is a form of rape. We talk about peer pressure all of the time, but seemingly never in this context. Teens aren't just pressured into drinking, smoking, or drugs.

Everyone needs to be taught the formal declaration of Federal and State laws concerning sexual assault. I think some people would not commit these actions if they knew, clearly, that what they were doing was illegal. I think more convictions would occur in rape cases if they could prove that the assailant knew fully that what they were doing was wrong because they had been taught it in class. Either way, this needs to be covered. No question about it.

The final segment of the lesson should cover resources available to anyone who has been a victim of assault, including hotlines, counseling services, and local shelters. Write them up on the board, give handouts. Tell the kids that even if they haven't gone through it, they never know when someone close to them will need this help. Give them the statistics on how frequently sexual assault occurs. 1 in every 3 women  have experienced it. Tell them how under-reported it is. Most of all, explain that it isn't their fault if it happens to them. Tell these kids how wonderful they are. That each of them matter. That they are all human beings, worthy of love and life.

After all of this, have an open questions segment. Let them all put questions in a box, then pull them out and answer each one as honestly and kindly as you can. If you can help it, have someone from a local counseling center come in and assist with this day's curriculum. I promise you that not talking about it is never going to bring an end to it. The only way to root out evil in our society is to talk about it openly and vilify it in the eyes of the populace.

I'm including some links to very useful sites that can hopefully help you open up more discussion with your kids/peers about sexual assault, or help you get help if you've experienced it.
Warning signs, what to watch out for
Call here if you have been assaulted
More info on assault, statistics, effects, and recovery has been an extremely helpful site in my own recovery process. It was there that I finally found proof for myself that what I experienced might have been sexual assault. That site gave me the courage to really seek help and get a full explanation and diagnosis.

I really hope we can begin to discuss these topics in an open forum, and that doing so will lead to real progress.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Before we can be baptized, we must first (as it says in Romans) "die unto sin". We have to rid ourselves of those sins as if they had died, and are buried. Then we must live in Christ and forget those sins in our past as we leave behind the dead.

Baptism is a type of Christ's death and Resurrection, after all. It is meant to remind us of the natural man dying, and being raised again in Christ's image into a new and purified life that we consecrate to God. When someone is not baptized by immersion they lose the direct link to Christ's Resurrection. They lose all of the symbolism contained in it.

If we control our actions and continually try to live as disciples of Christ, remembering our rebirth and dedication to his gospel, then it is easy to follow his laws and commandments. We can always return to him if we make a mistake, and beg forgiveness of him, but it is easier to just avoid temptation and mistakes before we can give in to them. Christ has given us the chance to repent and be washed clean over and over, and as we take the sacrament we are reminded of that covenant and promise.

Ideally, our connection to the natural man is severed at baptism, and God replaces the natural man as the focus of our actions. We do all things in the name of God, not in our own name. We seek to always do His will, not our own. This does not mean that we have to always do things we don't want to, it instead means aligning our will with God's so that the things we desire are also the things he would desire of us. People often complain that religion is restrictive and abrasive, destroying our agency. This isn't true. If you always seek to want the things God wants for you, then you will never feel restricted.

Submission to God's will is the path to real freedom. Submission to the flesh leads to addictions, controls, and bonds from which we cannot free ourselves. Submission to God leads to blessings, and ultimately eternal life. The best way to tell if something is a righteous desire is by asking yourself if you could do it with God looking on. If he were standing right there, could you smoke a joint? Could you hit that person? Could you see him walking beside you as you carry out those actions? The fruit of your actions need to be something you would be proud of showing God. You need not be ashamed of righteous actions, only of unrighteous ones. True freedom comes from understanding that choice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

PTSD: Learning to Survive

I couldn't get out of bed this morning... again. It's been happening less often lately, but for a while there I could barely force myself to shower or eat every day. The whole process of cooking something, and then sitting down and chewing, chewing, chewing... it took too much effort. Same with showering. Taking off each piece of clothing took so much energy. Climbing in the shower and scrubbing took even more energy. It was just too much. I would get exhausted half way through and just stand in the shower with the hot water pouring down on the back of my neck, wanting to cry but feeling completely hollow. This is what depression feels like, for those of you who have never experienced it. Depression isn't just "feeling blue". It's not something you just "push through". You don't just "get over it". At least, I can't. Depression is different for everyone.

For me, the depression is almost crippling. It runs rampant through my family, but we have mostly coped with it by getting lots of sunlight and finding things that uplift us when we get into that "funk". After my sexual assault it got even worse. Much worse. My depression combined with this thing called PTSD, and became overwhelming.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, isn't just something that military veterans get. It can develop after any traumatic experience: car crashes, sexual assaults, witnessing a murder, severe physical shock such as breaking your back... and the only way to know for sure that you have it is by seeing a psychiatrist and being diagnosed with it.

A psychiatrist?! I know! I know what that word brings to mind. You think of crazy people flinging poo, or people with cuts on their wrists. It calls to mind people in hospital gowns with vacant eyes, watching the same program on TV for the fifth time that day. But it isn't anything like that, I promise! Let me tell you about my therapist, Mr. B. He's wonderful.

When I first met Mr. B, I was very nervous. I had called to speak to someone at the counseling center about my "issues", and they had set up an appointment with this man I had never met before. That's what I call them, my "issues". They are a part of me, but they aren't me. I am not my depression, or my PTSD, even though they take me over at times. They. Are. Not. ME. Anyone close to me will tell you, I don't really like to talk to people I don't know very well. People scare me. Apparently this is also part of my PTSD, because I used to be an outgoing and talkative kid.

So there I was sitting in the lobby with other silent people, all eyeing one another, wondering what everyone else was here for. Some were couples, holding hands quietly, as if they were sharing their tension and comforting one another just by the touch of their hand in the other person's. Some were women around my age who looked like they needed a cheeseburger. I could tell my their slightly gaunt cheeks that they might have missed a few meals. I felt an overwhelming urge to hug them, immediately. It overtook me to an almost painful degree.

Then I wondered if any of these people had gone through what I had experienced. Suddenly I felt completely obvious.  Naked even. Like if someone so much as looked at me that they would be able to tell. I started to gather my coat and backpack in order to flee. I was going to just grab my things and run like heck down those stairs and out the front door. I knew I couldn't do this! ...That's when I met him. As I started to rise out of my seat, I heard him say my name. I looked up. Standing there in front of me was this grandfatherly fellow with grey hair and soft eyes, smiling warmly at me. I felt an instant surge of calm; a warmth in my heart telling me that I was in the right place. I knew immediately that this man was there for me. He was there to listen to me, and talk to me, and promise me that I would be okay.

He invited me back to his office with this comfy big chair, and sitting next to it on a table were a box of tissues and a squishy rubber ball to play with. I nabbed the ball right away, because I always like to play with things in my hands when i'm nervous (usually a pencil, or something malleable like rubber). That day we talked about why I was there. I told him everything from my last post about my assault. I told him that I wasn't sure what to call it. He referred to it as "sexual assault", and for the first time I had a name for the thing that had happened to me. For some reason, we as humans fear the unnamed or unfamiliar. Once this thing had a name, I no longer feared it. I still hated it, but now it was a known evil, something I could fight.

Mr. B was going to give me those tools to fight it with.

I cried a lot that first session. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate crying, especially in front of other people. But as I cried, I felt something in me loosen. It was like I had this huge, tight, painful knot in the center of my chest that was slowly easing itself looser. Like when you have a knotted rope and you are trying to undo the knot, at that second where you can feel the knot start to let go. I walked out of that room feeling lighter, but still shaky, and kind of scared at the prospect of re-experiencing all of it in my mind as I described it to him. I have a very good memory. I remember tiny details such as smells, touch sensations, and colors. Usually it's great when i'm reading books because a novel can come alive in my brain. The downside is that my memory of very bad events in my life can be recalled in excruciatingly precise detail.

I thought that was it. I wasn't going to have to see this guy ever again, because I was only seeing him in order to be allowed to serve a mission for my church. It was going to be a one-shot deal, and that was it. Then my bishop called to tell me that they wanted me to continue seeing this therapist for the rest of the semester. I was crushed. I'd already poured my heart and soul, my most closely-held secret out to this man, and now I had to do it again?! Well... balls.

Two weeks later there I was again, sitting in the same waiting room with the same people, thinking about running. There he was again, smiling and leading me back to his office to talk. The first week he had me fill out a depression survey. I showed up as mildly depressed, and as we talked about my chronic insomnia, nightmares, appetite problems, and flashbacks he gave me a new name to work with: PTSD. I now had an official diagnosis to explain everything. I said it out loud to myself several times: Post-Traumatic Stess Disorder. PTSD. We spent the rest of my session talking about my family, and my life. We talked about dating. I hadn't dated anyone in nearly a year. I'm no good at dating. The idea of being touched by a man makes me physically nauseous. He seems saddened by this. In my church the ideal is to be married to someone who plans to stand by you for time and all eternity. The idea of someone who might never be able to marry is a very sad thing for us mormons.

He says goodbye to me that day, and I leave feeling completely emotionally drained. I don't feel like we accomplished much, but i'm determined to go home and research PTSD. In fact I remember thinking that the only thing he really did for me that session was give me a piece of paper explaining how to combat insomnia in order to try and get my life back together (not sleeping for a couple of days at a time can really mess with work and productivity). In reality, he gave me the third piece to the puzzle of recovery.

Hold on, what? Third piece? You've probably counted to two, the first being able to name what happened and the second being my diagnosis. Actually, the first piece was given to me years ago. My first piece is a support system of family and friends who are always and will always love me. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here telling you all of this. If it weren't for them, I would be dead. Buried. Six feet under. To discuss my recovery, we need to go back six years to the first few months after my assault. The darkest, scariest, and almost the last period of my life.

Here it goes: At the age of fifteen, I almost took my own life. Wow... even after admitting everything else, that's easily the most difficult thing I've ever had to say. How did it happen, you ask? I was broken. Shattered. I felt dirty, used, and completely worthless. My depression was eating me from the inside, and I didn't see any escape from it. Even with my loving friends and family, I felt trapped. I felt like I was drowning in some dark, sticky fluid that was slowly filling my lungs and dragging me downward. One night I was left at home, alone (I can't recall why, my parents have busy lives) and I hit the lowest point ever. I walked into the kitchen, out of my mind with pain and anger and fear. I wanted out.

I picked a knife up off of the counter. A clean one. I don't remember why I wanted it to be a clean one. It doesn't really matter if you are going to kill yourself, whether you keep food particles out of the wound. That's how my mind has always worked, though. Precise, even when it shouldn't matter. Maybe I secretly hoped that I would survive it, and knew that the wounds would heal cleanly if I used a clean knife. I sat down on the floor of our kitchen, the lights all off except for the one over the kitchen sink. I remember not wanting to do it in my room because I didn't want my parents to have to pay to rip out the carpeting.

I held the knife against my wrist. It was cold. The steel felt strange against my skin, as my heartbeat pounded under the blade. I could feel the blood thumping in my head, and it's all I could hear. Just as I prepared to start, I felt something new. Some little piece of light trickled into all that blackness. Just a tiny, tiny bit. But... it was enough. As tears started to trickle down my cheeks, I saw images of my parents' faces slide through my mind. It was like a macabre slideshow of them sobbing inconsolably over my dead body, mixed in with pictures of them smiling at me proudly. A mixture of what could be, and memories from the past.

I saw my parents. Then my brothers. My sister. My friends... They cried, they smiled. I watched, transfixed. I knew I couldn't do it. I had something to live for. If not for me, then I would do it for them. I put the knife in the sink, and walked into my room and cried until my parents came home.

Two years ago, I hit another low point after breaking things off with the last in a long string of guys who treated me terribly and tried to push physical boundaries that set off my PTSD/flashbacks. I nearly killed myself, again. I was driving on a very rainy night, under a stone railroad overpass. I planned to swerve my car into it, making it look like an accident. At the very last second, in all of that despair... I saw a trickle of light again. This time it was the faces of my nephews. Their faces, crying and calling out for me, were burned into my mind's eye. I pulled over to the side of the road and sobbed. I prayed. I thanked God for keeping me from doing the unthinkable. I called a friend to talk through what had just happened, and to get her help calming me down. Then I drove home.

How does that help, sharing this with you? I want you to see just how sick I was. I want you to know exactly what that darkness feels like. Why? Because the contrast is amazing!

I continued to see Mr. B every other week for the rest of that semester. Then when I decided to return for the next semester, it was requested that I continue to see him. I was actually almost excited to do so. Over the past few semesters out at college I began making male friends, even hanging out with them in groups. Moving from my first apartment to a new place (without the cinderblock walls that reminded me forcefully of my high school) meant fewer flashbacks and nightmares. I was making some serious progress! This reached a turning point when I met a group of guys who liked My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Stay with me here! This isn't about extolling the virtues of watching a little girls' show. This is about the friends I made in doing so. They showed me the most gentle, loving side of masculine nature that I had ever seen. I'd only seen this side before in my own father, and in glimpses from other men I knew in my life. But here, in these college guys, was that same light. The light of Christ, in its purest form.

I know, I know, seriously? Yes. Seriously. With all my heart. These guys really saved me.

They have no idea, but they saved me.

They gave me the courage to fight my depression, every week. They gave me an outlet to work out my fears, anxiety, and struggles. They were my safety net. This isn't meant to discount the contribution of anyone else in my life! Everyone else in my life, family, friends... they've contributed to saving me. They all have a very special place in my heart, and I love them so much. But this group of guys sewed it up for me. They were the final bit of icing on top of the apple fritter of my life.

The best part about it is: they feel kind of the same about me. They've made me feel like a dear friend whom they really care about. As a group, they're accepting, loving, and supportive. What they've given me is the greatest gift I've been given besides my life and the Atonement. They've showed me that someday, somehow, I will be able to move on with my life. I might even be able to marry, someday.

So that's my story. One of brokenness, pain, and anguish. But also a story of healing, recovery, and love. You don't have to believe in God in order to crawl back out of the pits of despair. It helps, but it's possible even if you don't. The reason it helps is the reminder that God knows every single thing you've experienced. He knows your pains and sorrows. He loves you no matter what. Throughout every single one of my trials, I've had God's strength and support. I've had the family and friends he's given me, supporting me.

In closing, I've finally found myself. I'm still the fiery little kid who ran everywhere and wanted to try every new thing. I'm still the shy, sweet girl who lovingly cares for everyone who comes within her reach. And most importantly, i'm now a strong woman who is willing to stand and comfort those who have experienced similarly horrible circumstances. I want you to know that I love you. I feel for you. God loves you. Your family and friends love you. There is hope. Don't give up.

My next post will contain my opinions and ideas about how we can fight against the mindset that leads to sexual assault, and how we can better prepare ourselves and our loved ones to recognize and avoid sexual predators.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Portrait of a Sexual Assault Victim

Fifteen years old. I was just fifteen years old when I had my first sexual encounter. Sounds pretty normal, right? The only difference is: mine was non-consensual. This is the secret I've been holding in for the last six years of my life.

I was fifteen, and sexually assaulted by a classmate after school. For years, I blamed myself. I could never admit what had happened to me was assault because it would mean that I was a victim, and victims (in my eyes) were helpless, weak, and pathetic. So here's my second secret: I'm not a victim, i'm a survivor.

You're probably wondering what constitutes sexual assault. Let's take a quick look at wikipedia for some answers. Sexual AssaultMolestation, and Rape are usually used interchangeably. The important thing to remember is that sexual Assault is the blanket term that covers rape, groping, or any other unwanted sexual contact. In my case, it meant being groped in a back hallway after school with my hands pressed up against those painted cinderblocks, crying and praying he'd let me go.

How did I get there? Good question. I was a good student with a lot of potential, playing multiple sports and still trying to push myself "out of my shell" after years of bullying in middle school. I was a sophomore in high school. One day during a pep rally in the gym, I noticed that a young man who was sitting behind me was touching my back. I had known this young man since elementary school, and we'd grown up in the same town together, yet I hardly knew him. He was, in my mind at least, decently attractive and very athletic. In short, he was a cute, smart jock who I found I was somewhat flattered to be gaining the attention of. However, I was still extremely shy, and surprised to find him touching me without warning.

Throughout the pep rally he continued to playfully tap on and touch my back. I decided that it was making me somewhat uncomfortable, so I turned sideways and put my leg up on the bleacher instead, assuming that he would stop touching me once my back was out of easy reach. I was mistaken. He transferred his attention to my thigh, and continued to drum on my leg. Several of the friends I was sitting with looked as though they were beginning to grow concerned too. One offered to trade seats with me, but in the packed gymnasium it seemed impossible to orchestrate. So I stayed put. I just sat there and allowed this young man to touch me. Was it because I liked the unexpected attention? Partly. It was also partly because of my complete social anxiety and fear of standing up for myself.

So when this young man stopped me after the pep rally and asked me to meet him after school, I complied. Now looking back on it, I can identify the pattern of a sexual abuser quite clearly, but at the time I was ignorant of any such thing. I just knew that a boy had finally shown interest in me after years of being bullied and ignored by those whom I found myself attracted to. The first step for most sexual abusers is to test boundaries. Sometimes this will be by bringing up inappropriate subjects, such as asking what color underwear you are wearing or talking about breasts or awkward fetishes. Other times they will take a more physical approach such as touching you in ways that are usually socially unacceptable, touching areas like your thighs, sides, breasts, or genitals. If you react very negatively they will usually drop it, but if you are ambiguous in your response, or too shocked to stop them, they may try it again.

In my case, I didn't speak up. This gave my assailant the notion that I would not speak up if he chose to go further, and so he decided to single me out and get me alone. I have no idea if I was the first, or even the only girl he singled out. I'm terrified that i'm not, and by not speaking out that I have allowed a sexual predator to roam free, unchecked. This was part of my struggle for a very long time, between the guilt I felt and the inability to put a name to what happened, and the desire to protect other girls from this guy. I remember conversations about him in the years following, how my friends generally found him "creepy" or "awkward". They complained about him saying inappropriate things in a public setting, and how that made them uncomfortable. Through all of this, I could never tell them what he had done to me. I thought that because I couldn't verbalize what happened, and because I felt I hadn't fought enough, that nobody would believe me.

Now, I am finally speaking out. I was sexually assaulted. I am a survivor. This is my story.

I met him after school as requested. He gestured for me to follow him down a hallway, away from classrooms that were occupied. Looking back, that was really stupid. I mean really stupid. If you can help it, never be alone with someone you don't know that well, and if you get any strange vibes or feel uncomfortable LEAVE IMMEDIATELY or relocate to a more public/occupied area. I followed him. We got to an area that overlooked the floor below, and we both leaned on the railing, not speaking. The hairs on my arms were standing up. I was apprehensive, a little scared, and kind of exhilarated. I was alone, with a guy, who was obviously interested in me. What could possibly feel more right?

Then things happened fairly suddenly, and progressed quickly from there. He grabbed me hard, sliding his arm around my ribcage under my breasts, and pulled me over to a wall. He put his arms around my waist, pressing me carefully against the wall and running his hands over my back and buttocks. At first, I was aroused. I had never had someone touch me that way. I was also afraid, because i'd never been touched that way. He encouraged me to caress his chest and arms, and that was alright. Then... he pressed himself against me, and I could feel his erect penis. I was horrified. I'd never expected anything like THAT.

He didn't do anything else. He didn't kiss me, or tell me I was pretty. At one point he stopped and bolted away from me across the hallway because he heard someone coming. That too, should have been a red flag. Other people I had seen hooking up in hallways at school never jumped away from the other person like they had been burned. In fact they always ignored other people completely because they were too caught up in each other. He must have felt fear at discovery. He knew what he was doing was wrong. At the time, though, I still felt like it was a slightly uncomfortable sexually exploratory encounter. I felt guilt, exhilaration, and confusion. I also felt slightly sick to my stomach afterward. That's not generally a feeling you should have after a positive encounter, but at the time I was naive and didn't understand how sexual things were supposed to feel.

After he was done with me, he left. He didn't even say goodbye, or thanks, or anything. He just left. I myself was left feeling like i'd obviously botched the encounter, because weren't you supposed to say thanks or something when it was over? Wasn't he supposed to kiss me? I went over to a friends' house afterwards, but left without telling her what had happened. I pretended that everything was okay, but I was hurt and scared. For the next two weeks I shrank away from my friends, drawing ever further within myself. I moved through the day like a zombie, while still being perfectly aware of where people were around me at all times and doing anything I could to avoid touching other people.

At the end of those two weeks, I saw him again. He gestured for me to follow him, and I did. I don't know what possessed me to follow him to that back hallway again, except perhaps a hope that the first encounter was a fluke, and maybe he would kiss me and ask me to be his girlfriend this time. This is where I look back at myself and scream in my head "YOU PATHETIC LITTLE WORM! If you had just said no we'd be okay! Future you wouldn't need all this counseling and help if you had just known what was coming and RUN AWAY!" But I can't go back. It happened. I was naive, and stupid, and uneducated. I wonder if I had known how things should have felt, or if i'd talked to someone after that first encounter... but I didn't. And now I spend every day of my life dealing with the consequences. That, however, is not the point of this blog post. That will come next time. Right now, i'm remembering how he led me by the hand into that back hallway, and used me.

That's the only word I have for what happened: used. He pushed me up against a wall without preamble, and began groping me. Where last time it was ambiguous and confusing, this was terrifying. He shoved me and pinned me against the wall, his penis already erect. Then he began groping me painfully all over with his hands, grasping my buttocks and repeatedly thrusting himself against me. I felt sick again. Then he released me, and a person I knew fairly well walked by. I wanted to say something, to ask for his help... but I didn't. I couldn't. My mouth wouldn't work. I just stared at him mutely, my eyes begging him for help. He just kept walking.

As soon as he was out of sight, my assailant grabbed me again and pushed me against the wall. That time, I was facing the wall, my hands pressed against the cold painted cinderblocks, as he jammed his penis through my jeans as deeply as he could into my buttocks. It seemed to go on forever. I wanted to scream, but I couldn't breathe. My breath came in short, choking gasps as he thrust against me over and over. Finally his arms tensed up, and then his whole body shuddered, and he relaxed against my back. He pushed off of me, and walked away. Again, without a word. I wanted to curl up into a ball and sob. I also wanted to vomit. Instead I walked home on shaking legs, and took a scalding hot shower.

In the months, and then years since this happened... I've blamed myself for it. Why wasn't I stronger? Why didn't I scream out for help? Why didn't I realize what it was right away and make it stop? It all boils down to one fact: I didn't know it was assault until it was too late.

I wonder what might have happened if I had been taught what to expect from sexual interactions. What if I had been taught about rape, abuse, assault, and molestation? Instead of getting help for something I knew was eating me up inside... I hid it. I thought I was dirty, and disgusting, and not worthy of the love of other people. I'm LDS as well, so I thought I had broken the law of chastity (for those of you unaware, we don't believe in sex before marriage, or in purposely stimulating sexual feelings in yourself or another before marriage).

The side effects.
I began to wear very baggy clothing, usually hand-me-downs or men's clothing. I often refused to brush my hair or shower, in order to make myself less attractive to men. I thought that if I just made myself undesirable  that they would never pay me attention like that again. I was so wrong...because I still had to attend school every day with my assailant.

I saw him in the hallways between classes.

I saw him in the cafeteria.

I saw him at school sporting events and dances.

And every time, he would stare at me. His eyes bored into the back of my head from across hallways, rooms, and streets. I could feel his presence the second he entered a room, like a rabbit sensing a coyote.

Then, worst of all, I had a class with him my senior year of high school. English, my best subject. I was in an honors class every year, and I honestly considered dropping it to take the regular class because I couldn't bear being in the room with him. In the end I decided to stay in that class because the teacher was amazing, and I had friends to insulate me from him. I knew that if myself and my friends came to class early and grabbed seats next to each other, i'd be fine. By this time most of my friends knew that I was jumpy around men for some reason, and never wanted to be alone. They couldn't tell why, but most of them instinctively protected me in groups, or made sure I always had someone to walk to class with.

It all worked perfectly, until the day that my two friends were both missing from class. He managed to sit right next to me. I could hardly breathe, and the room felt too small. He pressed his forearm against mine on the table as we wrote our papers for the day, and under the table he pressed his thigh against the length of mine, rubbing it back and forth. I was shaking. I couldn't take my eyes off of the paper I was writing. For the entire class period, I couldn't move or speak. After that day, my teacher seemed to sense something was wrong. I always spoke in that class, and shared my thoughts. I loved that teacher like a favorite uncle. He knew something was wrong because I completely shut down. From that day on, that teacher became my hero. He forced my abuser to sit as far away from me as possible, and if at all possible he made sure it was at an angle where he couldn't so much as look at me.

The rest of that year went smoothly, and we graduated. I was still living in my home town when everyone went off to college 45 minutes away at the state university (or beyond). Several of my closest friends went to that school, as well as my assaulter. Every time I met one of my friends for lunch on campus, we would run into him. He'd never greet me, but he'd follow me around until I got in my car and drove away. I felt hunted. I couldn't even go for a walk in my own town because he still lived there. I knew I needed to get out.

So I prayed. My answer came in the form of an impression that I needed to apply to go to school across the country. I applied to BYU in Provo, Utah, and BYU-I in Rexburg, Idaho. Both were good schools, and both were AWAY, but I knew I needed to go to Idaho. When I was accepted, I knew I needed to leave as soon as possible. It was still a good six months before I finally escaped to Idaho, but it was the best decision I've ever made. As that plane took off I finally felt free. Being out here at college I've slowly started on the road to recovery, and that's the topic of my next blog post PTSD: learning to survive.

I hope that my recounting of the pain I endured will help others to realize, accept, and get help recovering from the assault they experienced. I hope that my admissions will also help people who have never experienced sexual assault to understand what we've been through. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Being an Example of the Believers

As stated in the New Testament (1 Cor. 4) Apostles are called specifically to be examples of Christlike behavior and to teach the gospel no matter what trials they are given. But Apostles are not the only ones called to be examples.

We are told throughout the scriptures to live the words of Christ. As disciples we are supposed to live them so precisely that they seem embossed in our very being. This isn't to say that we can never make mistakes, or that we cannot be forgiven if we screw up. It also doesn't mean we are accountable if our mistakes lead someone else astray (unless we do so deliberately, and without repenting).

However, we should always try to make what we say we believe line up with how we actually live our lives. Otherwise we will fall into the trap of a hypocrite, and people will not listen to our words. In Alma, we learn that because the prophet's son is not following the gospel that the people aren't listening to him. It's hard to believe truth when those who are supposed to set the example are not living it either.

Those who truly do live what they teach will be blessed, even to become a blessing to the people around them. They will be given power to perform miracles among the people, or to help those in serious need. If we live righteously we will be blessed enough to raise up those around us who are struggling.

This is what we should strive for. Working continuously to live up to the commandments, and then to help pull up and support those who are struggling in areas where we are strong. This also means being humble enough to accept help from those who are strong where we are most weak.

Always strive to live by correct principles, and to love those within your reach.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Christ, the Resurrected Lord

In Acts chapter one as recorded by Luke (probably to expound on his account in the book of Luke) we see the appearance of Christ unto his apostles after his Resurrection. This account talks about how he showed himself to them, and then gave them "many infallible proofs", most likely meaning allowing them to touch his wounds and feel for themselves that they are real and that he is solid.

The resurrected Christ then goes on to teach them for forty days. He tells them that he will return one day and restore the Kingdom of God, but not yet. Then he is taken up into the heavens.

This was not the first time he had appeared unto people after his resurrection. In fact the first recorded account was when he appeared to Mary Magdalene. At that time he hadn't yet ascended unto God, and she was forbidden from touching him.

Later he appeared to some of his disciples and spoke to them, showing them his hands and side. Thomas wasn't with them that time, but when he appeared again he was present. Christ told Thomas to FEEL the prints in his hands, and feet, and side, so that Thomas would KNOW.

But there is a later account of Jesus meeting with those who believed in him. One that most Christian faiths do not accept. It is the account of Christ appearing to his people in the Americas shortly after his Resurrection. These people knew and witnessed the signs of his birth and death, and awaited his coming. These faithful men and women had waited man years and were persecuted for waiting. They were ridiculed and injured, but they never gave up hope.

In Third Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, we find this account. In it, Christ calls to his people from the heavens, and then descends down to them. He introduces himself, and then (since they had all fallen to their knees in worship) he tells them to rise and come feel his wounds. He teaches them for the rest of that day, and then promises to return. He teaches them several more times, and expounds on what they already knew of the gospel. Jesus establishes a church among them and gives men the priesthood. He heals all of the sick and lame. Then he ministers unto their children. After all of this he institutes the ordinance of the sacrament. He promises them that he will return one day, but that he has other sheep to teach right now. And finally, he leaves them.

I cannot imagine how truly amazing it would feel to see Christ in the flesh, and to feel the prints in his hands and feet. But Christ said that those of us who believe without seeing them will be blessed greatly. To be taught by Christ directly would also be a great blessing, but we have the words of those he has called. The words of prophets, seers, and revelators. We can know that his teachings are true without ever needing to meet him. But the greatest gift of all is the knowledge that Christ will come again, and that we will be saved through him. This is why the apostles were and are such steadfast witnesses of Christ: because he will return.

First he atoned for our sins, then he died for us, and finally he was resurrected we will be resurrected one day. His gospel is eternal, and teaches us that we must strive to return with him to the Father one day.

We can continue to be witnesses of God even today. We might not be called like the apostles, who proved by their devotion to the gospel that they were worthy and were chosen by prayer and careful research. But we can still proclaim the name of Jesus, and be examples of Christlike behavior to those around us. So should we always strive to do.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Stephen the Martyr

One of the most profound deaths of an apostle recorded in the Bible is when Stephen is stoned to death by a crowd of people who had JUST heard his testimony, but refused to repent. The most amazing thing about this account? It lasts just a few verses! In fact Stephen’s testimony takes up more space in Acts than his death is given room for!

Stephen is previously introduced as being “full of faith and power” which tells us he is able to wield great priesthood authority. In the next line it’s again confirmed when it is stated that he “did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Stephen is an extremely powerful man, faithful to God, and capable of great works. He is also recorded as having spoken with “wisdom and the Spirit”. THIS is the man who bore his testimony before a council who sought his blood.

They accused him of blasphemy. They brought false witnesses against him. And what did he do? He opened his mouth and recounted their own history to them. He spoke of Moses, and the Israelites. He spoke words that they KNEW to be truth. But their minds and hearts were obviously closed to the truth. Much as Christ preached unto the learned men of his day, and they didn’t listen.

It boggles my mind that a group of people could listen to a man called to preach the word of God, and then get so angry at his words that they could stone him to death! Death by stoning, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a very slow and agonizing process. Again we find in Stephen a type of Christ. In fact even as they were growing angry and beginning to react to his words, Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus Christ.

Stephen was so full of the spirit that HE. SAW. GOD. Just as he rose to the highest point in his faith, and felt the spirit most strongly, he was cut down by defilers of God’s plan.
As he is dying Stephen calls unto Jesus to receive his spirit, very much as Christ called unto his father to receive his. Then he asked the Lord not to hold the people who were stoning him to death accountable for the sin of killing him, just as Christ’s own words “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” were uttered years earlier.

In contrast, Abinadi was sentenced to death as well. He was to be burned to death, which was also slow and horrible. However, unlike Stephen he was called to curse the people. He cursed them with pain and destruction. He did call unto God to receive his soul, just like the other martyrs. The major difference between these accounts were the forgiving of the people carrying out the death sentence. Is this because even the men who killed Stephen were supposed to be chosen children of God, and were otherwise good men? We would need more historical context to know the truth there.

At the end, Stephen was so full of the spirit that he asked for the very men who broke his bones and caused him to bleed… to be forgiven. He forgave them himself, in asking for it. I know if someone were slowly beating me to death with rocks, I would not be feeling very forgiving or benevolent. But I believe that the spirit remained with him throughout his trial, and he was comforted. He knew what was coming. He knew he was going to die. But he also knew the face of God; knew where he was going. And he embraced that calling with a heart full of faith and forgiveness.

Are we as forgiving of the little trespasses against us that occur every day?