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Come Out of the Shadow into the Light

I am grateful for the #MeToo movement for igniting thousands of secret survivors to step out of the shadows into the light. Many heard their voice come out from the shackles of shame for the first time.

Realizing they were no longer alone gave them the courage to post their stories on social media and march in the streets all across America. Perhaps you were one of the women empowered by this sense of belonging. Admitting you are a survivor is a crucial first step in the healing process. 

Silence is the greatest enemy to recovery.

Recently actress/activist Alyssa Milano opened up about why she went public with her sexual assault now. In essence, people are asking why she waited so long to tell her story.

I can so identify with her statement, "coming to terms with sexual assault is very hard, and discussing it takes a lot of years." This topic is so full of shame. Survivors are not rushing forward to tell about the tragedy that has inflicted mental and physical trauma. 

I faced the truth about my past with a counselor––twenty years after the trauma. Uncovering stuff I buried and ran from for years was terrifying. As I became stronger, I was able to share one on one with hurting women to help them heal.

There is healing in community.

I was in my forties before I told parts of my story at a women's conference. It's hard to open yourself up to public discussion as to what happened to you. Yet, I saw the impact my message had on the women. Many came up to me afterward, giving voice to their deep pain for the first time. 

I'll never forget a 70-year-old woman who kept her secret for over 55 years. I held her in my arms as she cried oceans of tears. My story permitted women to share their pain, knowing that I would believe them. 

As I continued to heal and grow, I could communicate more of my trauma. When I was ready, I added more to my story. I was invited by Rosemary Trible to be the guest speaker for Christopher Newport University (CNU) Shadow event hosted by Where is the Line. The student organization affiliated with her organization, Fear 2 Freedom, dedicated to helping victims of sexual assault heal.

I remember calling my daughter, asking her to pray for me. Yes, I was experiencing fear. For the first time, I would publicly share that my dad sexually abused me for many years. Standing on the platform in front of 400 hundred students sharing a message of hope and healing led me to another level of freedom. You can hear the speech on my website

I have watched survivors share prematurely only to be re-traumatized. Don't allow someone to convince you before you are ready. Wherever you are on the spectrum of recovery, only you know when the time is right.

I respect Alyssa on her journey. She's struggling about whether or not to say the perpetrator's name. She's concerned about the effect it might have on his family and others. Alyssa's afraid of what the public scrutiny might do to them.

Family and friend loyalty can be a strong reason why many don't tell––tough issue that is worked out over time. No one can rush it. Each survivor has a right to choose how they want to handle telling the abuser's name, especially since they are the ones that have to live with their decision. 

Giving voice to your secret pain is healing. Whether you decide to write in a journal, talk with a counselor, express through art, or write a book, it's vital to find release for the emotions stored in your body. These tools will help you process the trauma. Just don't try to go it alone.

Coming out of the shadow into the light takes risk.

I am finding the strength to finish my book  I Met Her Before  about my experience and journey to recovery. As the reality comes closer to publishing my book I feel exposed. I have to fight the urge to hide.

Old messaging attempt to creep in. “You’re not a writer.” “What will others think?” “Will I be judged? “Who will want to read it?” I am grateful for beta readers and friends cheering me on to publish my book. Some have expressed how the book has inspired them in their healing journey.

When people ask me how long it took to write my story. My response is a lifetime. I find courage, dignity, and healing in helping others. Knowing that my narrative empowers others gives me the strength to keep pressing forward.

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