Last week I spoke on my life as a survivor of child sexual abuse. I stood before 170 women at a Magnificat, where Catholic women come to praise and worship God and hear a woman’s testimony.
Funny, I have written a book and I have spoken on my childhood in a general way before, in little snippets here and there, but never have I shared the “whole story” in front of an audience before. Never have I stood in front of a room full of people and told the story from the beginning: the story of sexual abuse, the effects of the abuse on me and my life, and how God has helped me in my healing journey. A journey that is not over, but a journey that has come a long way.
Oh, I had a lot of fear beforehand. I really struggled with writing the talk. I was stressed to the max and cried many tears as I struggled to put into words, my feelings and my fears and my hopes and my pain. I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish it. It was way more painful than I thought it would be.
For years I have dreamed of standing up in front of people and telling them the truth of child sexual abuse. I have dreamed of telling the world what it was like and why I am the way I am and how it never goes away and why I cannot just forget it and put it in the past.
How can we forget it and put it in the past, when there are so many pockets of pain that suddenly bubble up from way down deep and come to the surface, crying out to be healed? How can we forget, when we still hurt?
I have this deep sense that that was a momentous occasion for me. I have this feeling that something happened that day, something new, something good. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it is there, simmering below the surface.
I got a standing ovation when it was over. That was unexpected and I was a bit embarrassed, not knowing what to do. But I just stood there and I thought, this is for all of us.
And I thanked God for helping me through it and for bringing me to this day, when I could open up and tell the world about child sexual abuse and the poison of it, the pain of it, and the healing love of God.
And when it was over, a woman came to me and told me, You were telling my story. Another said, Your story was my husband’s story and I understand him better. And another woman said, You gave us hope.
May God grant us all healing and hope and a moment like this – a moment when we can tell our story and know someone is listening.