How the PTSD Sexual Trauma Group funded by 1 in 3 Foundation Changed My Life

By Julia

Imagine you are a jewel, you are a rare gem but nobody in your life seems to see it. You are broken, angry and hurt by so called loved ones. You are bitter and filled with resentment. You carry guilt and shame that is not yours to possess in the first place as a the result of sexual trauma throughout your childhood and adult life. These are the things that keep people from seeing what a beautiful gem you truly are. You  hide behind your makes of negatives emotions because you feel safer hiding in that mask of negative emotions rather than risk being exposed to hurt by anyone.

God brings about an opportunity for you to experience being heard and seen. Through this opportunity you meet two angels who both see you and hear you. They see beyond the years of hurt and betrayal. They see you with God’s eyes. You are in a safe space to be heard and seen. It is a space filled with security, serenity and hope. One of the angels picks you up among the other collection of gems present. She starts removing the layers of negative through and emotion. She lifts you up and encourages you to shine from the beauty this is buried deep within you. She and the other Angel do the same for the other gems in the room. The Angels in this safe space continue speaking words of love, hope, faith. The Angels  give you several positive seeds and pearls of wisdom, not because they are better than you, but because they genuinely see you and hear you, as well as the other gems in the room.

You start feeling better. You start seeing that you are worthy of being loved. You start realizing you deserve unconditional love and not the so-called love you have received since childhood-love with conditions or strings.

These angels are an answer to a prayer said long ago. You start to lose the anger and replace it with love. You lose resentment and find forgiveness of yourself and those who have hurt you. The marks that scratched up your exterior start to disappear and mend. You start to really shine. You find yourself being able to freely express the genuine love for humanity that God gave you since birth. You start to see that you have a light to shine no matter what anyone else does or says. Cracks that surrounded that innermost part of you as this gem (your heart) start repairing themselves.

These Angels continue to share their pearls of love and information. You continue to meet other gems through these Angels. You start seeing the absolute beauty in each of them and you express it to them. They too have been positively affected and can also see you inner beauty and reciprocate it back to you.

Someone who was supposed to love you tries to bring you down and bring darkness to your life. You keep going to meet the other gems and the Angels in the safe space. Because of the strength you gained from the safe space, the other gems and the Angels, you start using your voice against the darkness and realize you don’t have to, nor do you want to live like this anymore.

You connect with one of the gems in an amazing way and learn about something this Gem is doing. This Gem presents an opportunity to work with her on her mission. You jump at the chance. The opportunity allows you to start living your life with purpose and direction, fulfilled and full of love, laughter and hope.

Others see changes withing you and start to see the “Jewel” that God has implanted within you since birth. You find purpose, vision and direction. Your children gain courage and strength and begin defending your honor against anyone who speaks ill will of you. The final layers are negative emotion are finally starting to peel away and you celebrate with victory. You enjoy starting to help others finding their own inner Gem and offer your hand to help them out of the darkness so they can shine their own light.

You continue working on you, going to the safe space and connecting with the other gems. You continue to receive faith, love, hope and encouragement from the Angels. This allows you to share the same with others in your life. You are able to not only forgive yourself and those who have hurt you, but you are able to start reaching out and loving them with unconditional love. Your friendships start to strengthen and you start to spread love, faith, hope and encouragement to others.

Sharing Your Space with Your Abuser

Home is supposed to be your refuge, your safe space, your shield from the dangers of the world. Yet for many of us as sexual abuse survivors, home was the epicenter.

Research from The National Center for Victims of Crime found that 60 percent of children are sexually abused by someone in their social circle which can include a family friend, neighbor, babysitter or other care provider. The Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website reports that 30% of perpetrators are family members.

It was in my home as a child that I was sexually abused by my half-brother for a period of several years. It’s still difficult to comprehend, family hurting family, but when I share this with other survivors, I hear similar responses: “It was my father,” “It was my brother too,” “It was my cousin,” “It was my uncle.”

My abuser didn’t live with us year-round, but he spent his summers in our home, in my so-called safe space, and he was there for holidays and breaks from school. I didn’t have to look into his face every day, but it was still frequent enough to demolish that feeling of peace and comfort that every child should feel in their home. It was enough that I felt constant anxiety and fear in the days leading up to those visits and shame, guilt and still fear even after he was gone.

As an adult, I attended a family therapy session with my parents. My mother said something that was poetic almost in nature when I heard it. I had never thought about it in the manner that she used the words but it was the perfect description. “It was like torturing her,” she said. “It was torture for her to sleep in a room right next door to the person who was hurting her.” Yes, it was torture. It was physical, mental and emotional torture. She even recalled that there were nights she wanted to look in and check on me as I rested. She found my door locked. We were not that type of family that locked each other out, but at some point, the torture was more than I could take and I began locking my door at night.

No one should ever have to feel unsafe in their own room in their own bed.

I lament as I think of the others who held on to that same fear of the door opening to their room and shattered innocence. It is even worse when it is someone who is supposed to be in a position to take care of you, not hurt you.

Living under the same roof as my abuser wasn’t the only extent of the space we shared. I deal with triggers on a regular basis but the biggest in my life is one specific date on the calendar each and every year. It is supposed to be a day of celebration but, just like the feeling of comfort in my own home, that feeling of joy was robbed from my life as well for quite some time.

That date on the calendar every year that bothers me so much is my birthday. You see, I was born on the same date as the half-brother who molested me. The old joke in the family, of course before the revelations, was that I had been born on his day. I felt like the bandit, the thief who had taken something from him very early on. I will never try to rationalize his train of thought or the reasoning behind the why he did what he did, but I believe in my core that he hated me and part of it had to do with my entering the world on the day that I did. He was 10 years older, but still, like twins, it felt like we would forever be linked by a day in June.

When I was growing up, we did joint birthday parties. We blew out the candles on the cake, together. We posed for pictures and opened gifts, together. We had special family dinners, seated side by side, together. My parents had no idea what he was doing to me during those years. Again, torture seems like a fitting word.

The first birthday I remember feeling depressed was when I turned 17. It was a dismal day, in part because I had to wake up that morning and take the SAT’s. But later, after I had gotten some rest, I wasn’t excited to get my gift from my parents. He was an adult by then, not at our home and so I did not have to endure seeing him on that day, but still, there was a lingering sadness in my heart. I didn’t understand. My best friend and her boyfriend came by the house, ready to wheel me away to some fun that you can only truly have at the age of 17 on the verge of your senior year of high school. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave the house. Instead, I sat at home in a chair in my living room and watched a baseball game. I got lost in the game. It’s funny, it’s almost 20 years since that date and I remember that game more than I remember anything else about my birthday. The Orioles were playing and my sports hero, Cal Ripken Jr., was on television.

There were other birthdays and celebrations. In my early 20’s, I was surrounded by friends and co-workers and I let them distract me.

When I met my now husband, the getaways began. I didn’t spend a single birthday at home or within a 100 mile radius of my parent’s home for five years in a row. I told myself those trips were my way of celebrating my day. It was finally about me. What those trips really were, were distractions and defense mechanisms. They were never small getaways, they were excursions. In many ways I was running away from my problems and my feelings. They were still there however, lurking underneath the surface no matter how I tried to numb them.

The past two years, as someone in recovery and continuing my healing journey, I’ve finally experienced the pain and heartache that had to be suppressed as a child and that I ran from as a young adult. They were not happy birthdays by a long shot. There were tears, some arguments with loved one, plans that exploded into chaos, but all of it was real. I was not running anymore. I faced it, painful as it was.

I grieved for the child that had her space and her day marred by sexual abuse. The muted voice of a child terrified to speak up was replaced by an agonizing scream.

So now, I turn it all over. I give up all that hurt and I’m taking my day back.

How? I have no idea. I have to laugh as I write this. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do. I have made no special requests. My only plan is to no longer set expectations for the day. I will go through it, every hour, every minute, every second as it comes. I will accept birthday wishes and actually answer the phone when people call to shout “Happy Birthday” at me. I will listen to off-key singing and smile. This is for me and there are people who love me and want to see me happy. I’m finally one of those people too.

We may have been forced to share our spaces with our abusers as children, but as adults, we can reclaim our space. We can find our safe haven. We may have to leave a relationship or break free of toxic family members, but we have a choice now as to who we share our space with.

Survivors be encouraged, take back your space, take back your safety, take back your joy, take back your day, take back your life. It may feel like rebirth, like a brand new birth date for your soul.

–Maya, Founder, 1 in 3 Foundation