My abuse started at the age of 9 and continued until I was 15. It was a long 6 years of living in constant fear of what was going to happen next. This was a secret shared between me and my abuser, even though he never explicitly told me to keep it a secret, it felt dirty to tell anyone else about it. Plus, I was terrified of what would happen if I did say anything. He told me no one would ever love me as much as he did and that made me nervous about potentially losing him if I were to say anything.

Child sexual abuse is a type of pain that embeds itself into your soul. I didn’t realize how deep the pain and trauma went. I had locked it away for years. However, I started to really delve in and work to heal in my mid-20s. I thought I had healed, but it wasn’t until attending The Haven Retreat (in my mid-30s) that I truly healed. This retreat, the location, the staff, and the other attendees all made me feel at home. I have never felt so much love and acceptance with a group of strangers in a matter of hours. It was truly a life-changing experience and one I highly recommend to anyone considering attending.

I have been sharing my story for many years because I feel that sharing is a way to empower me to have a voice and a way for me to help others feel like they aren’t alone. Sharing and advocating was not enough for my healing journey. I needed this retreat to really take a closer look at myself and understand how this particular type of abuse can damage a child and change the brain chemistry. It gave me a deeper appreciation for all that I have overcome. And, although I don’t always feel as though I have done much in my life, I was able to understand that what I have accomplished feels even more substantial because of the things I have had to overcome. Since completing the retreat, I feel as though I have even more to share and feel more confident in the woman I have become. My new mission is to be a bigger voice for those that are unable to speak and continue to help others heal and grow. Abuse does not need to dictate who we are for the rest of our lives.

-Trudy, Survivor

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