The Retreat Provided the Missing Piece of the Puzzle

I attended The Haven Retreat in June 2017. I cannot describe the kind of love, support, and genuine caring that I received there. I spent years in therapy that did not help. The retreat provided the missing piece of the puzzle for me. I consider myself to be very lucky indeed because the group I attended with was the first to be offered online continuing education after the retreat. I don’t know that I would have been able to make the progress I have without it. If you are still struggling alone in silence, please know this – healing IS possible. At 64, I am living proof. Thank you, Younique Foundation. Thank you!

-Jan, Survivor

Jan, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Embrace the Truth that You are Intended for Greatness: A Message from Shelaine Maxfield

Guest blog by Shelaine Maxfield, Board Chair and President of The Younique Foundation

Each of us is on a journey of self-discovery, and each of us has an incredible purpose to fulfill. That specific purpose looks different for everyone, and that’s okay. I was unaware of my potential as a child and young adult. It wasn’t until I was in my mid- to late twenties that I realized that I had wasted my life living below that potential.

For a long time, I didn’t know that I had a purpose or potential to live up to. I grew up in a small town, I didn’t develop or discover any talents in my childhood, and I don’t have a college degree. These things are true about me, but they are what I call my “wrong truths.” I realized that I was living my life based on the understanding and the belief that I was a nobody from nowhere.

I had to take a good look at my life and do a lot of soul-searching to figure out what was right with me, what I had to offer, and what I could contribute to society. After some time, I came to the conclusion that I have a big heart. I have a willingness to help and a desire to be a blessing in the lives of those around me.

These things might not look very impressive on a résumé, but they are exactly what I need to live my life with purpose. Looking back, I can see that I had opportunities to do more good than I did. I was stuck in the mentality that somehow my ability to achieve success was inhibited by and dependent upon how others might react to me. I allowed my insecurities to get in the way of doing good. I was so busy seeing the barricades that I failed to notice the pathways. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to accept that yes, what people say about me still has the potential to hurt my feelings, but negative perceptions or comments cannot affect my ability to rise above them unless I allow them to.

I asked myself a simple question, and my perspective on my life changed. For me, it didn’t happen in one big “ah-ha” moment. It didn’t happen overnight. And while I can tie this perspective shift back to a certain time of my life, it’s been a series of seemingly insignificant events. The shift has happened for me gradually, and, honestly, it’s still happening. But I think when it comes right down to it, I simply caught hold of the thought, “What if?”

What if I was intended for more than just getting through each day? What if I’m supposed to be doing something important with my life? What if I’m not living up to God’s plan for me? And then I let those thoughts sink in deeply. Those thoughts sunk so deeply that they landed on a reservoir of potential that I didn’t even know was there. I let those thoughts evolve, and I allowed them to start influencing the choices I made, sometimes big choices, but mostly the little everyday choices. Gradually, I also learned to recognize those regularly occurring negative thoughts for what they were: progress preventers.

I was allowing those negative thoughts and those wrong truths to dictate who I was and who I would become. Then I thought: what would happen if I embraced the things that were right with me? What if I let those things determine the path of my life instead? If thoughts had the power to lead me on a path that I didn’t want to stay on, then what would happen if I let them lead me to where I’d rather be? We have to choose where our energy and our time are best spent. We have to maximize the effort we give and only give it to the things that matter the most to us. We may need to give up some things, but most things just need to be reassessed, restructured, organized and then given 100% of our focus during the time that we have set aside for them.

My life is what it is today because I asked myself over a decade and a half ago, “What if?” What if I could become all the things that I admire in other people? What if I let go of the negativity and immersed myself in positive things instead? Then, instead of telling myself I couldn’t change and grow, I grabbed hold of my aspirations and they have become a metamorphosis for me. I want all of you to experience this kind of transformation in your own lives. I hope that something that I have shared opens your eyes and your hearts to the truth that there is incredible power within each of you. We don’t need to look to the world to find out who we are intended to be. That amazing version of ourselves that we hope to become someday has been right here inside of us all along, just waiting to be discovered.

Embrace the truth that there is incredible power within you. Embrace the truth that you are intended for greatness – I know that you are. Kick your journey of self-discovery into high gear and discover who you are intended to be by taking something away, just one thing: negativity. Start by recognizing it in its many forms and then respond by saying, “There is no room for negativity here.” When we remove the negativity from our lives, we make room for the goodness that life has to offer. We open our hearts to discovering our purpose, and we uncover the incredible goodness that is within us. We allow ourselves to truly become what we are intended to be.

The Younique Foundation’s Top 10 Blogs of 2017

We love connecting with survivors and supporters on our blog. Connecting with you is one of the main ways we keep the dialogue going about childhood sexual abuse. We’re always here to help you on your healing journey, and we hope that you’ve found information and encouragement here that has inspired you to move forward. In case you missed them, here are our most popular blogs from 2017.

  1. Survivors and Sexual Intimacy. As a supporter, learn how you can be sensitive in sexual relationships with a survivor to make them feel safe.
  2. How to Re-Wire Your Brain After Childhood Sexual Abuse. Get ideas for specific activities you can do to calm your limbic system and move past the pain of abuse.
  3. How to Suggest The Haven Retreat to a Survivor. When a survivor discloses, it can be hard to know how to help. Suggesting The Haven Retreat is one option, and here are some ideas for ways to start the conversation.
  4. Everything You Need to Know About The Haven Retreat. Find answers to some of your questions about The Haven Retreat and read about its transformative power.
  5. The Haven Retreat is for You. Yes! I am Talking to You. Many survivors feel like they’re coping with their abuse and doing okay. Learn how we created The Haven Retreat for women exactly like you.
  6. Can’t Attend The Haven Retreat? 5 Ways You Can Heal from Home. At The Younique Foundation, we want to help all survivors. Here is a list of tools and strategies that you can use wherever you are.
  7. Loving Your Body: 5 Tips for Having a Positive Body Image. Body image issues can slow down your healing. See things you can do to have a positive relationship with your body.
  8. Don’t Let Shame Stop You on Your Healing Journey. Survivors often spend years thinking they’re flawed because of what happened in their past. Explore strategies for overcoming feelings of shame and inferiority.
  9. Your Sexual Health Bill of Rights. Spend time reflecting on the expectations you have regarding your sexual health so that you can have safe and fulfilling relationships.
  10. How Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is Shifting the Story. Time Magazine declared silence breakers as 2017’s person of the year. Read about how sharing survivor stories can contribute to dialogue and make a difference.

I Learned Something Very Important: I Am Worth Love

I was severely abused starting when I was just a baby. I was so alone and I wanted to be loved so much, but I did not receive love from anyone in my life. In fact, I did not receive help for my abuse until I was 17. A lot of damage had been done by then and I need a lot of help.

I had a wonderful therapist who believed me and did not question me like everyone else. For the first time in my life, I began to trust. This man became my therapist, pastor, surrogate father, and very good friend. He helped me through a lot of pain, but I still felt very worthless – I still did not feel “loved.”

When I was 20 I married my best friend. He loved me with all his heart, but I was very damaged and I was not able to love him properly because I did not know how to love myself or appreciate any part of me. We had several problems and the word “divorce” came up often. Even with that, he still loved me and nothing I could do would stop him from loving me.

When I was 30 I heard about The Haven Retreat. I was skeptical at first, but my pastor, husband, and friends urged me to apply and I was accepted in a matter of two weeks. I drove from my home in the Bay Area to Salt Lake City, Utah. I learned so much about myself during the drive and was so ready to accept any and all the help that would be offered to me. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I really had no idea what to expect.

At the retreat, I met so many ladies that soon became my “warrior sisters,” friends and women who I had this fantastic bond with. There was healing in every activity, session, and even meal. I attended as many classes as I could and, slowly, I began to love myself and view myself as someone who is strong and worth something. I opened up about things in my past to the ladies in my group and it scared me, but the women, therapists, case managers, and everyone involved in my healing journey helped me. I began to view myself as someone who deserved love and finally discovered I had hope in my life and I could get better just by applying the things I learned and letting people in and allowing myself to be loved. For the first time, I learned something very important:

I AM WORTH LOVE.

After the retreat, I went back home and I was welcomed with open arms. I have thrived. I have opened myself up to people I always held back from in the past. Every day I learn more things about myself and I try to be as positive as I can. I deserve and am worth love, and I truly believe that in my heart now. I praise God for The Haven Retreat and for everything that I experienced before, during, and after the retreat. But most of all, I’m thankful for learning about Love.

 

-Julie, Survivor

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I Was Oblivious to the Way My Mind Worked

Carrie, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I used to believe that my story was less important than others. When I heard other women tell their stories, I felt so sad for them. Little did I know, mine was important too.

I never really knew how much it affected me, still to this day. I never knew that the anger I had was so connected to it. I never knew that a lot of my life situations stemmed from my abuse.

Until I met the world of The Younique Foundation, I was oblivious to the way my mind worked.

Now, this isn’t a miracle story. I say that because I am still learning how to work through it every day due to trials coming with tribulations. I’ve found that different things work for different people.

Before I end this, I just want each and every one of you survivors to know that your story is equally important as the next survivor.

-Carrie, Survivor 

 

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Do-It-Yourself: How to Choose Your Own Family

Quote for creating your own family for The Younique Foundation.

The most supportive people in your life don’t always have to be the people you’re related to. Sometimes good friends can offer the love and encouragement of a family. Creating your own family can be difficult, but it’s not impossible and it’s definitely well worth it. All you need to begin is a desire to find people who are a good fit for you. The goal is to surround yourself with loving and supportive people who understand, empower, and push you to be the best version of yourself. If that sounds like a project you’re ready to undertake, then read on.

Please note: There is no wrong way to implement this into your own life, just be sure to go in with lots of love and a little patience.

Step 1: Realize what you need.

One woman lived far away from her family. She and her husband were both going to school, and she was pregnant with their first child. As time went on, she realized that she missed her mother and grandmother. So she made friends with a few older women in her neighborhood. They filled that hole for her. Of course, there are times when you don’t know what you need until you find it, so keep an open mind about the people in your life who can become your family.

Step 2: Find your people.

After her divorce, one woman felt completely alone. No one in her family understood. Almost all of her friends were still married and just pitied her. She felt like she had no one to talk to about what she was experiencing. Then her friend invited her to a Facebook group for single moms. Suddenly she had dozens of women who knew exactly how she felt. A few of the women became her family. In fact, during the holidays when their kids are with their other parent, her group of single moms gets together to have their celebration. No matter what you’re going through, good or bad, there are people out there who are understanding and supportive. You just need to find them.

Step 3: Embrace your new family.

One woman’s family shamed her anytime she would post pictures on Instagram with her friends and label it #family. While she still has a limited relationship with her blood family, this woman has made a purposeful choice to spend more time and energy with her chosen family who is more supportive and less shaming. There may be people who don’t understand why you need to expand your family. It may cause questions or hurt feelings. Keep in mind that you need to surround yourself with the best people to have the best life. And creating a new family, or expanding your current one, can do that for you.

We realize, of course, that a strained relationship with your blood family can be heartbreaking. And it’s not always easy to find a new family or support system. The above directions aren’t meant to be flippant, but to show you that you deserve people in your life who are loving and supportive of you and your healing journey. So be sure to keep an open mind and open heart when it comes to who you want, and who you exclude, in your family.

 
 

I Was Mended With Strength, Bravery, and Love

Samantha, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Before I went to The Heaven Retreat, I was very scared and broken inside. I never thought I would be able to start that healing process. Once I got there I started to notice that healing was possible. I’m very grateful for the staff at The Younique Foundation. They showed me that even though I felt broken, I wasn’t. I was a beautiful art piece that was mended together with strength, bravery, and love. I will never forget the experience I had there.

I am strong. I am brave. I am beautiful. I am a Survivor!

-Samantha, Survivor

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How Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is Shifting the Story

Every year Time magazine chooses a Person of the Year. Someone who was significant in the events of that year, whether positive or negative. This year instead of just one person, they chose to highlight the women and men who spoke up about their sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or sexual assault, including the woman who created the #MeToo campaign.

The Time magazine cover choice marks an amazing shift away from focusing on the perpetrator to focusing on the survivor. These women and men have been shown to be strong, capable, and courageous. It’s creating a space for all survivors to tell their stories.

At The Younique Foundation, we know the power that a survivor’s story can have. In fact, we have an entire page dedicated to it called Faces of Survivors. These women have bravely shared their stories of abuse and healing. In breaking their silence, they are breaking the stigma surrounded talking about childhood sexual abuse.

If you are a survivor who is ready to share your story, we would love to hear it. If you’re a supporter who wants to help or a survivor who isn’t ready to break their silence, we have other ways that you can help, including supporting the work that we do to help educate and empower.

Time magazine’s decision to highlight the strength of the survivors will hopefully set a precedent that will continue as more women and men opened up about their experiences.  We are grateful it has shone a light on sexual abuse, taking it from something secret to something we can and should speak openly about. Let’s keep this conversation going and continue to break down the stigma around talking about it. You can heal, and we want to help you do it. You are not alone, you don’t need to feel ashamed, you are a survivor, and your story matters.

5 Ways to Support a Survivor During the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful and magical time of year for so many. For a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, however, they can be difficult. We’re often asked by those who love and support a survivor, “What can I do to help?” To answer this question, we’ve created this video and infographic. You’ll hear tips from supporters and what they do to care for the survivors in their lives.

Help make the holidays safe and happy for the survivor you care about. Happy holidays.

Infographic for Supports of childhood sexual abuse survivors during the holidays.

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I Could Not Look in the Mirror and See a Beautiful Being

Monica, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who attended The Haven Retreat.

I didn’t believe I was a deserving candidate for The Haven Retreat. I thought I was doing okay in life and I would be taking another woman’s spot if I went. What I also didn’t realize was how my trauma was indeed impacting my way of thinking and lack of self-worth. I kept telling myself that I was a survivor, NOT a victim. I truly didn’t believe it. I could not look in the mirror and see a beautiful being.

Upon arriving, I instantly felt so much love and healing from not only the amazing staff but the other warrior women who had similar stories. I learned that I truly did deserve to be there and I was given tools to help cope and change my mindset. I never knew I could feel such love for people in such a short time!

I’m still learning to love myself and use the skills given to improve my outlook on life. I’m healing from the inside and I have a positive journey ahead of me. I am strong, beautiful, and deserving. I am a survivor. I am not broken. I am me. And I love me!

 

-Monica, Survivor

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