Friday, August 11, 2017

Leila's Story, Part Two

This is Part Two of Leila’s Story, a guest post. (For Part One, go here.)

In college, I blossomed. I created friendships with people from all walks of life, and debated subjects I had never been able to before. I began to attend regular therapy and am slowly healing from the emotional scars I carried around and hid for so long. While I felt guilt over causing my mother pain (a year later my father left the church, and my parents separated), I determined my own happiness was more important than going home. 

I began modeling, a huge boost to my self-esteem. I knew at last that my non-Scandinavian features did not make me any less attractive. 

I happened to fall in love with the most amazing man which was and remains the deepest, most genuine feeling I have ever experienced.

Two years ago, I graduated with a Masters in Economics (at the top of my class!). After graduation, my boyfriend and I moved to Portland, where I built a new relationship with my family. My mother may never accept my decision to leave the church, but I love her deeply, and — if her faith makes her happy, that is all I care about. I simply do not discuss religion with her.

This fall, I will start law school, and prepare for a field that is frowned upon in the OALC but which my peers and professors consider a good match for me, with my skills in rational-thinking and problem-solving. The adventures ahead excite me.

I feel free. The constant fear of hell has been lifted. 

Personally, I am no longer religious by any definition, but turn my beliefs towards science and the search for solid evidence before forming a decision. I believe in the need to continually educate oneself on the current world; the urge to gain knowledge is a very important part of personal growth and belief. However, I do not want to portray a message of hatred or bitterness towards the OALC community. Many are amazing, loving individuals, and I fully believe everyone should be able to practice whatever faith brings them satisfaction. My personal experience does not speak to all members. 

While my choice to leave was a painful and heartbreaking journey, it was the best decision I've ever made. I gained self-confidence, genuine friendships, and constant positive reminders from a community of people who are open to the idea that anything they hold as truth can change, given new information. I encourage anyone who feels trapped or has experienced any form of abuse to reach out to people on this blog, or anywhere in life. I am always open to talk if anyone were to want.

To those who remain the church, know that my decision to leave is concrete. I will never return. If you want to say I have "lost my faith" or how sad you are for me, you are more than welcome to; your opinions do not bother me anymore. The OALC is by all definitions a cult, and those who deny sexual abuse exists (and is covered up) are lying. I fear for their children. The denial is also extremely offensive to anyone, anywhere, who has experienced abuse. Aside from the moral aspects, abusers are dangerous and not reporting them is illegal. 

What happened to the person who abused me? He died without ever being required to atone for what he did.

With my law degree, I hope to bring sexual offenders to justice and make more people aware of the pervasiveness of covered-up sexual abuse. No child should experience the isolation and helplessness I did! 

Without books, I may not have survived this far. I am glad I did, and I am glad I can share my story, and remind people that everyone is important. You matter, you are beautiful in any form, and help is out there, so never give up. 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to talk to me in the comments section.

Leila

3 comments:

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  2. You are badass. Keep going and don't stop! Success is the best revenge.

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  3. Leila, The higher your education level the more you will see the absurdity of modern day Laestadianism. I refer to it as 'modern day Laestadianism' as I do not think the original intent was to keep people dumbed down and living in fear of a vengeful God. However, that was the message that was delivered to the backwoods hicks of that time period. Unfortunately, modern Laestadianism has attempted to keep itself isolated from mainstream life and subsequently has ignored changes and progress in technology and human understanding. Hence, they still try to hang onto the religious concepts of 150 years ago despite church members now living on a different continent and in a post agrarian and post industrial age. So your decision to leave was not only the best one it was the ONLY one as you would have been pounding your head against a rigid doctrine for the rest of your life. You mentioned you had 'non Scandinavian features' and how your church friends pointed this out at times. Well I was one of those Finns who did fit in feature-wise, but I realized that there was a strong under-current of racism amongst many within the Laestadian movement. I even hear comments such as the 'Laestadian Movement was only meant for the Finns' and that non-Finns should NOT be invited to the services. So there definitely was a 'Finn-Swede-Norwegian' centric outlook on things. As far as your history of abuse...I would say there are many cases. A feature of cults is that they maintain an rigid outer shield towards anyone outside the group but within the group basically anything goes. That feature helps explain why there is a fairly high incidence of sexual/physical/emotional abuse within the group/families which is frowned upon but accepted, while at the same time there is rigid enforcement of not reporting the abuse to outside authorities who could actually do something about it. When an abuser can be pronounced 'forgiven' it basically makes the problem go away thus maintaining the status quo that, 'we live in a blessed Christianity'. Many Laestadians believe that mental illness/depression is somehow possession by an evil spirit or the devil. Thus your emotional issues over your abuse were probably regarded as possession at some level by some or because of unrepented anger by others. Either way it was a lose-lose situation for you. You are on the right track having escaped from the asylum and publicly exposing the hypocrites for what they really are. Keep on going and do not look back. Old AP

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