Silent Screams

Silent ScreamsI’ve had this reoccurring nightmare for longer than I can remember; it haunts me on a fairly regular basis leaving me in an utter state of hopelessness that extends beyond my 5:30am alarm. I’ve tried to determine its triggers, interpret its meaning, as well as have tried to rewrite the narrative and change the course in which this paralyzing dream takes.

I need it to have a different ending.

All my efforts have proven useless, turned up empty– and as I write these very words, the thought that I may be sabotaging my own efforts become apparent–because what happens when I finally face-off with this fear? The thought of starring it in the eye literally increases my heart rate and I can physically feel my throat closing in on me—suffocating me, just as in my dream.

My husband knows I have this dream though he’s never asked what it is. He simply states, “You were crying again in your sleep last night. Was it that dream again?”

It’s always that dream. No other dream causes me to wake up weeping uncontrollably or to squirm so much that I wake up nearly off my bed.

Silent Scream2The part of the dream that haunts me most is not my inability to see, but the inability to speak. In my dream I scream, repeatedly scream with all that I am and yet– no sound escapes. The restriction of my vocal cords do not align with the deafening silence that I hear. I scream again, louder, harder, with more gut wrenching force and still no sound. Somehow, after a period of what feels like hours,  I am able to comprehend that my fear is restricting me, that I need to steady my breath, allow my vocal cords to settle to their normal state and then try again. And yet time is of the essence and attempting to calm this assembly of nerves is impossible; literally impossible. My breath is shallow; panting. I remain unheard.

This dream has been with me so long that I although I see it, acknowledge it, I don’t spend a significant amount of time dwelling over it anymore. It’s kind of like the enormous scar, extending from pinky to thumb, on the palm of my hand. The original injury cut through nerve and muscle and left me with a pretty gnarly scar that still, to this day, 30-plus years later, causes me to wince. I know it’s there so there is no need to really look at; still, every now and then I will over extend a finger and feel the tightness of skin. It doesn’t physically hurt, but I respond as if it does—it’s a protective measure, I think.

Today, this dream bulldozed its way into my daylight and left me in a crumpled heap on my cold laundry room floor. Cisterns of tears flood my cheeks and cause my nose to run at a pace that a nearby cleaning cloth could not keep in step with. My subconsciousness opens a window into my past of long ago, a place where I have purposefully left the draperies pulled closed for the second half of my life—not out of denial, but out of survival—a protective measure, I think.

I know what triggered this awakening and would caution anyone with a history of victimization to tread carefully here for I did not and found myself in a season of daze and fog.

My husband and I often read books aloud in the evenings. To be honest, combining my  unending quest for learning and the love of my life leaves me in an emotional high that not much else in all the world rivals. We read a variety of books—on culture, diversity, fiction, non-fiction—you name it. This week we began a book titled, “South of Forgiveness.” It was written a couple years ago by author, Thordis Elva, who has received much press and accolades for her book, her unmatched character, and her Ted Talk on her personal story of forgiveness after rape. The premise of the book is that years after her victimization, she reaches out to the man who raped her in hopes to work toward forgiveness. Against all odds, the man replies and after eight years of correspondence, they decide to meet and work through forgiveness face-to-face—which is so very different than words plunked out across a computer screen. The book is one we simply cannot put down. After all, who reaches out to their rapist? Who makes amends with their rapist? Who forgives their rapist face-to-face? It’s sensational, for lack of a better word.

I reached out to my first rapist in April, 2017, after my youngest daughter had confided in us that she had been victimized. It was not as noble as Thordis’ attempt for I was not seeking to forgive him, but merely exerting my  momma bear strength to fight a battle 17 years too late for myself but maybe right on time for my daughter—and all the daughters.
Silent Screams1

Brad,

My daughter was recently raped and flashbacks to the barn, where you took advantage of me as a 17 year old came rushing back. I blacked out and you left me half dressed in the snow after you took my virginity. You denied my allegations making me look like a fool—and you may have fooled a lot of people, but we both know the truth. I was confused because of our connection to mutual friends, but you and I—we were never friends. You took advantage of me.

I don’t know how this sits with you all these years later or if you ever think about it and feel bad—or if you’ve been in denial so that you can move forward with your life. I don’t really care, but I do want you to know that sadly, you are part of my story—one where I have forgiven you—but need to keep forgiving you, not because you deserve it, but because the emotional turmoil you caused me keeps attempting to eat me alive. My emotions are again high because I am reliving it all with my daughter. I was not strong enough as a 17 year old girl to stand up for myself. I am now. I want no communication with you. I don’t care what you do with my words, but I desperately needed you to know that what you did has impacted my life—but what God has done with what you did is equipped me to emotionally support my daughter and fight for her the fight I was unable to.

Karyn

The message has remained unanswered and honestly, I am grateful it has because the aftermath of that attack was harder to live through than the act itself. I did not have the emotional support—well, any support– of my childhood church, who had brought me before the elder board to relive each and every detail of my attack; down to what I was wearing and what I had been drinking (none of which ever discounts the forceful nature of a man). They questioned everything I said from every angle, pulled at lose threads and deemed– there on the spot—in front of me–that it would be in the best interest of my attacker that “we” keep this quiet and allow him to not only still attend our church, but also work with our youth. Seeing the look of horror on my face, they added that they’d make sure he was never alone with a child! “Oh thank God,” I wanted to say sarcastically, but my anger was too intense to say anything. I just sat there with my head hung—deflated, defeated, and cried.  They made this a “he said-she said” thing. They trivialized what I went through. They made me feel unheard, unimportant, unseen. I left without another word, without a hug, without a Kleenex.

I wish that I had never said a word.

The destruction left in the wake of that meeting has haunted me ever since. The response of cold shoulders, glaring eyes, or busy bodies of not just my peers, but of my community felt as if I was being victimized over and over again. And against my absolute better judgement, I have stepped into my parents’ church a few times since that day and have made eye contact with several of the elders as well as the then Pastor, who dismissed me like a fly on potato salad.

The victimization continues.

It continues until I can put voice behind my restricted vocal chords; confront my fears and learn—somehow, someway– to breathe through it.

A couple weeks ago, Dennis shook me awake from my dream asking me if I was OK. He said I had scared him because I was screaming and I had never screamed in my sleep in our 26 years together.

I screamed. I made a sound. I really did. I broke through the barrier that I’ve been fighting for 29 years, since my attack. I don’t know where the dream will take me next or if I will continue to have it, but what I do know is that I do have a voice.

I know why my screams weren’t heard in my dreams. I know why my vocal cords were restricted—and in many, many senses of the word– remain restricted. This blog has, unbeknownst to me, been a therapy tool in which I am relearning to use my voice—to remind myself that my voice does have value. This blog is my scream. It’s my scream for injustice, for the hurting, for the unheard, for the victims and marginalized.

Today, I change the narrative of my story!

__________________________________________________________________________________

I know many of you have been in a similar position; that many of you have screamed that same silent scream. You have needed someone to see you, hear you, and give you a gosh darn hug. I don’t have a solution, a cure, or even answers, but I “get it” and if you need to vent or cry or just be silent together, I am willing to be that girl for you. Seriously!

*The after story of the role of the church in my life since this experience has been a turbulent one to say the least. It is my plan to share about that journey next week and how in many, many ways the failing of the church caused me to strip away legalism and find the authentic Jesus—the Jesus I love with all my heart, the one who sees me and hears me even when words fail.

23 thoughts on “Silent Screams

  1. OMG. When I started reading I was wondering if there was a rape!! Are you doing self therapy or have you actually discussed this with a professional! ? I fear that this will always be an issue but finding your voice is a good thing! Wow! Yes… even in a bad marriage, elders had no idea how to counsel and also were against therapists. Of course they are. It would mess up theirs power and control! Omg. I wish I could give you a hug. How awful you had no support. That’s why so many (I dare to say most) women/girls (even boys) stay quiet. Scream scream scream. ((Hugs))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Ruth, I read so much emotion in your response. Thank you for your care. It is amazing what a kind word can do to a battered soul.

      As for therapy, I’m a fan, but I haven’t gone in years and did not bring this violation up during that time. I literally have not uttered a word about this for over 28 years—to keep peace. Though for whom, I now wonder…. my parents maybe because they still attend that church? (ask me how I felt about that?!!!) For myself maybe because I didn’t want to be made out to be a liar and badgered in front of the church—again? I dunno.

      The older/more mature I grow, the more I want to be bold—to put myself out there—because I have a feeling someone else needs someone like me and I need someone like them. This life is waaaaay too difficult to navigate alone and isolated. I struggle with organized religion, but not with Christ. I feel like by showing up with my heart, I can be the “church” to someone else. I actually, think that’s the way it’s supposed to be—living life rooted in love with others. Just my take on that….

      Thanks so much for reading and caring. I deeply appreciate your kindness.

      Karyn

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, what a heartbreaking story. I can’t imagine the suffering you have gone through. It is good that you can be there for your daughter. It is such a huge issue these days. So many women being hurt by men and then the church. It is not right. As the church we should be comforting and supporting women. And teaching the men to respect women. Thanks for sharing your story. I am sure God will use it to bring healing to many others. So grateful you found your voice. Yes, scream and let it all out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Collene. I treasure the heart in which you responded. Truly!

      Heartbreak has definitely been the under current in our home these last few years, but I realize the opportunity/responsibility I have to share what I’m learning through these trials with others, primarily my daughters (which is who I ultimate write for!). I don’t want to leave anything unsaid–especially out of fear.

      I know this post had a very different tone than my others. It didn’t sit entirely well on my heart to leave it undone–because although the church did fail me in this area, I drew so much closer to Christ. He will use what was intended for evil for His good—and I am the recipient of His ultimate goodness. It is my plan to tell that part of the story next week.

      Much love you, my friend!

      Karyn

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love you, my friend. I love you in the light. I love you in the dark. And I love you in the shadows. And although you can not see your bravery, I can. You are one of the most courageous people I know. You have fought demons head on and have walked away victorious. You, in so many ways, are my hero. I am forever, forever indebted to you for sharing your life with me. Sill, those two years in Mill Creek with you—absolutely foundational. You have, in all meanings of the word, enriched my life for all eternity.

      xoxox

      K

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  3. I feel for you. I understand what it feels like to not be believed or supported when you voice what happened to others. A similar thing happened to a good friend of mine. It was bad, happened for years, and some of her family members told her to just accept it as part of life for women and move on. He was her uncle. They still associate with the uncle.

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    • My heart just let out the loudest audible sigh as I read about your friend and what she was told to accept as just a part of life for women. I wish I could hug her a million times over. I can’t imagine how she was able to cope during those years and beyond—and even now as her family still associates with the Uncle. It must feel like a betrayal over and over again—and not from her attacker at this point in her life, but by her family–those who are supposed to love and protect you most. Gosh!!!!! My heart! I sit here shaking my head over and over again! I hope so much that she has been able to find a path to freedom from this bondage and has in someway managed to escape the shame that accompanies such violence.

      I am so glad she has a friend like you in her life!!!

      xoxox

      Karyn

      Liked by 2 people

      • She does quite well for herself now. She has a family and a good husband and good job. She’s a good friend too. I think Karma does come around in the end. From what I heard he has trouble financially but no one will take him in knowing his past and worrying about protecting their own families. He should have done better to his family. What goes around comes around. I don’t think she talked about it for years until recently with all this MeToo movement stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so glad she’s doing well! 🙂 And like you, I do believe justice is served one way or another—karma, Judgement Day, … Though I cannot recall the verse, there is one where the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine.” I can only imagine that how Christ might handle such violence and abuse would be so much more effective than how I might handle it. So even though I haven’t seen justice served, I know God’s got it—and eventually we all stand before the Lord and give an account of our actions.
          I’m glad your friend has you and other people in her life who love her well. That is everything. Really, everything. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, Karyn – Thank you so very much for your story! My one son went through a similar story many years ago. I think that I have told you the story. I love you. You are a sweet woman of God! You have helped other women – by telling of your story. I am proud to call you my friend!!! Hugs!!! Jo Ann

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    • Oh Jo Ann, I will never forget yours and your son’s story. What you experienced….nothing short of excruciating, I am sure.

      Thank you for always encouraging me to use my voice and to keep sharing. It means so much to me coming from you. It is an absolute honor to call you my friend as well!

      Hugs and love to you Sweet Jo Ann!

      Karyn

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  5. Oh, Karyn. First, let me just say, your last paragraph resonated with me to the point where I joyfully said out loud, “YES”. What you were pulled through at your church at that time very well could’ve produced a spiritual rebel, running from our Lord for the balance of your life. Like you, I ran from the First Church of Dry Ice, shook off the hurtful legalistic whip never to return. So glad you have gone back and boldly made eye contact with the grace-killers.
    While reading this post I instantly connected. Not because I had been sexually abused/assaulted through an attack, but because I have been a victim of other forms of abuse which almost took my life. My eldest daughter, my niece, and daughters of family friends, were sexually attacked by my then father-in-law. He went to prison for one charge (my niece). While he was in prison, my daughter had a violent explosion at school, 7-8 years after the vile offense which she had submerged in her mind. It was then she vomited out what happened to her at 3 or 4 years old on a Christmas Eve night while waiting for Santa. Karyn, I would have murdered the man and gone to prison smiling. However, he was already in prison at the time. It changed my girl in so many ways. Like scoliosis, her mind had been twisted to the point where she acted out and made bad choices in life. She’s about to turn 32 next week and has healed to a degree. Still, her scars remain.

    Eleven years ago my mom told me a well kept secret. I am the product of a date rape. My heart broke. She was 15. While pregnant with me she tried suicide twice. She showed me the scars on her wrists, scars I never noticed. There’s lots to that story.
    So many of my female friends, including my wife, have been raped, or victims of molestation. I would guess 75% of my female friends or family members. It’s shocking to me.
    You, dear lady, are a soldier. Most do not reach out to their attackers, much less forgive. I have already written way too much here. Just know, although I hurt for you, I have a new layer of admiration as well. God’s grip – Alan

    Liked by 1 person

    • So much I want to say, Alan. I wish we could share a cup or two of coffee. I want to hear your stories. I want to feel them with you. Cry with you. Be mad with you. Hope with you. We’ve lived some parts of our lives paralleled (some you may be unaware of still) and in those places, I find I can rest; seek solace, and lean into the “church.”

      I do attend a church, but I am a firm believer that church is not just an actual building, but us—you and me—out there loving, sharing, teaching, helping—whatever that looks like–for the glory of Christ. And whether you’ve realized it our not, you’ve been the church to me—not just today, but with each and every post you write. It is that whole iron sharpening iron thing! Thank you, my friend!

      Your personal stories highlighted here have caught my breath and squeezed me of all my tears. I am absolutely emptied out on the behalf of your momma, you, your wife, daughter, niece, and others…. so much pain I can scarcely take it all in. How you’ve managed; how the women in your life have managed…. I pray that somehow, someway they’ve been able to work through the trauma and find light at the end of that very, very dark tunnel. I am praying specifically over your daughter right now!!! And as a man standing on the sidelines—I can only imagine how helpless you may have felt at times. (I’d love if you’d consider writing from a man’s perspective of what this has looked like emotionally/tangibly—just thinking out loud). With certainty, you have my prayers.

      Thank you again for sharing your heart with me. I am deeply grateful for your kindness, my friend.

      Karyn

      P.S. You just have to know how much I want to read these stories on your blog one day—when you’re ready; especially the story about your momma. You may or may not know my daughter is also a product of rape. I’d love to hear from your perspective how that information has impacted your life. I will not pry, of course, but I am curious…. xoxox

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Karyn. You are always so generous with your heart. I did learn about your daughter just recently from your post a couple if weeks ago. Naturally I heard the bell of connection then. As for me sharing my slant from the male side of these vicious acts, it’s so hard to do without the profanity….in Christian love, of course. Honestly, after all these years I have not been able to snuff it out. It’s a fire deep in my belly that rages after all these years. I probably should have gotten counseling, other than a chat with my pastor at the time. It’s amazing how the ripples from a trauma can span generations.
        I should mention that in running from the legalistic churches I was raised in, I have been serving in churches ever since, just not the dogma-driven variety.
        Delighted to have you read my posts. You will find I do tend to be too honest about things. In His Grip from Dallas – Alan

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        • Is is bad that I laughed out loud when I read your line about not being able to share from your male perspective on these personal and grave injustices without profanity?!!! Ahhhh, my friend, you are in such good company. I like to call that righteous anger—no sin in that for sure. 🙂
          Regardless, I get it. I have not seen many books/blogs written from the male perspective on this topic. Even when I’ve pried at my husband, I am met with surface level responses. When I approached the subject with my dad, he could barely choke back his tears… I think it’s just too hard. I think that anger is a testament to those you love so dearly. The deeper we love, the more intense our anger when they’ve been violated. And in a very real sense, their violation has violated you—has impacted you, caused you to look at things differently, to hurt more deeply. It has to be an incredibly difficult road to navigate for a dad, husband, son. You’re one of the good ones, Alan. Just keep loving like you do!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I so resonate with your dad’s reaction. You’re spot-on. I do love deeply. I do deeply treasure my three daughters. I do deeply defend…when I could. Literally I could be no other way. Other than the Redeemer, I know myself better than anyone.
            As for my mom’s story, soon I will find a post I did where I spotlighted her and will let you know where you can read it in the archives.

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  6. I’m so glad you’ve been able to navigate your way through the murky waters of “Why?” and beyond the bitter failings of the church you belonged to, Karyn. I know you still have your issues–you’re human, after all–but you’re gradually spinning those trials into gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh Mitch, thank you for reading between the lines. Although I know you’ve followed along long enough now to know my heart for the church. I felt uneasy leaving this post rest where I did. It is incomplete to say the least for it naturally leads into the journey I’ve had with the church and where I am now—not bitter; cautious certainly, but definitely eyes fixed on Christ. If time allows, I will write that portion next week.
      Thank you again for your encouragement. I genuinely appreciate it—and you!

      Karyn

      Liked by 2 people

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