We met Abi on social media. She was doing some research on non-profits that she could get involved with, and we are so glad she found us! Abi is a survivor and now she’s an advocate for others who haven’t been able to share their story yet, so until then, she will use her voice for them. You can read her story below.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. That’s right, I’m a SURVIVOR, not a victim.
In the years that I’ve been working through the trauma I have been able to overcome an eating disorder, genuinely forgive my abuser, work with police to file reports, and become an active participant in a wonderful grace-filled life.
What I’ve learned is that one of the hardest things for survivors of abuse is to own yourself. So many times, a loud sound or a small insult would pull me away from owning myself. And so what I have learned is that what makes you resilient to trauma, is to own yourself fully.
What you need to first understand is that talking about trauma is HARD. Many survivors of trauma, especially childhood trauma, don’t talk about it. I stayed silent about those three years of my life for almost a decade. Even as I did start talking about it, I had this idea so embedded in my head that something terrible would happen once I talked about it. Not to mention, that by talking about what happened, I felt like everything would change. I had created this identity laced with a secret that I wasn’t sure that I was ready to let go of just yet.
You see, bravery is enduring the pain while allowing yourself to feel it. When I first started talking about it, my whole mouth felt full of cotton. I talked about the trauma as if I were reading it out of a newspaper — no emotion, but it was a start.
Once I began talking more about what happened, weird things happened, such as anxiety and nightmares, because part of reconciling my memory was re-experiencing it in a way. In time, as my brain began to accept what actually happened, things started turning around. I didn’t stop talking, but rather talked more; rather than feeling like a victim, I felt powerful. Something shifted. I know to this day that every time I say his name, I gain a little bit more of my power back. I know that for me, it’s things like this that help me take back my life.
An important thing I reminded myself, is that healing begins once you feel heard. Helplessness and isolation are the core experiences of trauma, but power and connection are the core experiences of recovery. So I suggest joining a support group, checking out what is available around you for talking, blogging, writing, connecting your experience to those of others. Talk therapy has helped me tremendously. To be able to sit in a room and have someone listen to me and stay by my side has made such a difference.
I was able to live again in the present moment by learning what I owned in the aftermath of the trauma. No amount of therapy or medication is ever going to stop our struggles if we don’t give ourselves permission to stop seeing ourselves as damaged goods and instead embrace the strength it took to make it through all our trauma, abuse, and neglect.
In the pursuit of health, I began making connections with healthy people. I became more self-aware and self-accountable. I developed coping skills to help in the moments when I didn’t feel great. Ultimately, I gained freedom and power in my life again. I remember when I was complaining about my job in one of my sessions, I said to my therapist… “oh my gosh, this is a normal person problem!” and I’ve had a lot more “normal” person problems.
So, what about forgiveness? Forgiveness is for YOU. Forgiveness is not forgetting, minimizing, rationalizing, excusing, or denying. It is not resolution or reconciliation with your perpetrator, but rather me saying that I am done living in fear of him, or wishing the worst for him. Take time to fully acknowledge your feelings of loss, harm, and grief. Acknowledging your feelings doesn’t make them worse, often it makes them more manageable. Be clear about the action that wronged you, know what was unacceptable and state it in clear language that it wasn’t okay. This way it’s clear to you what happened, what you’re moving on from, and why. Forgiveness has allowed me to let go of the past and live fully in the present. When I forgave, I have been able to stop focusing on the anger that I had and allow better things to occupy my thoughts.
No matter your situation, I pray that you can find freedom and inspiration from my testimony and continue to push and grow into all you were created to be.