Dirty {guest post}

Alia Joy writes so powerfully, and digs deep – each blog post is pure pleasure to read. I love her words and her story – both are full of raw beauty. This is her God and Suffering story and it is a privilege to host it:

***Trigger warning: this post has explicit references to sexual abuse. Some may find it painful to read.***

I choke back the pounding of my heart. Tears pricking through my lids cause my eyes to burn. And I sob, each gasp of breath heaving my body violently. I do not do this. Lose control in front of others. I can’t see through the blur as I wad the Kleenex tighter and try to catch the flow escaping my eyes and nose and pull away black streaked tissue, my mascara trailing black scars across my cheeks.


I am dirty. I have always been, as long as I can remember. I am broken. If you only knew, I whisper. I can tell my secrets to this stranger. I don’t have to face the drawing of her brows, knitting together her face in worry and concern. She has the diplomas on the wall. Swirling calligraphy and official looking emblems that assure me she is a professional. This chair has seen its share of tears and stories of dark places you don’t talk about in grocery lines or dinner parties.


I don’t have to worry that truth shared here will leave me feeling empty and torn and unable to package myself back together and go on. Because after I stop crying, I will throw away my tears with the dirty tissue, I will go home, wash my face, and start over.


She tells me I was a child, a baby really. I was victimized. But I don’t feel victimized because I let it happen. One scream, one sentence uttered into my parents ear would have stopped it all. But I did nothing.

I didn’t tell. When I was little. When the door closed behind me and he guided me gently across the room. When the curtains were pulled tight to the light and I felt a gentle tug at my pants. When I felt my underwear being pulled down and his finger pushing inside me. When he opened his fly and pulled out his penis. I trusted him. We played together. I looked up to him. He was like a brother. And I didn’t understand but I knew there was something wrong. I felt the burn as he jabbed his finger in further and I pulled away. And then it was over, until the next time. He never manipulated me not to tell with threats against my safety or my complicity in letting him do these things. He never even told me not to tell. It was like he believed that I wanted it as much as he did. And for that I grew to hate myself.


When we moved and it all stopped, I understood I was different.


I lay on the floor of the apartment we were staying looking through the window onto the red light district. Amsterdam’s streets festooned with glass doors and in each a prostitute. It looked like a boutique of Barbies in their shiny plastic and cardboard boxes lining the toy aisle. I watched a woman with heavy sagging breasts peeking through sheer lace and lingerie that pulled snug across her hips. She pantomimed against the glass, tossing her head back as her hand caressed down her belly and between her legs, luring the passing man into her door.


And I understood it. At 5, I already knew what happened when the men went in and closed the door drawing the thick curtains closed. My mother came by and pulled me back from my view. Drawing the curtains closed, I knew I was doing something bad. I remember mumbling something about how many colored cars were on the street and how I was watching them. I walked with heavy steps into the other room to play with my doll, the burden of shame would be mine for the rest of my life.


And I’ve carried this burden as my body developed, my 5th grade form in need of a bra. I carried it when I saw my first blood and knew my body was betraying me in womanhood. I carried it when I had my first real kiss and felt his tongue slip into my mouth and felt both nauseous and exhilarated. I carried it when I let boys touch me, but only in some places and only on my terms.


I would never be that foolish again, allowing someone to blindly lead me.


I refused sex with the ferocity of the best love waits campaigners but I didn’t understand that kind of love at all. My refusal and disgust had nothing to do with purity or holiness because I was already dirty. The only thing I could do was keep it from happening again. I carried it as my skirts got shorter and the neckline of my tops got lower, the top of my breasts pushed up as an offering. I carried it as I tapped into the power of making boys turn and look and then men.


And I understood there were two ways to become invisible. One was distraction. Who could see this broken little girl behind the pouty lips and cleavage? I was vamped up and sexual to the point of being nothing more than a stereotype. I wasn’t the used girl. I was the one in control. I was the one who called all the shots and used up others before they could tire of me.


The other was camouflage. There is no better way to hide in our society. No better way to become a faceless stereotype than to be an overweight woman. I had found the perfect insulation from sexuality and femininity. In marriage and faith, I had renounced the overt sexuality and provocative spirit of my youth and had embraced modesty while the pounds increased steadily year after year. I am the funny one. The smart one. The anything but sexual one. My shame cloaks my body and bulges at the back of my bra and over my waist and as my belly pushed out, full birthed shame.


My feet step lightly on the platform, as if placing my toes softly will negate the heaviness I feel, the heaviness I see in the mirror day after day. The number flickers like a slot machine and lands on 260. Shame.
But grace. I am finding it. I am learning the hard work of belief and trust and healing. I am shedding shame not with pounds lost but with prayers lifted. With days on my face in tears and gut clawing honesty of telling a true story.


I am finding my way to beauty. I talk about the hidden things in a real voice, not a whisper. I close my eyes and dream. I finger the clothes in my closet looking for a way to show the beauty I am finding in myself as God calls me deeper into healing and relationship. I lay back and let my husband love me, deep and true, stroking my hair back from my eyes, looking deep and telling me I’m beautiful. I’m beautiful.



Alia JoyAlia Joy is a cynical idealist, homeschool mama to three little ‘uns, wife to Josh, book wormy, coffee dependent, grace saved, writer of random musings and broken stories, collector of words, attempter of all things crafty, lover of mustard yellow, turquoise, Africa, and missions. She lives in Central Oregon and loves to visit big cities because there are no decent Indian,Moroccan, or Vietnamese restaurants close by. Maker-upper of words. Disliker of awkward introductions and writing in the third person. She blogs at narrowpathstohigherplaces.com and tweets @AliaJoyH.


Over to you:

  • Have you ever experienced that paralysing power of shame?
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    53 Responses to Dirty {guest post}

    1. Janice 5th March, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

      Oh Alia, I have no words at all. You are so brave and glorious to have shared this with us. You are such an inspiration to so many of us of bravery and honesty and love.

      Tanya, Thanks again for hosting this series on your blog. Really, it is so obvious from the comments that it is life-giving to so many people just to have suffering out in the open and being talked about.

      Huge hugs to both of you.

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:20 am #

        Thank you Janice. For reading and caring and for understanding suffering and still choosing to see beauty. I appreciate you.

      • Tanya 6th March, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

        Hugging you right back. X

    2. Mia 5th March, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      Dear AliaJoy
      Oh, dear one, how my heart cry for you! Thank you for sharing with us. It makes me understand you so much better. I am so glad that our Pappa God is leading you to the Higher Places of His love and healing!
      Much love

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:19 am #

        Thank you Mia, for taking the time to understand and reach out. Love to you.

    3. Jillie 5th March, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

      Dearest Alia…I know, Sister, I know. The loss of childhood. The loss of innocence. The shame. The burden of the shame. The sign borne on the back, reading, “Used goods”. The silent heart’s cry, “Does anybody see me? Won’t anybody help me?” And this one: “I. just. want. to. die.”

      And Tanya…”Thank you” for Alia’s voice here today. This is just plain raw honesty. Straight from the hip…into my gut. Even my tears are helping in some way to bring further healing. I believe that.

      • Pamela 6th March, 2013 at 12:14 am #

        To Jillie… you have said it for me.
        To Alia… Thank you for sharing your painful, yet joyous journey!
        To Tanya… Thank you for having Alia post on your page today.

        I know this, too, and I pray that God will continue to heal each of us that has suffered this way.
        May God Bless you all, and keep you– IN HIM. For He IS our comfort, our covering, and we have no shame before Him.?
        Love you all, In Jesus,

        • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:18 am #

          Thank you Pam. He is our comfort and covering. No more shame.

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:18 am #

        I cried through the entire time I wrote this piece and I’m crying now with you. You are not alone.

    4. Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth) 5th March, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your painful, painful story. Thank you for pushing toward healing. Thank you for setting people free with your words.

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:16 am #

        Thank you Mary. That means so much to me coming from you. So much of your writing has spoken to those same painful, shame filled places in me.

    5. Amy Tilson 5th March, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Oh Alia, I wish I could erase and embrace. You are such a precious heart to me. I am so sorry that your childhood was stripped away and traded for this heartbreak. You fill me with wonder as I read your words and know how you minister to so many with each brave new word you place on the screen. I pray for strength for you and offer you that same reminder to just look at your name. Joy is right there for you, right in the middle. Love you, friend!

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:15 am #

        Thank you Amy, for reading and for praying for me. Yes, my name. Thank you, friend. Seeing joy these days, more and more.

    6. Jennifer Peterson 5th March, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      Aww shame, the enemies lies to keep us from grasping the love and grace of God. I know shame but I know God’s love and grace and healing more. This is beautiful, like you! Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:13 am #

        Thank you Jennifer for reading and for being a voice of support and grace.

    7. Joy Lenton 5th March, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Yes, dear sister, I have been in your shoes. I know what it is to be sexually abused in childhood and to carry the stigma and shame around like an invisible cloak I want to hide within. I know the confusion over how to behave appropriately in a sexual context and despairing over blossoming womanhood I neither wanted or welcomed, despairing too over the feeling that nothing could wash away this dirty secret. Yet, I also know what it means to release these feelings to the right person, to be counselled effectively, to be loved by a man of tremendous grace and understanding, to have cleansing, grace and a Love beyond measure revealed to me in trusting God with my shame and pain.
      There is hope, healing, forgiveness, restoration and renewal in Jesus. These things may happen quickly and completely, or they can take a lifetime and never be there in full measure – but they are still ours in Christ. There is comfort from sharing of story and knowing we are not alone. There is freedom in the release of the shame and being true to yourself.
      You are beautiful, Alia Joy. You are clean. You are made new. You are dearly loved. You are strong. You are powerful in Him. Never forget it. Blessings and peace to you always.

      • Jillie 5th March, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

        Miss Joy Lenton…I absolutely love your response here to Alia Joy! And to me. For I feel your words are meant for me as well. This issue is, bar none, the most difficult, painful, challenging obstacle in my life. I despair that I’ll ever be right and whole again in this life of mine. Some wounds run so deep, there seems to be no healing of them. They remain open, festering just there below the surface. I am broken.
        I know Him who IS Hope, yet I often wonder just “how many years” is this going to take before I can walk with head up? Healed? Restored to wholeness? Living the kind of victorious life I’m supposed to? Will I always be bent and broken?

        • Joy Lenton 5th March, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

          Dear Jillie, (and Tanya too for graciously allowing us to have this discussion), the fact that I could read and reply to this post is a huge sign of how far I have come along the road to recovery. Yet, shadows from the past linger on, wounds and scars remain and probably always will to some extent or other. It has taken me all my adult life to achieve the degree of emotional healing I have gained. Each person’s situation is complex and will vary greatly from another’s and each person’s path to recovery will vary too. I despaired of ever finding peace. My abuser died before I was capable of confronting or forgiving him.
          Five years ago, following many, many years of counselling, I finally found the ability to forgive, by God’s grace. I was also greatly helped in the process by reading ‘Yesterday’s Child’ by Mary Pytches, ‘Beauty for Ashes’ and ‘Battlefield of the Mind’ by Joyce Meyer and ‘Breaking Free’ by Beth Moore. It makes a huge difference simply knowing we are not alone in our struggles to overcome a painful past or strongholds in our minds.
          Keep believing that you can forgive, break free, release the pain and find a measure of healing and strength to live as an Overcomer. With God on our side we can achieve the seemingly impossible. Stay in faith, my friend. He is faithful. Broken vessels serve to allow the light of Christ to break through and shine more strongly to others. Blessings, prayers and peace to you.

        • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:12 am #

          Oh Jillie, I am heartbroken at the pain you express as I know it so well. How long, Lord? I still ask myself that as old wounds I thought were once healed break open anew and manifest again and again in other ways. And each time, I do believe God allows that wound to be opened to excise a bit more of the pain and bring healing. For some it may come all at once, but more often, and for me as well, it’s been a long steady journey in the same direction. We lean in hard to God for our broken places and trust in a redeemer who is faithful to heal. Not always as fast as we’d like and not always as fully as it would seem we need but I do know that for me the past few years have been a deep searching into the impact these things have had on my life and a surrender to what God can do with them. Broken and bent and all, there is beauty here. I am proof.

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:07 am #

        Thank you so much for your encouragement, Joy. I am so sorry that you too can relate to that kind of pain and shame but I am so glad to hear that it has been a process of healing and wholeness too. I have come to Christ each year a little more whole and I know it is only his grace that makes it so. Glad to know I am not alone, and sad to know it is that way for so many. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

        • Tanya 6th March, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

          I don’t really have the words… I am teary just reading this conversation – I weep for the things that were stolen from you and the unfairness of the pain of it all, and I weep at the beauty I see in you three.

    8. idelette 5th March, 2013 at 8:17 am #

      You are brave and beautiful and one heck of a writer, Alia Joy. It both maddens and saddens me that you had to go through this, but I am grateful for how Grace is now woven through your words. Yes, I know shame. A different story, but I know the greasy tentacles of shame. Do I want different for women and girls on our earth now–YES. Am I thankful for how Jesus has met me so tenderly and powerfully in my pain and shame? Absolutely.

      Cheering you on and every one of us girls who gets to take off our garments of shame and put on praise and strength. Much Love. xo

      • Alia Joy 6th March, 2013 at 12:04 am #

        Thank you. Shame is so common and comes in different forms and the only real way to extinguish it is step out of darkness into light. Thankful for such a beautiful community to do it in.

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