#MeToo

Recently, there have been many women speaking out about sexual assault, harassment, rape & abuse, in addition to many people criticizing how it can go unspoken for so long. As a survivor of sexual abuse, maybe I can shed some light onto this for the people that just don’t understand. Please know, I am not sharing this for sympathy of any sort. I believe God has used my experiences to shape me into who I am today, I am NOT a victim of sexual abuse, I AM a survivor & a fighter! Please do not reply with any “oh I’m so sorry…” I appreciate the sentiment, however, it feels like sympathy almost gives power back to my abusers. I prefer to fight back with education & awareness. Something I wouldn’t have without my history.

Ok, first of all, let’s not forget that it is in fact, a form of abuse. Just like many other forms of abuse & violence, sexual abuses (entailing all forms-rapes, harassments, assaults, molestations, forced pornography, forced prostitution…) this is a manipulation, a control, a power trip, a way to dominate a person that is “beneath” the perpetrator. And in case you were unaware of the stats surrounding this silent epidemic, 1 of 4 women & 1 in 6 men have faced some sort of inappropriate unwanted sexual assault. Look around you, how many people is that in your life?

In my first experience, I was in the third grade. My friend had a brother in high school. He molested me during a time when we were being silly third grade girls. I had zero understanding of what was happening. He didn’t threaten me, but he did shame me into feeling dirty. I didn’t feel I could ever share that experience with anyone. So I didn’t. As a child, I believed older people were to be respected & trusted. How was I to know that not all were worthy of such trust? How was I to know which to hand my trust over to safely? I was in the third grade. My creep alarm was not yet developed. So I sat on it, blocked it away from my memory until I was 16. However, even to this very day, if I hear my friend’s name, my mind goes straight to her brother & that night almost 40 years ago when he stole my ability to ever fully be that little girl with child-like innocence.

My second trip down this road was at the hands of my grandfather. No pun intended, as he used his hands to molest me. If you recall from previous posts, he was fairly bold about his attacks. He bought me gifts to lure me into submission, then using his grandfatherly authority, insisted it was our secret. This time robbing me of being able to trust the people that are put into a child’s life to nurture, teach, grow, love & develop them. I suppose he did a few of those, but through a very damaging process. He taught me not all adults are trustworthy. He forced me to grow up at the age of 10, because I had to turn my grandfather into Children’s Services. He developed me into a girl that still struggles with trust issues 35 years later.

My final example for the evening will be from when I was in high school. I had a job at a fast food restaurant. (I will not name it because at the time, the laws were just not there to protect employees like they are now.) At work, I had a male co-worker that was apparently “interested” in me. When I did not feel the same, he began to utilize tools of the restaurant to make sexual advances towards me. I would turn the corner & he would stick a utensil into my nether regions. We used pool noodles on the salad bar. He would use these to assault my backside. He trapped me up against the walls. Gropping became a part of my daily life. When I complained about it, my boss would reply with “what do you want me to do?” I was still a teenager. How was I to know what she should do?

Just so you understand, very few people know about 2 of these situations. I don’t walk around shouting “I WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED AND ABUSED!!!” Being sexually abused isn’t a badge of honor we wear. It’s a vehicle of shame, condemnation & manipulation over us. We aren’t eager to call people out for their behavior because it’s embarrassing that we were taken advantage of in such a demeaning manner. It’s almost every negative thing you could possibly do to another person in one swift life changing action.

Why does it take dozens of women to “out” a Hollywood mogul? Because his power trip is so large it’s terrifying to consider doing alone. Why is it that once it began, now many others are being brought up? It’s not because it’s being made up as they go along. It’s because bravery comes with the numbers. It’s because some of the experiences have been repressed due to PTSD. These people have not stayed silent just so they can make more money. But can you blame them for needing to stay in the business that does provide them income? Would you be able to walk away from your job & potentially never work in your field again? I couldn’t. Sure, switch fields. As a Jane Doe, like the rest of us, not hard to do. But as a celebrity, how do you suddenly look for work at Subway or driving a bus? It doesn’t work like that.

I am not saying there aren’t people out there that make false accusations. There certainly are those types of people. However, most people will not seek attention in this particular way. I venture to guess, most people would not be able to make up a believable story about a sexual assault experience & tell others about it without feeling a small inkling of the shame associated with it. So imagine the shame we feel trying to tell the real deal. Imagine living through the actual stories you are now hearing. Imagine sitting your family down & explaining what has happened. Picture being questioned by police & advocates trying to get justice for yourself. Unsuccessfully trying to “wash” off the shame & the disgusting feel of their skin touching yours in hundreds of showers. Being examined under bright white lights by strangers while you lie naked in the ER. Live through all of this and tell me that women make this stuff up.

So to my friends who have survived this rocky journey, I applaud your strength, your bravery, your courage, your determination. Your recovery is inspiring to so many others. Find your steady voice & continue to share yourself out of the darkness.

To those of you fortunate enough to have not walked this path, be kind to those that have. And if you can’t be kind, be quiet. The harsh judgment or criticism you speak so loudly is damaging to our healing. If I was your wife, daughter, sister, mother, best friend…would you believe for one second it was ok to speak so cruelly to me after what I have lived through? Would you ever allow another person to speak to those strong, surviving women in your life the way you are cruelly speaking towards these women you know nothing about?

Friends, love your journey. God has placed you on the road to recovery so you can be a light in the lives of others. It’s not always easy. In fact, some days it is downright hard. But you can do this. On the days you can’t, find a friend you trust, meet for coffee and unload.

I love you all.

Matilda Grace

I hope The Joyful Heart Foundation & A21 don’t mind me hijacking their photos to help get my point across.

#NoMore #JoyfulHeartFoundation #MeToo #SurvivorNotVictim #BeKindOrBeQuiet #MariskaHargitay #ChristineCaine #A21

Searching

Have you ever put your worldly possessions in one of those storage units that looks like a giant garage? Have you then ever tried to get back into that storage unit & look for one particular item among 100 boxes? Even labeled as accurately & precisely as you can possibly label each box, it is still virtually an impossible task. How do I know, you ask? Because I am currently standing in said storage unit.

When the lease was up in my apartment, I was unsure what my next direction was going to be so I moved in with my sister & her family. I didn’t need most of my things so I loaded everything into a storage unit & took only the essentials for what I thought was going to be a short term solution. Eight months later, I’m still there. What I thought was very temporary ended up being one of the most emotionally healthy moves I have ever made. I live with five people who love me every day. Just because! My niece & nephews hug me several times a day. Just because! I did not realize how much I needed to feel unconditionally embraced.

That however is not what this post is about.

It’s about the storage unit.

So. All of my “valuable” worldly possessions are boxed up & in this garage. My washer, my dryer, my couches, my dishes, my Christmas decorations, and probably 60% of my clothing & shoes. When I got up today, deciding to dive into the storage unit & dig out some of my clothing, I had no idea how impossible that would actually be. Trying to maneuver through a tight pathway in this cramped hot garage jammed full of boxes & furniture to uncover the actual crates that I need only to find they are supporting tight & precariously dangerous towers of dishes just so I can find that one sweater that I really miss or those perfect jeans or that super comfy sweatshirt.

I must admit it’s not going very well.

While I am tossing tote boxes over my head (like a beast!!) to put them back on top of the pile it hits me that this is kind of a blogging moment. So I stop. Grab my phone. And began this post.

You’re welcome. LOL.

It made me think about where my life is & how I’m living in someone else’s house with someone else’s family (disclaimer:it is my family, just not in the sense of my kid/spouse/etc…& I am beyond grateful to be here!) surrounded by someone else’s possessions because my life is in what I’m kindly referring to as a “transitional phase.” And I believe it is. But the truth is I have no idea what I’m doing. I work at a job that I don’t hate, but is also not a passion. I live in a place that has all four seasons, sometimes in one day. (And I’m a beachy kind of girl.) I have lost many people that I have loved dearly. I’m in the perfect place to completely start my life over. (By the way I’m 45 & I feel like I am the rom-com poster child for starting over. I even bought a little black car. With a turbo engine. It’s fun. Again we’re not here for that.) But, I definitely have some decisions to make about my life & the direction it’s going.

  • What do I want to be when I grow up?
  • Where do I go to be whatever that is?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Can I do it?
  • Am I brave enough?

That last one is probably the biggest. I think we all know the answer to that is: [Insert me shrugging my shoulders]

But how many of us are searching & digging & tossing boxes from the areas of our lives around because we’re simply existing? Doing the mundane job every Monday through Friday so that we can bring home a paycheck so we can purchase the car that drives us to said job so we can go to sleep & get up & do it all over again? How many of us are searching for that passion that we see in the movies or in some of our friends faces? How many of us are searching & digging through life trying to find that perfect thing that brings us comfort or success, whether that be a career or family or a husband or a new car or even a dangerous addiction or behavior?

What we fail to realize is this: We can’t find comfort in a sweatshirt or a car or a career or a spouse. The only answer that I have found is that I have to get that from my faith & trust that God has this.

No matter what.

All of the trials that I face, He’s there.

All of the addictions that you face. He’s there.

All of the indecision, the questions about direction, the lack of hope?? He’s there through all of that.

AND He’s also there through all of the happy moments. Like the new car, the new job, the new blog post, the new house, even a new relationship. See, He wants to be part of all of those details. We usually just forget to include Him in them. But sometimes He’s not just part of the details, He is the details. Sometimes He is the solution. Sometimes He is the only solution. So while I’m sitting here not finding my favorite sweatshirt or the perfect sweater, it comes to me that my comfort comes not in my searching for answers, but in my free surrender to trust that God has every step of my life totally figured out & wherever I am is where He is taking me & wants me to be. Even if that’s in my sisters house because he has me in a transitional place. Maybe I’m moving out of this crazy weather state. Maybe I’m staying right here. Who knows? He does. So as long as I trust that, I don’t have to search. I don’t have to dig.

I just have to trust.

Dear sweet friends, whatever it is that you’re going through, THE first & most essential way to get through it is to trust that God is there with you through it. And that He can handle whatever it is.

So wherever you have your “stuff”, whether it’s strewn across the front yard full of chaos & crazy, or maybe you have it jam packed in a closet that is bursting to pop open, or if you have it boxed up in the attic but you’re constantly going back up there to dig through it, now is the time to relinquish all of it. Put it in a garbage bag & let God take it. Put your trust and your crazy in His hands. I am no longer going to search for what I think my life should look like. I’m going to believe that my next step has been set into motion by heavenly forces that love me as unconditionally as my niece & nephews. With my trust in the right place, I can AND WILL move mountains!

Till next time-Love yourself, love your uglies & love your crazy. It makes you who you are.

Matilda Grace❤️

Shame

Dictionary.com defines shame as:

            shame:[sheym]; noun

the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:

            “She was overcome with shame.”



How many times does that example sentence apply to each of us every day? For me, several. Thankfully I don’t keep track. I’d probably feel worse about myself if I did. I’d shame myself for feeling so shameful all the time. But the majority of my shame isn’t necessarily driven by my own behaviors, because frankly, I’m kind of nerdy. I work, church & work some more. I’m home most weekends & I definitely don’t do much throughout the week.

No, most of my shame is driven by the influencers of my past. My sexual abusive grandfather. My ex. My son. My mother. My adoptive father. Even my biological father.

For some reason, this type of shame reminds me of the poo throwing monkeys at the zoo. You know the ones. Behind glass. Mischievous grin. Just as you get up close, they launch a poop bomb at you that splatters all over the glass. You can tell by the look on their face how deeply they enjoyed the look on yours. And they start to work on a new poo bomb for the next unsuspecting sucker to walk up. Good thing we aren’t fully exposed to them or they would be the least viewed exhibit in the whole place.

Take for example my grandfather. He began molesting me when I was 10. He didn’t just start with inappropriate actions. He began by gifting me with things & treating me special. Lucky me.

On that side of the family, I had a summer cousin. During the school year he lived in Cali with his mom. For summer break, he stayed with his dad. My grandparents & my uncle all lived on one enormous piece of land with several houses. So when Scotty came home, I wanted to do everything he did. He had a mini dirt bike. So I wanted one. My grandfather made sure I had one that summer. Scotty & I zipped around that land like we owned it. We rode back deep into the woods & ate our picnic lunches (fluffer nutter sandwiches, chips & water). We swam in the pond. Basically, I was a lot less girly, because I did not want Scotty thinking I was a sissy getting in his way. I wanted to be cool enough for him to want to hang out with.

Occasionally, Scotty had other stuff to do so he wouldn’t be able to hang out.

That was when it began. Gradual touching. I was immediately uncomfortable with it. I began trying to avoid being alone with my grandfather. It was difficult though because it was just me, him & my grandmother. I remember asking my grandma to let me take her for a ride on my dirt bike. She said she was busy but to ask my grandfather. Surely, driving fast with the wind whipping through our hair as I steered this dangerous machine around the yard would be a safe place. No. It wasn’t. Surely innertubing in the pond with the whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins…) would be a safe place. No, not there either. He said to me “this is our little secret. Just between us. No one else gets to know about this.”

But I knew it was wrong. I don’t know how I knew but I did. The molestation continued for a while. Finally, I told my mom.

She flipped out.


As toxic for me as my mom is, she did have moments where she was solid. This was one. She never doubted or second guessed me. They put me in therapy immediately. Filed a report with CSB. Cut the entire family out of communication with him. My adopted dad met with him, offered him reunification if he sought counseling. He refused. I never saw him again except at a couple of funerals.

But what happened as a result of my declaration was not something any child should have to walk through. I was forced to testify against my grandfather to a panel of CSB workers to determine if there was enough evidence for charges. They determined there was not. Remember, “just” molestation so basically “just” heavy petting. My grandfather called me early on to tell me that everything would work out just fine. It didn’t. We didn’t get to go to family functions. So my younger sister screamed at me “YOU’VE RUINED OUR FAMILY!” Yup. I had. I had split it down the middle. 2 uncles broke away with us. My aunt’s family & my grandma standing by my grandfather.

That is quite a burden on a child. To be followed with years of silence among the family. His name & “the incident,” were taboo. No one discussed either. I walked around with the assumption that everyone felt the way my sister did. I remembered that he warned me not to tell. If I had listened, I would never have hurt so many people. My guilt turned to shame.

Ugly harmful burdensome shame.


As I grew up, I realized that, yes, I had split the family in half. But because I had, I had also saved most, hopefully all, of my younger cousins from enduring the same twisted fate with him. But the shame remained.

No one had ever told me I did the right thing. That I was brave. I understand that 35 years ago, sexual abuse wasn’t nearly as open a topic as it is now, so I don’t entirely blame my family for that. It is just where society was at that time. But for me, the shame remains.

Even today.

I’m not ashamed that I was abused. But that shame holds on in a way that warps my self worth. Probably because since that time, other people have heaped more shame on top of it & now it has become a mountain range of shame.


This past Friday night, I got to see one of my favorite speakers, Christine Caine, speak at a local church. She has a remarkable book titled “Unashamed.” (Read it. Now.) During her speaking engagement, she pulled out the Bible & referred to Genesis 2:25. She read it to the crowd.

“Adam & his wife were both naked & they felt no shame.”

She went on to explain that we were never created to feel shame. It says so right there in Genesis. We were never intended to be ashamed of who we are. Because, also according to the Bible, we are all created in the image of God. So regardless of our shape or size, we are in His image & we are perfect. Big nose, big boobs, tiny ears, big feet, bald…whatever we find imperfect on ourselves is still of God & He loves it-and us.  Many of the things we see within ourselves as flaws are actually gifts from God.

So if we weren’t created to feel shame, we need to work at pushing it away from our lives. Now, understand this. Shame & guilt are two different things. Guilt is conscience for bad behaviors. Shame tells us we are bad people (maybe for bad behaviors.) However, we are NOT the sum total of our choices. We have a past, we are not our past. Every second of every day we make decisions & we can completely turn our lives around in one second. Sure it may take longer than that to see the fruits, but the decisions we make can propel us towards a new life instantly.

Dr. Brene Brown has said “Guilt says I made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake.” See the difference? When we self talk from a place of shame, we feed that ugly beast within us more shame so he continues to grow & we continue to shrivel up.

The simple truth is that regardless of what we have done in our past, even our recent past of 2 minutes ago, we are still not the sum total of those choices. If they are bad, we obviously must face our consequences but that doesn’t require we stay on the bad choices path. Therefore, shame is a nasty lie we are told to keep us from fulfilling our God given destinies.

So, please bury this deep within your hearts: You are lovely, loveable, loved & there is no act you could do to separate yourself from the love of God. The shame you feel from your past is not from Him. 

Friends, love the uglies-yours. Work to recognize the shame lies inside & replace them with love truths.

Have a beautiful week.

Love,

Matilda.