You can’t know. I think back, often. I wonder if I could have changed things. I don’t think I could have. I couldn’t have known. Nothing said plainly “evil. Beware!” The evil comes later, when you can’t stop it or do anything.

I have the gift of discernment, and I didn’t even have any idea. Maybe it should have been a clue that he’d sexually abused a woman before me (he led her into it. He picked the location, and did what he did. If I’m remembering properly. She wasn’t a Christian). But people change, and he seemed to recognize it as wrong, and to have had a change of heart. I’m so thankful I knew very well what manipulative guys looked like, because that’s the only thing that saved me.

They can have two faces. The “public,” and the “just you two.” I shouldn’t have trusted him, but everyone around me trusted him, so that’s why I chose to.

I hope you and I can get to a point of healthy trust. I think we will. It’s just going to take time. Going on backpack trips with my scout brothers honestly helped. They would never even think of doing anything like that. They’d be the ones dealing with the guy who tried anything, because that’s who they are. I’d trust them anywhere, honestly. Teenage years? Car rides after dark, goofing off in the summer. Backpacking for miles on end. They are my brothers. And my family.

And him? My ex? Everything that should have made me feel safe in the realm of physical touch was just to accustom me to what he wanted to do to me. That’s the “grooming.” It seems like folly, when you think you should have known better. But when you’re innocent you just can’t know better. You trust them, and let them lead you.

Everything he did was to push me a bit further. He was so good with words too. Very good with words. The control was awful too. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t live. My life didn’t belong to me anymore. I guess that’s another reason I’m having such a tough time letting you into my life. I’m so used to domineering, and manipulation, and getting hurt when I didn’t obey.

I didn’t even recognize it as sexual abuse until a few years later, when I was reading a book for a gal friend.

The shame is there though. That’s why, at fellowship when you were smiling and I felt valued, and then you waved goodbye, I was sure there was absolutely no way. I had no idea, but God did. It’s a miracle I felt comfortable telling you my stories. I guess I knew when you weren’t going to judge me, and that you encouraged me about “more to the story,” I knew I was okay. Trust. I guess it’s all about trust.

They hurt your soul too. A lot. He wasn’t rough, because I was stronger than him, but the manipulation was pretty awful. And kissing. He lied. A lot of guys have lied to me over the years. Trust issues there too; not keeping their word. He used the kissing to abuse me a lot (things you don’t want to talk about or remember). He was just using me to make himself feel good. Just an object, for his personal pleasure. Dishonoring, abusive, confusing, sick to your stomach.

The fact that it happened in my own house, where I should have been safe, makes it worse. I have trust issues. I guess things like that teach you that bad things can happen, even when there are other people around. It’s going to take me time to get past that.

And trust. I thought he was serious about me. At that point, I thought I could see the relationship moving in that direction. So, I allowed the kissing. Afterward, I felt ruined. Because what godly Christian guy in their right mind would want me? When that Christian guy a couple of summers ago befriended me, that lie got implanted deeper in my heart. I was dirt, in his eyes, because of what my ex had done to me. I was worthless as a human being. Chaff. You could blow on him, and he’d blow away. But he left a mark on me too. Deep hurt.

These are the stories that are hard to tell. I will tell them, but how people look at you afterward is hard. Especially when it’s people who have known you your whole life. I guess I know what it will do, but I’m going to do it anyway. It’s mostly for my middle school girls. I want them to know what’s out there. So, I’ve written them all a book, with all different kinds of stories (but not glossing over the hard ones). I wanted you to know all the stories first. Courage is hard. I’ve waited on finishing that book, so you’d know the stories first.

I don’t think any human being has the power to destroy a person. The devil can try his handiwork, and then watch it all come undone by a God who loves His people endlessly. She did not destroy you. She did not even mar you, because you’re still loving and kind and selfless. The wounding is there, but wounds can be healed up. It is happening. You were reliving it (in a healthy way). I was watching you. I can see the healing. I wrote like God asked me to, and then I got to sit back and watch Him do the work. The shame is going away too. You can keep your head up. I know the feeling, but you can keep your head up.

It always leaves mark though. Have you seen them on me? It’s hard, letting you within five feet of me. I just sort of tense up. I’m still struggling with the concept of just you and me, without a crowd of people. I didn’t wave back, that one time. I figured you deserved someone without scars, so I left you with your own peers. Seeing any patterns?

Sometimes I try to step into your shoes and see the world through your eyes. When I’m given a glimpse, I am thankful, because then I understand better. It’s okay to feel. And, sometimes, I think remembering (with God) can help cleanse. Our stories are part of our essence; our history. That’s why my own writings are so important to me. They are my history, and my heart and soul. You still like me, after reading all of them, and that’s what I was looking for.

Sometimes stories ease, and make things better. We are very loved.