It’s probably been fairly obvious that I struggled a lot throughout 2015. I know my posting has been erratic, and when I do write a post, it feels like I’m walking up a steep hill just to get the words out.
I have spent this past year hating myself. I have spent it thinking that I don’t deserve to write about the abuse, because I am too much of an awful person.
It’s a really easy thing for my mind to fixate on, because having grown up a Christian, believing in sin, knowing that you have been anything less than perfect is difficult to handle because it means that I have no right to write on this blog.
Let me explain: sin is the great equalizer. Sin is the name of things that can get you thrown out from the Christian community, and it is also the thing that can be leveraged against others to prove someone still belongs.
When you’re a survivor of sexual abuse, you learn very soon that there is nothing like sin to put you in your place.
Despite the habit of comparing being gay to being a child molester, rape and sexual abuse are still considered sins that are “slip-ups” when done by someone within a Christian community. A Christian who abused another Christian made a mistake, they gave into their sinful nature, just like we all do.
To be utterly considered a victim of rape or sexual abuse, you have to prove that you are above sin – you have to prove that you have spent your entire life doing everything absolutely perfectly. Or else there is sin to remind you that you are no better than the person who hurt you, and you have no right to judge.
When I was a Christian, we often talked about the way “the world” misused our scripture. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “don’t judge lest you be judged” were phrases the world lodged at us, and yet, we always knew they were using it wrong. It was incomplete, it was out of context.
But, honestly, we did use those scriptures in exactly that way. For ourselves. When a fellow Christian slipped up, then it was “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “who are you to judge them?”
And the existence of sin allows those questions to be asked. Because “all sin is equal” means that if another fellow Christian does something, your sin equalizes you to them. You cannot claim a moral high ground, and somehow, the inability to have a moral high ground means you lose your right to speak about what they’ve done.
So unless you can somehow prove that you have never done anything wrong, and can prove that your abuser is an absolute monster, survivors of sexual abuse within conservative Christianity often learn that there is not much separated them from their abusers: after all, you both sin.
The trick, of course, is that more often than not, your abuser is another Christian, and more often than not, the act of speaking about the abuse you suffered proves you are not free from sin.
When I told my mother about the sexual abuse at the hands of my brother, her concern was on my lack of forgiveness. I don’t think she even asked me if I had forgiven him, because that wasn’t the point: my talking about the abuse meant I hadn’t forgiven him and my lack of forgiveness was a sin.
They fucked you but you won’t forgive them for it so you see, you’re basically the same.
And it’s the “basically the same” the constant terror that I am too horrible to have a right to speak about the things they did to me. I am not allowed to forgive myself for, well, anything, because to do so means that I would have to forgive my abusers, because everything is equal.
If I hate them, I have to hate myself. If I’m angry at them, it means I have to be angry at myself. For my imperfections. For my mistakes. For the times I did something wrong. Because there is no small infraction that isn’t equal to the worst things a person could do.
It’s made it incredibly difficult to write about any of the abuse, because I feel like I don’t deserve to. We are so fixated on the concept of an “innocent” victim, but survivors of sexual abuse, often by virtue of having experienced sexual abuse, don’t get to live in the realm of “innocent.” When we start talking, when we want our abusers held accountable, we are seen as “tainted” – by the abuse, by our anger, hell, by the act of talking about it. And if all sin is equal, then we condemn ourselves by condemning them.
I am tired of hating myself, but it is the only way I feel like I am allowed to be hurt and angry over what happened to me. If I hold myself to the standard of perfection, then I am allowed to hold my family accountable for hurting me. If I hate myself then I have permission to speak, if I beat myself up for times I fuck up, then I can acknowledge their abuse.
But even with that, I feel wrong. Because sin is the great equalizer, the thing that abusive Christians can hold over you, the thing that allows other conservative Christians who don’t want to deal with the complicated aspects of abuse or violence the ability to say: we are all sinners, so who are you to judge?
I still remember the time my mother told me that she could not condemn abuse done in the name of Christ, because then others could condemn her. And I still have a long way to go to undo those messages, because I took it upon myself to do the opposite: I will condemn, and condemn, and condemn myself if that allows me to say my family wronged me.