I Lived in a Perpetual Spiral of Shame

Like ninety percent of abuse survivors, I was sexually abused by a trusted family member for several years. When the abuse was made known, my mom was told by church leaders that she needed to forgive the abuser, and we should not talk about it. The shame of the abuse and the silence I was forced into was a heavy weight for a young girl to carry.

I went on to live a lackluster life of inevitable failures. I always felt like I was damaged goods and that if people knew about my past they would think less of me. I lived in a perpetual spiral of shame, always wanting to do and be more, but mentally feeling like I didn’t deserve more than my mediocre life.

In 2009, I did something that changed my entire life: I ran a marathon. For the next nine years, I believed it was the race itself that created the lasting change. I picked myself up out of a really bad place where I was practically homeless with no way to take care of my autistic son, and I turned my life around. I went back to college and finally graduated in 2013. I got to a point where I felt strong and I was capable of standing on my own two feet.

But when I attended the Haven Retreat in March of 2018, I realized the marathon, while an amazing feat, was NOT what really ignited my internal flame. It was the sense of CONTROL I finally felt I had on my self, my body, and my life. I felt empowered, strong, and quite frankly, angry that I had carried so much shame all my life. I was determined to become the best version of myself and to use my former struggles as strengths, to turn my weakness into warrior.

My experience at the Haven Retreat was amazing. The staff treated us with so much kindness and respect; the activities were healing and therapeutic; and the connections with all the other women were priceless. I wish I had done it sooner, and I wish I could do it again. The work they’re doing to help abuse survivors is truly extraordinary.

Today, I speak to organizations about finding their inner awesomeness. I openly share my story and encourage others to embrace their own stories, recognizing that their experiences, good and bad, make them uniquely amazing. The more we talk about it, the more we heal, and the more we can work toward defending innocence.

-Stacy, Survivor