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A Survivor Story
Victim, survivor, thriver...
If you have read any amount of my writing at all, you've no doubt heard me use that phrase a few times. It might not mean much to you, but for me that phrase is magical. It means overcoming so many things in life, it means freedom, it means strength.
How exactly did I become a victims advocate? The short story is that I took a two week course in advocacy, got my certificate and became a volunteer for our local crisis center, but the journey that led me to that point was far, far longer...
I began as a victim...
Everybody handles abuse in their own way. Some hide it away and pretend that it never happened at all. Some use it as a pattern and become unstable in all other relationships. Others blame the abuse and thereby avoid personal responsibility in their lives. Some use it to harm others, and still others use it to heal. I've done all of those things at different points in my life.
I've been damaged for most of my life, but I've finally come to a point where I feel whole for the first time ever. Like a china cup that has been broken and glued back together, I have no delusions that my scars are not visible to the world. They are there, and they are a part of me.
From the very first time I stopped to consider what I would write about here at Squidoo, this lens was on my mind. My story, the whole story, the reason I am who I am today. Yet each time I tried to write it I stopped. For it is not only my story, but the story of those who have hurt me as well.
It is ugly, and uncomfortable, and has things I don't really want to think about. This is not an easy story to tell, but just once I want it told, the parts I can tell anyhow. Some memories are too dark for me to see in my own head. A voice here, a small memory there but the rest is thankfully black.
I want to share the story so other survivors know they are not alone, but more than that I want to tell it so that they know there is hope...
But a warning, there are triggers contained here. I don't want to hurt anybody in trying to help them, so if you are at all sensitive please consider whether or not discussions of child abuse, rape, or domestic violence are going to trigger something inside of you.
(Graphics by caperuccita@deviantart: Used by permission. Please visit her website at IrenePedrosa.com)
One in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18.
I was four the night my family found me sitting in the kitchen sink spraying myself off with the sink sprayer.
They all stood around me ohhhing and awwing at how cute I was, taking it upon myself to bathe in the middle of the night. I wasn't trying to be cute, the thought had never crossed my mind. I was horrified that they all stood there watching me, and I was even more horrified at the thought of them discovering why I was in the sink in the first place.
A few nights earlier I had wet the bed, the person that found me that night cleaned me up, and touched me in ways no adult should ever touch a child. I still remember crawling into that sink hoping I could clean myself up before they found me and did it to me again. Even at such a young age, I knew I was tainted.
There were six more people who molested me before the age of twelve.
A babysitter who showed me how to get high, and then molested me while I was out of commission was one of the worst. It isn't just the act itself that haunts me, but the events that occurred surrounding it.
She babysat two other girls, one a preschooler and the other a toddler. The first night she molested me I heard her talking to the other girls, and realized that she had done things to them as well. I still remember those girls with their heads haloed in auburn curls, their long nightgowns dragging the floor. So small, so sweet, so innocent, and so helpless.
Her abuse went on for sometime, and I finally told her I was going to tell. So, she told first, she said that I had taught her how to get high, that I had touched her, that all of it had been my doing.
I sat there in the strange living room with my mother, the parents of the little girls, and this seventeen year old babysitter saying nothing. My mother did nothing to defend me, the girls parents were disgusted with me, and I just felt dirty. I didn't even try to defend myself.
I never saw those little girls again, but I still think about them. My abuse ended, but I don't think theirs did.
My mother and I never spoke about it after the fact. I tried to tell the adults in my life about the sexual abuse but they never really heard me. Sometimes they just looked hurt, others they looked offended and now and then they got angry. I eventually gave up.
As much as you want it to, things like that never really leave you. There is always something there waiting to bring those memories to the surface. I'm not angry at those people though, not really.
I still mourn my loss of innocence, something I lost before I was even aware it existed at all. I have spent years trying to understand why they did what they did to me, to find some shred of humanity in them. Were they molested as well? Did something happen in their lives that caused them to do what they did in mine?
My memories of the events aren't really solid, they are broken apart into little bits. A flash here, a flash there, an image or two that pops up when I least expect it. It just happens, and there it is, one of those images.
Sometimes I'm watching a movie and something triggers it, sometimes reading books, I never really know what will make it happen, just that it does. Most of the time it is under control, but then there I am walking through the candy aisle and I see pixie sticks. Then I remember someone saying... "If you are a good girl and don't tell, you can have this."
Anyone who has ever been abused knows exactly what I mean when I say I was branded that first night.
An invisible mark was placed on me, the mark of a victim. From that day on it seemed that whenever I was alone with a man, he had his hands on me, sometimes women as well. Relatives, neighbors, baby sitters, never strangers, always someone I knew and trusted.
Being molested leaves so many strange thoughts in your head.
Some things will never leave me. I know I will never be what most people consider normal, but I gave up trying long ago.
I see the world through different eyes. The eyes of the molested child. The eyes of the damaged. The eyes of the rape victim. I will never see the world the same way that normal people do, and that world in turn will never see the real me, because I'm not really a part of that world.
Childhood sexual abuse...
Have you dealt with childhood sexual abuse?
The average child tells seven adults about abuse before one believes them
There have been many abusers in my life, many different types of abuse. Is it just important that it happened, or is it more important that I survived it? I don't know...
Sometimes I convince myself that it really isn't important at all. I can't really feel sorry for myself, only sadness for the person I once was. The child, the teenager, the adult. Many people don't survive abuse at all, and in that regard I always try to remember that I was one of the lucky ones.
I went on to survive several abusive relationships in my teen and adult years, it was a very dark time in my life but once again it could have been far worse. They didn't beat me or anything, physically I was merely slapped when I mouthed off. There are far worse things, far worse, far worse indeed.
There was a man I'll call John, he is one man, he is all, he doesn't exist but these things did happen. John said he loved me. He proved it the day I tried to leave him and found him with a gun in his mouth. He proved it when he punched holes in the wall because I made him so angry. He proved it many times...
If I wanted to be loved, I knew I would have to make some sacrifices. So I did.
With his hand around my throat, fingers digging into my jaw so hard they left bruises, I convinced myself that it wasn't abuse. As I caught him with one girl after another, I convinced myself that it was my fault, that I was the one who needed to change.
There was the night the high school girl was coming on to John, she took off her sweater and pressed her breasts into his face. I was sitting across the room watching horrified. They were acting like I didn't exist at all. I was so angry, so jealous and I told him so. More than that I felt totally invisible.
He told me to stop being such a jealous bitch.
A group of us decided to go somewhere else, and we all loaded into three vehicles. When I went to follow John into the first vehicle, the girl crawled in one his lap, "Sorry hun, there's no room for you." I didn't know what to do, so I rode in another car.
When we got there I was fuming, the girl stayed in the car so I went after her. I took her by the hair and tried to pull her from the vehicle, but John stopped me. He was angry with me and apologizing to her. They left together so he could console her.
Later that night, when I found them in bed together, he told me that he did it because I didn't trust him. I took him back, I always did, but after the initial reconciliation period was ended we weren't allowed to talk about "the past" or I was the one with issues, but never him, never ever him.
She wasn't the first, and she sure as hell wasn't the last.
They called the house at night, and he would apologize for me being a bitch to them. I saw chats where they were telling him they wanted to f%k him in my bed. I had every reason to be jealous, but at the time I thought I was just the most neurotic person on the planet because he told me I was.
If I tried to talk to him, tell him how badly his affairs hurt me, he just said he didn't want to talk about it because it made him feel like an asshole. We tried counseling, but it didn't help.
When he cheated on me, it was always my fault, there was no remorse, no feelings for me at all. Merely anger that he had been caught, and that too was my fault. I wanted to believe he loved me, but I never understood how someone who claimed to love me so much could hurt me so much as well.
If I did not behave in the manner that was expected of me, I was punished or ignored. Not for a few hours, but for days. I might get a grunt or two but that was all that passed for communication. For some reason being ignored hurt more than all of the other stuff combined.
I found myself trapped in a relationship that was one part love, one part fear, one part joy and one part misery. Our relationship had two totally different faces, and I was never sure which one would be showing.
To the rest of the world he was the life of the party, an all around nice guy. It was only when we were alone that I saw the other side of him.
When I told people they didn't really believe me, besides I was a Christian, I'd made a commitment and when I asked the people in the church what to do, they told me all I really needed to do was pray for him and all would be well.
Not one of them told me that a woman has every right to leave an abusive marriage, not one of them even called it abuse. It was just another womanly duty, so I kept going, but only just.
During the day I examined cleaning supplies, razor blades, and anything else that might give me a reprieve from the pain I felt. I wanted to die, but I couldn't let down those I loved.
His family kept telling me that I needed to get it together, sometimes my family agreed. Even our friends said I needed to stop pushing him. I was obviously broken, and I knew they were right.
Times weren't all bad, I have good memories of those years as well. There were times we laughed until tears fell from our eyes, times we laid together looking at the sky. There were times when we had the friendship I longed for and when those times came I wanted to hold on to them with all my might.
Then something would happen, maybe I just got stubborn, maybe I saw something I wasn't supposed to see, maybe I asked a question I wasn't supposed to ask. Whatever it was, I would pay for it. I was a bad girl again, and bad girls didn't deserve love.
The silence would descend and I would be sitting a few feet away from the man I loved, and still feel more alone than I'd ever felt in my life.
I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't exactly easy to live with either. I'm not good at any of the things normal women are supposed to be good at. The house was a mess, I was still learning how to cook, I didn't do yard work or know the first thing about financial management.
I was so emotionally unstable that I wasn't even sure why I was crying or blowing up. I felt so out of control. So it went for many years, one part heaven, one part hell.
I was convinced that I was bipolar for a time, but when the relationship ended, much of the instability stopped as well. The panic attacks slowed down, and eventually stopped almost entirely. My mind stopped racing, my chest stopped hurting and the almost daily headaches went away.
Living like that was not living at all, it was merely existing. There is the fear, the intimidation, the constant need to be on your guard lest you anger them and the whole cycle begins all over again. It was something very different from love, but I had never seen healthy love so it passed for something close enough.
For me love was closely related to pain, to fear, to a darkness deeper than I have ever known elsewhere in my life. There were bright spots, enough to keep me in one bad relationship after another, but not many.
I had a really f%&*@d up idea of what love was...
I was disgusted with myself for things I had no control over, things I didn't even understand when they happened, I had no examples of healthy love in my life so I took whatever I could get.
It took someone finally loving me without restraint for me to see what love could really be. It took finding my husband to truly believe that I deserved better in life. He saved me from so many things, but mostly from myself.
Domestic Violence Poll
Have you ever been the victim of domestic violence?
25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former partner
After my last relationship soured I decided it was time for a fresh start. I moved away and began what I hoped would be a new life, free of the darkness that had plagued me so long. That's when I ran into Prince Charming.
After so many years of being ignored, this man paid attention to me. He had these intense blue eyes and when he looked at me I had the distinct feeling he was looking right through me. I'd known him for most of his life, he was no stranger, so I didn't really mind it at all when he kissed me that night.
At some point we ended up at a party and he asked me to come in the back bedroom to talk. We talked, and now and then he kissed me but I wasn't ready for anything beyond that, and I told him.
I still don't know how it happened, but he was suddenly on top of me and I was fighting him off. He was struggling to get my pants down and all I could think about was keeping them on. If I kept myself in a fetal position I thought I could slow him down, reason with him, get him to understand that what he was doing was wrong. I was begging him to stop, but still he somehow made it through the belt, through the tight jeans and I realized that there was no stopping him.
I didn't even realize I was screaming until the door opened, one, two, three, a dozen people poured into the room all with a look of horrible shock on their faces. One of them called to Prince Charming's older brother, "You'd better get in here."
They pulled him off of me and one girl stayed with me to help me get dressed.
I stood there in the middle of a party trying to hide, as everyone there was trying not to look at me. I hoped the floor would just open up and swallow me whole, but instead I had to get into a car with the man who had just tried to rape me so he could drive me home.
As they gave me a ride home that night I heard the girl who helped me get dressed in the back seat talking to Prince Charming's brother. "You know how she is..." they said. They were right, I was a girl with a reputation, and males had a reason to expect certain things from me.
As I got out of the vehicle Prince Charming grabbed my arm, but his brother told him to leave me alone. I walked into the house a different person, as soon as I was alone I fell to my knees sobbing, I cried myself to sleep, but even then sleep was fitful and I finally gave up. Early the next morning my step-dad walked into the house and found me standing in the kitchen with that glazed over look in my eyes.
He asked me if I was okay, and all I could say was "Something bad happened." Everyone left it at that.
After that night I was mortified when I saw the other witnesses. I live in a small town and these were people I would see over and over again in the coming months. Our eyes would meet and I would go back to that night, I'd see me laying there on the bed sobbing, my pants down to my knees. They would look at me, then look away and I wondered if they saw the same thing I did.
For three years all I could say was that "something bad" happened, I did everything I could to forget that night, to deny it even happened at all. I tried over and over to convince myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing. Whatever HAD happened it had to be my fault.
I sought control any way I could, and denial was just part of that control. I came to despise anything that would take away my ability to control a situation, especially alcohol. I started collecting knives and swords. None of these things seemed significant at the time, but now I realize they were all things that helped feel in control of an out of control situation.
It took me years to understand that rape isn't about sex, it is about power and control. It wasn't the act, it was the power he felt committing the act, the control he had taken from me.
Rape and sexual assault
Have you ever dealt with a sexual assault
When a rape is reported, there is a 50.8% chance of an arrest. An 80% chance of prosecution. A 58% chance of a felony conviction. A 69% chance the convict will spend time in jail.
There is only a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.
Counting unreported rapes, about 5% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free.
Then my world shattered.
A seventeen year old girl was raped, a girl I loved like a sister. The moment I heard his name my stomach clenched and the world just started spinning. I could believe that the rape was my fault, but I couldn't believe it was hers. There was no way I could look into her eyes and say she brought this upon herself.
I told that girl what had happened to me, and I told her I would report my assault to help her case. I couldn't do it for me, but I could do it for her. So I filed my report, and she filed hers. Then another girl spoke up, and another, and soon there were twelve. Prince Charming really was a toad in disguise and he had caused so much pain. We managed to get one more girl to report before things got bad.
I trusted the police before that, but I don't anymore. What they did to us was worse that what he had done in many ways. They kept putting off our interviews, reports were never filed, the rape kit disappeared from evidence.
When I called to check on the investigation I was given a different story each time. The investigator said the case was with the District Attorney, the District Attorney said they had never heard of it. A woman who worked with the police department later told me that she heard them making jokes about my case.
Here in small town America things were becoming worse. By now he knew that we had reported the rapes, and he began stalking us. He stood across the street from my store just watching me, with his arms crossed against his chest. Sometimes my children were playing outside and I'd look out and see him at the neighbors house watching them play.
I wasn't the only one, all of the girls had seen him following them. They heard strange noises outside of their homes, and when we told one another we discovered that we had all heard them on the same night at different times.
We begged the police to help us, but they said without a restraining order they couldn't do anything. So I went to the judge and asked her for one, but she denied me each time. I told her the cops said I needed a restraining order, she said "that's not what they are telling me."
Four times I begged her to protect me, and four times she said she did not think that he was a danger to me. The court clerk said an act of violence must occur for a restraining order to be put in place, and none had occurred. I asked the clerk to define rape in non-violent terms and she just laughed and waved her hand, "oh, you know what I mean..."
No, I really don't...
The judge finally retired, and a visiting judge took her place. I asked for, and was granted a temporary protection order that same day.
Two weeks later a restraining order hearing was held, but another visiting judge heard the case. She didn't have time to review the case ahead of time, so the courtroom was open. Dozens of locals were sitting in the room as I told the story from beginning to end. The permanent order was granted, and he was told to stay away from me.
A few hours later he violated the order, and continued to do so throughout the day. Everywhere I went that day he followed me, but each time I called the police they said they really didn't think they could do anything about it.
When I went to the school for my oldest child's 6th grade graduation he followed me. As he drove by slowly, he leaned out of the window glaring at me. There were several witnesses, the cops still said they could do nothing, but they would speak with him.
The officer came to tell me that Prince Charming had been given a stern talking to, he had been told to go nowhere near my home or place of business and he was certain to leave me alone this time.
I watched the cop drive off, and a few minutes later watched Prince Charming's vehicle pass by, this time with a woman in the drivers seat. As they passed, I saw the mans head pop up from the passenger seat as if he just wanted to be sure I saw him get away with it.
I called once more, and they arrested him. Two days later someone asked me why they had seen him on the street. They had released him from jail, and despite a promise that they would notify me of his release nobody ever called.
I made plans to leave town that day, I looked into safe housing but they wouldn't allow me to take my dog. At that point she was all I had for support, and I wasn't willing to give her up.
I went into hiding, but told my kids we were going camping, and for two weeks we lived out of tents while I slept in my van and tried to figure things out. As soon as I could send the kids to their father in California where they would be safe, I bought a camp trailer and lived in it for most of that summer.
Someone told someone what was going on and a call was made to the media. They asked me if I would be willing to do an interview about the poor handling of the rape cases. I agreed, but not for the reasons most people think...
I was scared to death, and nobody would help me. I was not just afraid of dying, but afraid that the police would make it into my fault somehow especially since the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was now looking into the complaints against the local police. I had nowhere else to turn for protection, and the interview would at least make people aware of what was going on behind the scenes in our seemingly perfect little town.
So my mother and I sat for the interview and it aired on local television the next night. The paper in a neighboring town also did an interview with me. After that it just snowballed. One media outlet after another picked up the story, and life got really crazy. One day I went out to lunch, and looked around. There in the restaurant people were reading the newspaper with the story of my rape on the front page. I left the restaurant and threw up.
The hearing for the restraining order violation came and once again I had to sit in court across from the man who raped me. He was found guilty by a jury trial and sentenced to 90 days but released after 45, and once again nobody notified me.
He still messes with the other girls, but he has left me alone since his sentencing.
As long as he controlled me, in a way I belonged to him. It wasn't just sex he was after that night, or in the years after, it was something far more common. It was the control factor that he seemed to enjoy the most, watching me beating on the door crying, watching me scramble to get my kids some place safe, watching the look of panic in my eyes when we came face to face unexpectedly.
The police were not innocent in the matter by a long shot. When one of the other victims was in the courthouse one day, in full view of the police, the man walked up to her and picked her baby up. He turned his back to her, and as she tried frantically to take the baby from him he leaned over and whispered in her ear, "I know you are afraid of me."
She begged the police for help that day, but she too was told that without a restraining order there was nothing they could do. The investigator and the head officer came to speak with her, and told her that they did not recommend a restraining order though... not after what happened to me.
To the victims of this one man, who is still walking the streets today... we are on our own, responsible for protecting ourselves and we had to learn the hard way that nobody else was going to do it for us. Thankfully, we had each other...
Each of us girls discovered that today's justice system is heavy on the system and light on the justice... each of us discovered that in the big picture, none of us really mattered.
Victimized by the system
Have you ever been victimized by the system?
28% of female stalking victims and 10% of male stalking victims obtained a protective order. 69% of female stalking victims and 81% of male stalking victims had the protection order violated.
On the way to healing
I discovered many things on the way to healing. A lot of things I knew about life, love, and myself were wrong. Everything I knew about relationships was wrong as well. I was wrong about a lot of things.
I'm sure I still have much, much more to learn but at least now I am willing and ready to learn it.
So what have I learned so far? I've learned that...
Nobody deserves to be abused ever...
Nobody deserves to be called names...
Nobody deserves to be hit...
Nobody deserves to feel invisible...
Nobody deserves to be lesser than or greater than anybody else...
If someone is making your life feel out of control, making you question your own reality, making you feel somehow unworthy of being treated like a human being you are being abused.
I also learned...
That how people treat you is often a reflection of how you feel about yourself...
That everybody deserves to be loved, and love isn't supposed to hurt..
That nobody HAS to stay in an abusive relationship, there is always a way out...
That the only person who can leave your bad relationship is you
That there are many people out there who are willing to help, but you have to take the first step
The people I was supposed to be able to count on to support me often weren't there. One friend told me I needed to just get over it, my own mother said I needed to stop making it about myself, a third told me that I shouldn't have been alone with a known drug dealer in the first place, so it was clearly my fault.
The police never interviewed me, the names of witnesses were given to the police, they never called one of them. I was lost and alone and nobody cared...
I went through phases where I just wanted to give up, some where I was just plain suicidal.
I finally sought out a counselor, and spent three years sitting in his office almost weekly trying to find out what was so wrong with me. Why did these things keep happening, was I somehow making them happen?
He told me that I was trying to find a normal way to deal with the abnormal situations in my life, and that more than anything has stuck with me.
My life has not been normal, and I have never been normal. I was living a lie trying to pretend that it had been anything different. I went through every emotion you could imagine in those years with my counselor.
Sometimes I was so angry I scared myself, others I just felt bruised and broken. Sometimes I would be exceptionally happy, only to crash again when something triggered my memory.
The whole world felt shaky, I felt alone, I trusted nobody, I was as miserable as I have ever been but slowly a light began to dawn... a small light at first, but a light just the same.
Though I had left my husband in the middle of all of this, he still loved me, and after a year and a half apart we reconciled. My children loved me and stood by me. I had a dog that loved me so much she couldn't stand to be away from me. had friends, I had family, I wasn't really alone. I held on to those small things, and from there it grew.
I finally realized how truly blessed I was. The events did not kill me but made me stronger. I was able to do things I never thought possible. I learned to say no and mean it, I learned to stand up for myself when someone was taking advantage of me. I learned to like myself and eventually love myself.
My world became filled with love at every turn, I found a passion in life I never knew existed. The most surprising thing of all was realizing that it had been there all along, that in trying to pretend to be normal I had totally lost who I really was.
While playing with my kids another realization dawned on me, those moments were the happiest of my life.
Trying to make them laugh, just being silly, getting lots of hugs. I didn't want to be serious and adult, I wanted to be the person I was when I was alone with my children. The person who spontaneously burst into song and dance no matter who was looking, the one who laughed and cried without reserve. There is no shame with my children, no rejection, no wishing I was someone else.
THAT is the person I set out to be when I began counseling, the me that was hiding under all of those years of being told what was acceptable behavior and what was not. That person was vibrant, and fun, and enjoyed life... and that is who I wanted to be every day.
From victim, to survivor, to thriver... It was not one step but many, but I had to take the first step and ask for help.
Self-Help that Helps
One of the first books I was given during my recovery...
Most of us never tell anybody, but it is not out secret to keep.
Sexual abuse is so very intimate...
If you need help
National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse Hotline
At first, I spent a lot of my time on rape and abuse forums trying to build up other victims, trying to let them know that they weren't alone, and that things really would get better.
As I helped them, I found my own strength growing. Those girls supported me through all of this, and I did my best to support them. Focusing on myself and my own pain did nothing but make me miserable, focusing on helping others made me feel whole.
The San Miguel Resource Center is our local victims advocacy and crisis center. I worked with them through those difficult times, the local advocate became the first person who told me that she believed me and that meant the world to me then, and it still does. She was there with me in court, and she was there to encourage me when the police once again failed me, and I owe her a debt of gratitude I'm not sure I can ever repay but I'm trying.
Each year they hold a local advocate training course, and each year I looked at the fliers and decided that I was too damaged to help others. Then, just this fall, the course came around again, and this time I took it. As I sat in class with the other attendees I felt myself changing once again, growing into something more.
I had been there, I knew what it felt like to be suicidal, to be in an abusive relationship, to be raped. When I took those calls I knew exactly what they needed to hear, because they were the same things I had needed to hear so badly.
I believe you.
You don't deserve that.
Your feelings are normal.
You are going to be okay.
I've never thought of myself as a role model, or as anybody special in any way but I do have experience, and a lot of it. A huge part of advocating for others is the ability to take the focus off of yourself, to place it on the victim where it belongs. It is helping them focus on themselves as well, to finally get the strength and courage in their own life to say "I deserve better."
For me taking the advocate course was coming full circle. That certificate doesn't just say I am an advocate, it reminds me that I am a victim, I am a survivor, and I am a thriver.
I now advocate for victims just like me, and that is an amazing feeling. I volunteer whenever I get a chance, answering phones, going to court, manning bake sales, attending rallys. I want to be a part of the solution, not just sitting alone inside of myself talking about how bad life has treated me but getting out and doing something about it.
My children participate as well, last fall my son attended a take back the night rally and listened to some of the statistics I have shared here. He looked at me and said, that's awful mom, what can we do about it?
I was so proud of him for asking, and my answer to him....
You are doing it son, you are breaking the cycle.
If you are dealing with abuse in your life, whether it is ongoing or in your past you can't deal with it alone. It took a whole village to get me to the point where I am today. Happy, healthy, whole. Yes, I have scars, and many of those scars will never truly go away. I have always been, and will always be flawed. I am human, I am imperfect, but I am whole.
So many of us are survivors, if we can do it so can you!