I Learned How Strong We All Are

I wish I would have understood that my high school band director was a predator and that she was grooming me. I was sucked into a lengthy relationship with her, and it was a secret we kept from my family. It was also the basis of many lies about myself and where I lived for years. The insane amount of healing time tells me that no statute of limitations should exist; by the time a survivor is ready to come forward, it might be too late. The person who stole that part of my life is still a teacher, and I hope every day that there hasn’t been another “me” since then.

As time passed, I knew I was “stuck.” I tried journaling. I shared my story with my friends and family–twice–on social media. I wrote a letter forgiving her with no intention to send it. There was no justice as years of fear and the unknown slipped away. Just me. Trying to forge a new path with someone special in my life is difficult when an ugly demon sometimes envelops me for days, weeks, months. One of my high school band friends shared information about The Younique Foundation’s Haven Retreat via social media last year, and I was immediately interested. I submitted an application in early 2018 and was given the incredible opportunity to attend in October 2018.

I let myself be open to meeting new people even though I’m a classic introvert. I felt at home with the 17-ish women I met who were there because they too had experienced sexual trauma before the age of 18. I went to a class on my first day that sought to teach us about brain science. I was skeptical and knew all of the information they presented from classes I have taken in school before. But this time, something was different.

My lens, my perspective… had shifted. I was looking at my situation from a different vantage point and internalizing that there was truly nothing wrong with me. The days were jam-packed with classes that talked about issues survivors know too well. Our two off-site group therapy sessions were painful and powerful. They built bridges and helped some of us leave the islands we have lived on, trapped and alone, for years. There were late nights of just talking and listening to each other, forming bonds strong as gold powder mixed with resin since the first day. I learned how strong we all are. I learned the power of loudly sobbing and silently crying into a group of knowing eyes. Nobody was there to make us whole. The counselors, staff, and facilitators who treated us like royalty just wanted us to find what had been trapped inside all along.

With every class, activity, conversation, tear, and hug we hit the ugly demon with a kintsugi hammer. We shattered the past clean open. While we were all in different stages of our journeys, we could see the bright light shining within each amazing woman, ourselves included. We made best friends who will always be there for us. After attending The Haven Retreat, I KNOW I am on a better path and I KNOW freedom is far closer than it was before.

-Karen, Survivor