How Can I Help?: Social Media Edition

Quote for How to Help blog.

One of the most common questions we get here at The Younique Foundation is “How can I help?” There are a lot of ways, but one of the easiest is by joining us on our social media platforms. They are meant to not only break down the stigma surrounding childhood sexual abuse but also to create a safe community for survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters.

Facebook: You’ll find most of our information, our campaigns, our community, and our giveaways on Facebook. We post daily and do our best to make sure that everything we share is beneficial to survivors and supporters.

Instagram: This is full of daily content for both survivors and supporters. We try to post things that are hopeful so that you can have a daily pick-me-up if you follow us here. We also have a second Instagram account called Faces of Survivors where we post pictures and stories directly from survivors.

Twitter: Here the focus is more on news or events happening in real life related to our mission to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse find healing. We try to keep the content uplifting, highlighting stories that might otherwise be missed.

Pinterest: Our Pinterest boards are filled with specific tools and resources to aid survivors on their healing journey. We have blogs, recipes, coloring pages, meditation practices, survivor stories, and more.

There are a variety of ways to help us make a difference, but one of the easiest ways to make sure we reach as many survivors as possible is to follow us on social media, let your friends know, and encourage them to follow us. It only takes a few seconds, but it can make a huge difference. So what are you waiting for? Go follow us today!

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.

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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#MeToo Started the Conversation: What Now?

During October, you maybe saw someone you know and care about post #MeToo on social media. You probably asked yourself what you could do next.

Or maybe you were one of the brave survivors who said #MeToo. Perhaps this gave you a sense of freedom and power creating a want to reclaim your life after abuse.

With every breaking news story of another powerful person being called out for sexual abuse, harassment, or assault, the need to do something builds, and it is reaching a tipping point.

#MeToo started the conversation, but what is next? What do we do now, knowing that sexual abuse is rampant in our society? How can a survivor reclaim hope after abuse?

Below are a couple of things you can start today whether you are a survivor, a loved one of a survivor, or just someone who wants to make a difference.

For Survivors:

1. You are not alone

First and foremost, you are not alone. We hope you have felt a sense of community by saying #MeToo. If you didn’t get community support, please check out our Faces of Survivors gallery. Read the amazing and courageous stories of several survivors, and truly come to know that you are not alone.

2. Seek out helpful resources

If you are ready to reclaim hope and find lasting healing, we at The Younique Foundation have worked to put together several resources to help you as you overcome the impact of abuse.

Two great resources are our free Reclaim Hope book and workbook, full of strategies and exercises to help you overcome triggers, live in the present, and realize a bright future is ahead.

For Supporters:

1. Know how to respond when someone breaks the silence

Hearing that a friend or family member was treated in such a horrible way is challenging. It might come as a shock, and most likely a flood of emotions will accompany the news.

The most important thing you can do is learn how to respond when someone breaks the silence. It might be difficult to know what to say or how to react. A great place to start is to say, “I believe you. What can I do to help?” Also, we’ve compiled some tips just for you.

2. Recognize your own need for healing

You are also affected by this abuse. Even though the abuse did not happen to you, knowing that it happened to someone you love will impact your life. The healing journey the survivor is beginning is your journey, too.

A great resource to help you on this healing journey is our free Supporting Hope book.

Be the Difference:

1. Raise your voice

 “The Younique Foundation staff could work 80 hours a week, and our effort will remain as a drop in the bucket compared to the flood that all of you can create.” –Shelaine Maxfield, Board Chair and President.

To stop child sexual abuse and provide healing for survivors, we need your voice. Follow us on social media, spark conversations by taking a picture in our apparel, and talk with those in your community about this epidemic.

By doing these simple things, we can create a public dialogue with lasting effects.

2. Donate to help provide healing and prevention

We need funding to continue providing resources and solutions that have an impact. Through generous donations, we can teach parents how to prevent abuse from happening, run The Haven Retreat to help survivors find healing, and also work to break the stigma surrounding sexual abuse by leading the public dialogue. Join us in this endeavor by donating today.

Whether you’re a survivor, supporter, or concerned citizen, thank you for what you do to help in the fight against childhood sexual abuse. We can’t make progress without you.

I Will Listen, Acknowledge, and Support

With #MeToo trending on social media as women and men talk about their experiences being sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or sexually abused, many people are asking what they can do. A lot of support systems of survivors, especially, want to know how they can not only let the people in their life know that #IBelieveYou, but also help them find hope and healing.

When a survivor first breaks the silence about abuse, loved ones sometimes struggle to know how to respond. Initial reactions often include anger and confusion. The first step to understanding what has happened to your loved one is education. As you learn more about sexual abuse and its impact on survivors, you will be able to process your responses and find ways to support your loved one. Below is the learning process that you might go through as a supporter. This is a story that has been compiled from the experiences of many supporters.

When I first found out that my wife had been sexually abused, I had so many questions, so I tried to learn. I needed to understand what my wife had gone through and how it impacted her. The first thing I learned is that sexual abuse is more common than I thought. It’s not something I had heard about before my wife talked to me, so I just assumed it didn’t happen very often. The reality is that it happens frequently. I also assumed that most perpetrators are strangers. I thought it was crazy that my wife had been abused by her uncle, but then I found out that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone close, often a family member. I realized that a situation that I thought was unusual is, sadly, typical.

I also learned that most abuse survivors never tell anyone about what happened. And if they do tell, the abuse probably won’t be reported. When my wife first told me about her abuse, she told me that it had gone on for two years. I wondered why someone didn’t make it stop? I knew she told her parents, but they told her that saying anything about it publicly would “look bad.” They said her family’s reputation was too important. Again, this seemed crazy to me, but I found out that her situation was pretty standard. Child sexual abuse often goes on for a while, and it’s rarely reported.

The most important thing I learned was that my wife was still suffering from the trauma of what happened. Abuse isn’t something that people just forget about. Their bodies and minds hang on to the trauma and continue to respond years later. I found out about my wife’s abuse when a man who reminded her of her uncle sat in front of us in a movie theater. This man triggered my wife—he brought back memories of the past abuse, and my wife’s body reacted as if she were in danger—as if the abuse were still happening.

Initially, I was angry and confused, but now I am more educated. I understand that what happened to my wife isn’t all that uncommon, and I learned that she’s going to need help recovering. She can’t just get over it. It’s going to take time, but it’s possible. And I know that I’m a big part of her healing. Survivors need people who love them and support them, and I can be one of those people for her. I understand that my wife and I can have a relationship that will be fulfilling for both of us—a relationship with emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy. It will take some work, but it’s worth it.

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey for both supporters and survivors. For more information about how you can support the survivors in your life, look at the Supporting Hope e-book on our resources page. Also, read more about the journey of supporters at: I Was Confused, Angry, and Hurt and I Am Educated and I Understand

Your Sexual Health Bill of Rights

The World Health Organization defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. . .. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.” Healthy sexuality involves more than just physical safety. Emotional safety and positive attitudes about sex are also key components.

Sexual abuse survivors usually had their first sexual experience by force, before they could consent or fully understand what was going on. Their sexual rights were violated. These confusing and traumatizing experiences from your past can have a negative impact on your sexual experiences in the present. Knowing your sexual rights will help you have safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships.

Remember that no one ever has the right to force or coerce you into doing something that you don’t want to. You are in control of your body and your experiences.

Sexual Bill of Rights from The Younique Foundation

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I Will Hope, Laugh, and Share

Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse has a different story. Every person deals with it differently, and everyone finds healing in their way. This blog is about a survivor, but not just one survivor. This is a combination of stories from several of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. These feelings and experiences are common among survivors. If you’ve faced any of the feelings described in this blog, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

It’s been a long journey of healing. I went from not being able to be in a committed relationship, to finding someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. I went from sabotaging all my best efforts at work, to starting my own company. I went from being ashamed of being a survivor, to sharing my healing journey with others.

I’ll continue to do that, too. I am looking to the future in a way that I never have before. I can see it so clearly – and it’s amazing! I am making plans and goals. I am sharing my hope. I’m happy! I laugh now, as often as I can, and I never used to laugh.

When I look back to the abused little girl I was and the broken woman I became, my heart floods with compassion. I didn’t deserve what happened to me. No one deserves that. But it happened. And I had two choices: I could either deal with it or I could ignore it.

I ignored it for years and years and years. I ignored it and nothing changed.

So, I faced it. It was tough, but so am I. There were days when I didn’t think I could spend one more second inside my own head, but I kept going. I found love and support, important things for any journey.

For too long I thought I was alone. I don’t want anyone else to feel like that. So, I share my story. I share my hope. And, yes, I share my laughter. Because as the incomparable Maya Angelou has said (who was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself): “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

As I get better, I do better. As I heal myself, I look for ways to heal others. As I find joy and laughter, I share it with the world. I was broken, but I am healing, and I will never stop sharing my hope.

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey. For more information about how you can find healing, please refer to Reclaim Hope, a free e-book available on our resources page. Also, you can read more about the journey of survivors at: I Was Abused, Broken, and Lost and I Am Talking, Writing, and Healing.

I Am Talking, Writing, and Healing

Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse has a different story. Every person deals with it differently, and everyone finds healing in their way. This blog is about a survivor, but not just one survivor. This is a combination of stories from several survivors of childhood sexual abuse. These feelings and experiences are common among survivors. If you’ve faced any of the feelings described in this blog, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Have you ever noticed how once you start thinking about something, you see it everywhere? Like, you buy a car and suddenly you see dozens of cars just like yours that you’d never noticed before. That’s what it was like for me. Once I realized I needed to deal with the trauma I suffered as a child because of sexual abuse, I started seeing it everywhere. Articles on sex trafficking, news spots about women who’d been sexually abused, books about healing from trauma.

I even started talking about it. Only a little bit and only with people I REALLY trusted. I never referred to my abuse, just sexual abuse in general. I wanted to see how people would react if I brought it up.

The craziest, saddest, most amazing thing happened – people I knew and loved and trusted UNDERSTOOD! Some of them because it had happened to them, some because it had happened to someone they knew, and some because they were just wonderful and caring people.

I’d thought that if I broke my silence the world would come crashing in around me. That no one would believe me and that all of that guilt and shame that I’d carried around my whole life would overwhelm me and swallow me whole. But it didn’t happen.

One of my best friends, a writer, suggested that I write about what happened. She even recommended a book to me, Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. Look, I’m not a writer, but that book changed my life. Suddenly I had an outlet to write down all of these things that had been pushed away inside me for so long.

Now, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, and it didn’t get better overnight. Some days were good, and some were terrible. I tried going to a therapist, but I couldn’t really open up to him. I almost gave up on the whole therapy thing until a friend recommended someone who specialized in working with trauma survivors.

After feeling broken for so long, I suddenly had the tools to repair myself. You have no idea how amazing it felt to wake up in the morning and know that the choices I made were making a difference.

I am healing!

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey. For more information about how you can find healing, please refer to Reclaim Hope, a free e-book available on our resources page. Also, you can read more about the journey of survivors at: I Was Abused, Broken, and Lost and  I Will Hope, Laugh, and Share.

I Was Abused, Broken, and Lost

Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse has a different story. Every person deals with it differently, and everyone finds healing in their own way. This blog is about a survivor, but not just one survivor. This is a combination of stories from several survivors of childhood sexual abuse. These feelings and experiences are common among survivors. If you’ve faced any of the feelings described in this blog, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Some things happened to me when I was a kid. Things that I didn’t understand – I still don’t always understand them, to be honest. I won’t go into detail, but someone who was supposed to love me and protect me, didn’t. I was sexually abused. And it went on for a long time.

For years, I imagined that it had no effect on me at all. I was fine. I was normal. Nothing going on here. Except there was, always under the surface, that guilt and shame and doubt. I just refused to deal with it. You know how some people have this big lightning bolt moment that leads them to enlightenment? I didn’t have one of those. Instead I spent years of my life feeling like I was broken, but refusing to look at why I felt that way.

That’s how it seemed to me, anyway. It felt like I was always sabotaging myself. Something good would happen, and I found a way to ruin it. I’d meet a really great person that I wanted to date and then something would happen, and I’d be running from them as fast as I could (figuratively speaking). I’d get a new responsibility at work, and it was like I’d go out of my way to prove that I didn’t deserve it. As the saying goes, I was my own worst enemy.

Why was I doing this to myself?

One Saturday morning I was laying in my bed and watching the sunlight making shapes on my ceiling. It was so beautiful. I started to cry. I couldn’t remember the last time I had thought anything was beautiful. I couldn’t remember the last time I was happy. I didn’t even know if I remembered how to be happy.

I cried. And I cried. And I cried. I didn’t want to stop because it was the first time in a long time that I was feeling something. I didn’t even care that it was pain and sorrow, it was something!

I’d like to tell you that Saturday morning changed everything. It didn’t. But, in a way, it did. Because it forced me to look at my life and what I was doing and how I was doing it. I was broken, but surely there was a way to repair me. There had to be. I was lost, but someone must know how I could find myself again. There had to be something more for me.

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey. For more information about how you can find healing, please refer to Reclaim Hope, a free e-book available on our resources page. Also, you can read more about the journey of survivors at: I Am Talking, Writing, and Healing  and  I Will Hope, Laugh, and Share.

I Am Educated and I Understand

When a survivor first breaks the silence about abuse, loved ones sometimes struggle to know how to respond. Initial reactions often include anger and confusion. The first step to understanding what has happened to your loved one is education. As you learn more about sexual abuse and its impact on survivors, you will be able to process your responses and find ways to support your loved one. Below is the learning process that you might go through as a supporter. This is a story that has been compiled from the experiences of many supporters.

When I first found out that my wife had been sexually abused, I had so many questions, so I tried to learn. I needed to understand what my wife had gone through and how it impacted her. The first thing I learned is that sexual abuse is more common than I thought. It’s not something I had heard about before my wife talked to me, so I just assumed it didn’t happen very often. The reality is that it happens frequently. I also assumed that most perpetrators are strangers. I thought it was crazy that my wife had been abused by her uncle, but then I found out that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone close, often a family member. I realized that a situation that I thought was unusual is, sadly, typical.

I also learned that most abuse survivors never tell anyone about what happened. And if they do tell, the abuse probably won’t be reported. When my wife first told me about her abuse, she told me that it had gone on for two years. I wondered why someone didn’t make it stop? I knew she told her parents, but they told her that saying anything about it publicly would “look bad.” They said her family’s reputation was too important. Again, this seemed crazy to me, but I found out that her situation was pretty standard. Child sexual abuse often goes on for a while, and it’s rarely reported.

The most important thing I learned was that my wife was still suffering from the trauma of what happened. Abuse isn’t something that people just forget about. Their bodies and minds hang on to the trauma and continue to respond years later. I found out about my wife’s abuse when a man who reminded her of her uncle sat in front of us in a movie theater. This man triggered my wife—he brought back memories of the past abuse, and my wife’s body reacted as if she were in danger—as if the abuse were still happening.

Initially, I was angry and confused, but now I am more educated. I understand that what happened to my wife isn’t all that uncommon, and I learned that she’s going to need help recovering. She can’t just get over it. It’s going to take time, but it’s possible. And I know that I’m a big part of her healing. Survivors need people who love them and support them, and I can be one of those people for her. I understand that my wife and I can have a relationship that will be fulfilling for both of us—a relationship with emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy. It will take some work, but it’s worth it.

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey for both supporters and survivors. For more information about how you can support the survivors in your life, look at the Supporting Hope e-book on our resources page. Also, read more about the journey of both survivors and supporters at: I Was Confused, Angry, and Hurt and I Will Listen, Acknowledge, and Support