In June I presented a workshop on strategies to help victims of sexual abuse. Much of the information was taken from my book, Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse. I began the session by telling my personal experience and ended by stressing that I am living proof that one can heal the scars of sexual abuse.
At the end of the workshop I was asked why I made the decision to pursue speaking and writing about my very personal story. I had never been asked that question so directly. This was my response:
My life was defined by a childhood of sexual abuse. I had the choice to have it define my life in a positive way—working to help other survivors or in a negative way—living in the dark silence, never feeling whole. I chose the positive.
Some would argue that experiencing sexual abuse should not define your life. I shared that viewpoint for a long time. But the reality is; all of our experiences shape who we are. For me the abuse happened when I was a young child. I repressed the memories and lived well into adulthood always feeling something was wrong with me. I never measured up, I was never fully in the present and although I thought I had a good life I was always fighting back the demons that were just waiting to come out. Once they did I spent six years in therapy, much of the time depressed, sad, anxious and questioning if it was worth going on.
- Working through my journey to healing made me strong—I learned that my abusers did not destroy my core.
- Facing my abusers made me whole—I took the power away from them and gave it back to me.
- Realizing that I survived my childhood strengthened my faith—someone was taking care of me.
- Having the unending support of my husband, friends and children taught me that I am loveable—something I never truly believed.
Did sexual abuse define my life? Yes. Negatively? No! I made the choice to use my strength, faith and love to share the message: Victims of sexual abuse can become survivors and learn to thrive!
Making the choice to help others by sharing my story turned a negative past into a positive future.
I should end by explaining; if I did not make that choice, to speak out about sexual abuse, I would still feel strong, whole and lovable. I would be content but my healing journey would not be complete. Every time another survivor tells me that my story gives them hope and lets them know they are not alone, I feel grateful. Grateful that I made it.
We are meant to pass it on…pass it on.