Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your kind words and support from Tuesday’s blog post. I appreciate your words more than you know! I am still digesting what many of you have said. Your e-mails, comments, and messages mean a lot to me! Again, thank you!
Reporting the crime and sharing my story were a major step towards my healing and part of my decision to be myself again. I absolutely love blogging and sharing life through blog posts, and although I’ve enjoyed the past 6 years of blogging, there is so much more I want to write about beyond weight loss. As I move into this next chapter of my life and make some changes here on my blog, it became important for me to share my whole story. I am really looking forward to sharing my goals for the weeks and months ahead as I move into 2017, but today I am going to share an important piece of my story.
That night, seven and a half years ago, was the painful turning point, but the weeks and months that followed changed my life entirely. Prior to that night, I was a pretty religious person. I grew up attending the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) and made the decision to be baptized when I was in the 10th grade in San Antonio. The ICOC was an extremely loving community, and although I didn’t always agree to their approach to evangelism, I loved worshiping God and was grateful for my friendships in the church. I was active in the teen ministry and campus ministry growing up, but when I entered my sophomore year of college I started to build relationships with friends outside of the church and realized just how closed minded I was because of the legalism in the ICOC at the time. After my sophomore year of college I decided to transfer to George Mason University, not only to live closer to my parents, but also to change my situation.
My 2 years at George Mason were amazing, but I struggled with the controlling nature of the ICOC church there in Northern Virginia. I have plenty of fond memories from those 2 years, but that’s mainly because I had amazing friends, both in athletics at George Mason and a couple of really close friends at that time in the church who loved me and accepted me.
After leaving George Mason I accepted a job at Dartmouth College, despite the advice I was given by the Northern Virginia ICOC to not accept the job because there was no church there in Hanover, NH. That year was the most amazing year of my life as a young adult. The men and women I worked with changed my life forever. Each and every one of them loved me wholeheartedly and opened my eyes to the beautiful diversity in this world. A world that I had “been protected from” in the ICOC.
That year I found myself, losing 50+ pounds, finding the joy in running, and opening my mind to the balance of following God and loving all people. Returning to DC after that year at Dartmouth was hard. I questioned why I had left Dartmouth, but I also knew it was the right decision for my professional career. When I returned to the DC area I also returned to the Northern Virignia ICOC, which was hard. That year I really, really struggled. I loved being a part of the church community again, which is why I went back, but I had a hard time with the closed minded nature of the church and legalistic approach to the scriptures.
Part of being a part of the ICOC is this spoken rule that you can only date those who are in the ICOC. Many in the ICOC, at least at that time, believed that only those in the ICOC were disciples of Christ. I didn’t believe that. I knew, having worked at Dartmouth and made friends outside of the church, that there were amazing men and women out there who had absolutely nothing to do with the ICOC. In the spring of 2009 I started dating outside of the ICOC, without anyone in the ICOC knowing.
My date on that dreadful April night was one of my very first dates outside of the ICOC. How’s that for irony? After the rape, I didn’t know what to do. I walked out of that hotel, unaware of where I was, got on the metro, and made my way back to my condo, where I lived with another ICOC member. It was a work day, so instead of calling out, I went to work. I was frozen. I was paralyzed. I was scared. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened, what had really happened. I didn’t go to a hospital, I didn’t call my family, I didn’t do anything. I froze.
At that point, my heart hardened. I didn’t trust anyone and I knew I had to be honest with my friends in the church and the leaders in the ICOC about where I was at in life. My faith was rocked and I didn’t know what I believed anymore, especially after the rape. I didn’t tell anyone in the ICOC that I had been raped, though I did tell a few that I had started dating outside of the church, and I was absolutely shocked by how my friends and the leadership of the Northern Virginia church responded to my decision to step away until I figured things out. I was asked to stop living in sin, to repent, and to return to my life as a disciple. Upon telling them that I didn’t know what I believed and had a lot to think through, I was excommunicated from the church. My roommate moved out that week and my closest friends were told to stop talking to me and did. I was lonely, depressed, and confused by the world around me. I had lost everything.
I knew that I had been struggling in my beliefs, that I no longer wanted to attend the ICOC, and that I was dating men who weren’t necessarily Christians, but never would I have thought I’d be cut out from the church the way I was. To many of my friends, I’m sure they did what they thought was right… to cut out a person who was struggling with her relationship with God in order to protect themselves. It’s funny looking back, because I realize just how insecure those people were in their own relationship with God if they had to cut me out in order to keep their relationship with God safe. Seven and a half years later, I’m so thankful to be able to have friends from a diverse community and to know that a relationship with God can exist outside of a controlling, legalistic, and cult-like setting.
It has been seven and a half years since I was raped, left the ICOC, and lost all of my friends from that time in my life. The rape took everything from me. My virginity, my dignity, my faith, my friends, my trust, my hope, and my love for life. I am so thankful for the life I have been blessed with since that day, those weeks, those months, and that year. I met Neal in a very, very dark time in my life. It makes me sad that he didn’t know me before that day, but I am so thankful to be married to a man who has loved me through what I hope to be my darkest days. I have made new friends, have been blessed by the birth of my daughter Magnolia, have focused on my career, and have worked with a therapist for years to reach this place in my life.
I am really looking forward to the future. To breaking down the walls I have built over the past seven and a half years and to push myself out of my comfort zone. I have wanted to renew my faith in God, to return to a church community, and to rebuild my trust in others for a long time. The past seven and a half years have shown me just how many amazing people are out there, including many who still attend an ICOC church but are not as closed minded as those years ago. This part of my story is painful in its own way, but I’ve learned a lot and am looking forward to building a new community and life beyond what happened years ago.
Again, thank you all for reading my posts these past few days. I appreciate the space to share my story and I am thankful for the understanding and support. I am grateful.