what I want you to know: being sexually abused by a youth pastor

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by an anonymous reader.Photobucket

What I want you to know is that sexual assault does not come in the same form for every victim. I want you to know that a victim is a victim, no matter what race, size, age, or clothing they are wearing. I want you to know that you never know the full story until you hear it from the person who was involved. And this is my story...

In July, it will have been 10 years. 10 years since my life was changed forever...since a wound was left on my soul that is so big it still sometimes feels like it's bleeding. 10 years of crying, frustration, anger, and eventually forgiveness. 10 long, hard years.

It began innocent enough. I was 17, and in my senior year of high school. I had never dated and was always longing and hoping for a man to sweep me off my feet. He was my church's new hire for the Youth Pastor position. He was young--i don't remember his exact age, but I think he was between 26 and 30. He had a wife and a young daughter, and both he and his wife were Godly people. He was hip and cool--he could relate to us teens in a way that our parents never could. He and I started emailing back and forth before he was moved to our town. I was on the leadership team at youth group, and we got his contact information to email him about our youth group and he to us just to learn about us and make the transition easier for him. Once he had moved, he started coming to my athletic events and emailing/IMing me on a regular basis. A budding friendship developed and I found myself looking forward to seeing him. To make a (very) long story short, we fell in love...I with he, and he with me. One time while I was at his house (along with other youth group students), he pulled me into his arms and told me that our lives would be so different if we had met in college...we'd be together. His wife was in the next room.

That April, I turned 18. At the end of June, our youth group went on a trip to Colorado for a "team building" week of activities. Our youth group Pastor's wife didn't come along--I don't know why, but she stayed back. One night in the middle of the week, he asked me to go on a walk. We walked for awhile and ended up sitting at a picnic table. I was talking and he was rubbing my back. After a little while, he was rubbing other places on my body too. Inappropriate places. I didn't know what to do, so I just kept talking--like an idiot. I didn't tell anyone about the incident--after all, he was our beloved youth pastor..who would believe me? The night before we left, he asked me to go on a walk again. I went, and the same thing happened. I freaked out. I yelled and screamed and cried. He told me that I couldn't tell anyone--that he'd lose his job and possibly his family. I couldn't stop crying. I went back to our cabin and eventually told some girls what had happened....they were concerned because I was crying so hard and for so long. They told me we'd get through this together. I thought I was safe.

When we got home, I couldn't tell my parents. They'd be so disappointed. And I thought it was my fault--I allowed him to do it. I must've made him think it was ok. I'd ruin him if I told. All those things kept running through my mind. The next day, there was a knock on my door. Our Senior Pastor and a youth group leader were standing there. She had told him (rightly so) what had happened. He called my parents home from work and I had to tell them. My mom started crying and my dad hung his head. I can't imagine what they were thinking. The grief was overwhelming. I apologized, they just held me tight. I cried, and they held me tighter.

The next weeks and months are a blur in my mind. The Youth Pastor was fired. Everything came crashing down. He publicly apologized, but rumors flew. Gossip was everywhere. My friends stopped answering my calls. Everyone whispered when I walked in the room. I was asked to not be on worship team, since I would be causing others to sin by being there. I was asked not to come back to youth group, since it was a sensitive time. Everything I loved was torn away from me in a matter of days. My heart was torn, shattered, broken, smashed...the pieces weren't even recognizable. I was prepared to end my life one day while my parents were at work, but by the grace of God, I couldn't go through with it. It would've devastated my mom and dad.

I went to college and eventually started to pick up the pieces.  I went to Christian counseling for years, trying to sort through what happened.  I still struggle the effects of this event on my heart. I struggle with insecurity in my relationships, wondering if people will leave me just because I'm not good enough or they find someone better. I struggle with intimacy in our marriage because it's hard to not feel the same things I felt that night with our Youth Pastor. I have a wonderful, devoted husband who has been with me through the bulk of my healing and he is my #1 encourager every step of the way. He is understanding and gentle, allowing me to work through things that I need to while praying for me and supporting me. God has given me the grace to heal, although the process is far from over.

What I want you to know is that you can't judge someone by what you hear, unless you hear it firsthand. And even then, take a moment to really pray and think about how to react to the situation or person. Surround them with love and be honest with them. Support, encourage, love, laugh and learn with them. And if you have been a victim of sexual abuse, I want you to know you're not alone.


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