When I was fifteen, I ran away from home. I refused to go to church one Sunday, packed a little backpack, and left. It wasn’t a great day, and I ended up going to the house of some people I trusted. I poured out the story of what home was like, and why it made me run. The youngest daughter of the household has also experienced the nasty side of my stepmother, having been verbally abused and pushed down the stairs when we were looking after her after school so she wouldn’t be home alone. I thought these people might understand.
They turned me back over to my father.
This family knew what was going on, and they didn’t do anything to help. I suspect that perhaps some ‘counseling’ was done within the church, and my stepmother probably prayed for forgiveness (well, maybe) and patience (because everyone knows that abuse happens because children just try your patience so much). That’s the way it was done in my church. You were also supposed to get the forgiveness of the one you wronged, but that couldn’t be checked up on. So, in all likelihood, she got her divine atonement, Jesus’ blood covered it, and she was off again. The abuse would continue for another six months or so, until she threw me out.
This family betrayed my trust. They sentenced me to continue in an abusive home. They enabled my stepmother to go on as she had. And they stayed as ‘close friends’ of my family. The way they treated us didn’t change even though they knew what was going on.
To be fair, I look back on what I knew of them and realised that there was probably a good dollop of abuse going on there as well, mind games and overly harsh punishments. Perhaps I went to the wrong place to look for help.
A week or so ago, I get a friend alert on Facebook. The father of that family wanted to be Facebook friends with me. And it plunged me into a world of pain and confusion. All I could think of was how they didn’t help me when I needed them. Eventually I resurfaced, and began to think on what this all meant to me.
I haven’t spoken to him for more than ten years. I have become an outspoken atheist, a supporter of equal rights and abortion access. I am the polar opposite of what he still is – a ‘man of god’ who fasts and prays, and whose Facebook posts always start with a bible quote. I have absolutely no commonalities with him any more. The feelings he stirred up in me belong to the past, and I do not like the way that he managed to stir them up.
He is the second person from that church to add me in the last few months. I want nothing to do with that part of my past, and every time someone requests friendship, it takes me back to those memories.
What does being Facebook friends with someone who hurt you in the past mean? I guess it means either that you have forgiven them, or you have another motive for it – revenge? masochism? I don’t know.
I declined the request. I want nothing to do with that world any more.