This may be very triggering for some, but I beg you to challenge yourself just a bit to get through it. I believe you will find a great sense of accomplishment when you do!!!
Yesterday morning I finally faced something that I never thought possible. Please allow me to share in hope it can give you a breath of courage; a sparkle of what can change.
The Violence Prevention center of South Western Illinois, (VPCSWI.org) asked if I would like to speak at a training seminar they held at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Belleville, Illinois.
If you are familiar with any of my history, there is this huge block between me and ANY CHURCH BUILDING!! Religion itself is fine, but going into an actual church can cause instant panic; it rips at my emotions and holds me captive in fear of judgement. The valley of shame from my past and all the horrible truths that lie there-in still causes the tears to flow.
Sadly this is so much a part of me, when I attended a funeral this past spring I broke into little pieces, shedding tears as I looked at the beautiful stone carved angels. Simply being in the building I could hear them screaming “NO”.
“You shouldn’t be here!!! How dare you stand there as if accepted.”
Of all things the line into the church at the funeral landed me in the end seat of the first pew, just left of the pulpit. I begged them to forgive me. As we kneeled in prayer, I listened intently; however, I couldn’t stop the sense of begging for their acceptance of me. To look past all of my faults and all that had been done and not strike me down at that very moment.
When the service ended I exited quickly, gave my hugs to the family, and found my car. Shaking with the tears streaming down my face, I immediately lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. (I’m extremely emotionally addicted to them.) Then putting my car into gear I took off in search of our local Baptist church.
I’d seen signs around town for the church, Faith Baptist Church of Breese, but had no clue where it was located. I actually came home to search it down, but not until I had driven around in a panicked state for an hour trying to find it. I don’t have GPS in my car or phone, so thank you internet & the creation of Google!!!
Sadly when I found it and drove out there the doors were locked and I stood there crying for someone to let me in. I had to speak to a minister at that moment or for sure I would just break into pieces and never be able to return. NOo one was there to let me in and I didn’t write the number for the location I needed to call.
“There was no solace and I came home to lay on my bed and cry like a child!!”
The only connections I had with any church throughout the past 30 years was my first wedding, my children’s Christening; then once a forced attendance during a weekend visit with my children, which was nothing more than a control game by their father. There has been maybe two weddings and this funeral. Somehow, I had always managed to stay out of a church because of this heavy sense of judgement.
“It wasn’t always this way of course!!”
As a young child I did everything to go to church, I loved church!! My babysitter or one of our neighbors who attended would always take me to our Baptist church. May dear Grandma McKnight, had taken me to her very Southern Baptist church during my last visit with her at five.
“Just two years after the monster came into my life, all of that was gone!!!”
First he used God’s allowance of what he did to me. Then after age twelve he said God would no longer forgive me for the bad things that happened between us. God would start passing judgement and I would never be accepted into His heaven.
“To this day I have been afraid of this judgment and would shake in fear with each service I ever attended.”
It’s not that I didn’t or don’t pray. It’s not that I haven’t always tried to live the best life possible or that I didn’t or don’t believe in religion. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve got an antique picture of Jesus and it is a beautiful sense of my connection with Him. This picture has been carried with me for these past 25 years, through the divorces and instant escapes. It was one of those most valuable possession I ever carried. Not valuable in dollars, but in a personal relationship with God. I have always gotten on the floor and prayed to this picture for a better way; for a way out of the fear, violence, submission. I have broken down repeatedly and begged for His forgiveness to shine into my path.
This brings me back to yesterday’s event……
The event was a Faith Leadership Training Seminar and I was asked to speak. I was honored and amazed they’d asked me; gladly I accepted and took on the challenge.
“Was it finally possible that I could stand in front of those who served various entities of their church and not feel that heavy weight of their judgment and my fear?”
It really first hit me as I pulled into the front entrance of Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Instantly I felt the grip of standing on hallowed ground. The panic hit and my heart started pounding. I parked as far away from the front door of this exquisitely decorated conference building, mainly because I felt the fear of;
“What would they think if they saw ME getting out of the car, pacing quickly into the building, searching for a familiar face to cling to for acceptance?” Luckily I soon found the beautiful friendly smile of Debra Mize, the one who originally invited me to attend and speak. She is such a bright face or perhaps it’s knowing the connection we have from our paths.
I watched as those attending walked into the conference room. with each eye contact I questioned my worthiness to be amongst them. As I listened to the awesome presentation from the staff at VPCSWI and the opening given by U.S. States Attorney, Mr. Stephen Wigginton; I absorbed all of their knowledge and enjoyed getting involved in the discussions.
Then came my turn at the end, that’s right; last speaker!! My stomach turned as I started walking up to the stand. My heart was beating so fast I feared a heart attack would strike me down right there. My knees shook so badly I felt myself stumble a bit as I walked. Then I stood there and looked out at the 25 faces in attendance, maybe not that many you say, but these were all mainly connected to their church!!! Different levels of leadership within their perspective areas. This was terrifying; their judgement of my being involved at all with this seminar was all I could think about.
First I questioned my worthiness then I questioned my ability to make an impact on their hearts!!!
“How could I leave them with something to carry away from that seminar besides the very useful information in the training?”
I took a deep breath and fairly explained who I was. Then as I began to open with the carefully written out and then outlined on notecards speech I had intende; 20 seconds in I had to stop the tears. Then I thought about the importance of their understanding of how what they had just heard about in this wonderfully presented seminar, effected the person who lived inside the mess.
There were a few other topics I shared, but most importantly was to explain that those living in this violence and abuse, would most likely not be sitting in the front pew of their churches. The fear of judgement and the shame is too heavy for much success at this. Instead, I hope that I left an impact on them concerning the need of us, as a society, to remove the masks; to put no one in our society above suspicion of these crimes. Instead ask them to really see the people around them, in their neighborhoods, grocery stores, (yes, even bingo) and take 5 or 10 seconds to really look at who they are and what they might be dealing with or trying to survive.
Remember; 1 in 4 homes are struggling with some type of violence, bullying or abuse. We must care enough to guide them to resources and do all we can to support the continued provision of TRUE HELP!!!
We must remember also that people, like Jerry Sandusky; who was not just a famous coach, but also a father, husband, neighbor, friend and church parishioner. We must care enough about our friends, family, neighbors to ask when we suspect that something might be going on.
“Are you alright? Are you safe? Please can I direct you to some help?”
I pleaded with them as I do with each who reads this,
“Please be the extended arm of help?” Remove the blinders of acceptance and do not turn away from the screams, tears, and fear of those who are being harmed.
To let you know what the greatest accomplishment for me; they all welcomed me!!!….. I did not feel the heavy weight of judgement when I left the conference. Instead I felt peaceful with a wonderful blessing of accomplishment, finally I know that it is alright!!!
Thank you VPCSWI for inviting me to attend and close out your very wonderful seminar.
Thank you U.S. Attorney Wigginton for a great opening to an early Saturday morning share.
Thank you Ms. Debra Mize; Art Therapist, Ms. Cathy Daesch; Educator Ms. Teva Shirley.
VPCSWI.org – http://www.vpcswi.org/
Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows – http://www.snows.org/default.aspx
United States Attorney, Stephen Wigginton – http://www.justice.gov/usao/ils/index.html
Faith Baptist Church of Breese, Illinois – http://www.faithbaptistbreese.com/
Belleville Counciling Services; Art Therapist Ms. Cathy Daesch – http://www.stage-ps.info/Therapist-Directory.aspx
Illinois Visiting Nurses Association, Educator, Ms. Teva Shirley – http://sivna.com/
(c) Patricia A. McKnight
Author: “My Justice”
Authorhouse.com, Amazon, BN.com, Lulu.com
Available in Paperback, E-book, Kindle & Nook!!!
Dreams Media Promotions – Ms. Donna Kshir http://dreams-media.weebly.com/
She feels your eyes on her and she’s ashamed of how she looks; to her your eyes are burning judgement. The girl wonders if you can see what she’s feeling.
“Can you see me standing by myself? Can you see how I feel?” she wonders. “I know how bad I look, but you’re not supposed to know why.”
The little girl is about 12 years old. You see how pretty she could be if only she took better care of herself. Her eyes are a sparkling blue water and you can see the sadness on her face. She wishes no one would notice her. She wants to be like your daughter, but she can’t. She’s trapped and doesn’t know what to do. She wishes her Mom loved her.
“My mom doesn’t even care that I look like this. She doesn’t notice me at all.”
You look a little closer at her and you see her arms have open sores on them. To you they look ugly and infected. Your reaction is to pull your 10 year old closer to you so she doesn’t catch anything.
You’re not sure who this girl is, but you see her every morning and she always looks the same.
You start to wonder about her parents. “My God,” you think. “Who could let this child look like that? Why don’t people take care of their kids? That poor thing must feel so horrible.”
You see the other children standing around in small groups together, but this girl isn’t part of them, nor is she invited to join them. The other girls also turn to look at her. They point then turn away; saying things which you can only imagine.
Then you watch as the girl pulls her arms in around her; clutching her books tightly against her chest. She is hoping it will block your judgement of her.
“Please don’t think bad of me like they do,” she thinks to herself as she sneaks another glance your way. “If you knew what I had to do last night what would you really think of me then?” Her mind keeps going with questions, “Would you let things happen to me like that if I were with you? I can never stop him or say anything to him. He is supposed to be my dad and take care of me, but he is so cruel to me. He always hurts me, but I can’t help it. He just keeps coming after me.”
While you wait at the bus stop with your daughter to watch her and make sure she stays safe, you turn your back to the girl and keep a watchful eye on the other kids around you. The girl never steps out of her safety boundaries; standing alone, close to the bushes every morning without saying a word to anyone. She just glances around and sometimes gives a shy little smile your way as she ponders on her life; deeply wishing that someone would take care of her. She wants her mom to notice her, but when the girl was woke up this morning she was just told to get ready.
“Get your ass out of that damn bed and get moving.” she recalls. “You are not staying home with me so you better not be late. You get moving,” her mom yells up the stairs.
As the little girl stands quietly by the bushes her mind is racing with memories and flashbacks of her night. She barely got any sleep and she feels utterly exhausted, more tired than any adult working a full day at two jobs. This child is standing there amazingly strong, but completely exhausted from her trauma. He had attacked her again after sending her brother and sister to bed last night. He made her put on that nightgown again and touched her all over.
She starts to question silently, “Do you see what he did to me? Do you see the stains he left on me? Can you please help me?”
Maybe for the past six months you have noticed she has gotten a little worse in appearance or actions. “Still; no one else in town has said anything about this family, so why bother?” You say to yourself, “I don’t want to step in against those people. Her dad is up at the bar where her mom works everyday, then he goes home with the kids. I’ll bet something’s happening there,” you think. “But it’s not my place to say anything. I just hope with those sores she stays away from my daughter.”
The girl’s mind is still spinning with all of her fears. “He touched me, pinched me, probed at me. He made me do things that were so nasty. He told me how ugly I was as he pushed me away. Then when I fell on the floor he got really angry and grabbed me by the hair.” She rubs the top of her head as she’s remembering the night of terror. “When I fell what caused him to get so angry? I never know what it is that makes him so mean with me, but it happens all the time.” She wishes she could tell someone what happened and holds back the tears as her mind drifts back. “His hand swung up out of nowhere and landed hard on the side of my face as he started beating me; yelling about how disgusting I am.” The bruise on her face was just starting to show a little on the side this morning. She saw it as she was getting dressed, but apparently you didn’t see it. “You can only see the filth on me,” she thinks as she glances over again.
You are still standing there quietly watching your daughter and secretly looking back at her. Your eyes burn on her though. She knows you can see the ugly sores on her and her greasy unkept hair. She knows you can see her wrinkled clothes that she dug out of the dirty laundry this morning. She didn’t have anything clean to wear, but it seemed her little sister had all kinds of cute things to put on. In truth, the girl had on her sister’s underpants because she didn’t have any of her own.
Now she starts to think about what might happen if she reached over to you. She knows she would break down crying. Then she remembers how he had threatened her. She was supposed to call him, “Dad”, but all he did was hurt her and he told her,
“If anyone finds out about this your mom will get angry and they will take you away from her, but I’ll come to find you and when I do,” he said to her, “I will gladly kill you. No one will ever find you again. You will be buried somewhere deep.”
Those words were branded into her soul just as his touch was burned into her skin. The girl is trapped in her nightmare. She can’t reach out to anyone. She’s afraid of someone noticing her,
“What if they say something to me,” she wonders. “What am I suppose to do if they ask me about the bruises or the filth growing on my skin? If they tell anyone he’ll kill me, but I need someone to help me. I am just a little girl who wants to have friends to play with and have quiet when I do my homework, but most of all I just wish I could take a bath again.” This little girl standing so brave is screaming inside, “Please help me, but be careful what you do or say, he will hunt me down; he will kill me!!”
As the bus pulls up and the other kids start rushing forward to get the best seats, the girl stands back. She waits patiently, making sure to stay out of everyone’s way. You notice she is aware of everything around her as she steps away from the bushes. While you guide your precious, beautiful daughter to the door you hope inside that the infected girl behind you doesn’t sit down next to her. The girl sneaks past you.
“I can’t bump into anyone,” she worries. “Please don’t pay any attention to me. If I can get through the bus ride and through my school day I’ll be alright, but then I have to go home. When he gets home from the bar tonight he might still be angry or he might want to do that nasty stuff.”
As she gets on the bus to face her day of fear, her deepest thought is knowing that nothing will change in her life. No one will challenge her parents, and even if they did, he would still be there; haunting her.
“Please help me I’m trapped!!!” she quietly screams inside.
(c) Patricia A. McKnight
Author: “My Justice”