FREEDOM TO SPEAK OF THE ABUSE AND/OR TORTURE
When was the first time you felt the freedom to speak of the incest, rape, abuse and/or torture you experienced? Did you always recall the abuse or did you put it aside, repress it, or deny it until you were forced to face the truth or until you were safe and strong enough to do so? If you always remembered the abuse or are in a current abusive domestic violence relationship or relationship with abuse of any kind, sharing your story with someone is the first step to healing. To those, like me, who repressed our pasts (of sexual abuse, incest, human trafficking, physical abuse, ritual abuse, and/or torture); we had to awaken to ourselves.
Individuals have asked me how I can be so open with my life’s story. Some have questioned the relief I feel after sharing my extensive history of abuse, incest, and torture. This post will begin to answer those inquiries.
At age 45, I began to recover bits and pieces of my gruesome past. These memories arrived almost always when I was alone. Fortunately, I was in therapy at the time I started letting the abuse return to consciousness. I wrote in journals what occurred to me as a child through age 46 and took those memories into the therapy sessions.
Painfully, as I told of the past abuse by reading from my journals in therapy with Fr. Marcantonio (pastoral counselor and licensed family and marriage therapist), I was able to face and deal with the truth. The truth shall set you free, they say. It has set me free; but, first I had to deal with the PAIN of the truth and the difficult healing process.
In my case, during the remembering of the abuse, I was still in a very abusive, torture-filled, ritual abuse domestic violence relationship with my then husband, Tom M. As soon as I knew the abuse was occurring in the present and would continue, I separated from Tom M. I was able to retain custody of my daughter, Megan, at this time. I found a job, homeschooled Megan, found an apartment, and continued with healing. The then recent abuse perpetrated by Tom M. and others against my daughter and I was reported to the authorities around 2003-2004. My daughter and I told the American military police and the German courts the truth of the abuse. Many of you, as survivors, may not have reported the abuse to the police, especially if the abuse or rape or incest or torture happened years ago. The process of reporting is painful and could be addressed in another blog post.
I wrote my website in 2008, www.hopeforus.wordpress.com, as I awaited trial for custodial interference for becoming a protective parent. I did my best to protect my daughter from further abuse. My website put my history of abuse out on the Internet for the world to read it, if they could find it! I made a few good friends in Washington State and gave them my website information to read. They ready my story, believed me, and supported me during that painful period. I am blessed with these friends still.
Slowly I rebuilt my life again. This time I was without my daughter, Megan. Although I was not convicted of custodial interference, my daughter was now living with her father, the perpetrator. The emotional PAIN was huge. Yet basic life needs had to be met. I relocated and kept quiet about my past of abuse. My life was consumed with survival. I was homeless and spent a few nights in a shelter. Fortunately I ended up as a guest in a few individuals’ homes. One person let me stay in her home for eight months as I found a job and started to repair my life again.
Eventually I ended up in therapy. PTSD and contending with suicidal brainwashing are good motivators to return to therapy. Once again, I shared my story … first with a therapist that retired within a year and later with a therapist who is a non-invasive neurofeedback expert. (Read: http://boulderneurofeedback.com/)
While in therapy, I joined a support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The WINGS Foundation sponsored these groups. These weekly meetings of women became a safe haven. It was a place to share or not share, to listen, and to grow. We did not talk too much of our individual pasts. The focus was more on dealing with the present. Some circumstances or relationships gave us difficulties. We learned from listening to each other. Being in a room of women who shared childhood sexual abuse was a gift. Intellectually, I knew many other people had experienced abuse of all kinds. Meeting survivors and connecting with them helped me to feel less alone. Witnessing the strength and courage of women of all ages was empowering.
In the fall of 2014, I was given the opportunity to be a part of an in-service training sponsored by WINGS for psychology graduate students at Naropa University. I was asked to tell my story to these students. Without hesitation, I amazed myself by saying yes. As an introvert, speaking in front of a group is not my cup of tea. I spoke for 45 minutes of my past and of how the WINGS Foundation support group helped me to further heal. Following my sharing, the WINGS people gave an educational presentation on trauma.
After the WINGS in-service training at Naropa University, I felt lighter. Looking back at my healing journey, I realize that each time I wrote of my past history of abuse, each time I read a journal entry to Fr. Marc, each time I told my story to different people for different reasons – I was becoming freer and lighter. The fact was though that the burden was initially so heavy, so immense, so huge, so weighing on my mind, heart, and spirit that I never noticed the load was truly lessening until I spoke at Naropa University for WINGS. The lightness I felt amazed me!
Following that experience, I found myself telling my story to educate, to network, to let someone know me better, or to help and support others. Each time I shared, I noticed I felt even lighter.
What started out as a past I repressed and denied changed to a past I let in with the shame and the worthlessness I carried inside of me. This shame and worthlessness slowly dissipated through the healing process. Eventually I transitioned to sharing the truth of my painful past with the acknowledgement of my strength, resiliency, courage, integrity, and self-love. Wow! What a journey!
In a few weeks, on September 12, 2015, I will be presenting a workshop called, “Survivor’s Resume”, at the WINGS Foundation Conference in Denver, Colorado. I am excited and honored. Oh, I am still an introvert and not a professional public speaker. Yet my passion to change our society, even in a small way, is strong. I know the subject matter. I lived it. I want to help survivors. It is important to me that those who have not been abuse also understand those who have suffered. If meeting a ritual abuse and torture survivor helps even one person understand trauma and resiliency than that is beneficial to us all. I am filled with gratitude that I have healed this much. My heart is also filled with thanksgiving for all those who have helped me and supported me along this road to freedom, peace, and joy.
Now, my desire is to use my life experience – past and present – to help in any way I am able, but especially as a life coach and writer.
The WINGS Foundation has support groups for survivors and groups for loved ones. Please visit their website: http://www.wingsfound.org/ Stopping childhood sexual abuse needs a community – those who are victims, survivors, and those who never suffered the trauma of abuse. Feel free to attend the WINGS Conference on September 11 and 12, 2015, if not this year then next. (https://wingsfound.org/conference/) The first day is for clinicians and the second day is for survivors and loved ones. Anyone can attend either or both days. I attended both days last year. It was a rewarding experience for me.
What resources are in your area? Are there organizations similar to the WINGS Foundation? If so, let me know.
Each one of us, as survivors, faces the abuse of our past and heals in our own time frame. It is not necessary for healing that we speak at conferences or in a public forum ever. This is just where my path has surprisingly taken me. What is important though is that we face the abuse and that we share it with at least one person who believes us and supports us. Voicing our truth is liberating!
There is no shame in being a survivor of abuse, rape, incest, and/or torture. You are worthy of freedom, peace, joy, and love.
I end this post with the song by Sara Bareilles, “Brave”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUQsqBqxoR4
I purposely chose the video with lightness in it; although, the words of the song, “Brave” are thoughtful and powerful.
As always, please connect with me. I am here as a survivor who thrives and as a life coach. You are worth the opportunity to thrive …. To live the life you desire.
I wish you Peace & Joy & Lightness!!