I Am More Than A Statistic

I am a Survivor. I am a Wife! I am a Mom! I am a Daughter! I am a Sister! I am a Friend! I am Hope. I am Love. I am an Encouragement to other Women. These words get to define me, not a number in a statistic!

One of the best takeaways from The Haven Retreat was the walking affirmations. I find that when I do these I feel Empowered, Strong, Undefeated, and I feel better about Who I am!! When you speak truth to yourself your whole mindset changes. You change into bringing out the best of who you already are!! You are speaking these truths into your mind, heart, and soul. Walking affirmations bring you back to the present and help keep you focused!

I am forever grateful to have been able to attend The Haven Retreat and get started on being Me!

 

-Michelle, Survivor

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5 Ways You Can Break the Silence of Your Abuse

There is solace in breaking our silence. A strength of spirit when sharing our truth. It all starts with the choice to live on the other side of Victim.

-Christine Macdonald-

There may come a time that you, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, will want to tell your story. You’ll want to break the silence that you’ve held for however many years. That’s a brave thing to do. When you feel that you’re ready to do it, here are five ways that you can break your silence. These are listed in order from the most private way to the least private way.

As you make the decision to talk about what happened to you, make sure that you do it in a healthy, safe way. There can be a risk of re-traumatizing yourself if you’re not careful. Above all, take care of yourself, stay in tune with your emotions, and if it gets to be too much, take a step back and regroup.

1. Write about it.

Although this may not seem like a “real” way to break your silence, it can often be the first step. Pull out a journal or a piece of paper or write on the back of an envelope. Just write it down. If you’re not ready to share it, go ahead and keep it secret or destroy it. Do this as often as you need to until you feel like you’re ready to be more vocal or more public about it.

2. Get artistic about it.

Maybe words aren’t your favorite way to communicate. Perhaps you’re better at sharing your emotions through another medium. Sharing your abuse through art, song, or some other way may give you the strength you need to vocalize what happened.

3. Talk about it.

Sit down with someone you trust – a parent, a friend, a therapist. Don’t just blurt it out, prepare them a little bit by letting them know that you’re telling them something that they may not know and that is difficult for you to talk about.

4. Share with others about it.

Join a support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse led by a licensed clinician. It will give you the chance to share with others as well as hearing their stories. You’ll know that you’re not alone and you’ll be able to see what therapies and techniques have worked for others.

5. Post about it.

If writing it down is the most private way to break the silence, posting about it on social media would be the most public. It can also be the most dangerous, in terms of the response that you’ll receive. If you post it on your own page, you’ll be able to delete negative comments. If you post on another board or in the comment thread of another board, you will be at the mercy of the monitors of that board.

Talking about your sexual abuse can be freeing, but make sure that you are ready to reveal it in a way that is safe for you. There’s no pressure for you to share everything at once or to talk about it before you’re ready. Do what’s best for you and, above all, take care of yourself.

Brave is What I Will Remain

The trauma that’s followed the abuse feels a lot like an incurable disease. It lies dormant at times but can strike at any moment with out any warning or reason and ravish every aspect of my life. My education, relationships, goals, dreams, body, mind, and spirit have been forever altered and changed by this darkness.

Darkness, however, can only live in the presence of light. And although the abuse has increased the darkness tenfold, the presence of light has only become that much more apparent. Because of the sorrow I never fail to see an act of compassion, because of the pain I am so much more appreciative of joy because the despair I never let go of an instance of hope. Because I so often feel weighed down, exhausted, and defeated, I am that much more grateful when I am uplifted, energized, or inspired.

There is an opposite in all things and in my case, the happiness I am still capable of feeling in spite of a darkness that’s tried so desperately to encompass my life has created a story of resilience, hope, and courage.

I admit that I sometimes get scared. Scared that life will always be difficult, that love will forever escape me or that I will one day resign in exhaustion but that’s okay. Because feeling scared is just an indication that I’m doing something brave. And that’s exactly right. Bravery is not only what every single day requires after being abused, but brave is what I am and more importantly, brave is what I will remain.

 

-Briana, Survivor

 

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5 Steps to Finding the Right Therapist for You

There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.

-Adrienne Rich-

Part of Acknowledgement is accepting your truth. For some, this means talking about it. One way to do this is by talking to a licensed therapist.

Below are five steps to finding a therapist who is the right fit for you:

1. Do some legwork.

See what therapists are near you, who your insurance covers, and which ones are accepting new patients. This may take some time, but it will be worth it in the long run. This would also be the time to consider whether you have a preference on the gender of your therapist.

2. Call them.

When you’ve narrowed your list down to four or five therapists, call their office and ask if you can have a brief informal meeting with them to see if you would feel comfortable working with them.  Many therapists will be willing to meet with you briefly either in person or over the phone so that you can decide if they are a good fit for you.

3. Consider what you want.

Take some time before your meeting to decide what you want to get out of therapy. What do you want to address first? What are you not quite ready to discuss?

4. Ask questions.

When you meet with the therapist don’t be afraid to ask questions. A few good ones to ask would be:

  1. What’s your training and background?
  2. Do you specialize in anything particular?
  3. Do you have a background in working with survivors of sexual abuse?
  4. Are you a practitioner of EMDR? If so how long have you been practicing this form of therapy?

The way that they respond will help you get to know them a little better and allow you to know if they have the knowledge, traits, etc. that are most important to you.

5. Trust your intuition.

You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if this therapist is someone you can talk to about your trauma. If they don’t seem like a fit for you, then find someone else. The most important thing is finding someone you’re comfortable with, who can be honest with you, and who has the knowledge to help you.

Talk therapy can be an important step in your healing journey, but only if you have a therapist who is a good match for you, that you can trust. Too often survivors won’t get the full benefit of talk therapy simply because they can’t open up to their therapist. Don’t be afraid to find someone else who you CAN talk to. You’re worth it.

The Story Behind The Younique Foundation

It has been a week since our open house. We want to express thanks to everyone who attended or tuned into our Facebook Live. One of the highlights of the open house was to hear the story behind why The Younique Foundation was created.

Above is a video that features this moving story told by our Founding Board Members, Derek and Shelaine Maxfield. The video explores the journey Shelaine and most importantly Derek went on to find the cause that touched their hearts to honor a close friend who had a huge impact on their lives.

After much thought and pondering, Derek and Shelaine both decided to help adult women survivors of childhood sexual abuse know their worth, and help them realize a better future for them selves.

“I know it takes courage. I know its difficult to confront the past. But this is more about facing the future than it is about the past.  And they deserve to find hope and to find healing.”- Derek, Maxfield.

My Healing Has Helped Others

When you’re going through something difficult it’s easy to lose focus. The big picture isn’t clear yet and that can be very discouraging.

When I look back at all the things I’ve endured and survived and the people who have made a mark on my life, I can see that they have put me where I am now. I have the experience and compassion to do what I feel I am here to do in helping others.

By having the experiences, I have had, I can relate to a vast number of people and can offer them the tools to fix the broken pieces in their lives. Much like the kintsugi bowls that are broken and glued back together with gold so that the imperfections are embraced and beautiful. When someone holds open that door for you please remember to hold it open for the next person.

Thank you to The Younique Foundation for hosting me at The Haven Retreat and giving me a door and tools. It came at a time in my life that was much needed and renewed my strength and faith and love in myself.

 

-Amber, Survivor

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8 Books to Read on Your Healing Journey

The book to read is not the one that thinks for you, but the one which makes you think.

-Harper Lee-

Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse ask us for book recommendations that go hand in hand with what we teach at The Haven Retreat and our Five Strategies to Reclaim Hope. Below you’ll find a list of books that our clinicians have found most beneficial for survivors.

1. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk

This book goes in depth about trauma in many forms, using examples from van der Kolk’s own experiences with trauma survivors. He makes the argument for not only mentally healing from trauma, but bringing a physical component into it as well.

 2. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

After the great success of her Ted Talk about power poses and their benefit in raising confidence, Cuddy explored the science behind it even further. This book is an in-depth look at what influence your body language has on you and those around you.

 3. Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper

This book is an excellent resource for survivors, clinicians, and yoga instructors. It will show you the benefits behind trauma-sensitive yoga and how you can find a class to suit your needs as a survivor.

 4. Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro

If you have any interest in EMDR and the benefits it may have for you, then this book is for you. Shapiro writes in an accessible and reader-friendly way about complex topics that allows almost anyone to understand.

 5. Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past by Peter Levine

Too often survivors wonder if their memories are accurate and if they can be trusted. Levine draws on 45 years of expertise to address this concern and give you information about how memory is constructed and how influential memories can be on your present moment.

 6. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Success is not dependent merely on abilities and talent, but on the mindset you use when thinking about them. Dweck says that with the right mindset you can motivate anyone, attain your own goals, and find success – both personally and professionally.

 7. Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness by Fred Luskin

With years of study and experiences, Luskin creates a narrative about forgiveness and the benefits it will have in your life. Using real experiences and scientific backing, he gives you real steps to take in order to forgive.

 8. Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain by James Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth

Writing is a place where many survivors are first able to break the silence about their abuse. In this book, Pennebaker and Smyth give examples, steps to take, and words of encouragement on how you can go about writing our way to healing.

It’s important to go at your own pace as you heal. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much information at once. Try reading one of these books, implementing the benefits, letting them become a habit in your life, and then moving on to another. You are the best judge of where you are in your healing journey, but these books can help illuminate the path.