I guess I should start this by sharing that writing this first sentence is actually the hardest part about sharing this to a mass number of people. I have been putting off writing this for a while now because it is still emotionally exhausting to focus in on this particular part of my life. Despite that, I do write this with a positive outlook that whoever lays eyes on my story, will be filled with hope and a deep desire to take a stand against sexual abuse and assault.
I’m a 32-year-old wife and mom. I have been married to my service member for 14 years and we have 2 amazing children together. I have been able to stay at home with my kids for 10 years now and have been growing an online business for the last 6 years. On top of all of the daily pressures and stressors of being a military wife, mom of two, and small business owner, there’s also the baggage I was carrying around from my childhood that was indirectly affecting my day to day.
I wanted to share just a little about me so that you could get a wider picture of my story and who I am because I’m so much more than just a sexual abuse survivor. All of those other roles I have the honor of filling were negatively affected for many years all because of the childhood abuse that I hid away deep down. Carrying around unforgiveness and bitterness just makes you feel older and weary, and it seeps into every other relationship in your life.
Being married is hard work, but it was even harder because of the abuse.
Being a parent is hard work, but it was even harder because of the abuse.
Being a business owner is hard work, but it was even harder because of the abuse.
You see, when a person has been born into a family culture where they are molded to accept sexual abuse, the dysfunctional lifestyle is your norm. It’s extremely difficult to know your true self-worth and to realize that you actually have a powerful voice!
You have to re-examine your whole belief system about what family actually is, how a family is supposed to treat each other, how you allow others to treat you, and how you are supposed to treat yourself. It’s okay to expect others to respect your boundaries and to value your feelings.
For about 15 years of my life, I put the feelings and emotions of my extended family members as a priority over my own and I stayed silent. I stored away these family secrets and the busy-ness of life helped me stay distracted for a while. With maturity and more life experience, I began to feel complacent, stuck, depressed, and lots of areas of my life suffered. It all became very clear – ignoring my past was no longer possible because I wanted a better quality of life without this looming secret floating over me all of my days.
I feel like I’ve been surrounded by the exact people I needed in my life at specific divine moments throughout my adulthood to help me walk through this journey of healing and realizing my voice actually matters a little bit at a time. When we moved to Idaho 2 years ago, I knew it was time to really dig further though, I had a lot of head and heart work to do that I had been putting off. I really felt it was time to release myself from being stagnant and paralyzed in some areas of my life.
I had to make the decision to stop being a part of the problem by keeping silent and to finally take a stand for myself and use my voice. All because the others had stayed silent, my abuser never got the counseling and accountability that he needs. They all had fears of what would happen if they would turn him in, so they did nothing. All of the adults that knew about it back when I was still an adolescent did nothing. Staying silent about abuse only allows the abuse to continue. So I had to make that decision to turn against everything I was taught and I made a decision that I would not live in fear and silence anymore. I was breaking free from this family culture that accepts sexual abuse and lived in deep denial and fear.
That meant showing up to weekly counseling sessions for a few months. That meant breaking the years of silence about what had happened in my childhood and bringing it back up with the very people who had molded me into keeping it quiet. That meant making a few difficult phone calls. That meant being harassed by family members, being called all kinds of hateful things and out casted, no matter how civil and respectful I tried to communicate. That meant writing a letter of closure to these family members and then completely cutting ties with them.
Your story might look different. Your path to healing might look different, but one thing remains true for everyone – toxic relationships and toxic baggage will continue to poison your life if you don’t address it.
Although it has been tremendously difficult to grieve the loss of my extended family, I feel absolutely liberated at the same time. All other areas of my life are growing stronger; my marriage, my parenting, my business, my friendships, and deeper faith in God. I stand as a survivor and as a testament, that God truly does bring beauty from ashes. It took a support system though; it took a lot of time, energy, and emotional fortitude to fight my way to where I am now on this journey.
Friend, if you are needing to do similar head and heart work, please don’t try to keep it doing it alone. Lean in with wise mentors, trusted friends, dedicated professionals. Ask for help, ask for prayers, ask for resources to help guide you through. Allow yourself to feel this burden lifted, allow yourself to receive the gift of healing. Your voice matters, your feelings matter. You are valued. Breaking the silence is truly worth it, and YOU are worth it.
This blog post was written by our friend Whitni. When we spoke with Whitni as she was writing her blog post, she shared that she is now at a place in her journey where this story is not hers to hold onto anymore, but it is meant to bring hope to others. Whitni, thank you for writing your story, speaking your silence, and using your voice for others!