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Today I am going to feature another Survivor Story in response to Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month.  This young woman contacted me a few years back and I’ve had the privilege of ‘witnessing’ her growth and healing journey through email updates and such over the years.  Her story is one of resilience and will encourage others, whether or not they are survivors, that there are no limits to what God can do.

As a young girl I was diagnosed with a learning disability. I was told I would not be as smart or as successful as my peers and I would never go to college. When you are told this enough you begin to believe it. At 12 I moved from the town that I was raised in to Connecticut. I had to leave my former life behind and start in a new school in the 7th grade. I was bullied very badly by my peers to the point of physical assaults. The Principal told me and my parents that I should ignore what was happening. Plus there were issues an administrator which also made life difficult. The two years in which I spent time at that middle school did a number on my self esteem, self confidence, especially my self-worth.

September 17th, 1999 I was 14 and a few weeks into my freshman year of high school. My friend invited me over to her home one day after a 1/2 day of school. I agreed to come over as long as her father wouldn’t be home. I insisted on this because seven months earlier at her birthday party in March her father attempted to assault me. With my friend as his helper, this man molested and held me captive both in their van and home for over 6 hours. I was threatened with my life before being released.

At 15 I ended up in violent relationship for two years with constant verbal, emotional, mental, psychological abuse and control by my boyfriend. I finally broke up after he screamed at me for attending my Grandfather’s funeral instead of being at his school sports match. During this time I worked as a nanny for two children where the father was an alcoholic. I cleaned up after him and to take care of the children. There was infidelity on both sides. I found out about his affair, which I helped hide. Both of them were verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusive toward me. The father on a couple of occasions was physically abusive toward me. I was conditioned over the years to accept what was going on as normal. I had no boundaries, no self-worth, or self-confidence. I was an angry teenager who turned the anger inward. I ate to cope which turned into binge eating and became very overweight. I cut my own hair and self harmed in other ways (pulling out eyelashes, picking off my nails or scabs until I bled, digging my nails into my arms until I bled). I dressed in baggy clothes, withdrew from friends and activities, and went through the motions of my Catholic faith but did not feel an emotional connection to God.

I blamed God.

My saving grace was a man and woman who became like second parents. I met them when I was 17 through Jill’s mom Linda (My Meme). I worked for Jill and Mason taking care of their 3 daughters Meredith, Paige and Claire. We bonded and I became a part of the family. Life improving and I felt God bring me out of the pit of Hell. After one failed attempt at college right after school Jill found the Anna Maria College for me in late 2004. I applied and was accepted and began at Anna Maria College as a 20 year old freshman. Anna Maria was a God send. The college would become a therapeutic rehabilitation facility for me. I began counseling with Patty while I was in college and with her help became free and clear of my abusive ex boyfriend completely.

During this time I was offered a volunteer intern position with the Molly Bish Center and began traveling conducting Child ID Kit Programs and speaking on child/teen safety. Through interning at The Molly Bish Center I slowly found my voice again and began to use it (appropriately) which ignited a passion for Child Advocacy work so I switched my major from Education to Social Work. I thrived in the Social Work program which gave me the opportunity to do an internship with the Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Center of Central Massachusetts, now named Pathways for Change and focus on the Outreach/Education/Advocacy department. I planned, coordinated and ran community events such as the Clothesline Project and The Taking Steps To End Violence Against Women and Children 5k Walk. Being a community activist gave me the opportunity to strengthen my voice.

The stronger my voice became the stronger I became and the more intense my passion and my purpose. Knowing that I was making a difference in the world helped me to heal. With the guidance, love, and support of my social work professors, the counseling center and the Molly Bish Center I received the therapy and other services that I desperately needed. Attending Anna Maria College also brought me back to my faith and I often would go to the Chapel for hour to pray. Choosing to do my internship at the Anna Maria College and the Molly Bish Child Advocacy Center have been the biggest blessings in my life.

I graduated in 2009 with my Bachelors degree in Social Work with a concentration in Outreach/Education/Advocacy. I will graduate in May 2013 with my Masters Certificate in Victim Studies/ Victim Advocacy. Having opportunities to help prevent others from going through what I went through has been the greatest blessing and what has helped me to heal.

Rachel - Survivor

Thank you, Rachel, for your courage and strength and for being a VOICE for others!

Blessings

Shannon

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