How to Suggest The Haven Retreat to a Survivor

Be a good friend to the survivor in your life by suggesting The Haven Retreat.

At The Younique Foundation, we believe in empowering survivors. We also believe in empowering their supporters, and this blog is for them.

It can be hard to know how to support a friend or family member when you learn that they are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Knowing the right thing to do or say can be difficult. The Haven Retreat is a place that has helped over 1,000 women take steps on their healing journey. If you don’t know how to help, suggesting The Haven Retreat can be a great place to start. Below are three things you can tell your loved one about The Younique Foundation and The Haven Retreat:

1. The experience is focused on helping the survivor reclaim hope and find healing.

The Haven Retreat focuses on educating survivors about the impact their abuse has had on them and gives them tools and strategies to help them heal. They’ll get to experience different types of therapies to see if one will work well for them in the long run. They’ll build a community with the other women participating in the retreat – and that support will continue after they leave.

 2. It works.

Over 90 percent of our participants are still showing improvement six months after the retreat is over. They are in a better place than they were before they came. We receive Survivor Stories every day from women who participated in The Haven Retreat telling about their progress in their own words. Wherever they are in their healing journey, participating in The Haven Retreat can help.

 3. It’s completely free.

 Once they get to Salt Lake City, Utah, The Younique Foundation will take care of the rest. We’ll get them to the retreat and provide them with delicious food, luxurious beds, amazing therapists, and a group of women who are going through the same thing.

It’s not always easy asking for help. The survivor in your life may not know what help she needs or how to ask for it. Tell her about The Haven Retreat. She may not be ready for it right now, but knowing that something like this exists may be the comfort she needs. The fact that you care enough about her to even suggest the retreat may be exactly what she needs to take her first steps toward healing.

Dreams Do Come True

“Upon leaving my home, I was in absolute fear. Walking into the airport, I almost turned back. Something pulled me and said have faith. Face your Fear. You can do this. And, I did!”- Katrine, Survivor

I do not have many childhood memories that are filled with joy, laughter or a sense of normalcy. My earliest memory of abuse is at age 5. From that time forward, my mind and heart needed to find something that I could relate too, feel safe, find a connection. At my darkest time in life my horses, dogs and cats were my family, my safety, my reason in life. I dreamt I was Cinderella, and I found solace with the animals as she did.

They needed me as much as I needed them. I found my purpose. Luckily, over the years, my life has revolved around my two and four legged family.

As I grew up, I stopped dreaming of being Cinderella until, the day I pulled into the long wooded snowy driveway at The Haven Retreat. Upon leaving my home, I was in absolute fear. Walking into the airport, I almost turned back. Something pulled me and said have faith. Face your Fear. You can do this. And, I did!

Upon arriving at the retreat, we were met by two massive doors that would change my life. They were the doors to Healing, Strength, Acceptance, and Best of All …I was surrounded by Women who were just like me. I was not an outsider for the first time in my life. I looked into their eyes and I saw myself in many ways. I silently felt comfort and a very strange sense of peace.

Over those four days we spent together learning, sharing, growing, it was exhausting, emotional yet exhilarating, powerful, and strengthening. These women are and will always remain to be the bravest sisters in my life. We are connected. We are Warriors. Its ok to be who we are.

I never thought I would of had the chance to say, I felt like Cinderella again. Not the Cinderella locked away with abuse, but the ballroom dancing, joyful, beautiful Cinderella. Thank you to everyone who helped me live my dreams again.

-Katrine, Survivor

We Deserve To Live Our Best Life

Ann, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is living her best life after The Haven Retreat

“We are survivors and strong.  We are brave and worthy to stand in the full sunshine of all that life has to offer.”  -Ann, Survivor-

I was never afraid to tell someone I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but the effects of it lived inside of me and affected all areas of my life. I suffered from depression and alcohol abuse for years, and numbed myself to survive.

I only recently realized that life is so much more than what was done to me, that I am worthy of life.  I am a survivor.  I was so lucky to attend The Haven Retreat. I learned I am not alone.  I feel like I am walking through a waterfall and being cleansed. When I walk through to the other side, I will see the total transformation of what life has to offer and what I have to offer others.  We are survivors and strong.  We are brave and worthy to stand in the full sunshine of all that life has to offer.  I can see that now, and I no longer have to hide in darkness.

-Ann, Survivor

3 Ways Non-Writers Can Find Healing Through Journaling

In Writing as a Way of Healing, author Louise DeSalvo says, “I use my writing as a way of fixing things, of making them better, of healing myself.” We know what you might be thinking right now: Writing helps some people, but not me. I’m not a writer. Don’t worry—even if you feel this way about writing, this blog is still for you.

Writing can be a healing activity for anyone, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating. When you write to heal, you’re not writing an essay for your high school English class—you’re writing totally for yourself.

When you write, there’s lots of things you can try. Maybe the first thing you think of is expressive writing where you sit down and write whatever comes into your head without censoring yourself. That’s one way to approach healing writing, but consider trying some of these other ideas:

1. Focus on gratitude  

One of the 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope that participants at The Haven Retreat learn about is Acknowledgement, and a good thing to acknowledge is all of the good that’s happening in your life. Spend some time writing down things you’re grateful for, and try to be specific. Don’t just say, “I’m grateful for my family.” Say, “I’m grateful for my healthy son who did the dishes today without being asked.” Maybe you can write down just one thing every day if more feels intimidating.

2. Journal a ten-word story about yourself.

If you’re stressed by writing lots of words, try writing just a few. It can be a fun challenge to tell a story with a limited number of words. List positive words that describe you and then try to craft a single sentence that tells a story about you, something like “Sensitive, intelligent heroine looking for a hopeful and inspirational adventure.”

3. Think about the future.

Part of healing is having Faith that things can be different and better than they are now. Use writing to envision the future you want. Write in vivid detail about what you want your life to look like in one year, five years, or ten years. Think about what is most important to you and write about your future like it will happen.

Variety can be a good way to move forward on your healing journey. If you haven’t tried writing for a while—or if you always do the same thing when you write—try mixing things up. Writing is a flexible activity, so experiment to find ways it can help you. Give healing writing a chance and see what it can do for you.

Never Hesitate to Reclaim Hope

“If you are not sure whether you should go…my ONLY regret was that I waited.” – Candace, Survivor-

I was apprehensive about embarking on the healing journey offered by The Haven Retreat. I thought that since everything had happened so long ago that maybe I really did not need it or deserve it. There were a million reasons that ran through my mind–all seeming to resist fitting the last puzzle piece in place for me.

Once I arrived at the Haven Retreat, I immediately knew I was definitely in the exact place I needed to be. All of us were on our own individual journeys, but we all had this unmistakable bond from the very first second. It was almost as if we all finally felt like we could take off the mask and breathe.

The education, hope, healing, and sisterhood we all gained while at the Haven Retreat will last a lifetime. Everything that was poured into us with such love by every single staff member set us all on a path to continued healing. I have never had so much self-confidence and ability to finally love myself as I now have. It has had a positive impact on all my relationships, especially my marriage.

I now have a dream to begin a program quite similar to The Haven Retreat where I live. There are so many hurting ladies in this world who truly need all that was provided there.

If you are not sure whether you should go…my ONLY regret was that I waited. It is such a beautiful experience.

-Candace, Survivor

The Power of a Picture

Guest Blog Written by Melissa Shepard

Power of a Picture: A picture can help a survivor of trauma see themselves how they were always meant to be not what they think they are.

A picture can change your life.

You know when you look at a photo of yourself, and it’s super unflattering? You may start to see yourself as a reflection of that moment in time, that angle, that ick. It can stir deep emotions.

Enough to make you stop eating your favorite treats, to join a gym, to make massive changes in your life.

Or to loathe yourself.

Imagine someone taking a photo of you that captures your soul’s light, that captures the joy you felt when you were a little girl, that captures the raw innocence within you that you couldn’t even remember was once there. And with that same shutter of the camera, what’s captured is the beautiful woman within you that you may have never recognized or validated before.

Imagine that.

This is just one aspect of what we do at our retreats at The Younique Foundation. Every woman who attends our retreat has the opportunity to go through a makeover and get her pictures professionally taken—not because she’s not beautiful, but because it allows her to feel she’s worth the effort. There’s something restorative about being pampered and then seeing yourself in an image in a new way. It’s inspiring to see that someone was able to capture your beauty, your light, the sparkle in your eyes that you haven’t seen in a long time, or even just the twitch of a genuine smile to remind you of your greatness.

At our retreats, we offer the opportunity for women who are survivors of sexual abuse to heal the wounds that continue to bleed long after everyone expected the stitches to be taken out.

We offer the opportunity to help these women understand why they continue to bleed, no matter how many times they wrap the gauze and medical tape around their wounds.

We offer these women a chance to shed that which has lodged itself deep into them and to reclaim the liveliness they deserve to feel.

We offer these women a chance to come together in a community and support each other. And for the first time in a very long time, and possibly ever, we allow them to realize that they are not alone in their pain, their shame, their struggle to break free. We offer them sisterhood.

We offer them hope.


There is Always Hope

Amy a survivor who attended The Younique Foundation's Haven Retreat

I left the last day with something I needed so desperately… Hope. -Amy, Survivor-

I spent most of my life afraid that if people really knew me they would hate me as much as I hated myself. I felt broken and alone. I hated dating because eventually you had to have “that” conversation.

Slowly I began to realize no one hated me, but me. I took one small step to start loving myself. I picked one thing that I liked about myself. My eyes. I wrote why I liked my eyes, described them and drew them.

Without that step so many years ago I would never have loved myself enough to even apply to attend The Haven Retreat. It was there that I learned why I react to things the way I do and how to not live with it, but move past it. I left the last day with something I needed so desperately… Hope. Hope that one day my past will be behind me. Hope that panic and anxiety won’t win forever. Hope that my life can be better with the truth that I am worth the effort.

-Amy, Survivor



How to Re-Wire Your Brain After Childhood Sexual Abuse

In a previous blog we discussed the different parts of the brain and the basic way that childhood sexual trauma can affect them. We also addressed the way that childhood sexual abuse can prime your brain for addiction.

The trauma that you experienced in childhood leaves a lasting impression on your brain. Your limbic system (survival part of the brain) is hyper-aroused and will do whatever it can to protect you – whether that’s good for you or not. So how do you gain control again and move past the pain? Below are five things you can do to re-wire your brain and work toward healing. Each one is inspired by one of the 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope.

1. Mindful eating.

This can be especially useful if you have a tendency to use food as a way to cope with emotions. Take the time at one meal today to take a bite and experience your food. Chew it. Really taste it. Inhale deeply between bites. Don’t rush through your meal, but take the time to really enjoy every bite you take.

2. Junk journaling.

Writing can be intimidating if you don’t feel like you’re a good writer. You can spend too much time worrying about your words or sentences or self-consciously censor yourself. Junk journaling is the answer to that. Find a cheap notebook that isn’t too fancy and just write. No one will ever read it. You don’t have to worry about what you put into it. And because it’s just a junk journal you can even destroy it when you’re done. The act of writing in it can be amazingly healing.

3. Forgive yourself.

Too often survivors of sexual abuse blame themselves for what happened. If you’re going to re-wire your brain and move forward on your healing journey, you’re going to have to address that and forgive yourself. That process will be different for everyone, but a great place to start is by discussing it with a trusted friend or licensed therapist.

 4. Meditation.

There are a lot of different ways to meditate. You’ll need to find the one that makes you feel the most at ease and comfortable. The goal of meditation is to bring your thoughts inward and truly connect with yourself once again. As you do so you calm the limbic system, which will allow you to take more control when it tries to protect you in an unhealthy way.

 5. Power pose.

The way you hold yourself can make a huge difference in your feelings about yourself. Amy Cuddy gave an amazing TED talk about the benefits of power poses. So as you start your day tomorrow, stand in front of your bedroom mirror and channel your inner Wonder Woman. Put your hands on your hips and raise your chin. Do this for a minute or two every time you’re feeling low and see what it can do to raise your spirits.

The truth is that there are no quick and easy ways to re-wire your brain. It takes time and energy combined with knowledge to change the effects that trauma had on your brain. That being said, it only takes small steps every day to make a difference. You can re-wire your brain. You can find healing.



When Healing Plateaus

It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
– Ursula K. Le Guin –

Think of the last time you took a long road trip. There were probably moments when everything went smoothly. You were on the freeway with a clear sky and an open road, zooming toward your destination. Chances are, there were moments that were less than ideal, too. Maybe it started to rain and you couldn’t see as far as you wanted to. Maybe you spent some time sitting in traffic totally stopped. You knew you would ultimately make it to your destination, but it didn’t feel like you were making much progress as you sat in the traffic jam.

We often refer to healing as a journey, and your journey might feel like a road trip. There are moments when everything is going well and you feel like you’re making good progress toward your goals. But there might be times when you feel like your progress has come to a stop. You just aren’t moving forward the way you want to. You’re sitting in gridlock rather than driving down the road. What can you do if you feel like your healing isn’t progressing the way you want it to? Below are three things you can try:

1. Acknowledge that it’s normal to have some moments when you stall on your healing journey.

Emotional healing is complicated and takes time. There are bound to be ups, downs, and plateaus along the way. Don’t judge yourself if you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock.

2. Spend some time reflecting on everything you’ve accomplished.

Maybe you’ve achieved the recovery goals you set, and that makes you feel like you’ve reached a plateau. Do you need to figure out a new way to challenge yourself to reach the next level of your recovery? Is there a hurdle you’ve resisted facing head-on and now you’re in a place where you can tackle it?

3. Mix up the strategies you use to address your challenges.

For example, if you always journal to work through emotional issues, try doing a physical activity instead to see if it helps you discover new insight. Incorporating variety is one way to find your way out of a rut.

It can be overwhelming to feel like you’re not progressing. Find comfort in the fact that discomfort is a normal part of the healing journey. Just as you expect some traffic and potholes when you drive, you should expect some moments of frustration on your road to recovery. Use these moments to reflect. Remember that you don’t have to resolve everything right now. Just try to find one specific thing you can do today to help yourself on your healing journey.