I Learned How to Just Be Me

My sexual abuse started when I was just a little girl, when my mom divorced and remarried. The divorce was a very ugly and bitter one and we moved around a lot, which only added to my anxiety and depression over the years. I was an extremely shy little girl and went through life with this secrecy of sexual and emotional abuse. As an adult I continued to think I needed to protect my mom from all of this and so the relationship continued with my abuser, her husband, until my mom passed away in my early 30s.

The actual sexual abuse ended in my pre-teens as I became more aware, and he became fearful seeing that I was a strong and very rebellious teenager. Still, the emotional abuse continued as long as I was living at home. I went through life with this secret because I feared my biological dad, if he knew about the abuse, would go to jail for what he would have done to my abuser, and where would I go if my mom didn’t believe me? I lived in fear of this. The other reason was to protect my mom because I knew if she lost her children, she wouldn’t have anything because we were her everything and she was ours!

The abuse had affected my marriage and life for years and in 2017 I was done with all of it, including the depression and anxiety and my belief system, or lack of, and I applied to The Haven Retreat which I had just heard about on the news. This was my answer! This was my year!

I was terrified, but I entered the retreat in August of 2017. I had never known what the word “safe” meant. It was there that I first learned what “safe” felt like! I thought I knew, but it was my moment of recognition and the most amazing feeling I will ever experience. Sadly, I’m not sure I will ever have that feeling again outside of retreat, but I have HOPE!

Everyone there was amazing: the staff, therapists, other survivors, etc. and I can’t express that enough! I have never been taken care of that way by so many loving and compassionate people, and people whom I could relate to. I made actual friends, which has always been difficult before, but I never knew why. I wasn’t alone anymore! I can’t begin to express my full experience there in words, but it was an experience of a lifetime and one where I learned how to just be “me” and that “me” was completely accepted as I am! The staff, classes, and the knowledge that I received there have helped me grow and progress in ways I never thought were possible! I AM A SURVIVOR and I AM RECLAIMING HOPE!

-Denise, Survivor