I Was A Problem To Be Ignored: Krysi Kovaka’s Story, Part Two

I Was A Problem To Be Ignored: Krysi Kovaka’s Story, Part Two

Krysi Kovaka is the 2008 recipient of the Institute for Cultural Communicator’s Raudy Bearden Community Speaking Award. She served as an intern for the 2008 Communicators for Christ conference tour.

< Part One

I was a problem to be ignored.

At a post conference party in Texas, I met a man who used to be part of the NCFCA/CFC scene.  He was well into his twenties and I was seventeen.  We talked for a bit and ended up exchanging numbers.  Our relationship happened mostly via text and IM, and it was a case of trouble attracting trouble.  We never dated, but our relationship was really creepy and weird.  One night after I had taken loads of my Xanax and other meds, he drunk texted me and over the course of several hours, ended up talking me into sending him naked pictures of myself.  Despite this creepiness, I ended up disclosing a lot of my life’s story to him and I told him about my father abusing me.  He really encouraged me to tell Mrs. Moon about the abuse.  A few weeks later we ended up sexting again – eventually my mom found out about him and threatened to have him put behind bars if he ever talked to me again.

Towards the end of tour, I really started to fall apart (as if I wasn’t falling apart before.)  I started to stress about having to return home.  Things got so bad that I did end up telling Mrs. Moon and several of the other interns about my father molesting me.  I don’t know what an appropriate reaction is when a teenager tells you that her father molested her, but what happened was far from a right response.  We were at a conference in TN when I told Mrs. Moon about the abuse, and she had me tell my two younger brothers about the abuse, and then she had me tell my mother.  My memory of this conference is pretty fragmented, but I remember crying a lot and feeling absolute horror about what was going on around me.

At the time, I really didn’t have words to describe the abuse.  People kept badgering me and asking me questions about exactly what happened, but I was in no emotional state to talk about it.  I felt like I was on the verge of having a mental breakdown.  My behavior got more and more erratic and shortly after I told my family about the abuse, Mrs. Moon kicked me off tour.

We were in Pigeon Forge, TN and Mrs. Moon told me that she had asked my mother to drive down to TN to pick me up.  I would not be able to finish the last two weeks of tour.  Apparently, she had finally realized that I was in no condition to be on tour.  The Moons had a goodbye breakfast for me at a little diner in Pigeon Forge.  At this breakfast, I said goodbye to all the people who had been like family to me.  The Moons promised that they would stay in touch with me and help me and that if I ever needed to talk about anything that I could call.

I was completely numb at that breakfast.  I cried a lot and I remember several of the other interns crying.  Very few of them really understood what was happening or why I had to leave.  I hardly understood why I had to leave – in a way, I felt like I was being punished for speaking up about the abuse.  I was on vacation last week, and I ended up driving through Pigeon Forge – to this day I hate that place.

After being kicked off the internship, I didn’t return home.  I went to live with some family friends until my mom decided to divorce my father.  Life got really rough after that.  I attempted suicide again just a couple months after leaving tour.  I also started drinking all the time and I started using more prescription drugs.  I felt like my whole world had crumbled.  The following is an excerpt from an email I wrote to Mrs. Moon the day I left tour:

“Saying goodbye to the team was the worst thing I think I’ve ever had to do.  Arriving in North Carolina was even worse.  It occurred to me that I might be stuck here for a long time.  I really, really, really hate it here.  I don’t know anyone.  I’m lonely, depressed, teary, and scared out of my head.  Life is so confusing right now.  I hate this….All I want to do is go home.  I have no clue what home is right now, but I know I want to be there.  I just wish I could be somewhere where I knew people and where I felt safe and cared about.  I’ve yet to see what that would look like in practice…”

I tried to keep in touch with the Moons and with the people I toured with, but shortly after leaving tour, one of the other interns told me that none of the people I interned with would be allowed to talk to me.  As it was explained to me, Mrs. Moon felt like it was best that they not be in contact with me.  I later contacted Mrs. Moon and received a similar answer from her.  I can’t even begin to explain how much this devastated me.  These people were my friends and support system and all of a sudden it was all yanked away from me.  The Moons stopped talking to me shortly afterwards.  On tour I was treated as a problem to be ignored – when that problem got too big to ignore, I was dismissed from tour.  Once again, I could be ignored, as I was now someone else’s problem.

Needless to say, I was not invited to the annual Masters conference.  A week before Masters I was diagnosed with meningitis and was hospitalized.  I was told later that when Mrs. Moon heard I had meningitis, she was relieved because she would be able to use that as an explanation for why I wasn’t at the conference.  When she heard I was in the hospital, I was told that her exact words were, “Oh thank God.”

Several months later, my mom emailed Mrs. Moon and asked if I could use her as a reference for another internship I was applying for.  I should have known better.  This was part of the reply she sent to my mom:

“I have not really had a chance to experience the Krysi that is dependable, trustworthy, honest, respecting of authority, a team player – many of the qualities I would expect an internship director to look for. I am optimistic that these character qualities can become a part of how Krysi is known.  I currently have no real frame of reference for making that type of recommendation.  I recall receiving only a few pieces of communication from Krysi shortly after she left the team complaining about her life and her options…”

The email to which the last sentence refers is the one I quoted previously.  As to the rest of it… what did she expect?  I was an emotionally traumatized teenager put in an impossible situation.  Tour was one of the most stressful environments I’ve ever been in.  Mrs. Moon knew I was unstable and she still allowed me to intern – when that didn’t work out, she took away the only support system I knew.  I’m really not sure what other outcome she would have expected.

Six months after I left the internship, I sent an email to a friend and tried to explain to her how tour was for me.  This was part of what I said:

“People put way too much pressure on 17 and 18 year olds.  This was what damaged me the most, I think.  Everyone expected all 13 of us to be absolutely perfect.  On the platform and at conferences, we did a great job of meeting those expectations.  After a while though, it become sort of soul killing.  I’d go to a conference and feel absolutely dead – no one really knew me.  They thought they did, but they had no idea about my life.”

That’s the thing, the one person who had an idea about my life (Mrs. Moon) accepted me to intern – being fully aware of my mental health problems – and then put me on a platform and expected me to act, look, and behave perfectly.  When I didn’t measure up to those standards, I was rejected.  I really don’t understand the reasoning behind any of it.

The last contact I had with the speech and debate world was during the spring of 2010 when I went to an NCFCA tournament to judge.  I showed up with an orange juice bottle full of vodka.  I was completely drunk and I gave alcohol to several of the competitors.  After that I never went back.

I’m definitely not proud of all my actions over the years.  I know I’ve made some mistakes, but then again, so have the responsible adults in my life.  What happened on my CFC internship definitely messed with my head – I learned that nothing in life is permanent, that people will eventually abandon you, and that talking about trauma is unacceptable (and even punishable.)

Post tour, I got into a decent amount of trouble and did some crazy stuff (I was a wild one).  I rejected Christian fundamentalism, in large part because of the hurt I experienced in the “Christian community.”  About a year ago, I started to work on my trauma and substance abuse issues.  It’s been a journey, but I’m finally in a good place.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been, I have a great job, and I have people in my life who don’t abandon or reject me when I act a little crazy.  It’s the first time I’ve ever known what stability looks like.  I’ve re-embraced spirituality; I don’t consider myself a Christian – I’m just trying to figure out what it looks like to follow Jesus.  I still screw up a lot and make mistakes, but I have people who love me through those mistakes rather than rejecting me.

I’m sure that there are people who will be angry for the things I’ve said about CFC/ICC, and I’m okay with that.  I’m past the point in my life where I feel like I have to pretend everything is okay.

End of series.

11 responses to “I Was A Problem To Be Ignored: Krysi Kovaka’s Story, Part Two

  1. Pingback: I Was A Problem To Be Ignored: Krysi Kovaka’s Story, Part One | H • A·

  2. Krysi: After reading this, I am so furious. The people in your life who should have protected, nurtured, and cared for you failed you miserably. Your parents obviously failed you. Theresa failed you on so many levels: not reporting to authorities, allowing you to come on board, abandoning you, writing the ridiculous “referral” when she failed on her part to make sure you were in a healthy place to be doing such a physically/emotionally taxing thing as touring.

    Once again, you were being used to promote their baby: speech/debate.

    Your story reminds me of how sexual offenders groom those who are most weak and needy in order to abuse. My heart really goes out to you, Krysi. I’m so sorry you experienced such pain. Thank you for sharing your story. You can be sure I will continue to blog about this and shout out about these abuses in the Homeschool Movement. It must stop.

  3. Wait…am I understanding this correctly? You told an adult you were molested by your dad, and then said adult *sent you back home*? Am I missing something there?

    That’s messed up. You are correct that this should have been handled differently. MUCH differently. There should have been calls to CPS involved. There should have been hugs and tears and “I’m so sorries”. There should have been significant effort to make sure that when you left tour you were going to a safe place and would have access to competent counseling. There should have been compassion and understanding.

    I wish I could go back in time, because I’m fairly certain that I would have seen you on tour (though I may have been in college at that point and not actually participating). I wish I would have noticed that something was up and asked you how you were.

    I really, really hope that change will come as a result of you telling your story. I hope more people realize that they need to be prepared to handle difficult situations in an appropriate manner, and how devastating not being prepared to handle those situations can be. Every adult everywhere needs to know how to properly handle abuse, self harm, etc., when a counselor is needed, when to report to authorities, etc.

    Thank you for telling your story, Krysi.

  4. This story made me so mad, Krysti. Because obviously the problem was with *you* for not feeling balanced or being happy with your home, right? Ugh…

    If this was a normal school activity for a public school, when you reported the molestation the coach would be required to inform child protective services due to being a mandatory reporter. In good schools there are also mental health providers and formal assessments for kids when things are obviously going wrong, and even in mediocre schools all kids at least have a guidance counselor to turn to. This is one reason deregulated homeschooling sucks and easily fails kids. There is no safety net when things go wrong and people who have no business making judgment calls on things beyond their depth do can so, often putting their own agendas first, and then the kids act out due to the trauma and the adults point the fingers back at the kids. Sickening.

  5. Geeeeeeez. Your story makes me so mad, Krysi. It’s actually very similar to mine, only with youth group and adult youth pastor instead of speech and debate and speech and debate adult leader. It pisses me off so much when grown adult humans treat children and youth so dispicably just because they care so much about themselves. And to work with children or youth as an educator in any capacity, yet to not know how to recognize and properly handle someone who shows clear signs of needing mental help – to me, it is unacceptable. It should be illegal, and adults like that should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

    In my case, I had been close to the youth pastor and in leadership and such. I told my youth pastor I was suicidal (because I was). He handled it by telling me he didn’t have time to talk to me but might be able to make some time for me in a month. Then he directly called my boyfriend to bitch for a half hour about how he couldn’t believe what I just resorted to in order to “get attention.” And he was also supposed to be a Christian counselor as well.

    Insanity.

  6. Shaney Irene: I think I said in my post that I didn’t end up returning home after tour. I had zero to no options, so I went to live with some family friends until my parents divorced. Mrs. Moon wanted me to go to a Christian counseling rehab of sorts – when I went there it felt very cultish. Needless to say, I didn’t go.

    Bethany: I’m so sorry that you went through a similar experience. I know it’s terrible to go through something like that. It traumatizes you and screws with your head. Just know that someone understands.

    Everyone else: I really appreciate your responses. This is so validating. I feel normal for feeling upset about all this for the last five years.

  7. Krysi – thank you for sharing your story. I don’t know any of these people involved, and though your story is not surprising to me, it is deeply disturbing.

    And I so resonate with some of the comments! Two in particular:

    1) (Heather) that there is no regulation; therefore untrained and apparently incompetent adults are in charge of teenagers who have serious struggles and need GOOD help. And to rob you of the community you had formed, one in which, despite everything, you finally felt safe enough to say what was true, is so incredibly hurtful. Unbelievable.

    2) (Bethany) that there are people in “Christian” leadership, who are not only incredibly blind, but who also legitimize & codify their blindness and hurtfulness as “the right thing to do” – as in “this is for your own good and/or the good of the mission.” Gah!! Our blindness knows no limits.

    I am delighted for you to be finding healing and goodness going forward~ and I wish you all the best. -nancy

  8. Krysi, Thank you for telling your story. That sounds terribly traumatic, and the way that those people (the adults, particularly Mrs. Moon) from the conference behaved was totally unethical. People need to be aware that these things are going on. There is so little accountability for parents who are homeschooling. I’m not sure what the answer is, but something needs to be done about it. When you share your story, you are bringing this reality to life for someone who otherwise may have no idea what this world is like. You sounds like a really strong and courageous person, keep it up :)

  9. Pingback: Resolved: An Index | H • A·

  10. Krysi,

    I owe you an apology. I was an adult involved in NCFCA during that time and I should have seen your hurt and pain. I’m sorry that you couldn’t come to any of us and ask for help. I’m sorry you were so alone and isolated and hurt. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you.

    Please know that I have always loved you. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful young woman. My kids are better debaters and speakers because they were able to compete against you and tried to be better because of you.

    My family and I are always available to you for anything…respite, advice, a reference. I admire you and support you and thank you for your honesty.

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