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By Gowri Sankar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

TRIGGER WARNING

Notes: Names have been changed in this story.  The following experience is a deeply personal account.  I felt the call and the need to share this as others may be experiencing similar abuses and to reach out to those who may need to know they are not alone and their experience is valid.  While most of my posts are not quite so deep in tone, this one reaches to the messy places that many of us experience.

Growing up, I was a good girl.  Being the people-pleaser that I am, I chose to hang out with the “good” kids, joined the “good” organizations and collected experiences in churches like one may collect baseball cards.  But as I found out, my naivete was not an asset in my life like many would think but one that led me to some soul-stabbing experiences.

Now, my brushes with faith-based abuse span multiple decades and situations.  Whether it was peers in my tween years or a pastor attempting to coerce me to see things his way, I’ve accumulated the scars from spiritual abuse.

I realize that after hearing of various instances where people have used their “good Christian” powers to defame the name of the faith and manipulate people in the process I had to tell my story.  I speak my truth to make sure others aren’t going through similar situations and to recognize a person who feeds off of mind control.

*****

Like most interesting stories in my life, I was nineteen years old.  Only days away from beginning my sophomore year of college, I had become a member of the orientation team.  We spent time over the summer and a day or two before the official move-in date to prepare for orientation activities.

The evening before move-in, a few of us went to eat, relaxing before the restlessness began.

I decided to get a ride back with Glenn.  Two years ahead of me in school, Glenn was very popular with the faculty, staff and students at the college.  He was beyond brilliant, and his girlfriend, Carol, was a talented artist.  What attracted many people to Glenn was the devotion to his faith – a devotion that seemed authentic when we met.  I suppose knowing that he was a “good Christian” was what drew me to him as a friend.

After departing the eating establishment, Glenn requested that we stopped by his mom’s house to pick up something he had left over the summer.  No problem, I told him.  After he emerged from the house, he got back in the car.  But we didn’t leave right away.  We began talking.

Glenn told me all about his childhood.  The conversation went deeper… and deeper… until he threw out a significant piece of his life story.  “My father was an alcoholic,” he told me.  “I haven’t told anyone… not even Carol.”  The heartwrenching information he handed to me privileged me beyond anyone else he knew.

We began driving back to school – a fifteen or twenty minute drive.  For the entire ride, the discussion remained deep.  As we stopped at a light only a block or two from the campus, he divulged his “true” feelings.

“I like you, Michelle.”

We pulled onto campus.  After this statement, I couldn’t let this conversation end.  “Come up to my room and we’ll talk more.”

I always assumed I was safe around Glenn.  He was a Christian.  We had spent much time together in the past.  He was against drinking and pre-marital sex and all of the things I was told were wrong.

So I walked up the two flights of stairs to his room.  And we started talking.

He told me how much he liked me, that his girlfriend Carol or my former boyfriend (his best friend) never knew.  In fact, he said they shouldn’t know.

The next three hours were a blur.  But for those three hours he had a hold on my mind.  No person since then has ever had a hold on my mind with that intensity.  To this day, I can’t explain it, but my mind was not my own.

Most of that time, he was telling me how much he liked me, and kept wanting me to tell him too.  I never had thought of Glenn in this way, so it wasn’t automatic for me to say this to him.  I thought of the impact it would make on Carol and even my former boyfriend.

I was in a state of confusion.  Part of me wanted to bolt out of there.  Part of me felt guilty leaving him after he had shared such “heartfelt” emotions.

“You can leave if you want to.  I’m not stopping you,” he said.  But I couldn’t leave.  Something between his words and my thoughts was stopping me.

Like I said, I don’t remember much from those three hours.  One thing I do remember was him getting close to my face and asking me “You trust me don’t you?”  It seemed to me like he was about to kiss me on the mouth.  Yet he kissed me on the cheek.

No.  I didn’t “like” him in that way.  He was just a friend – my friend Carol’s boyfriend.  Glenn was someone I was never attracted to before this particular day.

Worn down from his request, and doubting my true feelings, I told him what he wanted me to tell him.

I finally admitted something that really wasn’t true, something that he had planted in my head.  At that point, he no longer indicated that he was interested in me.  In fact, the conversation changed.

“Michelle, you can’t tell Carol this.  This would absolutely hurt her!  Pangs of guilt began to swirl around in my head.  What about Carol?  What did I just do to Carol?

He pinned all of those feelings on me.  He pinned the entire experience on me.

He just wanted me to say it.  He wanted to be the one who could manipulated me to say it.  “Tell me you like me.”  Glenn got me to change my mind.  He played with it so long, that it was out of my control.

Finally, the experience ended.  I headed to my dorm room.  It was 3 A.M., and I had been mentally and spiritually assaulted for three hours.

I walked down to my dorm room and couldn’t fall asleep.  My heart palpitations kicked in.  I dozed off and woke up for the next few hours.

And as I bumped into Carol the next day, I felt the pangs of guilt again.

*****

Until years later, I never realized that he was the one who intentionally abused his intellect and power to control my mind for one night.

I’ve never been physically raped, but my mind felt that it experienced its own type of molestation.  It’s an assault that I’ve told so few people about, mostly because I doubted its validity over the past two decades.

After this experience, I saw how Glenn treated his girlfriend, casually placing her to the side as he also dated another girl.  All of the young, innocent Christian girls flocked to him.

It was quite cultish.

When Carol was interested in dating another guy, usually one of my friends, Glenn would reel her back in to his control by telling her “he’s not a real Christian.”

Obviously, Glenn said this because he’s the ultimate authority on “real” Christians.  Carol would always believe Glenn.

Over those years, I’ve read how Glenn has become a youth leader in the Catholic church, and I wondered how many people, especially young girls, he treated this way.  I know of at least one friend who was similarly assaulted by Glenn, so I’m not sure if this abuse continued well past college days.  I’ve been concerned that it has.  He became this authority with the youth.  Glenn towered over all of them physically and spiritually.

This experience with Glenn may have been the beginning of my exit from the church.  Removing myself from this group of friends, I was able to see his manipulative nature.  I became angry.  As I continued to have more and more negative experiences with Christians and the church, I associated this hypocrisy with the church and God.

But it wasn’t God.  And it wasn’t the church.  And I found my way back after a few years to church and, eventually, entered ministry.

I learned the hard way that just because someone calls themselves a Christian, is against pre-marital sex or doesn’t drink does not mean that they will not abuse you.  Just because you haven’t been physically or sexually assaulted doesn’t mean you’ve haven’t been emotionally, mentally or spiritually assaulted.  People will use any means to control your life and your mind, including hiding behind the title of “good Christian.”  I’ve become extremely skeptical of the label “Christian” even though I’m a Jesus the Christ follower myself.

There’s no way to report someone who has manipulated your heart, mind and soul.  Yet I can find healing by telling my story in hopes that it helps anyone else out there who may have been a victim of mind assault.  Please do not stay in a situation where you believe someone has a hold on your head or heart.  Do not stay if they make you feel guilty for a situation they created or they pin their feelings onto you.

May you find the peace of God, the courage of Christ and the strength of the Spirit as you find your own true path to your authentic feelings and faith.  Amen.

 

 

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