One of my favorite songs used to be Eddie Money’s, “I Wanna Go Back.”
“I wanna go back
And do it all over again
But I can’t go back I know
I wanna go back
Cause I’m feeling so much older
But I can’t go back I know”
I’d listen to it over and over again in my room as a teen. One of the incidences that would come to my mind was of a night when I was 14 years old, and I allowed a dirty old man to run his hand up shirt and down in my pants. I’d played the events of that night over and over in my mind. I regretted ever going into the kitchen with him. I regretted wearing the shirt that sagged slightly in the middle and might have revealed too much cleavage or perhaps the white pants had shown my colored underwear.
I’ve learned a lot about predatorial behavior since that night, but as a 14 year old girl I really had no idea all the reasons why I was an easy target for him or what exactly I would have done differently. I was only aware of the desire to do it all over, because I was hurting so bad, and I’d have given anything if it’d never happened.
As an adult who’s been victimized again and again since that time I’ve started meeting with a counselor on a weekly basis who has helped me to understand some of the reasons why I’ve been a victim of sexual abuse. One of her tools has been material from Dan Allendar’s book, “The Wounded Heart.”
If I’d understood this material as a 14 year old girl it might have made all the difference in how that horrible night played out. It also would have made a tremendous difference as an adult in being revictimized.
I didn’t know at 14 that I’d been sexually abused as a child by my adopted father. The trauma of it all had caused my mind to lock it away from my memory. However, memories of other events of abuse at the hands of other predators, one at 9 at the hands of a teenager and the other at 14 I referenced above, and also abuse by the teenage boys in my class who would put a broom stick behind my legs, grab at my breasts and try to show me their body parts. All of those incidents haunted my mind over and over again. I sought for answers for years on how I could have done things differently. I visualized every kind of scenario, but I never realized the depth of the pain in my own heart that these predators saw in my body language and in the expressions on my face that caused them to choose me. I had been like a weakened sheep away from the flock, lagging behind my peers, unprotected and an easy target for the lion.
It’s the nature of a predator to recognize an easy target when they see it. Dan Allender says rapists have been interviewed after being arrested and they’ve said they look for the vulnerable ones, those who are looking at the ground or distracted. They have it down to an art choosing those they can attack and overpower.
I didn’t know I was an easy target. If anything I was more aware of my surroundings than any of my other peers. I was hypervigilent. As an abuse victim, I evaluated every person I met to determine if they were safe. Dan Allendar explains that this is common for abuse victims. They want to protect themselves from being hurt again. Yet in their state of hypervigilence they often do not see the forest for the trees.
It’s so complex how the abuse victim is betrayed and in their efforts to not be betrayed causing them to be hypervigilent and be betrayed again, but this is what I’m beginning to understand from listening to Dan Allendar’s seminars.
In my state of hypervigilence, I was constantly evaluating everyone I met. This was and continues to be exhausting for me. In the face of every person, I look to see if they are kind and accepting of me. If I see someone on a bad day I will notice they aren’t feeling well more quickly than others. I’m incredibly sensitive to others feelings. I’m sure my friends can appreciate my sensitivity when they aren’t feeling well. They will interpret it as care and concern for their well-being, and it is, but it is also an attempt on my part to ensure I haven’t done anything wrong. Hypervigilence causes me to be accurate in my interpretation of their feelings, however it causes me to be inaccurate in my understanding of why someone isn’t feeling well, in that I often think it’s because of something that I’ve done.
As a victim of abuse in early childhood, I didn’t get my core needs met by my parents. Every child needs to know that they are loved and accepted. Every child also needs to know their parents will allow them to have their good desires met, and that they’ll be protected from the wrong ones.
I didn’t know I was loved. I also didn’t know which desires were good or bad. The beautiful gift of sex that isn’t to be opened until marriage was awakened in me at a young age. I came to believe the abuse was my fault and that my desires were bad. On a subconscious level I’d learned to hate myself.
Hypervigelence resulted because in my self-contempt, I was desperate for acceptance and love, however I didn’t ever seem to be able to truly accept it from anyone or trust that it was real. I believed it was up to me to do everything right so I’d be able to earn the acceptance I desired. As a child, this was the behavior that kept me as safe as I believed I could be.
However, this behavior as an adult has kept me from really being able to trust anyone. It has stolen my life. It has also kept me locked in social anxiety. I haven’t been able to bear the thought of more rejection, so therefore I’m very choosy about whom I’ll trust. Only those who are warm, friendly and accepting am I comfortable around. I thank God for the friends in my life who have been that to me.
Predators are able to sniff out my desperation. They have seen my slumped shoulders, my head down, my scanning the room looking for those who’ll accept me, my not being able to look in the eyes of those who I believe don’t accept me, and they have chosen me.
At 14, the dirty old man saw an awkward teenager who’d wandered away from the adults into the kitchen. He came into the room warm, accepting showing concern for me. The attention made me feel good until his hand wandered up my shirt. He’d known I wouldn’t scream.
At 33, I’ll never forget the day my other predator watched me at a social gathering. I was new to the place, scanning the room looking for an accepting person. I smiled at a musician who walked by me and he smiled back. As I did this, I could feel someone’s eyes on me. Across the table, he was sitting and he was staring at me. When he saw me notice him he smiled and came over to talk to me. He was so very kind. He knew exactly what to say to make me feel like I was accepted. Pretty soon in the days ahead I was telling him everything about my life. The more he praised me the more I became dependent on him. That dependency went on for almost ten years.
Now here I am wishing I could go back and do it all over, but then again maybe I don’t, because the lessons I’ve learned though more painful than anything I’ve experienced, have also resulted in me learning what it really means to be loved and love in return.
You see, someone else chose me in my desperation and He isn’t a predator. He saw my need for love. He saw me bleeding beside the road after the predators fed off of me and He came to heal my wounds and cover my shame.
Ezekiel 16:6-14 ESV
“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God , and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God .
I thank God that through Jesus Christ my Lord, that I am now made clean. Because of His righteousness I don’t have to hate myself anymore. I also don’t need to be htpervigilent, because He is the good Shepherd and watching out for my soul. I need only follow Him.
I see this truth now clearly, however the depth of pain and lies I’ve believed my entire life are still crippling at times and the evil one constantly seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all knowledge of good in me.
It’s going to be a long process of healing, but God assures me He isn’t going to leave me alone through it. He also assures me what the enemy has meant for evil He will work it for my good.
Perhaps writing this is part of the good. If writing this can spare one other person the pain caused by being a victim of a predator it’ll help me to see the good. Though the enemy has harmed my body my soul belongs to my Abba and eternity promises only beauty and good.
He is the good Father who will never abuse me.
So rather than go back and do it all over, I will choose to press on towards the goal of the prize of a life lived in Christ Jesus. Paul says it so well.
Philippians 3:12-16 ESV
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.