woman in a coffe shop sitting alone with a defensive posture

5 Ways to Handle the Struggle With Loneliness

Have you ever felt lonely? Chances are, you have. It’s one of those things that affects almost everyone at one time or another. Yet, we rarely talk about it. In an article on loneliness, Sam Juric said, “I fear the presence of loneliness. The way it feels. What it may signal to people about who I am. Whether or not it leaves traces of itself on me for people to see. Whether or not people view me as the lonely girl.”

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may be more likely to feel isolated or lonely. In our work here at The Younique Foundation, we’ve found a few ways to combat loneliness. If you are feeling lonely, reach out to someone and try the suggestions below.

  • Connector.

    Talk to a therapist.

    Though studies on loneliness are limited, one tool that may reduce loneliness is talking about it. A licensed therapist is a great place to start. You can discuss all the reasons you are feeling that way and the root causes behind it in a safe environment.

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    Build a community.

    Find a group of people that you have something in common with and spend time with them regularly. Join a book club, a dance class, or a gardening group. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s probably a group of people who share your same interests, and you can get together with them.

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    Write about it.

    This can be helpful, as long as you write about your feelings and potential solutions. If you use your writing to push yourself into a downward spiral, it could be counterproductive. Instead, try building yourself up through expressive writing.

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    Volunteer.

    One quick way to pull yourself out of loneliness is to volunteer for a group that would love your help: your local food bank, animal shelter, or retirement home. Giving of yourself is an amazing way to feel less lonely.

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    Practice gratitude.

    It can be hard to see the positive when you’re feeling down, but a way to spiral up is by focusing on the good things in your life. If you’re struggling, start with the easiest, most obvious, or simplest things and move on from there. Be specific. Keep thinking of all the good things in your life until you feel better.

Loneliness isn’t easy for anyone, and it can be difficult to work through. You’re not alone in feeling lonely, however, and there are people who want to help you. Reach out to someone today, they might need you just as much as you need them.

Black and white picture of Derek, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

You Might Think You Are Alone In This But You Are Not

Having once been voiceless, I now choose to use my voice on behalf of those who cannot. I was abused countless times between the ages of five and six. For years, I struggled with finding myself and feeling worthy of others’ love. It wasn’t until I forgave the person that perpetrated these acts upon me that I truly became free. Forgiveness is a continual, ongoing process, but one that has allowed me to shed the chains which bound me for so long.

Hope exists for me through the eyes of my six-year-old daughter. In this sense, I’ve been offered a unique gift: I get to experience childhood once more, this time from her perspective. Understanding that education is key, I’d relive the darkest parts of my past all over again if it means she’ll never have to know that same pain.

You might think you are alone in this, but you are not. We are so often a silent majority who are quickly becoming an army of collective voices. I am no longer a prisoner of my past. Instead, I am a prisoner of hope. I am more than my circumstances. I am more than what happened to me. I am more than a conqueror. I am a survivor.

-Derek, Survivor

Black and white image of Wendy, a survivor of childhood sexual assault

I Can Look in the Mirror and See Someone Beautiful

I turned my pain into power. 

For many years I struggled with depression, anxiety, and had absolutely no self-worth. I struggled with an eating disorder and all this became worse after I had my baby girl. 

I didn’t connect the dots and realize this was due to my abuse as a child. When I heard about The Haven Retreat I just knew I had to be brave and attend. 

What I learned at the retreat has saved my life. I can look in a mirror for the first time and see someone beautiful. I’ve firmly closed that door on my past and turned my pain into power. 

I now have so much self-worth, which is precious to me. No one will ever take that away from me again. 

I am so unbelievably grateful to everyone at The Haven Retreat for helping me reclaim my life. I’m going to make the rest of my life the best of my life.

-Wendy, Survivor

Black and white picture of Rosa Parks sitting on a bus

Rosa Parks: The Forgotten Advocate of Sexual Abuse

Alabama, December 1955. A secretary was riding the bus home from work. The bus filled. She was asked to give up her seat so a white man could sit down. She refused.

And history was made.

Rosa Parks is best known as a woman who gave a firm “no” when she was asked to move on a bus. What most people don’t know is that she was not only a civil rights activist but also a childhood sexual abuse survivor. Years before she made history, she was working to get justice for black women who had been sexually assaulted.

When Rosa was 18, a white neighbor assaulted her and attempted to rape her. She said of that incident, “I was ready to die, but give my consent never. Never, never.” Even then she knew that her “no” had power.

Rosa Parks was inspired to join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and part of her job was making sure that black people who had been sexually assaulted were able to have their day in court. She gave black women an ally and a voice.

While everyone has heard of Rosa Parks’ refusal to move on the bus, few know of her amazing work with black women and girls in a time when overt sexual violence against them was commonplace. One can’t help but wonder why. Why do we flit past this remarkable part of her contribution?

One reason may be the discomfort we still have discussing childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape, especially as it affects women of color. We need to make it safe for all survivors of sexual abuse to tell their stories and find hope and healing.

Rosa Parks was a trailblazer in many ways. She overcame obstacles that most of us could never imagine coming across. Her legacy lives on. Let’s credit her life’s work when we talk about this legacy. And let Rosa Parks inspire you with her unwavering ability to say “no” when things happened that she would not stand for.

woman with a yellow shirt smiling in a chair

Improve Any Relationship With Assertive Communication

Can you think of a time when miscommunication created a problem? Think about this misunderstanding:

A few years ago while traveling in France, I was trying to make my way around using the limited French I had learned in high school and college. I had to summon all of my courage every time I needed to talk to anyone, and miscommunication was always a possibility. One miscommunication happened in a pastry shop. After eyeing all of the beautiful and delicious pastries, I settled on a chocolate éclair. I talked to the shop owner and thought I said that I wanted one éclair. To my surprise, the owner started to put all of the éclairs he had in a box and then handed them to me. I was too surprised and embarrassed to say anything, so I paid for them and walked out—and ate éclairs for the rest of the day.

As this story illustrates, communicating can be hard. Moments of misunderstanding are just part of life. Someone’s going to think you want a box of éclairs when you only want one. As psychiatrist Mark Goulston points out, “because we filter reality through individual values and perceptions, misunderstandings are inevitable.”[1] We usually have to work hard to be effective communicators. Developing good communication skills can help you on your healing journey because you will be able to establish and enforce healthy boundaries and relationships with other people.

Think of communication as a continuum with passive communication on one end and aggressive communication on the other end. Passive communicators often set weak boundaries. They hide hostility rather than express it and sometimes try to please people. They may let people step on them. Aggressive communicators, on the other hand, set up rigid boundaries. These people can explode and make threats and ultimatums. They often step on others.

In contrast to passive and aggressive communicators, assertive communicators set appropriate boundaries, can be firm when they need to be, and deliver messages clearly. At the same time, they are respectful, fair, and understand other people. At The Younique Foundation, we say that assertive communication is the ability to honestly express your views and desires without undue anxiety in a way that protects both you and the person you’re communicating with. Think back to the situation in the French pastry shop. An assertive communicator would figure out a way to walk out with one éclair instead of an entire box. Here are three strategies you can use to increase your assertive communication skills, especially in situations where you need to have a difficult conversation:

  • Connector.

    Develop empathy

    Listen and work to understand the other person’s feelings. Express your concern for the other person: “I can tell that you’re upset, and I understand why.”

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    Use "I"

    Instead of accusing the other person of doing something wrong, describe your difficulty and dissatisfaction with a situation and explain why you need something to change. “I’m feeling upset and dissatisfied with… because…”

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    State what you want

    Make a request for a specific change in the other person’s behavior, including where you’re willing to be flexible. “I’d like… and I’ll do…”

Assertive communication is especially important—and sometimes especially challenging—in intimate relationships. But remember that honestly expressing your feelings makes other people feel comfortable being honest, too, and will ultimately strengthen all of your relationships.

[1] Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior, Perigee, 1996, p. 16.

Black and white image of Tonya, survivor of childhood sexual abuse

I Had to Stand Out in the Open and Stop Hiding

My abuser died in 2012, leading to a series of events that forced me to wake up to how I was living my life. I had shut down my abuse. Refused to acknowledge or speak about it. I was successful. I promised myself it would never impact my life. That I wouldn’t be a “statistic.” I hated the word survivor. I always wondered why people called themselves that. 

I survived but I didn’t live. 

In 2014, I began my healing journey. At the time, I didn’t realize how much of an impact my abuse had on my life. Why I worked so much. Why I found relationships and intimacy difficult. I had shut down myself. The real me. My soul. 

I engrossed myself in being well. As a coach and business owner and just someone who always believed in growth, I was always moving forward. I healed and I grew and I changed my life. I found myself.

But something, still, was missing. I was still protecting myself, my story, still not sharing it, still holding onto the shame that THIS HAD HAPPENED TO ME and that it had broken me, that it had cost me so much of my life. I wanted to be in control of the story, still. 

I didn’t identify with groups for survivors, I still didn’t speak about it, even though I had a public platform with my business and my blogs. 

Despite all the work I had done, there were still pieces missing, still brain fog, still disassociating, still uncomfortable with being known for that. 

Finding out about The Haven Retreat came at the right moment for me. I knew I had to do this, to work with people who specifically understood sexual abuse. I knew I had to stand out in the open with this and stop hiding, stop controlling who knew and how they knew. 

It was time to own my story so my story no longer owned me. And I’m happy to say that the things I learned at the retreat changed my life. What I learned about the brain and trauma allowed me to finally own that my abuse changed me, changed my life, changed my responses. 

I didn’t want that story. I didn’t want it to have power over my life. But ignoring it and denying it is what gave it power, not facing it. Facing it, understanding it, learning about it and standing in the presence of it – owning that part of me and my life – helped me heal more than I can say.

The people I met there will be life-long friends. Thank you for what you do. While I had done so much work, this retreat really helped me in ways I wasn’t expecting, it helped me put my puzzle together. 

I’m forever grateful.

-Tonya, Survivor

Black and white image of Jessica, survivor of sexual abuse

I Know for the First time in my life that I am enough

For more than 26 years I have lived with shame, guilt, fear, and feeling unworthy. From the outside, most people never sensed the turmoil I was living with on the inside, the daily struggle of anxiety and triggers. My daughter turned the same age I was during my abuse and it hit me like a ton of bricks, I knew something had to change. I had to find a way to live, I had to find a way to protect her from the same thing that happened to me. When I learned about The Younique Foundation and The Haven Retreat I knew without a doubt that this was what I needed to begin my healing process. I arrived in Utah and my first thought was to get back on the plane and go back home, fortunately, my husband calmed me down over the phone and convinced me to stay. I am so thankful he did.

Words can’t even begin to explain my experience at the retreat. Walking through the doors at the retreat was so calming, welcoming, just so refreshing. I had never met any of the other 23 ladies there, but instantly knew they understood me – my pain, anxiety, and fear. The healing that began that day, and for the next several days, was amazing. Never did I think I could let my wall down but I did and the reward for that is something I will forever be grateful for.

Yes, I still have days of anxiety and triggers, but now I have strategies to help me through those days. I have support system unlike anything I’ve ever had before and I am so blessed.

I now know for the first time in my life that I am enough, I am worthy, I am brave, and I am beautiful. I reclaimed hope!

-Jessica, Survivor

black and white image of a woman leaning against a door frame and smiling

I Was Nowhere Near the Person I Wanted To Be

It is so difficult to hear about child sexual abuse. It’s even more difficult when the story is about you. For over 20 years I held all the pain, guilt, and shame inside. I never told a single person what had happened until I was in my 30’s. I pushed aside all the feelings associated with my abuse and tried not to acknowledge that this had happened. It would creep up at times, but I was always able to push it away. 

There came a moment when I was no longer able to push the memories away. On the outside, I appeared to have a very successful life. I had a beautiful family, a growing business, a nice home…but on the inside, I felt so broken. I was nowhere near the person I wanted to be. I was so ashamed and embarrassed that I really didn’t think I could ever tell anyone. I finally got up enough courage to tell a couple of people, but that didn’t make it any better. That just made it real! I would spend hours each day wishing it all never happened and that I could make the pain go away. No matter how much I tried to wish it away, it was still there. I went to therapy but had trouble opening up to my therapist. I read some self-help books on healing. Every book seemed to just say “It’s so hard, but healing from childhood sexual abuse is possible.” I wanted to scream because I just didn’t see how I could make the pain go away! 

One day, I was talking to a friend that I had confided in. She told me about The Haven Retreat and I thought “Oh, that sounds nice, but I could never do that.” When I finally went to The Younique Foundation website and read about what they do, I felt like God was telling me to go. I applied to the retreat that day and got in pretty quickly. I was so nervous to go, but I made it, and I truly believe that it has forever changed my life. 

At The Haven Retreat, I learned that I am not alone. For so long, I felt so very alone in my struggle. Now I know 23 other people who have felt what I felt. As I listened to some women tell their stories, I immediately felt so much compassion for them. I finally realized that I needed to give myself that same compassion! For so long I carried these self-defeating thoughts and I was finally able to feel like this wasn’t all my fault. The education I received at the retreat is what I feel really changed the course of my life. I now know what steps I can take to change my actions and how I feel about myself. I have a support system and a plan. I know that this journey is still going to take a lot of effort on my part, but I finally feel HOPE, I finally feel peace, and I finally feel like I have a purpose.

-Sarah, Survivor

black and white image of a survivor of childhood sexual abuse

Silence is Never Golden When It Comes to Child Sexual Abuse

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, and growing up in a Navy family, I often felt like I was navigating my own ship. Left alone at sea, abandoned for many years. It wasn’t until my early 40s I was ready and able to confront my demons. My trigger was when my daughter turned 5, the same age I was when things began.

There were some dark, lonely days that turned into years and lots of therapy, but I have always carried some seeds of HOPE deep within.

The moment I read about The Younique Foundation and The Haven Retreat, I knew this would be a place to help me continue and accelerate my healing path. I cried my first day at The Haven Retreat when I saw all the women in their 20s/30s/40s because it means they are getting about the task of healing sooner than I did, thereby saving themselves lost decades!

Don’t get me wrong! There are women in their 50s/60s/70s too at the retreat and I applaud them (and ME!) too for the courage to stand up and show up for yourself! But I LOVE and celebrate starting the healing as early as possible.

The family message of “forget about it” and “let’s not talk about it” only feeds the shame. Silence is never golden when it comes to child sexual abuse.

So many powerful moments or takeaways during the 4-day retreat, but the makeover/photoshoot caught me off guard with an awareness about never feeling beautiful. I looked a lot like my abuser – as a little girl I was told that repeatedly by family and others. He was an awful, terrible, evil person. As a 5-year-old I internalized that notion and that became my self-talk. At some point, I dropped the connection with my abuser and just thought I was ugly and awful. I had forgotten that I had only believed that because little 5-year-old Susie was doing her very best to handle things. I had carried some aspect of that narrative for 56 years! Making that connection allows me to see only me. I love me and I am beautiful!

I am forever grateful for The Haven Retreat experience, The Haven Retreat team who made me feel cared for and about, for my Forever Sister Tribe, and for adding HEALING tools to my toolbox for life.

It has been said that child sexual abuse is a wound that lasts a lifetime but I now think it’s a wound that can start to heal.

I am a Survivor/Warrior with scars. I love that I have the courage to heal. I love that I can help others with my journey. I love that this is MY story to tell. I love that you are never too old to figure stuff out – I am 61! I love that I am more than enough and I am beautiful and I am a grateful spirit!

-Susan, Survivor

woman wearing a purple younique foundation shirt

How Can I Help?: Wear Your Hope Edition

Matt, an employee here at The Younique Foundation, had the following experience wearing his purple “No More 1 in 4” shirt while at an amusement park with his family:

“We were standing in line for a ride, and a lady behind me, who was probably 19, asked me, ‘Hey, what is that shirt about?’ I told her that I worked for The Younique Foundation, which is a charity that works to stop childhood sexual abuse and help survivors heal. She started to tear up, came right over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘I’m part of the one.’ I got to tell her about The Haven Retreat, and I encouraged her to apply. I don’t know if she ever did, but I hope she knows that there is a group of people out there fighting for her.”

When you buy an item from our store, you are helping The Younique Foundation in three ways:

  1. You’re showing your support. Every time you wear your shirt, you let the world know that you support The Younique Foundation. That you support ending child sexual abuse. That you support survivors of childhood sexual abuse. That you care.
  2.  You’re spreading the word. Like Matt in the story above, when you wear your shirt, it can lead to questions and conversations. You’ll be able to spread the word to survivors and supporters, as well as help break down the stigma of talking about childhood sexual abuse.
  3. You’re helping survivors reclaim hope. The money that you spend on a shirt or a water bottle goes to help survivors. As a nonprofit, we rely on donations, but when you buy a shirt it’s like you’re getting a gift for your donation. You get a comfortable and cute shirt, and we get to help more women find healing.

So if you’re looking for a way to help The Younique Foundation make a difference in the lives of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, consider looking through our shop. When you wear one of our shirts you’ll not only make a difference; you’ll look good doing it.