When I think about my childhood, I sometimes think about how alone I felt. I felt different than everyone else. Sometimes I thought I felt special, but most of the time I think what I was really feeling was shame. My trauma started at 4 years old, by an uncle, and then continued with more people I trusted, including my pediatrician, until I was 23. I honestly don’t know how I made it through. I look back and think, that little girl was really strong because she had to be.

As I grew older, I felt less strong and more out of control. I felt sad, scared, crazy, anxious, and couldn’t seem to have a boyfriend or a relationship like everyone else because I was afraid of being touched. I remember joining a group in my 20s with sexually abused women and the leader of the group asked me who my pediatrician was. I told her, and she went to the place where my pediatrician still practiced. When she came back to the group, she said, in front of everyone “I talked to someone who knows your pediatrician, and he is a very prominent man and he would never do anything like that.” Well, there went another trusted person, someone who was supposed to support and believe in me. She made me feel like a liar, which caused even more shame.

When I shared my abuse, with who I thought were trusted people, some would say things to me like, “Why didn’t you say anything to anyone?” or, “It wasn’t that bad if you weren’t raped.” This caused more and more shame. I never talked about it to anyone again for many years. Not until I met my ex-husband. Unfortunately, my marriage didn’t last, but I have two beautiful daughters from it. My anxiety affected them in many ways because they didn’t understand what I had been through and I couldn’t tell them until they became women. I didn’t tell them because I felt shame. When I finally told them, they understood why I acted the way I did with a lot of things, being overprotective, etc.

In short, I was in therapy for years and dealt with a lot of anger and disappointment. I felt like I was very far on my healing journey. It wasn’t until I went to The Haven Retreat and met my sisters there that I realized I still had more to deal with. I also felt I had a group of women who were loving, caring, and understanding, and they could identify with me. The shame was finally gone; I didn’t have to feel that way anymore.

It doesn’t matter how far along in your journey you are, just the mere fact that you have people who care and support you is very healing. I am still in touch with these beautiful souls. We still cry, laugh, and share stories together, and feel a very special bond between one another. It is one that will never be broken. We are strong, we are beautiful, and the one thing I will always keep with me that I took from The Haven Retreat is: #IAmEnough!

-Debbie, Survivor

Interested in attending The Haven Retreat?