Written by Kendra Bennett, LPC

So, after my last blog post, I have been feeling extremely vulnerable.

I find after feeling all of the raw emotions from a trigger, I become extremely irritable, angry, judgmental, and quick to lash out at others. Sometimes I don’t even realize it until something is at the tip of my tongue and my shame is about to blow up all over someone else.

Let me take a minute to explain shame the “Brene Brown way.”

Shame is that little voice inside my head telling me I am not good enough, that I am damaged and broken. Telling me I am not worthy of love and belonging, telling me that I need to do whatever it takes to make sure people do not see the real me.  How do we do that? We use armor like we are going into battle! The problem is, this is a battle we are only fighting with ourselves and this armor doesn’t keep us safe. It keeps us disconnected from others. We have spent our lives thinking we are damaged, less than, broken, and irreparable. We unconsciously believe that if people were to get close enough to see our imperfections they would take off running in the other direction.

Linda Hartling calls these “Strategies for Disconnection.” Brene Brown calls them our “Shame Shields.” When we feel shame, we respond in one or more of these ways:

Moving Away – Withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets

Think back to your trauma: I did all of the above in an attempt to avoid connecting with others out of fear that they will see “the broken me” believing I had a HUGE sign on my forehead telling everyone what was happening.)

Moving Toward – Seeking to please people

You know when you are constantly dancing and performing for everyone around you? Trying to be everything for everyone and completely neglecting yourself? This allows me to NOT pay attention to myself. The more people like me the more value I must have.

Moving Against – Trying to gain power over others, being aggressive, using shame to fight shame

I hate to admit this but I do this. We all do this. If I am hurting (real or perceived hurt), I go here. Usually it takes a bit to recognize that I am trying to bring someone into my pain.


So now what?

You have to speak your story.  You have to find someone you trust, someone you can talk to and tell your story to.  Someone who will sit in the story and hold it with you instead of create more shame. Someone who can say, “Tell me more”.

I would love nothing more than to tell you that once you do this everything will go away. But I am here, writing this post because I still have to be mindful of where I am emotionally. In a way, there is an end, there is an end to living in the past where you start looking towards the future.  The more we speak our stories the more power and control we have over them.  I know you are saying, “Yeah right!” Our stories can spin like a hamster wheel in our brains as that hamster wheel keeps getting thicker and thicker until it takes up all the space in our heads. The more we tell our story in trusted spaces, the more we connect with others, the more we connect with others, the less shame we feel and the more we feel we belong.  The less shame we feel, the stronger we are.  I can keep going, but what I really want to say is:

YOU have been so strong ALONE…

Is it not time to let someone help you?

From my own experience, there will be times when I need to call a friend (or my husband) and say “I think I am about to lose it.” I have found the more I lean on these people, the less I need to lean.  There will be days that I am not strong enough to continue to hold my story by myself. Those days still bring me down but not for long.

You can do this. You are precious. You are loved and you belong!

         Written by Kendra Bennett, LPC


I am sitting here at the computer for the second day in a row and starting this post again after writing, deleting, and rewriting it I don’t know how many times.  The events of the past week have triggered so many emotions within my heart and head as they have with a lot of people that I have spoken to.  I find myself thinking back to my own out-cries as a child when I was told, “You have to be making this up” and “There isn’t enough evidence to prove what you say.” Those thoughts have been spending way too much time in my brain the past week. As a therapist, I find myself struggling with my own triggers this week that led me to where I am at today.  See, I have triggers and I have been in a healthy place with them. I do my grounding exercises, I talk to my people, and I work out what I can.  I am in a healthy place with my past abuse.  That in no way means that I am over it, I will never be able to go back and have a different life, therefore; my past will always be just that: MY PAST. I choose what to do with my past!

The problem with triggers for me today was this, I was tired of being overwhelmed and controlled by my emotions this week. So, when a trigger, at church of all places, started, I fought it. I argued in my head and begged God to take it away, all while tears were running down my cheeks as I tightly clenched my husband’s hand. My muscles were tensed, my throat was shaking (you know that shake it does when your body really wants to full out ugly cry), but I was determined that this trigger was not going to win! I was not moving my seat to get away from the smell, I was not going to sit down so that I could feel like I was hiding: I just wasn’t! Then the worship leaders asked us to sit and had one last song to play. I knew what was coming. See one of the worship leaders is my people. The one I ugly cry to and a few weeks ago I sent her this amazing song that is currently my anthem song. Lauren Daigle’s “You Say”.

“You Say” by Lauren Daigle

She started singing the words and as everyone was sitting, I stood straight up, raising my arms and praying for the trigger to be gone.

I wish this is where I could say a beam of light shown from Heaven and God miraculously healed my trigger and I rejoiced. That isn’t what happened. The song ended, I sat down and as my friend walked from the back. I left my seat discretely walking behind the congregation with my head down, straight towards my person (Remember the lady who just sang the song? I LOVE her). I walked to her quickly and I think I said “I need you,” touched her hand and quickly walked to the church office. I barely got to the couch before the full-on ugly cry came.

See, by the time I got to the office all I could do was let it out. I was angry that a trigger was having so much control over me. Then, my friend said, this has been coming all week….

That being said, here is what I want to tell you. Whomever you are that is reading this post.
For survivors:

  2. We can NOT heal alone. It truly takes a village of supportive and loving people to walk with us, hold our hands, and be okay with our random breakdowns! Find those people, 1 in 3 is those people, I am that person and so are many others.

For everyone else:

  1. Teach Mutual Consent. Just because “no” is not said, does not mean yes. This protects you and them.
  2. Respect Survivors – Listen to their stories, no words are needed most of the time. The most healing part for me is having someone just let me tell my story while holding my hand.
  3. Memories – Trauma is different for everyone. Some people remember every detail and some don’t. I have one question for those who say “I can’t remember what I was doing 30 years ago.”

Do you remember where you were the day the World Trade Centers were hit with planes? What were you wearing? Doing? Working on?

That is a traumatic memory.  They are not all like that. The more threatened and afraid one feels, the more devastating the effects on the brain. This is individualized like all fears.

In conclusion, I want you to remember one thing. WE BELIEVE YOU! I believe you and there is joy and happiness and peace in the healing process.

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