A Lesson I Didn’t Know I Needed to Learn

One person specifically sticks out to me when I think about who has changed me. This person changed me in many small ways over the summer while we worked together, and during the times when we went to college together. However, there was one night in particular where she impacted me in a huge way. She changed me, whether or not I realized it then, but in a large, impacting way, it changed my life. It changed how I walked, how I talked, and how I saw myself. It changed how I let people treat me, how I stood up for myself, and how much value I put on my emotions. This transformation was definitely for the better, and it’s all because of what she taught me especially on particular night. Serah Wright taught me that I was beautiful and deserving of love.

Three summer I worked at a summer camp, Penn-York Camp, which I had been a camper at for eleven years. Three summers ago however, I decided to become staff. I did this because I wanted to grow in my faith and learn more from the people I worked with. I’m glad I did, because the past few years before working there had been disheartening. Between ex-boyfriends who had me believing I’d never be loved again and just general teenage insecurities, my self-esteem was practically nonexistent. It held me back from being the person I wanted to be. I looked at people and thought I wasn’t good enough. These insecurities grew and grew. Once I had one, I attracted multiple. I became shy, quiet, and withdrawn. I began to have anxiety attacks and was worried about everything. I was terrified that I was alone and that no one would love me. Camp helped with some of the anxiety. Camp let me just forget about myself and instead be there for my campers and the rest of the staff members. This was great most of the time, it taught me to be a little less selfish, however, it wasn’t until one night during the last week of camp that I realized something. I couldn’t just put my low self-esteem behind me anymore. I couldn’t just forget about it, because it was still there in the back of my head. Even if it wasn’t apparent, it was still damaging to me. It was damaging and it needed to be fixed.

It was the last of the six weeks of camp, everyone’s favorite. The last week every year is teen week, and it’s everyone’s favorite for many reasons. For one, we didn’t have to carefully watch over each camper to make sure they won’t eat the glue or manage to stab themselves with kid-safe scissors. We didn’t have to walk them to the bathroom either, or make sure they wipe like they’re supposed to. Another reason was that we could connect to them because they were closer in age to us. The main reason everyone loves teen week though? Every year the camp brings in an amazing Christian speaker, as Penn-York Camp is a Christian camp. This was great because we don’t have to stress over writing sermons like we usually did, and we get to listen to someone who knew what they were doing. That year it Karl Hoyer. Karl was a friendly guy, which made it seem like he was talking directly to you in his sermons. His sermons were heart wrenching, and he had an alter call every night, which is where people go up to the alter to be saved, prayed over, or just to have alone time with God – usually they’re pretty emotional. Because his sermons were so thought provoking, and Karl was so easy to relate to, the sermons really struck a chord in many of the listeners. He talked about following God, but not just saying that we should, but that it wasn’t easy. He talked about the hard stuff, and how it’s really not physical, it’s mental, and there is always a mental war going on.

Everyone else other than me really related to the sermons about it being a mental war. This meant that every night my friends and my campers were overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit. They’d be up front at the end of chapel, standing or on their knees, but always always sobbing. I’d be right there with them. I held them and prayed for them because I didn’t know what else to do. The thing was, I could help them to the best of my ability. I would wipe their tears, hold them, or pray for them. Whatever I could try to do for them, but that didn’t mean I could help myself. I had no idea what God wanted to tell me, because I felt like He was trying to tell me something. I didn’t know what my mental war was. I knew something was wrong in my life, but I didn’t know what. I prayed, and I didn’t really get any clue. Not until Serah anyways.

Thursday night was the last full day with our campers and I was doing the same thing, going from person to person, holding them. That night was even more emotional than all the other nights. Not only was it the last night, but it was one of the best sermons. This meant almost everyone was crying. My friend Serah was on her knees being held and prayed over, and I knew this was because she was going through a really rough time as she just gotten kicked out of her house. I was able to be with her for some of it, but I was with my campers most of the night. Then I stood up to take a quick moment to myself. I was praying to myself, wondering what God wanted to tell me, or if there really was anything. Wondering why I wasn’t filled like everyone else, or having great revelations. As I walked to grab some more tissues for my campers, I was stopped by Serah. She stood before me with a slightly embarrassed and maybe a little confused look on her face. She took me by the shoulders and said “Bethany, I don’t know why, but I’ve had this feeling that God wants me to tell you that you are beautiful.”

I think I must have tensed up and avoided eye contact when she said that, because she made me look her in the eyes. I didn’t want look into her blue eyes, but she made me, and when I did, all I saw in them was earnest determination. Then she repeated herself, “Bethany, you are beautiful.” That time, it broke me. Tears started welling up in my eyes, they stung, but she just kept going. Over and over she repeated that I was beautiful. I hugged her, crying, but still she didn’t stop. Serah was so determined to get it into my brain. She kept saying it until I was sobbing, tears streaming down my face and into my mouth, keeping a salty taste on my tongue. Soon, my knees gave out, and I held onto Serah to stay up. Somehow though, we still ended up on the floor with me in her lap.

Even then Serah didn’t stop telling me exactly what I needed to hear, even if I didn’t know I needed it. She held me in her lap and hugged me to her chest. I was in hysterics by that point, and I knew that people were staring. I couldn’t see them through my swollen eyes, still I knew people were watching, but I couldn’t stop crying. Usually my fear of being watched and judged would have sobered me up, but this time it didn’t. Back and forth she rocked me, still talking to me. “You are beautiful and deserve to be loved.” She kept telling me this. She called me baby, darling, and sweetie, as she just held me. I clung to her like I was a child.

I felt disgusting. Snot was running out of my nose, and getting everywhere. I felt disgusting and beautiful at the same time. Serah let my wipe my nose with her rough sweater. Even that was significant to me. I was messed up, I was disgusting, but still, she loved me and held me. When I wailed and was so sure I must be annoying, she called me beautiful. She sat there with me until I was calm again, still whispering to me how beautiful I was.

Before that I was worried that I couldn’t hear God’s voice. That fear changed that night though. I heard God, even though it came through the mouth of a short-haired twenty-one year old girl. I heard it when she came over to me to say something she wasn’t even sure I needed to hear, and honestly it wasn’t something I wasn’t sure I believed. Everything about that moment was amazing to me. Serah was going through a rough time on her own. She was going through a much worse time even. She should have taken care of herself, she should have let someone hold her. Instead, to her, I was important. I was important enough that even though she wasn’t sure if I needed to hear it, that she took the chance. I figured out what my mental war was, and I wasn’t going to let it destroy me anymore. I was important. I was beautiful. I was loved.

Even after that night Serah wouldn’t let me forget it. She started a thing where she would look me in the eye and tell me that I was beautiful, until I could hold her gaze and believe it. Serah taught me so many things, like how to stand up for myself. She taught me to be open-minded, caring, but most of all, she taught me that I was beautiful. It wasn’t even just her words, it was the way that she cherished me.

Being beautiful was a big deal for me. Being told that I deserved to be loved was huge. It altered how I saw myself. Before that night, I was scared, even if I didn’t show it, I was timid. I was afraid of how people looked at me. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid that I would never be enough. I was afraid to fight for myself because I didn’t think I was worth it. Serah showed me otherwise. It was amazing, this girl who I didn’t get along with before that ummer, became the reason I am now more confident. Serah is the reason I don’t let people walk over me anymore, because I believe I am more than that. She is the reason I had the courage to stand up for myself after being sexually assaulted. I will always keep this instance in mind because life is hard. People may say I’m ugly or that I’m not worth it, but Serah taught me otherwise. I’ll never forget that.

Even though we don’t always see it, someone else does. We are beautiful creations that deserve to be loved. We are beautiful and as I Christian, I need to believe God doesn’t create mistakes, including myself. We should walk with confidence, because whether we know it or not, we are something special. Sometimes we believe that we are a mistake. But that’s not true – we are beautiful works of art. Sometimes we just need to hear it, and that’s what friends are for. Everyone could do with having a person like Serah Wright in their life, because everyone deserves to feel beautiful.

Bethany 

Tuesday Truth

It didn’t hit me until today that I’ve been super shitty. Almost two years ago I was sexually assaulted by someone at college. He was my boyfriend for awhile. Last year I reported him for sexual assault.

But I forgot. I didn’t realize. There was a couple other girls who he assaulted but only one other who would go forward.

And I’m shitty because I forgot it had an impact on her. All I could think about was how having two of us might get me justice. That’s so disgusting. He sexually assaulted her too. I only thought of myself although the reason I went forward was because I heard about the multiple other girls.

But during it all…and after the fact…I forgot she was feeling how I felt. I forgot she was also let down by the justice system because he faced no charges. I forgot she was also let down by our college because they found him not guilty even when there was proof and admission from him.

And I think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. I feel so so shitty..and I’ve apologized to her and she’s fine with it but I feel like so much shit right now.

I think I almost feel worse than I did after I realized he assaulted me. Because how could I ignore and invalidate another survivor. I’ve been through this before so I know what it’s like, so how could I do that to someone else. How could i be so selfish…I could have done so much more…and I didn’t.

The Truth of the Monster

I thought I had found the man, third time’s the charm right?

You looked at me with something in your eyes – something other than lust.

Wanting something more than domination, manipulation, and control.

But you ripped me apart, leaving a bloody mess.

 

I became yours for the taking – I felt dirty.

You never asked for consent and you didn’t stop when I said no.

Only physical force saved me – my physical force.

Once again I was violated by a man who wanted to be a pastor.

 

I blamed myself for every girl after me – every one who you hurt next.

But I wouldn’t let the monster of what you did escape from my lips.

I wouldn’t let the bile rise up – I swallowed it down.

I prayed that the others are fine and that no more will be hurt.

 

I justified what you did to me and to them.

Over and over I justified the things you did.

But then some days my head is clear from your grasp.

And I know – I know that what you did can’t be justified.

 

So one day my mind was crystal clear.

And I made my choice in that clarity.

Phone calls were made and cars were borrowed.

A long night in the police station after hours.

 

So I told – I opened my mouth and the monster came out.

The dark mess came out slowly, then all at once, like bile I couldn’t keep down.

I told the police but I didn’t want charges.

I wanted a record for those after me, for those who might come.

 

But then I went back and I told home – our home – yours and mine.

Because even there I needed there to be a something for those to come after me.

I knew there were some to come – I was the frontrunner.

I was the trailblazer for those hurt by you.

 

I told and the monster came out in our home.

Bile rising up – tears pouring out.

I spoke those words you begged me not to.

The truth burned out – I don’t know if even I could have stopped them.

 

In the end even you – even you admitted it.

No punishments happened to you, not a single one.

And I was the one who received the backlash.

Maybe that was the truth of the monster.

Bethany

Today

Today my rapist is to be married. Today the world comes crashing down. Today he wins. Today he beats me.

Marriage is something I’ve always wanted. I want that sort of love. I want to wake up next to someone and just..love. Love without worrying if they think I’m overly attached. I want to love someone with everything I have and I want to be loved in return.

But somehow, somehow, my rapist is the one who is getting married first. Somehow he gets to be happy while I’m suffering and having flashbacks. He changed my life and I wasn’t even a wrinkle in his.

Bethany

Don’t Get Too Close: It’s Dark Inside

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When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

– Imagine Dragons

So my anger and pain finally caught up to me and I wrote “to” the guy who sexually assaulted me and who I tried to get justice against. I feel like a horrible person. I feel crazy. I feel ridiculous. But this is what’s inside. My pain and my horrid disgusting inability to forgive. My problem with playing victim. My demons. So here they are; no more hiding.

Letters to Carson: Day 1 through Day 40

#ProjectBandTogether

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So a wonderful person started this thing called #projectbandtogether because one of her friends was bullied for wearing a headband. This hashtag is a way for the stories of those who have been bullied to share their stories and know that they are not alone. I also wanted to let people know that I won’t be returning to Houghton College. This explains some of that.
So I’m here to tell you mine, and maybe some will think it’s over sharing. I don’t think so. I want people to know that these things happen. These things happen in college. They happen from a young age. They can affect you. I honestly cannot remember a time in my life that I was not struggling with bullying. I also love headbands so this project is definitely something I wanted to be involved in, although it took me quite awhile to type this up because I’m at camp. So here it goes, it’s a long one friends.
I can’t even remember what the earliest instance was. Whether it was my “best friend” making fun of me and telling me I was fat, ugly, annoying, unlovable, and making me self-conscious about the size of my breasts, or older guys making fun of my wild hair. Some would go as far as to tell me that I was “uglier than a horse’s ass” even though I didn’t know them well. Older boys at my brother’s soccer games would shove me around and poured Gatorade down my shirt while calling me ugly. No matter what age I can always remember guys and girls telling me I looked like shit.
Sometimes this would go as far as to include the people who liked me. People who liked me even just as friends were laughed at because they liked me. My childhood “best friend” would manipulate situations and friendships for a worse outcome for me. Often this included her lying to people and trying to date every guy I liked, in turn this lost me a lot of friends and thought that I just wasn’t good enough.
It didn’t stop there with friends though. I would call emotional abuse an extreme extent of bullying, which is something I experienced from some of my exes. One would constantly tell me I was ugly and that no one other than him would ever love me. I was often told by him how lucky I was to have him. When he left he told me I was only worth my breasts. He was degrading, sexist, and verbally abusive. His next girlfriend constantly posted about me, calling me ugly and crazy, and got my old youth group to join in as well. They named the youth group bus the “I hate Bethany Bus.”
So I left that friend group. It helped that I moved, and I thought everything was great. It was for awhile, I met a great guy and we started dating. The problem was after our relationship that the bullying and abuse appeared. He was abusive and malicious, putting me down in every way, and mess with my mental instability. At the end he told me had been trying to get me to kill myself. Why? To see if he could.
So I’ve faced a lot. And though I’ve faced a lot of bullying – never have I experienced it quite like I did while at Houghton College.
Walking into Houghton College I was bullied. I was bullied for the guy I had dated who was a local. I was bullied and gossiped about for the action I took against him with my college. Then…Yik Yak happened. If you don’t know what Yik Yak is, it’s a lovely location based app for college students to post anonymously. Sounds like a grand idea yeah? Nothing could possibly go wrong. Right?
Freshman year I picked up what we call a yik yak name, “Red.” Which makes it easier for people to pick you out on campus (it helps that Houghton is small and I’m one of the few people with red hair.) This name was originally started up by someone being nice to me – but very quickly did I become one of the people Houghton’s Yik Yak focused on – and not in a good way. The posts varied from talking about how ugly I was, how annoying I was, how weirdly I walked, what a bitch I was, how I needed to leave campus, how fat I was, and a couple times talking about and making fun of me being raped and my sexual assault. I was called damaged goods. I was called a liar. I was told to kill myself.
There were times I was afraid to leave my room. There were times I was too embarrassed to leave my room. There were times I would get depressed. There were times I would get suicidal.
I’m here to tell you that this is not okay. I have not had it the worst – not by a long shot. That is not okay. No one should hate themselves. No one should be subjected to destructive words. No one should reach a point where they want to stop living.
But I’m getting through it. I’m doing things that I need to do to be healthy. I’m trying to cope. I’m trying to separate myself from the toxic things. But I need you all to know something.
There are good people. You need these people.There are people who will support you. There are people who will fight for you. It is not an easy thing to overcome on your own. I don’t know if I could have done it without my friends.
While circumstances outside of my control are holding me back from returning to Houghton next semester, my friends have encouraged me to do what’s best for me. My friends do not want me to return to Houghton, because they know the toll it’s taken on me. (Spoiler! one of them is Liv) They know how toxic Houghton and some of it’s students were to me. My friends have fought for me through every step of the way. They have protected me and held me up. I would not be here without them, even the little things have saved me. I don’t even think they know how much their little things were huge to me. Asking me to eat with them? A hug? Being complimented? It meant the world to me.
Be like them. Be the person who protects others. Be the person who helps. Be the person who encourages. Be the person that stops bullying it’s tracks.
-Bethany