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Your Story Has Power, and the Power Is Yours

Stories can be used to empower and humanize.

The acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared this experience from her life:

“I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language . . . My roommate had a single story of Africa [and] in this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.”

Adichie’s experience shows that we often oversimplify complicated issues. Her roommate viewed all Africans as the same, even though they are individuals with rich stories. Similarly, sometimes people tend to view all sexual abuse survivors as the same, even though each survivor is an individual with unique experiences. Over the past few months, many survivors have come forward to share their individual stories, and these stories are giving everyone a better understanding of the prevalence and complexity of childhood sexual abuse and the impact it has on people. Awareness is increasing, but there is still the danger of falling into “single-story thinking” and viewing all survivors as the same.

Here at The Younique Foundation, we want you to know that your individual story matters. We post survivor stories every week on our website and we have a Faces of Survivors Instagram page because we believe that there is power in stories both for the person who shares and the person who reads. As you read survivor stories, you’ll probably encounter moments that resonate with you, places where you can see similarities between your story and others. But there are also parts of your story that are unique to you. You are an individual.

As more and more survivors share their stories, you might be encouraged to share your own. Your story has the power to create change by helping people understand sexual abuse better. Also, reaching out to others can be a big step on your healing journey. But always remember that your story is yours. No one can make you share, and you should never feel pressure, from yourself or others, to talk about anything you don’t want to. Once a survivor discloses, family and friends might be curious, and they could ask lots of questions, but you don’t need to say more than you are comfortable with. Also, telling your story once doesn’t mean you have to tell it again and again. Share your story when it feels right to you.

We are here for everyone: people who have shared their story publicly and people who haven’t. The power of your story is real, and it’s yours. You get to decide how to use it.

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I Came Out Smarter and More Understanding of Me

Natalya, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I thought I faced my abuse. I thought it was something that happened and I healed from it and went on with my life.

Applying for The Haven Retreat was the hardest first step. I didn’t know why I felt the need to go and experience it. “I thought you were over this? I thought you were healed from this? Why are you even applying? Let another woman go.” These were the constant thoughts I had while applying. 

Once I was accepted the fear of going hit. I made every excuse to not go. Family, finances, the list went on.

Once I got there my anxiety was so high I couldn’t breathe. “What am I doing here?” I thought.

Once the days went on I realized I DID need this! I realized I had so much to learn about myself and what I went through in my life. I FINALLY felt normal and not ashamed of my triggers, understanding what triggers were. Learning how to take care of ME! Learning that I am strong, beautiful and BRAVE!

I met lifelong friends and sisters. The relationships I built at the retreat have helped on this new healing experience I am on.

The dedication The Younique Foundation puts into helping survivors is truly AMAZING! Finding a place that understands and truly knows what you feel and deal with without making you feel abnormal or ashamed of yourself; to be relieved that others around you think and feel just like you for once, was such a refreshing feeling.

I came out smarter, more understanding of me, and the knowledge I need to heal myself correctly. A friend told me “We had a broken bone that healed wrong, the retreat broke that bone again and now showed us how to heal it correctly.”

This retreat changed my life and I am so glad I didn’t allow my fears to stop me from attending.

 

-Natalya, Survivor

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I Found Freedom in My Voice

Brandy, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, found freedom in sharing her story.

For over 20 years of my life, I felt as if verbalizing my assaults would give them life; hearing my own voice speak about them would make them all the more real. I never knew how wrong I was. I found freedom in my voice, within my fellow survivors, within each new day. I did not come this far…to simply come this far. I may not know those of you reading this, but I KNOW you, you are not alone. You are worthy. You are HERE. Let your journey begin, as mine has…for it is GLORIOUS.

 

-Brandy, Survivor

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Reclaim the Person that Was Lost in Your Troubles. I Have.

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

I was broken, lost, not knowing who I was or what I wanted to be. I was a prisoner in my own body walking hopelessly every day. I let what happened to me as a child, teenager, define who I was. I suffered in silence and never told a soul the torture that became who I was. My husband was one, with patience and love he chipped away the walls that were built. Piece by piece he led me to the path that would forever be my Home.

I had three miscarriages back to back. I was told my pain and stress could be triggering an imbalance. And needed to seek a therapist. The last miscarriage was four days before my visit to The Haven Retreat. I didn’t want to go, I wanted to fall into the abyss of my depression.

I wanted to turn around at the terminal, but I kept hearing my inner voice say, “Go Be Free.” I found a new family, a loving family, a nonjudgmental family, a safe Haven. I shared my story and the walls came crumbling down, and I was set free. Finding myself was my struggle, the struggle of Why me? But day after day I am Free! Free to be me, free of worry, and peace with who I am. That would have never happened without the love and support of The Younique Foundation. 

I now have a handsome little one whose name means strong-willed warrior! 

That’s exactly what we are, STRONG-WILLED WARRIORS. Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm.” We warriors proudly say, “I am the Storm.” Reclaim that person that was lost in your troubles like I have. Take it day by day. Wake up, look in the mirror, and state, “I am enough, I am strong, I am a warrior, I am free.”

Reconnecting with survivors and being their support system has helped me reclaim my hope and continue my journey of finding that little girl who had walked around hopelessly trying to find herself, never stopping, never backing down, picking up that sword and fighting.

Being free doesn’t give you limits, you become limitless.

 

-April, Survivor

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Life and Joy and Abundance on the Other Side

Lindsay, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I grew up being told I was crazy and that I made up things, so I believed it and felt like I couldn’t trust my own memories. I realized at age 11 that I wanted to die, and I didn’t think I even had the ability to live a normal life. I hated myself and my body and started a lifelong battle against eating disorders, self-harm, depression, and chemical abuse. I did anything to numb and keep the pain buried away.

Thankfully, my life was saved when I attended a spiritual recovery program. I am forever grateful for how that helped me to spiritually heal. I was a different, and freer person because of it. After that program, my repressed memories from my childhood sexual abuse came on stronger and more often than ever before, and I wasn’t sure how else to help myself.

I loved life and was doing better than ever before, and yet my mind and body were in a constant fight from things that were still unresolved from the abuse. It brought back so much of the fear and anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I continued to feel disconnected from myself.

I started counseling and EMDR, and my therapist told me about The Haven Retreat. I was hesitant that 4 days could make a difference with all the recovery I had done already – but I am so glad I went. The retreat was the catalyst for me to start attending a trauma-sensitive yoga class, and with the combined efforts of the yoga and counseling, I am fully free.

My body and mind no longer feel disconnected. I am on the other side of the abuse. I’m not a victim and it no longer controls my present or future. I’m grateful for everyone and everything that has been a part of my healing journey. It took time and patience to be where I’m at now, and I’m glad I didn’t give up in the most hopeless of moments. There has been such life and joy and abundance on the other side. Never give up, and never stop reaching out for the help you need.

 

-Lindsay, Survivor

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I am Clear on the Direction I Want to Go

Joy, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I started therapy about 2 ½ years ago for a sexual assault that happened in college. For years I had struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and flashbacks. Immediately after my first appointment, which was just an initial assessment, I started having flashbacks of events from my childhood. I didn’t want to go there. I had pushed those thoughts back so long ago, I had forgotten them. 

Two weeks later, I met with the therapist I had been assigned. It was terrifying, but she made me feel comfortable and safe. Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell her about the things that happened to me as a child. It took a long time to get my full story out about how as a child I had been repeatedly sexually abused by a neighbor. My therapist helped me through a lot of things and taught me so much. I learned that PTSD wasn’t something that just veterans get. I learned how to deal with my flashbacks, anxiety, depression and many other things. 

My husband was loving, patient and supportive. My parents, though struggling with their own feelings of guilt (wishing they had known), were also very supportive. I had a couple of friends I eventually opened up to and shared my story. Even with all this support, I felt very alone in my journey.

Then I came across an article on Facebook about The Younique Foundation’s retreat for childhood sexual abuse survivors. I had seen something about it about a year before but passed by it with little interest. This time was different somehow. I felt more ready for something like that. I was struggling with a desire to find my voice – I wanted to find a way to reach out with my story in a way that might help others. I decided to apply for The Haven Retreat and attended a few months later. 

It was an amazing experience! I gained so much. There were many wonderful things I gained from going, but the two most important rewards for me were: 1) Coming away with a bond to seven other women who understand my challenges; I don’t feel alone in my journey anymore, and 2) Understanding how the trauma affected my brain and how the effects from my abuse aren’t signs that I am weird or crazy, but normal reactions to someone who has been through the trauma I have. 

I am grateful for all those who have been there for me, for all the love and support I felt by those at The Haven Retreat, and for my survivor sisters. I am excited about my life ahead. I am clear on the direction I want to go. I may have been broken, but I am rebuilding myself stronger and know I can do great things. I hope that if there is anyone who has been through sexual abuse, that they might hear my story and will be less afraid to reach out for help and reclaim the hope that is theirs.

-Joy, Survivor

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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.

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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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A black and white image of Carrie who is one of the childhood sexual abuse survivors

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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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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