An 18 year old student approached me last week about doing an interview for a project she is working on. She has to write a paper about "a local organization or place that people might like to visit". While she concedes that no one wants to visit a child abuse victims advocacy center, she feels that a tremendous service can be provided by talking about sexual abuse and those who are committed to preventing and responding to it. She is so awesome! She has courage, tenacity and composure beyond her years.
I am so honored to be a part of her paper, and I thank her for the opportunity to share...but even more, I thank her for standing in the gap for survivors of sexual abuse and doing her part to make this world a safer place for children.
Sexual abuse is so painful - so intimate - that it often isolates survivors from healthy relationships. Sexual abuse not only violates ones body, but their boundaries, sense of self, and ability to love and trust as well. All too often, the experience teaches survivors not to trust appropriately, and sets survivors up for a lifetime of excruciating isolation and secret keeping, interrupted by periods of blindly trusting all the wrong people. This cycle sets in motion a lifetime of repeated victimization.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse. Abused at the hands of my parents, overlooked and neglected by my entire extended family, I know all too well the pain and isolation accompanied by sexual abuse. For 29 years I accepted the blame and carried their secrets with me. It was only when I stood firmly on my own two feet, declared that their crime was indeed a crime and no reflection on me, that I was able to begin moving forward, healing, recovering from what had interrupted my life for far too long.
It is only through breaking the silence - discarding the false beliefs that I was dirty, unlovable trash - that I began taking my first steps into wholeness. Wholeness is delightful. I never dared dream life could look this way. I never believed I could truly be happy, loved, capable, confident, seen and known. I cannot keep the fact that recovery is possible a secret; therefore, I talk. I speak to student groups and women's groups, I lead support groups for survivors, I write a blog, my family chairs a fundraiser every year. I share the facts about sexual abuse, define it, put a face to it, encourage survivors to seek recovery, share tips for keeping children safe, and support organizations whose mission it is to eradicate and respond to child sexual abuse.
One of my favorite organizations is Sunflower House, serving Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, providing abuse prevention classes to adults and children, and meeting the needs of children and families currently processing through a case of child sexual abuse. Sunflower House provides an environment in which children undergo forensic interviews and medical exams on-site, rather than in police station interview rooms and doctor's offices. Doctors on-site are able to write prescriptions as needed, and Sunflower House provides gift cards to cover the expense of medications. Additionally, every child who comes through the door at Sunflower House is able to pick a gift out of the Bear Showcase as a pleasant surprise. As a young girl who went through "the system" 28 years ago, shuttling between two different police stations and a sterile, grown-up gynecologist's office as a fourth grader, and then again as a teenager, I cannot emphasize enough what a difference Sunflower House makes in this part of the journey. This serves to make an unbelievably difficult situation gentler.
Sunflower House is making a remarkable difference in the fight to eradicate and respond to child sexual abuse. It is our honor to chair a fundraiser for them each year, and to spread the great news about their work.