A Post About My Wife

TRIGGER WARNING: this post deals with the sexual abuse of children and it’s effects on my wife, my self, and our relationship. I invite you to read something that is meaningful to me. I understand if it is too much and you can’t. My wife gave me permission to share this, and encouraged me to write it. This is a very personal post for both of us.

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My wife was sexually abused for the first eight years of her life.

I don’t know how else to say it, how else to introduce you to this reality we live with every day. There isn’t a way to ease this into conversation or to make it more palatable. It is a horrendous thing to reveal; it is a tragedy that my wife knows intimately. The truth of it isn’t something I would ever try to explain away, deny her, or make into some clever word picture.

My wife was sexually abused for the first eight years of her life.

It is beyond my comprehension how she lives with this every day. I know how broken I feel by knowing what happened to her. Yet she lives on, strong, fighting against the demons given to her. When I look at my wife, I don’t see a broken child or a shell of damaged person. No, when I see my wife I see her, whole, beautiful, loving, a fighter, a tender-hearted lion. When I see my wife, what I see amazes me.

The Truth

Living with this reality is hard. It is far from just some event that happened in some long gone past. The ramifications of my wife’s sexual abuse are felt on a daily basis. Nights are the time when anxiety, fear, and a host of emotions she would rather not feel come out of the closet. It’s to be expected; she was abused at night. Interactions with her family are stressful in their own right. That stress gets heightened whenever family talks about the brother that abused her. The trust and intimacy issues that she lives with because of the abuse are a part of our relationship, for good or bad.

She has to fight through shame, guilt, and pain. She feels shame for thoughts and feelings she remembers having because of her abuse. Not only does she have to fight the effects of someone violating her, she has to fight her self-imposed shame. Even though she fights well most of the time, it seems so overwhelming. When will she be free from the wounds inflicted on her in infancy? It’s hard for her to love or even like herself. No one can blame her, but it is unfair because she is so lovable; there is so much to like about her. She misses out on how outstanding she is because insecurity is wired into her spirit. She hides, self medicates, self harms, deals with depression, self-worth, anxiety, and anger. She is a wounded girl.

Still, she is amazing.

Sarah wears her heart on her sleeve, and her history is there for the world to see. If you get to know my wife on any sort of personal level, she will tell you she was sexually abused. She refuses to hide it for other people’s comfort. I admire that. This wound she has, this scar in her history, this tragic event she refuses to be ashamed of. My wife will not be silenced simply because other people may be off put by her story. This honesty, this truth-telling, this owning her own story constantly tells me that she is more than the wounds she has.

Why I Care

In Sarah, I see the power of a victim and the triumph of a survivor. In my wife I see the beauty of fighting. In her I find the things I care about finding deeper, personal reasons.

If you ask me why I care about church as a safe place, my answer is because of my wife. She is the abused that feels uncomfortable hugging a stranger because the priest/pastor told you to. She is the wounded with social anxiety that feels so panicked in your congregation. She is the mother you may think of as over protective, but in reality she is simply trying to protect our son.

Church should be a safe place for my wife, but it’s not. Do you realize that? The community we all talk about, the congregations we all want to be authentic, the church we all want to be life changing, there are none I can think of that are a safe place for Sarah. Why can’t we make church safe for my wife, for those who have been abused? She’s not the only one.

I care about sex trafficking so deeply because of my wife. She may not have been trafficked or sold into slavery, but she was abused. I see the long-term effects of sexual abuse. When a child is abused sexually, there are wounds that are created that they will carry around with them for life. My wife is proof. She is also proof that those wounds don’t define someone.

Counter trafficking – rescuing children from abuse – as well as restoration and healing efforts matter to me because my wife’s story makes these things personal for her, and for me.

It’s Not Ok

I’m not trying to say some bullshit about my wife’s abuse now bringing about some good. Her abuse is a tragic thing that I hate. The story that my wife has built despite her abuse is what inspires me, what causes me to care even more. It is sad to me that so much of her story was written by her self, trying to figure this all out. She wasn’t given counseling when she needed it. She didn’t find healing early on. Some of her wounds have festered.

Yet she now works to find healing, wholeness, to learn from her history. Sarah has an amazing passion to help other children not be abused. In addition to her creativity, humor, intelligence, and beauty, she cares so deeply. It is a redemption of sorts. See,my wife was sexually abused and that isn’t ok. It never will be ok. There is not a damn thing anyone can do to make it ok. But, the person she has grown into, the person she is continually becoming, that is amazing.

I love my wife and everything that she is.

  • http://randomlychad.com Chad Jones

    This is beautiful, Aaron. Not because of what happened (because that’s tragic and despicable and should never happen), but it in spite of it. It’s beautiful because it’s real and messy–and honest.

    But mostly because, though she was once a victim, your wife is something more now. Much more: a survivor. Survivors have scars, bear wounds, but survivors do something victims don’t: they fight. Even when every breath is work, they don’t quit.

    And that’s what I believe I’ve read here today: the story of someone, no matter how hurt, how wounded, who won’t quit.

    Thanks to you both for having the courage to share.

  • Caedmon

    Thank you for sharing this, Sarah and Aaron. No other words at this time but thank you, and that it was good for me to hear this. I’m not ready to explain why, but thank you.

  • Christine Niles

    Yeah. this. Someone who has not been through this might not truly grasp the courage it takes to bring it out into the light, and to not put a pretty bow of “redemption and healing” on top of it. Thanks for your honesty and bravery…both of you.

    • Christine Niles

      Oh….and I don’t put redemption and healing in quotes because i don’t believe in them…i absolutely do. Just that they’re not easy or magical or a single moment in time when everything becomes all better like some in the church seem to think they should be. Just clarifying……

  • Michelle Woodman

    Wow. Just trying to order my words in a way that I know I need to but, well, can’t right now. Thank you, Aaron and Sarah, for refusing to be shamed or silenced.

  • Adrian Smith

    I was also abused as a child, and recently I started a new relationship. To try and explain this whole understanding is a very complicated task. I don’t think it’s something that is instantly understood in one’s partner. It’s something that is gradually learned over time.

    I’m trying to figure out how to write this all out; it’s not working very eloquently.

    I too have scars that I refuse to hide from people. I’m not the only one who has been abused, and honestly, I think one of the first steps of being a victim moving toward becoming a survivor is to know that one is not alone. My scars might not be visible to the naked eye, but they are certainly there. They will always be there.

    Likewise, I’m also a minister in the church, so I find your question of finding a safe church interesting. I’ve never had a minister tell me that I should hug people. I’ve also been very open with my ministers (before I became one) about what happened to me. I would love to delve further into the discussion with you about what you mean by a safe church, and how we as ministers can work toward creating one.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I think it’s one that we rarely hear. We hear the victims, the survivors, the immediate family who were there, but rarely do we hear the partner’s after so many years have passed since abuse has happened. I wish more people would share that story.

  • Cspokey

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.gracebiskie.com/ Grace Biskie

    Amazing. Thanks for sharing this. You did it so well, so beautifullly & tenderly. You are a gift.

  • Julie Anne

    Aaron, this is a powerful post. You and your wife by your honesty and vulnerability are expressing what so many do not have the strength to say. The church needs to do better. The support and understanding you show your beloved is beautiful. Thanks for speaking out on this important topic.

  • Charlotte

    I strongly believe that when we have the courage to tell the truth, the ugly, messy, uncomfortable truth, we shine God’s light on the dark places that the enemy wants us to keep hidden. When we shine that light, shame loses its power. Thank you for sharing your story. While God can’t take away the horrible things that happened to your wife, he can turn ashes into beauty. Your courage in telling this story is evidence of that beauty.

  • http://emilyisspeakingup.com/ Emily Maynard

    I love that you describe Sarah as a tender hearted lion. That’s exactly what she is. And you know my outspoken affinity for lions. :) Thank you for sharing and honoring her strength here. You are a brave pair. I’m proud to know you.

  • Daniel McDonald

    Thank-you. This blog helps those of us who did not suffer in this way gain a little bit of an appreciation for those who did suffer such abuse and how they deal with it all of their lives. Thank-you.

  • http://www.allthingstruthful.wordpress.com/ Bethany Grace Paget

    All the feelings. Of beauty and grace I see in your wife in this post. Of having a husband who cares so deeply about her to fight for her, for the church to see that it should be a safe place for survivors.
    This is an incredible piece of honoring an incredible woman that I don’t even know. Yet would like too.
    All the love to you both

  • yoyology

    “Church should be a safe place for my wife, but… there are none I can think of that are a safe place for Sarah.” I know it to be true that most churches are not safe spaces for survivors, but have you looked into Celebrate Recovery? I know a lot of people who are in CR because of far-reaching effects of childhood abuse. They often express that it is “what church should be like.”

    There are things I don’t like about it, but it has helped me a great deal.

    Thank you so much for sharing this post, and thank you Sarah for your honesty and courage.

  • Beth

    I want to work in counter trafficking, not because i was sexually abused but because i still wrestle with whether a guy i cared about one night coerced me into giving him my virginity when i said no a few times and he cajoled me and said nice words and made me think it was not a big deal. I also have a friend who was drugged and raped and i know others who were abused. I also was emotionally neglected growing up and I also have insecurity wired into my DNA that i fear i’ll never resolve so i can be who i’m fully meant to be. But I thank you for this post, for her life that she lives in spite of what she experienced and that you love her where she’s at, even if the church or others don’t. Thank you both.

  • Rebekah N

    what would make the church a safe place for Sarah?

  • Shade Ardent

    thank you for writing like this, for writing about her like a woman who is loved and cared for – not a project or something shameful. i have my own surviving story, and my husband keeps seeing me like this too.

    he knows why church isn’t safe for me, and doesn’t dismiss it. he knows why i don’t feel safe, andhe takes steps to allow me to find my safety and not just stifle me.

  • pats0

    The honesty in this post is beautiful and brave. Thank you–both of you–for sharing, from one bad christian to another…

  • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

    This is what love looks like, Aaron. Bless you both and thank you for this.

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  • Lori T. (@DollyDeeDimples)

    It’s nice to know there are husbands who are part of the healing journey and who support and love their wives. Mine has used my abuse against me and even said things like that I had sex with my father and liked it when he’s been angry with me (much more but I won’t go into it). For 17 years, not only was church (where we served as leaders and he was a mission pastor for 8 years) not a safe place for me. Neither was my marriage. I’m working on getting out but when everyone who surrounds you is from “the church” and you have little to no safety network and four kids, I’m having daily panic attacks. Now that he knows I’m leaving he’s apologized and he thinks that’s enough.

    • http://culturalsavage.com Aaron

      I’m so sorry to hear how you have been hurt. Truly, it breaks my heart. I’m praying for you, for what that is worth. I hope you find the support you need to get to a safe place. I hope that somehow the church (maybe not this church, but the church as a whole) can be safe for you again.

  • http://twitter.com/LKsparrow lks

    Just discovered. Thank you for sharing this with us all. you speak truth, in these words, of the void in the church for a survivor.. a fighter.. you speak truth as you describe the struggle and the pain. Walking this journey myself has been utterly earth shattering. At times my heart and soul can’t bear the truth, at other times the truth is all I can shout. Its messy, this thing called authentic life. Bless you both, as you carry on…

  • Mary DeMuth

    I am SO SO SO sorry this happened to your wife. I ache reading it, as I know the journey far too well. I am so proud of her bravery in pursuing healing. What a gutsy woman!!!!

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