A little girl with a sun-yellow dress, matching hair bow and Mary Jane shoes-this is the last image that pops into my head of my childhood memories.

My childhood left that little girl with open gaping wounds that I didn’t think could ever be healed. My abusers were people who I thought were helpers, people who I thought could be trusted. For years, I did not trust anybody who came near me. I constantly questioned their intentions and built a wall so high, that I never thought it could be broken through. I had no hope.

I attended The Haven Retreat with an open mind and a battered heart. I tried talking myself out of going for months. I gave every excuse I could think of, but I am so glad that I got on that airplane. I left that beautiful home in the mountains with not only new friends but I am noticing now that those once gaping wounds are becoming scars. Scars show me that even though at one time I was hurt, that eventually that pain is replaced with new, tough skin.

Every single day, I am choosing to walk taller, to look people in the eyes, and to finally let that little girl with all of the hurt, fly free. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to attend The Haven Retreat. I am breaking free from all of the hurt and pain. Finally, I am free.

-Mandie, Survivor

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