When I was 13 I was molested by my step-father. There was no police report filed. There was no public announcement made. I never even got to confront him. When I told my mom what had happened she could not accept the truth. She said I had misunderstood. She said if I reported it to anyone it could ruin his life and his career.
Two days later I went to live with my dad and step-mom, where I could feel safe, but still no one talked about what happened. There was a lot of whispering behind closed doors. There were awkward hugs and “how are you doing?” from family members. I wasn’t sure who knew and who didn’t. If they did know, most of them never said anything to me, and I was afraid to bring it up.
I was sent to a counselor – a stranger who sat behind a large desk. This was supposed to be the place where I could talk about what happened, but it was the absolute last place I wanted to be. While no one ever said the topic was taboo, I felt it deep in my heart. I felt like it was too big, too real for anyone to handle. So I pushed down my truth and hid it in a dark corner, under a heavy rock in the pit of my stomach. There it stayed for many years.
I was embarrassed and I was scared of how my truth could tear apart my family and destroy my already estranged relationship with my mom. But hiding my truth, and avoiding true healing impacted my other relationships, it impacted my mental health, and it impacted my spiritual growth. And so, for nearly 20 years I stayed stuck. That scared, angry, hurt 13 year old continued to live inside me feeling all of those same feelings but she wasn’t given a voice.
Nearly two decades later, fed up with it all, I sought out professional counseling and finally started to speak my truth. Then I began to share with other people what had happened to me. The first few times I told my story my hands trembled, my heart raced, and I sobbed — barely able to get the words out. Then, with each telling it got easier. With each telling I healed a little bit more; I took another step towards freedom and redemption. I began to own my past, not hide from it.
This was the beginning of learning how to forgive my mom.
Friends, I don’t want another woman or man who has faced sexual trauma to wait 20 years to find that same kind of freedom. That’s why I’m grateful for organizations like The Voices and Faces Project They are an award-winning, non-profit storytelling initiative created to bring the names, faces, and testimonies of survivors of gender-based violence to the attention of the public. Through the power of the personal testimony they are changing minds, hearts, and laws.
The Voices and Faces Project does this through educational and advocacy trainings, their survivor story archives (housed at The Voices and Faces Project and World Without Exploitation), and their signature program, The Stories We Tell – an immersive, two-day testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and trafficking.
On this #givingTuesday will you consider being a part of this important work? Every $650 raised provides a full, two-day scholarship to a workshop applicant ready to take part in The Voices and Faces Project’s groundbreaking writing program. Together, let’s help another woman who needs her story told.
And don’t forget to share on social media so more people can learn about the life-changing work this organization is doing, and so those who are looking for freedom, healing, and redemption can connect with The Voices and Faces Project.
The first half of this post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: Forgiven and Restored, planned for release in 2019.
This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter