We Can All Help Survivors Heal

No matter what a person thinks, any action that helps a survivor of childhood sexual abuse heal is a good action.

When we talk about sexual abuse recovery, the survivor is the most important person to think about. The survivor must come to terms with the past and be at peace in the present. Ultimately, no one can heal for the survivor. But when we think about sexual abuse like this, we risk assuming it only impacts survivors. We might think that we don’t play a role in abuse recovery or in stopping abuse from happening.

The reality is that sexual abuse impacts all of us, and we can all do things not only to help survivors heal but to shape the way that society thinks about this issue. Here are three things anyone can do:

1. Don’t blame survivors.

Adult survivors of sexual abuse have often blamed themselves ever since the abuse occurred when they were children. Assure survivors that what happened is not their fault. Asking questions like “Why did you let the abuse go on for so long?” or “Why didn’t you tell someone about this sooner?” can continue to make survivors feel like they are to blame. Your role is to support a survivor on her healing journey, not question her about the past and her behavior.

2. Have conversations with survivors.

In our culture, there is a strong stigma associated with sexual abuse. This stigma can make it scary to talk about abuse, but refusing to have open conversations can reinforce the stigma and shame that survivors feel. Don’t force a survivor to talk about her past abuse, but make it safe for the topic to come up. When it does, be supportive and hopeful.

3. Think bigger.

Discussing sexual abuse with an individual survivor is important, but we need to have this conversation more broadly in our society as well. We need survivors to know that they’re not alone and that we’re aware of what’s happening. Talking about abuse can be intimidating and awkward, but it’s a necessary step in addressing the problem. You can be part of raising awareness about sexual abuse and helping survivors heal.

Survivors need to feel support, and they feel support through more than just having people listen to them. They need to feel like people care about sexual abuse. We all have the power to shape attitudes about abuse if we’ll add our voices to the conversation.

Trauma No Longer Has Its Grip On Me

Stephanie, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who overcame her trauma at The Haven Retreat.

“I understand now how much the trauma affected my life and the damage it has done in my relationships, but it no longer has its grip on me.” – Stephanie, Survivor-

It’s been nearly a year since receiving the call that changed my life. Attending The Haven Retreat was the best thing I have ever done for myself. Since returning I have found and used my voice to stand up for me.

I wasn’t living the life I wanted, I was living the life I thought I was supposed to be. I’ve said goodbye to the toxic relationship I was in. I would never have had the strength before to do that. I drove over a thousand miles by myself to visit family. I’ve put it off for years because I was too afraid. I’ve suffered loss and heartache since then but I’ve also found strength, confidence and true friendship with my sisterhood.

Although I’m on my own now, I’m never truly alone. My support system of fellow survivors are standing strong right beside me. I understand now how much the trauma affected my life and the damage it has done in my relationships, but it no longer has its grip on me. I’ve grown so much since then.  I am stronger, happier, and no longer weighed down with my secret. Someone once told me that you know you are healing when you can tell your story without tears. No tears are flowing as I share my story. Thank you for giving me my life back! Bless you for giving us women this incredible journey to heal.

-Stephanie, Survivor

We Can All Help in the Fight against Sexual Abuse

Written by Doug Osmond and Evan Jones: Philanthropy Managers at The Younique Foundation

Childhood Sexual Abuse needs to stop and it can be stopped little by little.

We came to work here because we feel like The Younique Foundation is making a huge impact for change. When we learned that 1 in 4 girls would be sexually abused before the age of 18, we knew we needed to do something. These statistics have got to change!

We at the Foundation can’t fight this epidemic alone. We need your help. As our Executive Director, Chris Yadon, says, “Until people are as comfortable talking about child sex abuse and its prevention as they are talking about car seat safety, we won’t be able to make a difference.” That is why this blog is so important. We need your voice, and we need you to share the message of The Younique Foundation with as many people as you can. Our message is that survivors of childhood sexual abuse can find hope and healing.

Sexual abuse survivors deserve to heal from the fear and trauma of sexual abuse. The services that The Younique Foundation offers to these women are completely free to them. The reason they are free is because of generous people like you. So far, more than 1,000 women have attended The Haven Retreat to enjoy a variety of healing activities including individual and group therapy, exercise classes specifically designed for trauma survivors, and classes that teach healthy ways to deal with the impact of abuse.

Please help us make a difference in the lives of the millions that are affected by this plague, even if you can only give 5 dollars a month. Your entire donation will go directly to helping these survivors to reclaim the hope that has been taken from them. Every dollar and every voice counts. Now is the time to act. Your contribution will lead to fewer and fewer innocent children facing a horror that is 100 percent preventable.

Thank you for your generosity.

description of the haven retreat

Everything you need to know about the haven retreat

I often get asked what it is that the Younique Foundation does. The Foundation’s mission is to inspire hope and healing in women who were sexually abused as
children. The Haven Retreat was created for this purpose.

The Haven Retreat is a four-day retreat where adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse go to learn and find hope and healing. It is held in a beautiful home, set in peaceful and serene mountains.

I had the opportunity to attend the Haven Retreat and see firsthand the amazing experience Derek and Shelaine Maxfield have created for these incredible women. On Monday, as the participants arrived, I noticed they were very nervous and guarded. Over the next few days, these women attended classes (including yoga and Muay Thai), received makeovers, had their photographs taken, enjoyed healthy, gourmet meals, and connected with a community of other women who have had similar experiences.

It was such a joy to see the transformation these women had made by Thursday. They were now talkative, friendly, smiling and happy. They had created strong bonds of friendship with other women and they radiated hope and positivity. They realized they are not alone on this healing journey and together they created a community of strong, hopeful women who could confide in each other.

These women are so strong and beautiful. I love how they lift each other up and encourage and support one another. I am inspired by every one of them.

It is a true honor to be part of The Younique Foundation’s healing efforts.

Get more information and apply for The Haven Retreat:
http://youniquefoundation.org/learn-how-to-apply/

Guest Blog: written and designed by Cindy Albanese

Cindy is a Sr. Graphic Designer at The Younique Foundation. She has a BFA in Graphic Design from Utah Valley University. She loves design because it gives her the opportunity to expand her skills everyday. She is a wife and new mom and loves spending time outdoors with her family.

Boulders to Sand: Healing from Sexual Abuse

Stacie, survivor of childhood sexual abuse who attended The Haven Retreat from The Younique Foundation

“Those boulders that held me back are now mere rubble that I can foresee will one day be sand.”– Stacie, Survivor-

When filling out the form to go to the retreat, I thought, “Yeah, maybe someday they’ll pick me, maybe I’ll go”. I was called in a week and they wanted me to attend the following week. A whirlwind of emotions surrounded me. No one except my husband even knew the struggles. I had hidden it under so many levels for so many years.

I am 47 years old, when I was 10, I realized the abuse was not normal and stopped going to my grandparent’s house. From age 10-47, so many layers of bricks and so many rocks in my heart had been assembled. It took so much courage to even board the plane from Ohio and realize where I was going and why!

I would’ve never have guessed the healing that could take place! The Haven gave me peace. The counselors made me feel human and worthy. The other ladies who attended were so welcoming. Just knowing that we shared trauma brought us so close. I made life long friends, a support system that I’ve never had. The growth and the acceptance of myself has made such a difference in how I carry myself and those boulders that held me back are now mere rubble that I can foresee will one day be sand.

-Stacie, Survivor

 

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My Past Doesn’t Define Who I Am

Patricia, brave survivor of childhood sexual abuse

“It was the first time in a long time that I could feel again.”- Patricia, Survivor

The Haven Retreat saved me in so many ways. I can honestly say when I arrived at the Haven Retreat I was truly scared. Not because of where I was, but the fear of what I was going to feel. I have numbed myself for years, not wanting to deal with my trauma.

I learned its OK to have a past, but it does NOT define who I am. I am NOT a victim. I am a Survivor, a Warrior, I AM ENOUGH. On the last day I was sad to leave, I had this inner peace inside me. It was the first time in a long time that I could feel again. I am forever thankful for what I learned, who I met, and finding myself-loving myself.

-Patricia, Survivor

The Role of Exercise in your Healing Journey

Exercise is a great way to progress further in your healing journey from childhood sexual abuse

It seems anytime you talk about exercise you’re supposed to talk about weight loss. That’s the primary benefit, right? This is actually false. For a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, exercise has myriad benefits (and weight loss isn’t even one of them).

When you take the time to practice self-care, that includes finding a way to exercise regularly. That can be overwhelming – especially with the glut of information out there about the “best” way to do pretty much anything and everything.

Before we give you 5 Easy Tips to Exercise Every Day, let’s start by listing the health benefits of daily exercise (for even more information on this, read the book Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield):

  • Increased happiness
  • More energy
  • A greater connection to your body (especially important for a survivor)
  • Better sleep
  • Improved memory
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Less stress
  • Alleviated anxiety
  • Greater creativity
  • Decreased cognitive decline

With so many benefits, what’s stopping you from exercising every day? It probably has something to do with time, energy, confusion of where to start, or something else along those lines. Here are 5 EASY tips for exercising every day:

1. Make it fun.

When did we stop thinking that exercise could be fun? Find something that you love doing, even if you’re not great at it. Try roller skating, aerial silks, take a tango class, or just play tag with your kids outside. Whatever you decide to do, make it fun!

2. Do it every day, it doesn’t matter how long.

Consistency is key. Even if you only exercise 10 minutes a day, you’ll see the benefits.

3. Be mindful.

Use this time to check in with your body. Don’t just go through the motions; really feel your body moving and flexing and stretching. Listen to your heartbeat and pay attention to your breathing.

4. If at first you don’t succeed…

Don’t give up. If you miss a day, an exercise doesn’t help, or you find yourself being triggered by something, make adjustments. Don’t give up on exercising altogether. Try something different, commit again, just keep trying.

5. Schedule it.

If you don’t make time for something, you’ll never have time for it. When you’re planning your day, formally or informally, decide when and where you’re going to exercise. It can be as simple as, “I’m going to take the stairs back up to the 6th floor after lunch at work today.”

Exercise will be an incredible help on your healing journey. Take the time to make it a priority, along with your other self-care practices. Make the goal feeling better, not looking better, and you might find that your relationship with exercise changes in a positive way. It’s worth a try, right?

Accepting Your Identity As A Survivor Is Everything

Paria: survivor of childhood sexual abuse and participant at The Haven Retreat

My name is Paria and I am a survivor. I didn’t fully believe that before I arrived at The Haven Retreat. But, I now know it. I was so nervous before flying in, but once I arrived there was a sense of calm, and it was so difficult to leave. I recommend this place for anyone who feels even the slightest that they need some help regrading their childhood sexual abuse. WHATEVER it might have been, you are worth this retreat.

-Paria, Survivor

two people holding hands

Survivors and Sexual Intimacy

If you’re involved in a relationship with a sexual abuse survivor, there might be moments when you don’t know exactly how you can be most helpful in her recovery. Uncertainty about how to help is especially likely to arise when it comes to the most intimate aspects of your relationship, like sexual activity. You want to have a healthy sexual relationship with your partner, a relationship that leads to well-being and continued healing, but what does this look like?

To help understand the survivor perspective, consider that, for a survivor, her initial sexual experiences happened when she was being threatened, coerced, or manipulated. She wasn’t in a situation where was able to fully understand what was going on and give consent. Due to these negative experiences, sex and trauma can be strongly linked in her brain. This connection isn’t something a survivor can just forget about or disregard. A supportive partner can be a key part of healing. Here are some specific things you can do to foster a healthy sexual relationship:

Focus on intimacy, not just sex

 Intimacy involves deeply knowing and trusting someone. Survivors often have difficulty trusting people, especially if the perpetrator of abuse was a trusted individual like a close friend or family member. Spend time building intimacy with your partner. Focus on both physical and emotional intimacy. Build physical intimacy through activities like holding hands, giving massages, or just sitting together to watch a movie. Emotional intimacy can come from genuine conversations about feelings, hopes, dreams, and worries. Strong physical and emotional intimacy can lead to a healthier and more satisfying sexual relationship for both partners.

Recognize that sex can be a trigger

 A trigger is something that sparks a memory and reminds people of a traumatic event. Triggers can make a survivor experience a flashback where she feels like abuse is happening again. Unfortunately, sex can be a trigger for many survivors. If you notice that your partner is beginning to shut down or experience anxiety during sex, it could mean that she no longer feels safe. Maybe her triggers include certain positions, sexual acts, places, or smells that you should avoid. Recognize that sex is an activity you will need to approach with care and understanding.

Communicate

 One of the keys to the success of your relationship is frequent and open communication. Discuss what is acceptable and what is off-limits when it comes to sex. Your goal here isn’t to explore past trauma in graphic detail. Your goal is to establish what will make her feel safe and comfortable. A survivor might feel like she’s ready for sexual intercourse but then change her mind. If your partner ever says she wants to stop what you’re doing, then stop. Continuing to have sex will only damage your relationship and possibly make it more difficult to be intimate in the future.

Survivors need to build trust with their sexual partners and feel like they are in charge of their sexual experiences. Focus on ways that you can make sex a safe activity that will empower the survivor in your life and strengthen your relationship with each other.

Take The Leap of Faith

Kim survivor of childhood sexual abuse who took a leap of faith to attend The Haven Retreat

“I took a leap of faith, and it was well worth it.” – Kim, Survivor

The Younique Foundation. A year ago, I had no clue what those three words would mean to me. A friend of mine posted a link to apply. I took it as a sign. A sign to reopen the wound and clean it out, again.

I was hesitant at first because surely there were other woman who could use the experience more then me. I was functioning in life, had two beautiful children, a supportive husband. I had been in and out of counseling for years. Currently, my life was “together” enough to get through day-to-day. I decided to apply anyway because if I didn’t qualify they would surely let me know.

But that’s not what happened. Instead I got a phone call to arrange my attendance. I was terrified. I didn’t know anyone who had been to this place or even HEARD of it. I took a leap of faith, and it was well worth it. I am not an overly emotional person. I tend to hide my feelings, but after four short days, I was crying saying goodbye to everyone. The house and staff were so welcoming and helpful, from dietary restrictions to accommodating a nursing mother (two actually during our retreat!). Every day I wish I could go back. If you’re on the fence, take this as your sign, You’re Worth It.

-Kim, Survivor