I Was Incapable of Seeing That the Abuse Was Not My Fault

My abuse started when I was six-years-old and was initiated by someone I loved and trusted. Being so young when the abuse started I was unable to view my perpetrator in a negative light. The abuse continued for several years before I realized that it was wrong and my innocence had been stolen from me.

I will never forget the day I started taking personal responsibility for the abuse. I was incapable of seeing that the abuse was not my fault. I began to experience feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame. I internalized negative messages about myself. I was traumatized to believe a lie about the value of my self-worth.

I began feeling defective and unlovable. My ability to trust was destroyed and I built a wall of protection around my heart. I began to disconnect from everyone believing that the people I love would hurt me. I was robbed of my self, safety, and sanity. My worth was gone and all that was left was the pain I learned to hold inside. I began to dissociate to protect myself from experiencing the sexual abuse.

In my twenties, I started calling myself a survivor and not a victim. By doing that I thought I had “fixed” myself but I never really dealt with the trauma to “fix” it. I was still broken. The long-term effects of the abuse continued to hinder every area of my adult life. I had difficulties establishing healthy interpersonal relationships, getting involved in abusive relationship after abusive relationship. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation consumed my life.

Three years ago, I met and married the man who turned my life around and led me to the beginning of my healing journey. Everything was great the first year and then we entered a season of difficulties. I was used to running when things started getting difficult but this time it was different and I couldn’t run. My anxiety, fear, panic attacks and night terrors came flooding back. He loved me through every difficult situation and for the first time I wanted to stay and fight for my marriage. Our marriage has never been abusive and I could not ask for a better husband.

He encouraged me to look into EMDR and, with a lot of hesitation and skepticism, I decided to do the therapy. After six weeks of therapy I felt like a completely different woman. I was able to get rid of 99% of my negative cognitions. The only one I wasn’t able to rid myself of was the self-blame. My counselor told me I had to learn to love myself to let go of that cognition. I had no idea what she was talking about.

I heard about The Haven Retreat and three months later I was on a plane to Utah, scared to death! I soon found out that I was not alone and met 23 other women who were scared to death just like me. For the first time in my life I felt connected. For four days I got to share my life with some amazing women as we gained the skills and knowledge to help us find and develop supportive relationships.

Now, I will never forget the day I realized what loving yourself means. It was during the trauma-sensitive yoga class. A feeling of peace and serenity overwhelmed me and my mind was telling me THIS is how I love myself. Be good to myself and treat myself to peace and well-being by using the resources given to me at the retreat to continue my healing journey.

By reclaiming my hope, I am learning to say and believe I am strong, I am beautiful (still difficult), I am worthy, and I can love myself. As a result, I quit holding myself responsible for the actions of my abuser. I cannot thank everyone at The Haven Retreat enough for their compassion, encouragement, and hospitality they gave so freely and providing resources for us very broken women to go home feeling rejuvenated and empowered to Reclaim our Hope.

-Ronda, Survivor