Why is it that new grief resurrects old grief in our soul. As a survivor of child sexual abuse I am no stranger to sadness. I had to fight though the fog of depression, in order for one foot to step in front of the next. Years later, a trial that ushers in grief just opens the flood gates to that past grief that I feel has been processed, grieved, and tucked away. All I can pray is God, please take this cup. Please don’t let it overflow, overrun and flood my heart, my spirit and into my whole life. Take this cup and let me stand in your strength to know that there is no trial that You and I can’t manage. Help usher me through the darkness to the light, and not linger in doubt, confusion or sadness. Please Lord give me light, take the weight of sorrow and give me peace, your kind of peace that passes all understanding and says that I can do ALL things through You Christ Jesus, who strengthens me.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
I remember the first time I tried to tell about my sexual abuse. The torment was horrendous trying to figure out what to say and who to tell. I labored over not knowing the words to use to describe what he was doing to me, words an 8 year old doesn't even have in their vocabulary. The abuse started at age 3, so by age 8 the iron walls of the silent prison were inescapable. I just knew I wanted it to stop but it never did. The force and threats to tell no one were seared in my little mind. The consequences of harm to my mother if I told loomed over my little head. Witnessing the daily abuse was too much to endure, so causing her more grief was unconscionable. So for 14 years the silent cries for help would stay choked in my throat, like vile ready to spew at any time. We, survivors of child sexual abuse, don't know how to cry for help. Fear chokes us daily, when the secret, the deep dark secret of our abuse stays trapped churning between our mind, our heart, our stomach, our tongue and our lips, riddled with fear of the devastating consequences of it traveling past our lips. Some real, some imagined, but always the absolute worse plays over and over in our minds.
I tried twice in elementary school, telling my 3rd grade teacher I had taken a bottle of medicine and I was going to go to sleep forever, then my 4th grade teacher, sharing shocking news that my classmate Michael had raped me on walk home from school. My parents were called in, the verdict was that I was a very dramatic child who watched too many soap operas was the conclusion. Finally when I told a friend in 10th grade, she said my grandfather is doing it to me too. My fourth disclosure was the nail in the coffin, when I told my mother after a suicidal binge night, first taking 64 sleeping pills washed down with a bottle of vodka straight. I woke up covered in my vomit and horrified that I had failed, tried to jump off the Talmadge Bridge, lacking courage to let go of the beam, I found myself driving 90 miles an hour over the Talmadge Bridge on the wrong side of the road. Disclosing to my mother the next morning, after 10 hours of trying to kill myself was the worst day of my life. I would have rather died than to than tell her. Before the sun set I was banished from her life, given a trash bag and 10 minutes to pack my belongings, and that day died emotionally. I was 17 years old. Many years later I would get one breath of disclosure from my mother that said "when you were 3 you said some really strange things about your private parts." She saw the look on my face and never repeated it again.
I am vulnerable in sharing openly for one reason and one reason only. That perhaps my words can help another. I am honored to be the founder of VOICE Today, an organization that ministers hope and healing to victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation. During a recent support group, our discussion question was "WHAT DO WE, AS SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE NEED OR WANT FROM PEOPLE?" I share these answers in hopes that those that love and support a survivor of child sexual abuse can better understand our struggles.
- We want to be heard, really heard and to have our feelings taken into consideration.
- We want to be accepted, even if you don’t understand. We don’t want pity, we don’t want what we divulge swept under the rug.
- We want to belong – we have felt as outsiders most of our lives.
- Do NOT say, “you just have to move on,” “get over it,” “God has healed you,” Are you still……?”
- We feel dirty and do not know how to clean ourselves up.
- We need support; we should not have to walk this alone.
- We need you to appreciate the effort it takes us to do something that may be easy for others, but is out of our comfort zone.
- We need you to be patient; we have a lot to process.
- We need you to be educated because the effects are not only emotional, but physiological too.
- We need to be willing to be present and show compassion.
- We need you to be honest. If this is not a conversation you can handle, say so in love.
- We need to be believed by our family, not ostracized as if we are the bad apple.
- We need to never hear the words, "Why didn't you tell?"
- We need you to stand in the gap with us, fight in our justice system for victim's rights.
- We need you to support the cause of child sexual abuse prevention and healing.
- We need to hear the word, "You were a child, the abuse was not your fault, you have NOTHING to be ashamed of now."
I have passed "need" but I do truly "want" for my Mother to believe me and not spend the rest of my life questioning me, my integrity, my truth. I don't now if I will ever have that gift, but I praise God above for my healing and that I can live my life in truth an honesty for me.
If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse VOICE Today is here to help you. Please consider attending a support group or a weekend healing retreat. Some information is listed below, and you can always call 678.578.4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you love a survivor of child sexual abuse, please read the 12 statements above again and support them with compassion and love.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Great is Thy Faithfulness...
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Sometimes it is difficult to truly feel love, especially steadfast love. What does that mean anyway? Steadfast love? Well steadfast by definition means unwavering, fixed, resolute, never changing. Our love of ourselves may be inconsistent, but God’s love for us never changes. The love and acceptance of others may be contingent on mood, or pain, or actions, but not God’s love. Even better than being steadfast, His mercies are never ending. Mercy means compassion, or a pardon for wrongful actions. God has a never ending supply of mercy for us, even when we fail, even when we disappoint, even when we turn away from God, He is still pouring out His steadfast love and mercy on us. And each of these blessings we can count on a fresh, new portion every morning, not dependent on how much we needed yesterday, but today we are guaranteed not only a sufficient supply, but abundant, never ceasing, never ending supply. Today is a new day, with new challenges, with new opportunities to please God, to do Kingdom work, and to follow the greatest commandment. When Jesus as asked what was the greatest commandment, he answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” found in Luke 10:27. I am challenged, to live out this commandment. I am constantly challenged by my flesh, by selfishness, even by unresolved pain in my life, by hurts, by old wounds that sometimes feel healed, but then a word or an action can pull the scab right off and before I know it, those wounds are bleeding again. But the good news today, is great is the faithfulness of God, pouring out His endless steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness on me, to bring a deeper level of hope and healing into those hurts. I challenge you today to live like YOU are loved with an everlasting, steadfast love, emerged in all the mercy needed for today and revel in the faithfulness of our God, being thankful for our fresh portion this morning for yesterdays hurts and today’s challenges.
"Great is Thy Faithfulness" by Cece Winans
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Lord Jesus, for my brothers and sisters that have been deeply and devastatingly wounded by physical, by emotional and by sexual abuse I pray healing. I pray that today they will feel the healing presence of the Holy Spirit, the great comforter. There are no human words to take away their pain and disappointment, only Your healing touch. As the sun rises this morning, so bright you have to squint to see, I pray those same powerful bright rays of light would pierce the darkness in their lives. As the pain chills their bones, I pray your rays of light would warm them like a cozy blanket. I pray in Jesus name that the attacks of the enemy, that attacks in dreams, body sensations and flashbacks would be halted by your power of protection. As they grieve for their family, and are tormented by feelings of abandonment, I pray that You would draw them into a new family of steadfast believers, to be a witness to your everlasting love. I pray You would be their Father that holds them close. As they stand in judgment from family and friends, not believing their testimony of sexual abuse, may you give them strength to walk in the truth, no matter the cost. May you empower them to forgive all the heartache and suffering, from all those that abused, abandoned and neglected them. May you flood them with Your overflowing love, to those that would turn their backs on them when they needed them the most. May you empty their hearts of resentment, of anger and of desperation? May you fill them with hope and anticipation for an amazing future walking hand in hand with You. May they hear Your small still voice that says, “I love you and I will never leave you nor forsake you.” May they today begin to put their trust in You and not in “man.” May they receive today a hunger and a thirst for Your word, and be flooded with peace as they read your faithfulness throughout time. May they be cleansed of all feelings of indignity by Your blood Jesus, that was shed on the cross for them? Help them Holy Spirit to feel Your love in a real and powerful way as they have never felt before. Help them to bask in your presence and just be loved on today by You. May today be the day that they surrender all to you. If they do not know You in a real and personal way as their savior, their friend, their confident, may they today give their life to you.
In Jesus name I pray
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
They Don’t Understand
They want to understand our pain. Who am I talking about? I am speaking of the ones in our life that love us so much. Their heart breaks for us. They can hardly bear to see us cry. And we survivors of child sexual abuse, we hide. We hide, because the last thing we want them to see is our suffering, because in our struggles, they feel helpless to comfort us, to ease our pain. We dream of the day when we wake and the flashbacks are gone, never to return. We long for a guarantee that the body sensations, the smells, the triggers are gone for good. We try so hard to run from them, but no matter how long ago the abuse happened, they find us. When they find us in a strong and grounded state, we can manage most of the time to regroup, to breathe deep, keep our eyes open to the safe reality that surrounds us, to press in and press through the pain. And when it passes, we breathe deep and praise God that we are safe in our skin. But on those days when the evil memories visit us in whatever form; when we are tired; depressed; weak; it is like an explosion of glass in our spirits and we quicken to find all the chards before they cut deeper into our soul. As much as they want to, they don’t understand why we can’t forget the pain. They don’t understand why it haunts us.
Weeks ago I hit a wall of exhaustion. If you might relate, the kind of exhaustion after months of pushing limits, that a 10 hour night of sleep doesn’t begin to rejuvenate. But the bright light in my future was a family beach vacation. I was excited to go on vacation with my family, to finally put my feet in the sand and be stilled by the rhythm of the ocean. It had been an exceptionally strenuous week physically by helping my daughter move. Of course what you think will take only a few hours, took two days.
On the way to the beach, I decided to see my mother since it had been some-time between visits and have more quality time by spending the night. It was a pleasant visit and as we were retiring for the night I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a bust of David, a family heirloom so to speak, that had adorned our living room foyer table for as long as I can remember. The bust was now residing on the bedside table. The image flashed in my mind of walking the trail of horror to the bedroom where I had been summoned as a child. “Don’t, don’t you go there,” lashed the harsh voice in my head.” The command was obeyed, I laid my head on my pillow, sang Amazing Grace in my head and fell asleep.
The sleep was restless as a looming dark shadow was enveloping me. When my eyes fluttered open, I saw the headboard of the bed. Flash to 1974, I was 7 years old with my eyes focused on the headboard as I was instructed to stay still and stop squirming. I took a breath that would not fill my lungs because I felt as if an elephant were sitting on my chest. So began the short shallow panic breaths, I tried to get out of my mouth to my still sleeping husband I need to go. “I need to go now.” He awoke to what the heck is going on? I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stand my skin. I wanted to peel it off. I had to get out of that bedroom, I had to get away from that peering statue of David. I had to run but my husband said, “Come here, sit down, what is wrong?” As he reached for me I tore away and looked for an escape. The bathroom door was open so I darted for the door. I tried to get it closed but he was in hot pursuit. I fled through another door to the toilet trying to make a beeline out and ran head first into my daughter. I backed up to collapse on the toilet. By now I was hyperventilating. I couldn’t catch my breath. I could not explain to them what was happening and they didn’t understand. I was completely horrified for them to see me in this condition. I appear to be a pillar of strength on the outside, resilient and confident woman, but today I was a broken little girl, humiliated to be seen in this condition. You see these days have come and gone over the last 30 plus years in private. Rarely has anyone but my husband witnessed the turmoil or noticed the turbulence. My daughter grabbed my hands and tried to make eye contact with me and attempted mindfulness techniques to ground me in the here and now. She tried to slow my breathing by instructing me to take long deep breaths, from my panicked panting. I couldn’t look her in the eye for now the shame was choking me, and I just wanted to hide. I was in a deep tunnel with the waterfall of tears dripping off my chin, as I heard my husband say in a puddle of frustration, “let’s call an ambulance.” They just didn’t understand. The sound of sirens in my head jolted me back to reality. The reality that I had to get the wall built fast to hold back this tsunami of pain. Within minutes I had experienced flashbacks from the pit of hell watching a little girl’s dignity and humanity be stripped away. Somehow what had seemed like hours, was just a matter of minutes and I was composed, apologetic and searching frantically for the mask of “I’m ok.” I prayed, “Jesus please help me.” I washed my face, forced a smile and went back to life as a wife, a mother, a daughter. I had roles to play and pathetic was not one of them.
The days that followed were to bid rest and relaxation, and the real kind that only long summer days at the beach can deliver. But unfortunately, the breakdown forced my emotions into a tightly wound spring. I tried so hard to be engaged in the moment, to laugh, to share, but I found myself forcing the merrymaking. The darkness had gripped me tightly and I squirmed tirelessly to get out of its grasp. I read senseless magazines, I took long baths, I got up early and read scripture, I prayed for the darkness to lift and my joy to return. I darted the questions of “How are you?” from my loving daughter with the “I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” and the apologies for her having to witness me shattered. She said “good,” but the unspoken response in her eyes was “I know you are not good mom and I don’t know what to say.” We understand the discomfort they feel and we wish with everything we could wash it away. We understand there are no words of comfort and the fear of sharing the wrong words. Then there was my precious husband who took the brunt of my brooding. I had nowhere to deflect the pain but on him, and I hated myself for it, for punishing him for my present condition. Like the strong and mighty man of God he is, he just took it, realizing I was hurting. I couldn’t look him in the eye, I couldn’t explain why or how I was hurting. My default button of isolation and silence had been pressed.
The incident happened on Friday night and it was not until the following Thursday that the fog lifted. It was as if the sun broke through and the sound of the ocean washed the residual fretting away. I was heartbroken that once again my past abuse had stolen my present joy. I was heartbroken that those I love the most, I pushed away. I was heartbroken that this rare week at the beach was spent fighting the demons of abuse and my precious time at the beach had sifted through my fingers like sand and was gone.
Over the next two weeks, I have been drawing even closer to God, again asking my whys. “Why God did these horrible memories flood my mind? Why God could I not process them and pack them away in a safe place? Why God did I have a total melt down, and in front of my husband and child? Why was I not stronger to stand against the darkness and fight, like I fight for every survivor in my path? Why don’t people understand our pain?“ And a small voice said, “You were depleted, you were tired, you were frail, and most of all, you were tender.” In my quiet moments with God I received revelation. Healing is a journey that takes a continuous investment in our self through self-care, self-awareness, self-compassion and selfless surrender to God. I received revelation that they may never understand, but God does. For HE is the only ONE who understands our pain is God in three persons, The Father, Son Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. The Father understands the pain and suffering of His children by witnessing the will of man turn to perversion and abuse, Jesus sympathizes with our pain through His own suffering on the cross, and the Holy Spirit feels our pain as He resides in us. As we may be quick to resent those who don’t understand, quick to dismiss those who have a blink of disbelief, quick to shut those out for self- preservation, quick to feel like no one will ever understand, remember these words. God understands.
Tips for friends and family of a victim of child sexual abuse:
ü Pray for them and offer to pray with them
ü Offer a hand or hug
ü Be sensitive
ü Give space and time to grieve
ü Remind them to take slow and deep breaths
ü Let them know you are available if they want to share
ü Believe them and be a good listener
ü Know that you can’t take away the pain
ü Help them stay in the present moment
ü Shower them with love and compassion
Scriptures of Meditation:
Matthew 10: 29-31
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
8The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
2 Timothy 1: 7
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Challenge to fellow Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse:
Don’t suffer in silence.
We are here and we understand.