I Would Have to Find the Courage to Speak My Truth

My abuse occurred when I was 13 and 14 years old by two different men. I knew immediately that I would have to remain silent, as one of the men was a family member. I didn’t want to risk the shame and feared the pain my family would experience if I spoke out, so I kept it contained, telling myself that once he was dead, I’d be free to speak. For 40 years, I told myself I was fine, that it was nothing, being thankful that the abuse was short-lived. There are so many women who have it much worse than I, why should I complain? His death came in 2017, and the only tears I shed were from the fear of knowing that I was now free to speak. After I shared by abuse with a family member, she told me of something I’d said to her when I was a very young girl about him touching me. How could this be…how could he have done this to a little girl…how could he have not been stopped?

Even a year after his death, I continued to keep the shame, embarrassment, feelings of loneliness and low self-worth to myself. For over 40 years I wore the mask and was the perfect victim; the person that would keep the secrets…to protect them, to protect my family, and, more importantly, to protect myself! I thought I was doing fine and was “over” it, until I no longer was. The pain and secrets were slowly catching up to me and it started to affect my health.

I remember when my acupuncturist asked, “Do you have any deep-seated anger, frustration or resentment?” How did he know that? I was told that whatever it was, I needed to deal with it, or it would eventually shorten my life. I sat in the parking lot frozen with fear because I knew I would have to confront what I’d tried to hide and suppress for so many years. My heart raced the day I found out about The Haven Retreat, and I spent weeks scouring the web for every article and video I could find, finally getting up the nerve to start the application process.

The day I received the acceptance email, I knew my life would be forever changed; I knew I would have to find the courage to speak my truth. Not one to experience headaches that often, I was surprised to find myself with one as I headed to the airport on my way to Utah. I chalked it up to stress and fear about the next four days, but soon came to realize my body was speaking to me. My headache continued through the first and second day and was getting more intense as we headed offsite to group therapy. At group I was terrified and could barely speak the words of my abuse, but out they came and as I released them, my headache lessened. I realized then that this process, as painful and scary as it was, would indeed be a healing one and my past would no longer have a grip on me.

At The Haven Retreat there was so much to learn and take in, it was almost overwhelming. Experiencing four days of being taken care of and being able to share and connect with women whose experiences were different but whose feelings and thoughts were the same was amazing; to truly understand that what I’d felt for so many years was perfectly normal, and to know that I would no longer be alone in this journey left me grateful beyond belief.

It was more difficult than I’d anticipated after returning home. It was so easy at The Haven Retreat when I didn’t have to worry about work, school, being a mom, or a wife. The retreat was my nest of safety and security, but now it was time for growth and flight and I alone was the only one that could do that. I found a therapist I love, started EMDR therapy, and finally found the courage to tell my family. Leading up to The Haven Retreat I’d decided I would refuse to be another statistic by continuing to keep the secrecy. I had to share the story of who I really was, and what I was finally proud of overcoming, I knew I had to share my story on social media. My heart raced and hands shook as I hit that “share” button, but I did it! I’ve heard people speak of “having a weight lifted” after sharing something important, but never really thought I’d feel that way.

I’m so blessed to feel the lightness and freedom of not having to hide anymore. I carry myself differently now; I’m more confident and outspoken. I look back on all those years of silence with love and compassion for myself and pride for what I’ve come through. I’ve learned that everyone has a right to heal from our past regardless of the length or intensity of our abuse. I’m so proud of myself for speaking my truth and acknowledging my past. It honestly scares me to think of where I’d be without The Haven Retreat. I will be eternally grateful to The Younique Foundation for this opportunity and for the beginning of my new life!

-Lea Anne, Survivor