#MeToo

Me too.

I did not elaborate when I posted to Facebook, because, well… I have shame. I am so embarrassed to say that I didn’t know which time to share. I have been sexually abused as both a child and and adult. I have been slapped in the face by grown men, choked against a refrigerator, back handed, had my hair pulled, my “pussy grabbed”, I have been beaten… all on separate occasions. I didn’t think it was important to speak specifically at first. Until I started reading other people’s stories. I think we have to talk about what actually happened, because I can say that I was raped, and you already put your walls up, you already have a preconceived notion of what rape looks like. Do you know what mine looked like? Do you know what mine felt like?

Someone very fucking dear to me was brutally raped a few months ago. I feel the need in this case to say “brutally” because society puts rape in categories. Rape is rape. And you need to know the details. And you need to think about your daughter, and your wife, your sister, your niece, your mother. You need to make this personal because it is. Because your Facebook feed is blowing up with “me too’s”, and you don’t want to think about it.

When I was about four years old, my neighbor molested me. He was a child too, and he was probably molested himself. (Do you see me making excuses?) It wasn’t ok for him to do the things he did to me. Even if he was molested. It’s not ok. I was too young to know better, and he presented it as a game. I felt so uncomfortable and gross and confused. I did not stop him. And it went on for months. I was four.

When I was about eight years old a man, and older man who looked like he may have been someone’s grandpa (I fucking hope not) molested me and two other girls. One of them had been repeatedly molested by him, he asked her to invite her friends over to go swimming. I was eight.

When I was fifteen a boy put his hand in my back pocket during a prayer (remember I was in a cult and we went on “double dates” and purity culture was very prominent.), I didn’t stop him because I did not want to make a fuss. And I actually had a crush on him. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like him touching me, it was that he knew better. I “confessed” the next day, and he denied it, and I was rebuked for lying. And of course I had already been chewed out for not stopping him initially. This situation shaped me in many ways. This was the day I learned that men could get away with anything if no one else witnessed it. And that women would be blamed for anything a man did. I was fifteen.

When I was eighteen I was at a party and my friend had left with some guy. I didn’t have a ride home, so I asked the guy who owned the house if I could stay there, but specifically if I could sleep in his room with the door locked until everyone left. He assured me that he was the only one with a key. He gave that key to this guy I had been talking to that night. I planned on maybe seeing him again. His name in my phone was “Josh Guitar Guy”. I don’t think I will ever forget that. Josh Guitar Guy used the key and climbed into bed with me. I woke up to him pulling off my jeans. I pushed back, I tried to sit up, I told him to stop, I said “NO.” He covered my mouth and I stopped resisting. I stopped because inside my head I thought, “It’s not rape if you just let it happen” and I was so scared. I didn’t sleep for weeks. I was eighteen.

A week later I was held down and forced to watch my friend be raped on the ground outside of an abandoned house. I was the one who showered her after, and watched blood pour out of her. I wiped the dirt off of her face. I put ice on her neck, her swollen bruised neck, where his hands had been. Her vagina looked like it had been turned inside out. I was still eighteen.

When I was nineteen I went to a party with friends and was introduced to a drinking game. I had never played one ( I should point out that at this point I had not been under the influence for ANY of these situations, I had not discovered wine yet, I didn’t really drink.) so I didn’t know that you should not drink in between hands. I ended up throwing up in the back yard. I blacked out. My “friend”, Carl who was in his thirties picked me up and took me upstairs. I know that’s how I got there because the other people at the party watched him drop me on the stairs. He took my pants off. I woke up the next morning to his penis between my legs as he was trying to have sex with me (again??). I pushed him away and demanded to know where my pants were, he said that I had thrown up on them so he “had” to take them off. And he slept in the bed with me because he was “really worried about me”. I threw up most of that day, and never spoke with Carl again. I was nineteen.

Not long after this situation I met the boyfriend who never actually hit me, but would not stand up for me when his brothers would hit me, touch me and verbally abuse me. He also emotionally abused me. He unplugged wires in my car so I could not leave without permission. He would park directly behind my car so i couldn’t back out of the driveway. He took me to the bank after I would get my paycheck and I gave him all my money every time I got paid. He read my journals and my texts. He followed me when I went anywhere without him. He interrogated my friends, my family and me. I was stuck, and so alone because over time I wasn’t “allowed” to go anywhere other than work. He guilted me into sex, and forced me to have sex with him. Ok no, he raped me.

When I was twenty his brother kept putting is hand up my dress and called me a slut and a whore. When I defended myself all hell broke lose. I’m still surprised I survived that day. I was twenty.

I am thirty now. In the last ten years I have been groped by strangers more times than I can count. Videotaped during sex without permission. Coerced and blackmailed and manipulated into sex. While I have responsibility to take, I will not do that here because the point is that I have been abused sexually and otherwise countless times. It’s NOT ok. And I will not be shamed into silence. I am pretty sure that a few of my abusers are reading this, and to you, I need to say that

You hurt me.

I lived in fear for years because of you.

I have nightmares because of you.

I don’t trust myself because of you.

My body belongs to me.

It was not my fault.

Karma is real, and I trust that you will get what you deserve.

To anyone who needs support, I am here. You did not deserve what has happened to you, you did not ask for it. I believe you.

Just Eat

It’s Eating disorder Awareness Week… I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. “Just eat”… “I wish I had THAT problem” … Two of the most frustrating, rude, cavalier and insensitive phrases I hear whenever ED’s come up. Eating disorders are serious. Serious like addiction. And it’s not because “we” are selfish, vain or conceited. It’s because we have no self love, self worth and no grace. It’s because we feel out of control in life and take it out on our bodies. Because we feel guilt when we take care of ourselves. Eating disorders are not a joke.

(I rewrote the paragraph above a few times changing the “we” to “they” and the “our” to “their” because I’m struggling with whether or not I want to own my own struggles right now. #VigorousHonesty)

Eating disorders come in many forms, restricting, binging, purging, over exercising… these are the symptoms, the whiskey to the alcoholic, the meth to the addict, the abuser to the abused. If you’ve ever known or loved someone who struggled with addiction, you’ve probably thought, “Why can’t they see what their doing to themselves?”

“Why don’t they just stop?”

“Why doesn’t she leave him?”

“She doesn’t love me enough to quit.”

That’s pretty much the same thoughts you might have when you are close to someone with an eating disorder. It’s frustrating. Maybe a little more frustrating because it’s harder to understand. Harder to relate to. I grew up in a home where addiction was talked about often. My dad is over 30 years sober and has worked in treatment for my entire life. My sister has been in rehab a few times, my mom, too. Addiction, recovery, 12 Steps, meetings, amends…. This is all the norm to me. Addiction, we can handle. We have the tools. But about 12 years ago when I was diagnosed as “Anorexic with purging”, none of us had any idea how to deal. My dad was very proactive, he got me help immediately. A therapist, treatment… What I didn’t have was anyone in my life who understood. In a world where everyone was on the Atkin’s Diet, I didn’t fit in. It was really lonely. For me, going to a 12-Step meeting was not useful. I didn’t use. Not like them. For me, not eating served the same purpose, however, I was not offered the same grace. People rolled their eyes, because their addiction was “worse”. Because “all” I had to do was “just eat”. (I am rolling my eyes as I type this!)

I have forgiven everyone who’s ever belittled my disease because I understand that you DON’T understand. I would like to give a little insight though. So maybe you can have more grace with someone who is walking a road you’ve never walked.

I have a friend, a good friend who also has an eating disorder, and she is the only person besides my therapist who “gets it”. The irony is that she over eats and I under eat. (I’m actually in recovery… see here is where it’s hard to compare addiction and ED’s because when an alcoholic drinks, they’re no longer sober. If I have a bad eating day, I’m not off the wagon necessarily. It’s not THAT simple. Hence ED awareness week.) However, if you sit us both down and talk with us, or, hear us talk with each other, it’s the same words, it’s the same feelings. We just have literally opposite reactions. When I am sad, I lose 15 pounds. When she is sad, she gains 15 pounds. I’m not saying like I feel sad today and magically 15 pounds evaporate. I mean like, when I am going through depression, stress, anxiety, etc. I can’t eat. Like physically, I cannot swallow food. I will chew for ages and just can’t swallow. And I and not necessarily even upset about my body during these times. In fact, if I’m in that place, I am not even thinking about my body. I am too absorbed in my misery. Yes throughout my life I have acted out my ED because I have had a “fat” day (a word I avoid). I have also noticed that my “fat days” directly correlate to my emotions. The scale has not changed, but for some reason today I fucking HATE my body. Nothing looks right, nothing feels right. I want to rip off my skin. I literally want to take scissors to my thighs. I want to vacuum the fat from my belly. These are the images I get when I look in the mirror on a “fat day.” Meanwhile my brain is saying, “You’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not lovable, nobody takes you seriously, you deserve to feel lonely, nobody needs you. You’re too outspoken, you’re too opinionated. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough. You’re just not enough. Oh- except your thighs, those are too much. Jeez, Justine, what’s wrong with you? You’re a shitty anorexic. You ate WAY too much yesterday and LOOK at your ass! You can’t even eat right. You’re so stupid. You need to control yourself. You are an embarrassment.” You see how it’s not actually about my body? My body is the scapegoat. Internally I feel like I can’t fix my uselessness, and all the things wrong with who I am, but, I CAN fix my thighs. So here I am desperately hating myself, and truly needing someone to love me, someone to affirm me. Not my body. ME. and I don’t know how to ask for that. And I sure as hell don’t believe I deserve it. So I am sad. So I can’t eat. And not eating serves a purpose. Not eating ,makes me feel successful subconsciously. Eating literally makes me nauseous, so NOT eating makes me feel better.

Meanwhile my friend who over eats has the SAME thoughts, only her coping skill is to make herself feel better by eating. Because when she is eating it FEELS GOOD. It smells good, and looks good and fills her. It literally fills the emptiness. So she will eat fast food, and thus PROVE to herself, all the things her brain has been chanting. That she isn’t strong enough to lose the weight, that she is worthless, that she’s fat. That she doesn’t “deserve” to be healthy, because if she did deserve it, she could eat like a “normal” person. She “proves” her worthlessness to herself every time she gets on a scale and hasn’t lost any weight. Every time her doctor is disappointed. Every time her nutritionist overwhelms her with lists of food she “can’t” have. It’s overwhelming. And what’s the point anyway, right? She feels like a failure. Maybe she is? Oh, is that a Mc Donald’s? French fries will help. And she’ll try again tomorrow.

I don’t know if my sharing this is helpful. I just thought, in the spirit of the week, maybe I can shine some light on a subject that you just can’t grasp at face value.

I want you all to know that I have been working my recovery, seeing my therapist, and learning to love myself. To change the way I talk to myself. To recognize the red flags and seek help when I start going down the rabbit hole. My recovery really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with food. Food is just the way I show the sickness. As a mom I have been good at maintaining a healthy weight… but masking the real issue. I am in a place where I want recovery, and I understand that just because I am not acting out my ED, does not mean I am cured. I understand that every single day I need to work to make the right choices. Because, magically, when I am doing what is right and healthy for me, I don’t hate myself so much. In fact, I start seeing the good. I have recognized that my decisions directly effect my self worth. And I am worth being happy. I am worth love. I am lovable. And so are you.

Stop means STOP

This one is kind of a rant….

I have a question:

Why are victims the ones who have to make all the changes? Why is it socially acceptable to give victims pointers on how not to be harassed, bullied or raped?

I asked my husband yesterday as he was giving me ideas to tell a friend of mine who is being cyber bullied by her ex husband. He said, “Because Douchebag (No his name isn’t really Douchebag, but I changed his name for his privacy lol) is never going to stop. If she wants it to stop SHE has to do something.”

To me that answer sounded an awful lot like, “She was wearing a dress, she was asking for it.”

Why doesn’t the abuser have responsibility to take in these scenarios? Why doesn’t STOP mean stop? Why doesn’t NO mean no? Why did my friend have to run away from an abusive man, and get rid of her cell phone because he had enabled the GPS and was following her? Why did she have to sit in a court room and be victim shamed because she couldn’t afford a lawyer?

Why doesn’t he stop? Why is he allowed to text her 20-40 times in a row? Threatening litigation over and over for every little thing. Blaming HER for his actions. Somehow its all her fault, but he is the one who abused her. And he is still the one harassing her.

In the 4 or 5 years that I have known Douchebag, he has been possessive and controlling. I watched my friend’s phone ring 32 times in a row. 32 times! If she silences her phone and puts it away while we are out to lunch or something, when she picks it up again there are dozens of missed calls and texts. When they shared a car, he would threaten to call the police and report it stolen if she wasn’t back in a reasonable time. For a few years I rarely saw my friend because it was just too stressful for her to leave the house. And she is not the only person who has been harassed. He will call my friend’s parents to “tattle”, or show up at their house in the middle of the night in a panic. He threatened to kill himself, and sent a photo of himself lighting the title to my friend’s car on fire. He has cyber bullied me via Facebook and text message. He showed up at another friend’s house at 2am and began ringing the doorbell over and over looking for her. Their daughter told me that “Daddy is scary at mommy.”

Somehow in his brain this is all her fault.He has no responsibility to take. The judge didn’t think a restraining order was necessary, and ruled that Douchebag is allowed to talk to his daughter on the phone every night, so my friend had to give him a phone number. Which he uses constantly.

A few hours after court I received a (drunk?) text from Douchebag threatening to sue me for “deformation” or character and slander. (It’s defamation you idiot!) I had been on the stand that morning, and I told the truth, (although, funny enough, I wasn’t allowed to tell the whole truth. I was cut off at any chance that I tried to explain an answer. Why was I even sworn in?) and he didn’t like it. No kidding, it makes him sound like he’s insane!!! But he can’t own it.

Last night I got a text from an ex boyfriend of my friend informing me that Douchebag contacted him in attempt to locate my friend. He threatened legal action. I found out later that he also contacted 3 other people as well.

When will it end?

When will stop mean stop?

I am infuriated by the disrespect. This man truly believes he’s in the right, he believes he has every right to harass whomever, whenever. It’s not OK. I encourage you to speak up when you witness bullying of any kind. Teach your children about respecting each other, when your child says, “stop” then stop! And reinforce that you respected their words. Let’s not raise bullies. *****Obviously, be safe, don’t put yourself in danger.*****

Parents have responsibilities to their children and to society to raise respectful children. Bullies don’t just pop out of nowhere. It’s a product of some type of trauma, or abuse or neglect. (Monkey see monkey do.) As parents we must nurture, and encourage empathy. Teach our children that other people have feelings, too, and it is equally important to validate your own feelings, as it is to validate other’s. There are too many little assholes running around, one day they’re gonna be big assholes. And it’s much harder to tame that kind of behavior in an adult. Let’s teach our kids that it’s OK to say, “I don’t like the way that makes me feel” and to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations. It’s OK to to walk away when someone is hurting you, or or making you feel yucky. I wish I was taught this. I wish my friend was taught this. Sadly she put up with it for too long. The problem with allowing bullies to bully, is they have learned that it’s ok to treat you like that. At this point we have responsibility to take. I am always called the bitch because I won’t put up with “certain people” who treat me badly. I will not be yelled at, name called or disrespected, and I make every effort to avoid situations where this might happen. I avoid certain functions because I know that I am not respected, and I won’t just sit quietly and take it. Because it’s viewed as “rude” to defend myself, I stay away. While everyone gives “certain people” excuses. “That’s just how they are.” Not to me they’re not.

If you have suggestions on how to deal with a bully, please comment below.

I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself

I remember very distinctly, about 9 years ago, standing in a car port in the middle of the night smoking a cigarette watching my best friend drive away. He had just essentially broken up with me. (It’s not what you think, he’s gay, so when I say best friend, I do mean a completely platonic friendship.) As his tail lights vanished around a corner I marveled in the realization that someone who I felt was just as fucked up as me… if not MORE fucked up than me, had actually called me out. He had driven 20 miles to tell me that he was worried for me, and it hurt him to see me self destruct.

I took one last puff, dropped my cigarette on the concrete, stepped on it and walked away. I didn’t think much about the conversation, not one red flag shot out at me, I was so deep in a sick and toxic place I couldn’t see love when it looked me in the eyes. I had to hit rock bottom. I didn’t know it yet, but the next 2 years would be the hardest, scariest and darkest days of my life.

Looking back I wish I had really heard what he said to me, I wish it had sunk in and impacted my decisions, but it didn’t. Over the years I have not forgotten his words, so I suppose they were waiting for me to hear them.

Believe it or not, I did learn something from that moment. You cannot help someone who is not willing to help themselves. There is one thing you can do: LOVE. And sometimes love means letting go, particularly if it hurts you when you watch someone you love circle the drain. My friend let go, but he never left. He just refused to be my savior anymore. No more drunken 2am phone calls to pick me up from who-knows-where. No more holding my hair over the toilet while I cried and apologized, promising this would be the last time. He couldn’t do it anymore.

I have this friend whom I love deeply. She’s one of my oldest friends and closest. For the last few years I have watched her destroy every chance of happiness, and every opportunity for love that has crossed her path. It is like she intentionally chose the worst, least compatible, controlling, and twisted man. And god forbid anyone points it out. If you do, be prepared for her to do something to rub it in your face, like, for instance, she secretly married him. Knowing he has anger issues, knowing he’s abusive, knowing he is a terrible parent, knowing he has no respect for women, having heard him call her two best friends c**ts, experiencing him stalk her and harass her… She married him. She didn’t tell anyone, because when you do something so effing stupid why the hell would you tell anyone? The crazy part is she thought she could keep it hidden. The sad part is I am her best friend and she lied for months. Looking back I’m realizing how many times she lied to me. She knew I didn’t approve so she hid her relationship, her pregnancy, her wedding…

And you know what? I was there through EVERYTHING. I never let go, every time a lie came out I let it roll off my back, I forgave her because that’s what you do when you love someone. But the lying never stopped. Another lie came out today. I thought we were done with this, her divorce is almost final, she has a new life, a boyfriend who loves her so completely, who flipped his entire life upside down to accommodate her, and she sabotaged it. And for the last 3 years, her lies have all revolved around this jackass. At some point you have to see that HE is a problem!!!

Just 7 months ago friend’s of mine bent over backwards to help her get into a safe place, get back on her feet, and take control of her life, this is not the first time someone had to save her… and evidently it’s not the last considering recent developments. I’m tired. I’m hurt. But how do I keep making excuses? I have been excusing her behavior for years.

This part of me feels like I owe her. She stuck around while I was living my life in ways she didn’t approve. She’s been there, she’s been my alibi too many times to count, she’s come to the rescue when I’m in over my head… but the difference is that I am honest with her. If I do something stupid, I own it, in fact, chances are I’m telling her about it before I do it! I don’t hide things from her. Because friends are supposed to be honest with each other. Wether we agree with the other person, or not.

So maybe I’m hurt that she doesn’t feel like she can be honest with me. I know… I’m opinionated. Outspoken. I don’t think before I speak… ever. But I don’t care how stupid you are, if I love you I love you.

And I love her. It’s time for her to help herself. Maybe she doesn’t want to be happy? Maybe she can’t see the big picture, the people she’s hurting, the innocent little girl that is tagging along while her mother is too busy messing up their lives. I don’t know, but… if you’re reading this: I can’t help you until you help yourself.

 

Nature Vs Nurture

In high school before reading Lord of the Flies we had the “Nature Vs. Nurture” debate and I was die hard Nature. I believed deeply that we are innately good, despite my Christian upbringing. (If you are Christian, you more likely believe that man is evil, and must make the conscious choice to do “good”) As an adult, and a parent I am considering that both are important. I still believe we are born good, that our hearts are pure, and we are effected by circumstance. But I believe we are who we are. Do circumstances effect a person? Change them? Yes, but I believe we already have a blueprint, so to speak, so we still react based on our personality.

For instance, I’ll give you three girls, all three grew up in the same church (you guessed it, ICOC), all three lived in loving Christian homes, they went to the same schools and all three were molested. To keep things interesting let’s name them: Gemini, Aquarius and Pisces.

Gemini never really fit in anywhere, and she over ate and wore baggy clothes as to not attract sexual attention. She was mean to other kids, and angry. Mostly she was sad, but didn’t feel like she could show it. She eventually began using and selling drugs. After a few rounds of rehab, she is clean and happy, working and going to school. She has a huge heart, and is comfortable with her body and her sexuality. She has a higher power.

Aquarius tried to talk, but was hushed repeatedly, eventually she stopped talking. She felt ashamed of her body because of the kind of attention it attracted, she threw herself into extracurricular activities. She became too busy to feel. She is now on the road to entrepreneurship, she has her own business, sings and doesn’t let anyone push her around. She still has faith.

Pisces plastered a smile on her face in public, and was overly friendly to everyone, she never wanted anyone to think she wasn’t OK. At home she hid behind her books, and escaped in other worlds so she wouldn’t have to deal with reality. She can’t handle injustice and calls people on their shit. She wants to save everyone from pain, and is empathetic to a fault. She can’t stand churches of any kind, but truly believes the best in people.

You see, all three girls reacted in their own way, even though they each went through the same thing. They each found a way to escape: drugs, work, and fantasy. I see this as proof that we are who we are.

If it wasn’t obvious, Hi, I’m Pisces. I have been hurt deeply in my life, just as Gemini, Aquarius, and so many others were, and still I see good in people, I trust WAY too quickly, I want to believe you. I feel connections to people almost instantly. I also instantly know if I do not like someone, and I can usually figure out what sign they are based on my uneasy feeling. I feel it is my mission to help people, and I have passion out to wazoo. I also have a really hard time taking criticism, and admitting I’m wrong feels like I’m swallowing a flaming sword.

I’m telling you all that to show how individual I am, because you may be a Pisces, and you may be thinking, “Well astrology is BS because I’m not like you, Justine. I am shy and quiet, and I go with the flow. I have had less than 3 sexual partners, and I keep my opinions to myself because I don’t like drama.” Of course not every Pisces is gonna be a clone of the next Pisces. I think that people get that impression about astrology. You see, different people have different coping skills and personality traits that may have been passed through genetics, or maybe it goes deeper? I have always connected with astrology, my birth chart (not to be confused w the horoscope you find in the newspaper) is insanely accurate, my parenting, love, emotions and life mission are spot on. Just bear with me, I know you think it’s a bunch of crap, but I have a point. I want to show you my blueprint.

I am going to stick with the super basics so I don’t lose you. So I’ll show you 4 of my twelve signs, the 4 that seem to me to really build a personality.

Sun sign: Your sun sign is your birth sign, mine is Pisces. So that’s super basic, a typical Pisces is emotional, absorbs others emotions, good or bad, can be a sucker for anyone who needs help. Can be gullible and shy, dreamy, romantic. Gets easily lost in their own fantasy world. Pisces can be airheads, and pretty temperamental. A Pisces mother has a deep connection with their children, she is a nurturer and may spoil her children. Most of that is true about me, however, most Pisces can relate to the first level, but we may feel there is so much more? In my case, where is the out-spoken passionate fighter?

Rising Sign: Your rising sign is the mask you wear in public. It is usually someone’s first impression of you. Mine is Cancer. Cancer risings like to be in a familiar place, and get uncomfortable in new places, they are cautious and conservative, gentle and giving. Cancer risings are nurturers. Overly sensitive to criticism. If you just met me (not having read my blog because my blog totally blows my sweet sensitive water sign’s cover) you would probably think these things about me. More so when I was younger, as I’ve aged I have actually started to embrace my moon sign more. In fact, people who I have reconnected with over the years always ask, “Where did the quiet little Justine go?” She found her voice, it was hiding in her moon sign.

Moon sign: The moon sign is the main reason people with the same sun sign can be so different. Your moon sign is your emotions. It’s the way you intuitively react to things. Mine is Aries, after reading my blogs and seeing so much of my fiery side, you were probably surprised my sun sign is Pisces! “Aries Moons are headstrong, aggressive and may be difficult to control. They do best if they can find a physical outlet for their emotions” An Aries moon is a fighter when emotions are aroused, they have a hair trigger to specific stimuli, and will just unload everything (verbally). They act before they think, which can get them into trouble. They have quite a temper, but surprisingly do not hold grudges. Their moods change quickly and have an extremely strong and forceful personality. I can relate to all of that, however, I do have my peaceful water signs that will sometimes come in and drown my fire, and because I am intuitive, when I am around other people who are happy, I will be happy and keep my moon to myself.

Mercury sign: Your mercury is the way you communicate. Some people have absolutely no communication skills, others are very factual. Some people only say what needs to be said. My Mercury is in Pisces, so my thought process is not logical at all, it’s emotional. I think with my feelings and imagination, I trust my intuition and tend to reject ideas that are based on logic. This is where I am thankful to have a husband who is a “true” Virgo. Five of his twelve signs are Virgo, including his sun, rising and moon. So you can just imagine our discussions, I’m all emotional, and he’s totally factual.

Now that you have little understanding of a birth chart, you can see where I am going with this. My nature is quite literally written in the stats. Just as Gemini’s nature, and Aquarius’s nature were written in the stars. Having grown up in the same neighborhood, attending the same church and school, we each responded differently to the same situations.

Don’t get me wrong, I think nurture plays a huge part in self esteem and bonding, and I do believe that the way a child is raised has an effect on who they become. I have three kids who couldn’t be more different, or more like their charts. In children I can see even more how nurture plays an important role in becoming who you are, but I also see that each child is so individual and requires their own brand of nurture. I believe that abuse and neglect have a lasting effect on a person, I just also believe we all deal with it the way we are cosmically built to respond and cope.

I do not know about people who are inherently “bad”. I think we all have the capability to latch on to the negatives, to ignore our basic intuition and turn off the good. We all have some darkness, even in our charts (that is much deeper, I’ll save that for another blog), and we can in a sense, nurture the darkness. I know a little boy who gets angry very easily. You can see it on his face, his face gets red, veins pop out of his temples, he will scream and yell, hit and kick, as if he isn’t able to control himself. This behavior, and reaction to things like, lack of control over his toys has diminished since his parents began talking very calmly, reminding him to count to ten, and giving him space when he is upset. He may always struggle with anger, but I think as a child, if the people in his life are patient and loving, and still give him limits and boundaries, including ways to let his anger out, he can grow up into a well mannered man with self control. I also worry about the type of man he could become if his anger is not addressed in a healthy way. I know men who were like him as children, it’s a scary thought. I can relate, granted I am not violent, but I can be explosive when I am angry. Mixing the Aries moon with the Pisces Mercury can be a very noisy tear-filled argument, and while there will be times when I will lose it, I have had to learn to control myself. Other people do not deserve my acid tongue.

This all may sound like hocus pocus to you, but this is just me making sense of life, and people. I cannot look at my children and see evil. I see good, love, innocence, beauty, curiosity and silliness. While sometimes they may disobey, or fall out of line, I don’t see the devil in them, I see a kid who needs a reminder, maybe a hug, but certainly no evil. I guess my point is that we should nurture nature.

 

*I use Always Astrology for birth charts you can find yours here: http://www.alwaysastrology.com/birth-chart-calculator.html of what I wrote are things I already know from studying astrology over the years, but I particularly like this website for refreshers.

F.Y.I

 

Welcome!

I’m  just writing a “welcome” blog now for 2 reasons:

1. A lot of people recently registered to this blog, and since I have no “website building skills”, there is a lot you wouldn’t know about this website unless you’ve been following me for the last year or so.

2. Things have changed recently, and I feel I should address those changes. (Yes, I’m referring to the cult)

HELLO

Hi, My name is Justine and I started blogging because I needed a place to pour out my heart. As a mother, step-mother, wife, health coach and writer, my hands were very full, my time extremely limited, and the ‘vacations” I require in my head to write or read were diminishing. Making a commitment to this blog was a commitment to myself.

You will notice that in the beginning my blogs were centered completely around health and parenting. As I have become more comfortable, I have written more personal and therapeutic posts.

HEALTH and PARENTING

Half of you are here because you are on the road to health, or you’re a parent and *hopefully* felt refreshed by my candor on the struggles with parenting. I have no shame in saying that my pregnancy was a bitch, I hated every minute of it, and think labor is the most disgusting experience of my life. I have no desire to repeat either endeavor, therefore, my tubes are tied. I was blessed with 2 amazing step children, whom, along with my daughter and my husband complete me. They inspired me to get healthy, you see I was “skinny fat”, and over the last few years have made the life style change and commitment to eating whole, real, non-GMO and preferably organic food. This was a huge change for my husband and my step-son and step-daughter (and the in-laws) *See my blog for details: http://healthymama.net/fast-food-fight/ * but it has made a huge difference in our energy, attitudes and certain behavior issues we were having with one of our little rascals.

***I used to be associated with a health company, however it would seem they do not appreciate blogs about their products so I am removing all information pertaining to this company. I apologize, it appears I was not in “compliance” when I posted that my husband and I had no wedding debt thanks to “this company”(…. It’s true, I made $9,000 in a couple months which paid for our wedding.)

THE CULT

The other half of you… actually at this point maybe more than half of you are here because you read one or more of my blogs about the International Church of Christ (ICC)/ International Christian Churches (ICC). I want to start this subject by saying that I never imagined my little blog could cause such a stir. Upon writing the first blog about my past with the ICOC, “Because The Bible Says So” * http://healthymama.net/lets-make-parenting-less-of-a-dictatorship/  * Some feathers were ruffled, but all in all, it was not a big deal, so MONTHS later… maybe a year later, I wrote “So… I Grew Up In A Cult…” * http://healthymama.net/so-i-grew-up-in-a-cult/ * and holy WOW! Facebook blew up (I am friends with a lot of members and former members) I started getting lots of emails and tons of views on this particular post. The emails were (mostly) people saying Thank-You for being the voice of those who were burned so badly by the ICOC. I had no intention or writing another blog on the subject until I was accused of lying, and to back me up, and to gain closure, a few people asked me to share their stories, too.  Although I’m a Pisces (typically a go with the flow kind of person) my moon (emotions) is in Aries, which is code for: I’m a stubborn f*ck. So, being accused of lying only ignited my Aries emotion. The more I was challenged, the more my fire was fueled. After a few weeks of compiling stories and quotes, I posted “Queen of the Damned (Recovering from Cult Life)” *http://healthymama.net/queen-of-the-damned-recovering-from-cult-life/ * and this one has been read over 1,000 times, in less than 5 days. Which is insanity to me, but, I’ll be honest, I get it. Not only was I validating hundreds of people’s pain and suffering, I evidently struck a chord with current members. If someone else had written it, I would have been sharing it all over Facebook and Twitter saying “OMG! Someone gets it! Someone else feels the way I do! See, I’m not crazy!!!”

I want you to know something, I am proud to be the voice of former Kingdom Kids. I wish someone had stepped out a long time ago, because I needed this fellowship to heal. I have decided to take my role a little further. I have started a Facebook page called ICOC Recovery *https://www.facebook.com/icocrecovery * and I encourage you to “like” the page so we can start some healthy dialogue. If you don’t feel comfortable posting publicly, feel free to private message me. I am here for you. I believe it is my calling to be support for people in need (there is that Pisces nature), if you need to tell your story, TELL ME. (I only posted stories that people specifically asked me to publish) If you need help getting out, I will help. If you disagree with me and want to tell me how the ICOC/ICC is the only way to god, go for it. I enjoy a healthy debate.

I have definitely had my character attacked by people in one of these organizations in order to discredit me, and I fully understand. They are scared. Their church is young, made up of young impressionable (sheeple) people, and I know from experience that they don’t want me to shake their young one’s faith with my facts, memories and reasons. It must be scary to see a little fish make such a huge wave, especially when you’re trying to rule the pond.

I want to make it clear here that I don’t believe in god, but I don’t consider myself a soul-less heathen. My heart is good, and I know it can be hard for Christians to see good in someone who doesn’t believe same way, it’s OK. I won’t lose sleep if you condemn me to hell. Just bear in mind, I know The Bible (as my best friend said, “You give her a book, she’ll read it!”) and YOU can’t condemn me to anywhere, Jesus said. If you are curious to know my personal spiritual views, click here * http://healthymama.net/the-god-thing/ * I also want to make it clear that I am an LGBT advocate, and I do not tolerate racism, sexism, bigotry or hate.  I believe in love, and I hope for everyone to find their other half, regardless of race, color or sex. Love is love, and it is beautiful. For more on this, read “Stop! Hating is bad” * http://healthymama.net/stop-hating-is-bad/ *

I hope this has cleared things up, and I am working on making some sort of an archive for all 60-ish blogs, and to make this website easier to navigate. If any of you happen to be tech savvy, I would love some help 😉

****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at isahealthymama@yahoo.com or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:

http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.

http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.

 

Queen of the Damned (Recovering from Cult Life)

When I posted my last two blogs about my experience in the ICOC (http://healthymama.net/?p=356 and http://healthymama.net/?p=38), I did not expect the backlash… although it amused me… Nor did I expect to have so many emails from former Kingdom Kids and ex ICOC members saying “THANK YOU!” To be honest I didn’t expect this particular blog to be read 133 times in one day, or 100 + times every following day for a week or so. That has never happened before, and I wrote them for my own benefit, I felt like I needed to. As I read through the stories and emails my mom called me “Queen of the Damned” I am a huge Anne Rice fan, so I was flattered, but upon considering what she meant, the title rang true. We are the damned, at least according to “The Church” and as far as I am concerned, they damned us. Some people who are members of at least one of the churches have forbidden their members from reading these blogs, they called them lies. I’m afraid I have news for you: First, I don’t have any reason to lie, secondly, if you continue reading you will see that this has not only been MY pain, so many others where hurt like me, WORSE than me. Saying I am lying is only giving me more incentive to keep writing. If you REALLY thought I was lying, you wouldn’t be afraid of your congregation reading this. You would not be worried that what I say may ring true… Maybe instead you would see my pain and you would take a good hard look at your church and make damn sure that you do not do it again. Look at me and see YOUR children. See every Kingdom Kid that turned their back on these churches, NOT because we were “godless sinners”, but because we were broken, over and over again. Remember when you split apart my family because I had a voice, because I didn’t conform. I am not the only one. Dozens of people have shared their stories with me, and a few have asked me to share their stories here. To be their voice.

Something so empowering happened as I read the messages, former Kingdom Kids telling me how they thought they were the only ones who felt the way I do, that they couldn’t talk to anyone because no one else understands. Here are just a few responses I have had so far:

***I am keeping these relatively anonymous, even the current and former ICOC/ICC leaders and regions will be kept private in this post, some of the things you will read are still happening***

“So I just read your blog and it kinda really touched home for me. … and honestly I want to thank you for you voice because I was in the early stages of being completely sober and I was starting to find myself when I was found by this new church ICC (Kip’s) and I was actually happy before I started going and now I just feel like everything I do is wrong. I can’t say no again, they make me feel guilty when I do. My clothes are “bad” all this bullshit. I cant speak up and its honestly the same shit like when was in the teens all over again….. I’ve been trying to fall away and its so crazy because apart of me still believes its black and white, heaven or hel …. and I don’t even know if I believe or if I just feel the guilt… I feel obligated to be there because they tell me that’s what God says. They want me to get a divorce, they told me to fast and pray about it. I thought the Bible says divorce is wrong? Our leader gave me a curfew. If I miss “one meeting of the body” they say I am in sin, and I’m in sin if I can’t tithe and they want to know everything I do with my money. When I noticed some shady shit I talked about it and they told me I was in sin! But they look the other way! They prey on college students, they want them to quit school or their jobs if it interferes with 3-4 church meetings a week, but we still have to tithe. And they don’t want me to spend time with my friends who are not in the church! If I had not read your blog, I don’t know what I would do, but now I see that it is wrong, and I felt it in my stomach that this place is bad.”

“Growing up a Kingdom kid was hell for Me Just like most of us. .. In my experience not only did I not have a voice I was going through my own battle … not knowing it I was suffering from bipolar disorder … Always being told everything I was doing was wrong, that my feelings condemned me to hell and feeling ashamed for the way I felt. It drove me crazy, I mean really crazy …. I am choosing not to go in to detail about my childhood due to the fact I dont want to re-live it at this time. Being a kingdom kid drove me to a life of doubt confusion, I couldn’t trust anyone. Now as an adult, found myself lost and still holding on to my teachings from when I belonged to the ICOC still living with the fear of going to hell because of the life I live so when I ran in to an old friend I wanted to believe that this new found church (Kips church ICC) was different… It’s not different, Teen, it’s worse. They are obsessed with tithe and have a double standard. When I confronted my leaders on sin that I saw, I was told that it’s not my place to say anything. I eventually went directly to Kip Mc Kean, and do you know what he said? That my leader is Mexican, and has a different style of teaching, and etiquette, and because he is my leader I need to respect and submit to him. He knows there are problems in the (*blank*), Region but he’s choosing not to do shit about it! I felt like I was back in a nightmare. No one will listen to me, it’s like I’m the only one that sees people sleeping around, dressing inappropriately, and being two-faced hypocrites. The same people that I have seen living double lives are the same people who told me that I was in sin for liking the link you posted of your blog, which speaks the truth, that I better take it down because I am going to hell and I am making these poor kids who are dropping out of college because they are being brainwashed, struggle. They are struggling because they know it’s true, too!”

Reading these words my heart sank. It confirmed rumors I had heard about the new church, and poured salt on my already very open wounds. Everything she said rang so true to me, because it’s nothing I had not heard before. If I wasn’t the victim, then someone else I knew had been through it. As a teen when I would bring up inconsistencies between The Bible and the church’s rules, or at least the Teen Ministry’s rules, I was told that I was in sin, that I was causing dissention. I was told not to ask questions. Looking back I see that these “leaders” did not have the answers, so they preferred that we didn’t think.

“I just read your blog…I FUCKIN LOVE IT!!! No truer words have ever been spoken. I have to put it all down too! As the acid from those years still eats away at my soul. Thank you Justine…everyone should know the truth and you are, if not the best one of the best people to speak on it. Speak on it…forever! They fucked me up good too! Anyways, thanks for opening up those old wounds, I guess I need to mend em up a little better this time, lol.”

A common theme, I “opened old wounds”. I know. As I wrote I cried. Just because it’s easy to say, doesn’t mean it doesn’t pour salt on my own wounds. I have established in previous blogs that I process out loud… does this count? I think it has taken this long for me to realize that SOMEONE has to talk about it, and who better than me? Let’s heal together.

“Thanks for sharing, Justine! I’ve suppressed so much of it- if not all of it. Reading your posts brings back so many (bad) memories! It was so suffocating, forced and controlling. I’ve made it my goal to never feel that way again, or subject my children to anything that would make them feel that way.”

Over the years as I have run into ex members of ICOC and grown up Kingdom Kids, and many have since become parents, most of them have expressed concern over raising their own children the way Kingdom Kids were raised. A lot of the teen leaders at the time didn’t have kids, so they didn’t think twice about what they were telling us, but when they began having children of their own, they realized that it wasn’t OK. As a parent myself, and a former Kingdom Kid, I have to say it does help me, even the slightest bit to hear these apologies, to be validated.

Dating in the church was a very strange situation, I’ll let my friend tell her experience:

“There is so much I can say about my experiences with that “church”, but I’m going to talk about my horrible “love” story. Let’s see I must of been 13, not baptized yet when I met this boy at a pre-teen/teen event, I fell for him instantly. It would be a few years before we both went through the intense process of the study of “kip’s notebook” and then getting baptized, but after we were both disciples, we were allowed, and encouraged to go on “dates”. I didn’t just go on dates with him of course, I had to say yes to any “brother” that wanted to go on a date with me whether I wanted to or not. Finally, he works on becoming my boyfriend, which means he proved that he was godly enough to date, and lead spiritually. He asked me out on New Years Eve in a room full of friends and teen leaders. Once we are officially boyfriend and girlfriend it was like a dream come true, a dream that would turn into a nightmare. I cannot express how happy I was. I was so in-love with this kid, I can’t even think of the right words to explain how in love I was, everyone that was around knows how I felt about him. The two of us became lab rats that were put on pedestals in a bazaar cult universe. Not much changed in our relationship once we were official, except I no longer had to go on dates with other brothers, (woo hoo!), and we held hands. We never even kissed! I didn’t care at the time, I was just happy and in love. But when I say we were lab rats, this is what I mean: We were each told, separately of course, to wait to kiss until the other kissed first, completely eliminating kissing all together. In fact once at a wedding he kissed my cheek (my effin cheek!) while saying goodbye, then was rebuked by a leader waiting outside. Example of being on a pedestal: once we were dating, we became like teen royalty. We lead prayers together. I had to start speaking at teen events more, which I hated, and I’m not a public speaker! It was like they were turning us into the example they wanted everyone else to follow, but we just had to do what we were told. If we deviated at all, we were rebuked. Even so, I was happy, I was the only one in our region with a boyfriend, and I really thought this was forever… then the “church” rips out my hearts and puts it in a blender and makes me flick the on switch! Long story short they made me break up with a kid I had been in love with for years just to hide the real story… We still are unaware of the true story, I know he had gotten himself in some sort of trouble with the police…. I didn’t find out till a few years later that he hadn’t cheating on me, however, they told me that he had been cheating and then acted like I had a choice on whether to break up with him, or not. Obviously, I had to… they didn’t actually give us real choices. We either obey, or we get rebuked.

I made the decision to “fall away” shortly after, not because of my broken heart, but because I got a job and was so excited to give a tithe and when I gave my hard earned money I was asked for my pay-stub… Because of course god wants to make sure I calculated my 10% right, before taxes! Leaving was so eye opening and heart breaking at the same time. My dad acted like he respected my decision then later came into my room, threw a bible at me and told me “I’m a dog who eats his own vomit!”  Even my discipler (whom I loved) turned her back on me, I remember her asking me if I had been having sex. Like, I must be having sex if I don’t want to be a part of this madness anymore. Here I am alone, my family is shunning me, I just ended it with a boy who I loved so much, I hadn’t seen any of my friends in a couple months (I was not allowed to have friendships outside the church, so once I left I had no friends) and the person I look up to, now thinks I’m all of a sudden sexually active (with the boy I was just told was cheating on me and had to break up with) just because I fell away.  To say the least that was a lot for my sixteen year old self to deal with.”

I remember this happening, I was friends with them, close friends with both of them, and I remember how confusing and eventually painful it was for both of them. After she was forced to break up with him, she was forbidden to speak with him. She wasn’t able to ask him what happened, she was left to wonder, and be hurt, for years. Luckily they did reconnect years later, they were finally able to dissect what they had been through, and recover.

“This is freakin amazing! There were so many things I didn’t know how to put into words because I was so young! And the fact that when I tried to speak no one would listen because there was so much secrecy I don’t think anyone knew how to REALLY deal with issues. I know from the “brainwashing” it took me years to be able to communicate with my mom and family about the sexual abuse I encountered there as well as many other things. The worst part about it is that when I was at pierce college I ran into a “church club” that I thought would be fun to join and it was icoc run! Like wth? I ran out as soon as I could. It was like the freakin twilight zone.”

This particular message requires an explanation, while I knew some of the things that went on in the ICOC were bad, some of us were molested:

“My mom started attending the LACC after a guy saw her attempting to read The Bible and invited her to a bible study. She seemed super excited to go since she was looking for God. I was about 3 years old. That’s when I pretty much started going to the LACC, enrolled in all the children’s activities, camps and classes my mom could get me and my siblings in. Now, when I was a little girl I had extreme nightmares and would see creatures. I suffered extreme paranoia and anxiety. Whenever I would tell my class leaders at LACC they looked at me like I was crazy! They tried to hush me from “influencing the other kids” as well as talking to my mom about the things I would say as it if were a behavioral problem. From that point on I learned to keep things to myself. It always seemed as if you weren’t supposed to talk about your problems. When you tried to get help you were shunned or rebuked. This became a problem when I was 12 years old. I went through puberty quickly and my mom thought it was a good idea to move me up to the “teen ministry”. A family came over for bible study one night with a 14 year old boy who was interested in me. From this point on I was pushed to go out and spend time with him and whenever he called I was told to answer, be nice, and tell him that I loved him! It was ridiculous. After about 6 months of us being together he verbally and emotionally abused me, cheated on me with multiple others girls and I was still told I was treating him disrespectfully. We dated on and off for 2 years. I tried to speak about it, but no one wanted to hear. After that ended multiple guys in the teen ministry tried to “talk to me” while making it seem (to the leaders) as if they were trying to be brothers to me and watch out for me. Two of these guys were 18 years old and I was still in Jr High. One of them sexually abused me for months and then disappeared out of nowhere. I was so used to being quiet I never even told any of the leaders. They didn’t seem to want to know; I was just another number in the congregation. The numbers only mattered to them when you were quiet and didn’t make waves. I never did, but they pretty much excommunicated my sister and my dad. They had questions, they lived life how they wanted to. I remember the teen ministry having teen bible studies at my families house and whispering to my mom that I was allowed to participate but my sister could not and that my dad couldn’t come downstairs. That was nonsensical! How can you ask to use our home for a bible study and request half my family to not be present? LACC divided my family, they forced me into relationships of abuse that make it difficult for me now to communicate properly in a loving relationship. I’ve read the bible more than once and large part of their actions and teachings are not supported in there at all. I did not feel love there, community, peace, or comfort. They made up rules as they saw fit and destroyed my life along the way. If it wasn’t for the loving people I have in my life now that actually try to be Christ like I would have killed myself, because the majority of my life up to 2 years after I left that church I was severely suicidal with no self esteem.”

It hurts me because this young lady is like a sister to me, and I am so sad to know these things were happening, and that she didn’t feel like she could be honest, because from the time she was little, she was shushed when she spoke her truths. I do find it interesting that Christian churches tend to blow off the idea of seeing spirits or demons, even though these things supposedly happened often in The Bible. It is so important to bring children up in a loving and safe environment, and when you are a part of these churches, they do become your family, they say “It takes a village to raise a child”, well this village fucked up quite a few children. I know as a fact that this girl’s mother knew her children saw “things” ghosts of some sort, I know because she herself suffered from the same thing when she was younger, one of the reasons she is so spiritual now, to protect herself and her family from this curse. I also know that her older sister saw them too. How wrong that she wasn’t validated from such a young age, what does that teach children? That adults are not to be trusted. That no one cares. Who cares if these Kid’s Kingdom teachers didn’t believe in spirits? Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Speaking of which, let’s address the molestation, you didn’t see it? Well no kidding, these things happen behind closed doors, in whispers. Who’s job was it to protect her? Well, her parents thought that YOU were, her parents TRUSTED YOU.

She was not the only child who was molested while our families devoted their lives to the ICOC:

“All I had ever known was ICOC. Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Bible studies at my house, bibles on the bedside tables; this was my life and I trusted it fully. I had no reason not too. I loved being a kingdom kid… until I started to think for myself. Keep in mind I left the church when drugs became more important. (Age 12) Before that I was protected from a lot of what was going on behind the scenes. There are two examples that come to the forefront of my mind when I think about past pain. I was a kingdom kid that had the will to be the best for God. I prayed all the time. I was taught not to make a wish on shooting stars but say a prayer instead. I was pure at this point and the only prayer I had was for my mom to repent and come back to the church. I did not what her to die and go to Hell. I would lay awake at night wondering if I was going to hell. I knew my mom would if we all died today but would I also? I started lying at a very young age. I had too. My babysitter’s daughter on a daily basis was molesting me. I was 5. She was 7 or 8. She was a kingdom kid too. At age 7 I was again molested by a babysitter while in the care of ICOC members. I couldn’t tell a soul. I was 7. I had no idea what was being done to me. Trust that I know now and no longer shame myself for it (no thanks to the church.)

By age 11 I wanted to study the bible. All of my friends were going into the teen ministry and I was in the pre-teens. I did not care how old I was, I knew the difference between right and wrong and I wanted to do the right thing. That was enough for me. Apparently it was not enough for ICOC. I was 12 when the church assigned me a discipleship partner. I couldn’t wait to get started on the studies! I wanted to be baptized so bad! The night of my first study I couldn’t wait. I paced the floor waiting for my disciple to pick me up. We were going to go to Starbucks. I had my bible and my notebook ready to go. We sat down and I began to open my journal to write down my first set of directions when she stopped me. She spent the next hour telling me that I was not in any condition to be a disciple. She suggested that I work very hard on loosing weight because God does not save the gluttonous. I was to fat to be a disciple in ICOC. With every word she spoke a crack formed around my spirituality. I was the first time that I stopped believing. I stayed in the church for another year but never attempted to become a part of it. In 2000 the church put on a Christmas performance put on by the kingdom kids. I had no interest in performing but we were all encouraged to try out for vocals. I sat in the back with my feet up doodling in a notebook when my name was called. Up to this point, you only sang in front of the church if you were a leaders kid or a professional. My name was called so I put down my notebook and made my way to the front of the auditorium. I took a deep breath and began with the first stanza of Silent Night. The room went silent. As I finished I looked up and saw a room full of wide eyes and jaws on the floor. It felt good to be recognized for doing something well not doing something wrong. The coordinators huddled in a circle and began assigning kids to each roll. As they read off the lead vocals I hardly paid attention until my name was called to be the lead vocalist for the angels. I would sing an entire song solo in front of our congregation as well as the Santa Barbara ministry. I was ecstatic! This sounds like a success story right? Well, there is no happy ending to this tale. Minutes later I was pulled aside and told that I would not be allowed to perform in front of the congregation because (get this) I was not baptized. Seriously? Seriously. They gave the roll to another girl that was about my age. She was baptized… and… wait for it, at least 100 lbs heavier that I was. Oh the irony. Needless to say I was done. I haven’t held onto this pain… I just covered it up with alcohol and drugs for years. I am now 25 years old and 4 years sober. I haven’t been a part of ICOC for 13 years. My life is pretty fucking great. Turns out I can be a good person and not go to hell even if I am not a skinny bitch disciple. Cheers!”

This is yet another example of molestation, bullying, and disrespect. Where Jesus teaches to be like the children, ICOC treated children as second class citizens, and pawns in a numbers game. Worse, still, being baptized was the carrot they dangled over our heads so that we could do things we otherwise were not allowed, be it dating, a “disciples only slumber party”, a part in the holiday play, or even the ability to move up to the “Teen” group with your friends. An example of children having no choice but to trust the church because it was all we knew, and as you can see some of us were put in very unsafe situations. I myself have blocked out some of the horrors, and have been reminded throughout the years, I have heard stories of abuse my sister and I suffered, but I don’t remember. I supposed it’s the only way for me to maintain my sanity. As you can see, some were bullied more than others, but I think we were all victims of power-hungry self-righteous  zealous sinners.

When I was in the teen ministry I went on a date with a boy, and he touched me inappropriately, I told my discipler, and she talked to the leaders (great job on her part) although, I was taken in the back after church with the boy, and he denied it, so they called me a liar. Actually, worse, they said that it must have been an accident, and he obviously would never do that. So either I was a liar or I was crazy, but whatever the case HE did nothing wrong. I felt pressured to agree, because I knew where they stood already. I also knew better than to talk about those things ever again. As I grew up, I knew better than to tell someone when I was uncomfortable, I was taught from these things (and many other similar situations) that I shouldn’t rock the boat, and that MY feelings are invalid. I mean, I felt like I couldn’t say “no” because I had already been taught that my personality, and my body ask for this kind of attention. So if I were to say no to a drunk guy at a party, and he gets offended because something I had done had led him on, I am the one at fault. What is this? Some kind of Republican idea of deserved rape? I end up looking like a slut because either, I’m a slut if I sleep with this guy, or I’ve led him on and risk getting raped, which I clearly deserved for having a “flirtatious” (I call it friendly) personality.

One of my friends, a former Kingdom Kid, told me that one of the (current!) leader’s son’s has been sleeping his way through the Teen Ministry, in case you’re wondering, he is an adult (divorced), and these girls are under age. And, yes the leaders know… and they actively fix the problem by removing the girls. Because, obviously the leader’s son is not the problem…. What is going on here? Why are these things happening in a supposedly safe place? Are you rethinking sending your kids to the Friday Night Event? Or Summer Camp? Knowing these things I would not feel comfortable allowing my daughters to be in a situation like this. I don’t know how to fix problems like sexual abuse, but I do know, if these girls felt like they could say something, they would have. As it happens, they don’t feel like they can.

One of the my friend’s and current members of the ICOC has reminded me that it’s not “The Church” that is at fault, it’s people who made mistakes. Yes, I agree, but I also feel that the church should take responsibility for putting inappropriate people in leadership. A few years ago I ran into a former teen leader who supposedly had a crush on me while I was a teen (this is bothersome, considering he was in his thirties, and I was in the teens until I was 16.) At the time, I was 18 or 19, and he came on to me… We hooked up, I think in my brain it was an “eff you” to ICOC, but about a year later, I come to find out he has been restored into Kip’s church , and in the same text message thread, he asked for a picture of my boobs. He obviously repented. It was understandable for a former member to treat me like a piece of ass, but a current “disciple”??? I can’t even get over it. He has friend requested me on Facebook, multiple times, and I just can’t say yes, he is a hypocrite, and what’s worse is he is a current leader. Again, I know this isn’t the churches “fault” but still, if you claim a title in this church, you represent it. So is it fair for either church to be upset with me fo telling my story, or anyone else’s? Nope, think of this as insight, take a look at your members, pay attention to your children. On that note, I would like to share a poem my little sister wrote when she was a teen, who, by the way was told she was “too fat” to study the bible, in my opinion she dodged a bullet.

“I lose

When I say, “No”

My heart can’t go

To watch you see

What isn’t even me

To know I’m lost

And think you’re not

To play this game

But know the end

While I descend

I cheat and lie

But don’t know why

I contradict

To love myself

So take your pick

I’m lost and know it

But can’t control it

I’m right and show it

So don’t blow it

I lose

Whenever I turn around

I lose

Whenever I see a frown

I lose

To know that I’m not “it”

I lose

To know the truth I live

We don’t deserve the life we get

So enjoy it ’cause it’ll be gone before ya know it

It’s not worth it to me

To try and be somthin’ I’m not

I want to see. but God has a plot

To seek and save the lost

Well, guess what… I’m not!

I know the truth will set me free

So leave me alone and let me be

I’ll come around if it’s his plan

It might take a while

So just hold my hand

I live by feeling

Emotion is ruling

The tears are flowing

To see what I’m missing

To hate how I’m feeling

So I will try

To love the One that always loves me

I lose now,but not at my peak

You will see that I will win

Happiness is my goal

So don’t be a fool

Help me please…”

As children we were expected to be perfect, we were trained, guilted and pruned to become what the church thought we should be. Instead of being nurtured and encouraged. If my sister at age 11 felt like she just couldn’t win, imagine how every other kid felt. It’s no wonder that we all rebelled. And it’s amazing to see that we have each come into our own, and became amazing resilient adults, who stand up for our children the way the church never did.

****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at isahealthymama@yahoo.com or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:

http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.

http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.

 

 

Reliving a Nightmare

About 6 years ago I was viciously attacked by 2 men… I never imagined I would be compelled to write this blog, yet here I sit on the verge of tears trying to work through my pain and fear.

Six years is a long time, so long in fact that I thought I was over “it”. I remember a time that not a day would go by that I didn’t think about them, what they had done to me, and what they might do if they ever saw me again. I would freeze if I saw a car even remotely similar to one they drove and I refused to go anywhere they might be. I would shake if I even thought I saw one of them. I left a shopping cart full of groceries and ran out of the store one day after turning a corner and seeing one of them in the freezer section.

I moved to Las Vegas a few years after, and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was long gone. I only lasted a year in Vegas, but it was a therapeutic year. It was the first time in a long time that I was not in fear. I had not even realized the terror I had felt daily. It was so freeing to not worry or think of them. When I moved back to beautiful California, I didn’t worry. I thought I was not afraid anymore, actually, to be honest, I didn’t “think” about “it”, it didn’t occur to me that I had been scared. That darkness seemed to be gone. Now I know it was just hidden, unused for so long.

A few months ago I was picking up an item for my wedding, and I saw one of them in the same parking lot as the bridal store. I didn’t even think… I ducked. My husband, fiance at the time, looked at me in utter confusion. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I knew I was not over “it”. I was brought back to a time before kids, before love, a time where I was reckless and irresponsible. My best friend and I were dating brothers, and it was so convenient at first. We were able to spend time together… I guess this was our excuse. I was never sure about the situation, but she had fallen quickly. They were alcoholic, felons, on probation for a violent crime who were raised by a woman hating, old fashioned “wanna be” Italian who had changed his name when he moved to America for his safety. There were rumors that he was a mercenary in Europe. He taught his boys that women were gold diggers, and deserved punishment for “misbehavior”. The boys treated women, us, like were were possessions. Not valuable ones, more like child’s toys, they were free to mistreat us, but we were theirs to mistreat. The only exception to this rule was each other. They didn’t bat an eye when one would hit the other’s girl friend. I don’t think my boyfriend at they time ever hit my friend, or me, for that matter. Thinking back, this is why I stayed so long. He may not have hit me, but he laughed when one of his brothers hit me in the head with a carton of orange juice. He hit me so hard I saw stars, but they just laughed. He didn’t defend me when his other brother slapped me across the face for no reason. He wasn’t there the night his brother took a book out of my hand, ripped it in pieces and then choked me against the refrigerator, and the roommate had to pull him off of me.

Those were just a few of the countless times these men physically hurt me. They also called me names, threw things at me and did the same to my friend. They fought all of the time, every holiday someone ended up in the hospital for stitches. And somehow all of this was normal to them. I knew it was fucked up, but I let myself get sucked in. I didn’t get along with the brothers from the beginning, they hated me for being opinionated and outspoken. They initially liked my friend better because she cooked and cleaned and responded to “Bitch where’s my beer?” whereas I responded, “Fuck you, get your own.”

I tried to leave once, my ex begged me to stay, when I refused he came with me. I think a part of him didn’t want to live that way anymore, but within weeks one of his brother’s followed, and a few months later we were all living on the same street. Welcome to my personal Hell. I was so done with him and his family, but I did not see a way out. My family and I were not close at the time, and I didn’t have a friend I could stay with. I fell into a depression, and in those days I remember the only time I actually enjoyed myself was at work. At home I avoided them. I stayed in my bed and read books while they got drunk every night with the neighbors. One night my ex convinced me to go with him to the neighbors to be “social”. I went reluctantly, only to be cornered in the house by the neighbor, he said he had seen what an ass the brothers were and that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, then the idiot kissed me. I pulled away and went to the bathroom (where I was headed in the first place) and thanked my lucky stars no one had seen… they would have killed him, and me. I excused myself, saying I was not feeling well and went home alone. The neighbor had gotten my phone number and began calling and texting me. I honestly had no interest in him, and I was afraid at what the brothers might do if they ever knew. It didn’t take long for my ex to snoop through my phone and find out that the neighbor had called me, he and the brothers confronted the neighbor, had him on his knees swearing nothing had happened. They never believed him. So one day while my boyfriend was asleep, they came over and started talking shit to me, calling me a whore, and one brother started touching me, saying that “I wanted it”. I pushed him off over and over and finally my fist swung, I hit him as hard as could in the face. His eyes rolled back in his head, he shook it off and hit me so hard I flew off the stool into a wall, hitting my head on both the wall and the stove. That’s when everything went really fast, my ex woke up and stepped in between his brother and myself, only for his other brother to attack me. The two of them traded off, as my ex could only keep one away from me at a time. This is when one of their wives came in, she cheered for her husband as he threw me into another wall, she took over and kicked me repeatedly. This is when my ex broke away and grabbed a phone and dialed 911. His 2 brothers and sister in law ran out the door…

Writing it out almost seems to trivialize it. Rereading this words I am so far away reliving it, blow by blow. I thought they were going to kill me, I thought they would never stop. I begged and cried and wished someone would hear me scream. If my ex hadn’t been there, I can’t imagine what else they would have done to me.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I hid that day in the parking lot of the bridal store. Did I think he would attack me right there? No… but I didn’t think they would attack me that day, either.

I left after what they had done, my friend stayed. And is now going through a custody battle with the very same brother who hit me first. I read her declaration, as she asked me to testify if needed. I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about them, I certainly don’t want to be in the same room as them. My entire life has turned around, I have 3 amazing kids, a fantastic husband who has shown me true love, a job I adore and a life I couldn’t have dreamed up in a million years. The girl who lived on Ventura Avenue in a ghetto studio apartment that used to be a carport, who smoked a pack a day and never stood up for herself doesn’t exist anymore. My ex threatened that if I pressed charges they would come after me, and judging from the stories they used to scare us with, I was not willing to take that chance, so now I’m afraid again, and torn. And then I think about them, and how they got away with all of it, for 6 years now, they have not had to take responsibility for what they did to me, or what they have done to her. Maybe I should speak up. Maybe this can be a lesson for someone who is being treated badly, it’s never too early to leave, but it can be too late.