The survivor of an abusive sexual relationship has written a powerful essay about her experience for On Faith.
The pseudonymous Marie Jensen writes:
I’d thought of it as a twisted relationship, emotionally abusive, but I still would have used the word “affair.” But as things began to untangle in my brain, here’s what I started to wonder:
After an affair, do the guilty parties cut themselves with knives to make tangible sense of their pain? Do they suffer from symptoms of PTSD? Do they have nightmares for the rest of their lives? Every time the phone rings and someone hangs up or — worse — breathes on the other end of the line, do participants in an affair assume it’s that other person, even twenty years later?
Do they startle to the point of tears at a three-year-old’s boo? Do they develop debilitating chronic illness?
Do participants in an affair leave the church for years despite a deep love of Jesus that has somehow miraculously survived? When they finally find the courage to return, do they have a full-fledged panic attack when asked to serve on the church’s vestry? They may have found a church their children love, where they feel mostly safe, but church leaders? They are never safe.
Marie writes that her rapist is still a church leader, and still preaching to teenage girls. She has told her story to the people who have hired him at various points in her church career to no effect.
What can the Episcopal Church learn from Marie’s story?