Recently, I had the privilege to speak to a survivor who had just wrote a manuscript about her life journey. While I speak to survivors all the time about recovery and the importance of addressing the emotional wounds of sexual trauma so they can move forward in life with freedom and peace; this particular conversation stood out because not only has she survived numerous victimizations in her lifetime, she is sixty nine years old. There are three things I look for when I have the opportunity to talk with a survivor—
- what happened and who was their abuser
- the negative impact to their lives and
- what have they done to recover and heal
It’s the third category that is often severely lacking— 1) they haven’t received the appropriate help to address the soul wounds or 2) they haven’t had any help at all. It’s very common for survivors to carry the pain due to sexual trauma for years and may have never told anyone.
As a young adult, I didn’t realize the impact those childhood incidents had on me. Sexual abuse wasn’t talked about as openly in those days as it is now. The magnitude of its impact would become painfully real to me as I matured. My disclosure of the sexual abuse was met with silence and secrecy and the issues were swept under the rug and never addressed openly and appropriately. Like many survivors, I adopted the false belief that once I left the abusive environment and the abuse had stopped I could move on with life as normal. Little did I know the damage that had been done to my soul. The unaddressed emotional pain festered over time and would manifest itself in my life.
Today, I facilitate recovery groups helping survivors to reclaim their voice and power. People don’t want to think about sexual abuse—let alone talk about it especially the abuse of children. However, it is a global pandemic in our society and it’s occurring at alarming rates. Sexual abuse is the most unreported type of crime. To be sexually abused is to be touched by evil and evil always has a negative impact. The experience creates wounds in a person’s soul and emotional wounds need to be addressed and attended to, in order to heal properly.
I’m committed to my healing journey and helping other survivors to begin their healing journey—because healing is possible! Brene` Brown said it best, “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.” Shame, silence and victimization will not be how my story ends. I am writing the ending and it’s a fabulous one. This holds true for you as well. If you’re suffering under the false beliefs and weight of the effects of sexual violence, just know it’s never too late to heal.
That’s the encouragement I had for my sixty nine year old sister and friend and that’s the encouragement I have for you if you need to recover from the destruction and devastation of being sexually exploited.
Gwendolyn Jones, Advocate, Facilitator, Mentor, ARISE! International, Inc.