Rape aftermath: why I didn’t report | Survivor Saturday

Disclaimer/warning to family and friends: I know that some of you read this blog now and then, and so I wanted to warn you that this particular post might be especially sad and painful. Please consider that carefully before you continue reading. And remember that I’m OK now…in fact, much more than OK.

There has been a lot of discussion swirling around the recent verdict in the Stanford rape case. This is written in response to some of that.

In the morning, the older of my two rapists didn’t want me to leave. He mockingly and cruelly pretended as if we had just spent a lovely night together; why wouldn’t I stay for breakfast? He wouldn’t tell me where he had put my clothes, and jokingly insisted that I hadn’t been wearing any when my friend and I had come over for dinner the evening before.

Somehow I managed to find my clothes, put them on, and walk over to my apartment. No one was there. It was my first day at a new job, so I knew I had to hold myself together.

One of the legacies of the bullying and sexual abuse in my past was learning how to dissociate, how to “go away” or “make myself small” in order to separate myself as much as possible from my body. That’s how I could refuse to feel anything as I took that shower that rape survivors know all too well. To this day, I have no idea of the extent of my injuries. I was vaguely aware of upper body bruising that I accidentally caught glimpse of in the mirror. The next day, I dissociated during the exam done by my sweet, gentle, caring doctor — I still get tears of gratitude in my eyes whenever remembering him. In the shower that morning, I recall scrubbing and scrubbing, refusing to look, refusing to know, refusing to feel.

Of course I couldn’t escape every feeling. The sense of shame and filthiness was overwhelming, as was the sense that they had stolen my body. There are no words to describe what that felt like.

Somehow, I made it to work, a shattered little shell of my former self. Looking back, I am in awe of my strength. How did I manage that?

After work, I came back home, and was immediately convinced that I could not live with the knowledge of what happened to me. I came as close to killing myself as possible, saved only by my precious Jesus who presented me with a theological quandary. (Ever carried on an internal debate of Calvinism versus Arminianism with a loaded and cocked .357 magnum in your mouth and your finger on the trigger? I have.) Unable to resolve the issue of eternal security to my satisfaction, I next contemplated murder. All of this was done, believe it or not, with the utmost calm, and without a single tear.

I recognized that I might not be in the best frame of mind to decide on a course of action that would change my life forever, so I went for a drive…for hours upon aimless hours.

There is much more to the story than that, of course, but fast forward about three decades. I had decided that EMDR might be a helpful course of treatment, and my therapist was on board with the idea, even though it was outside of his scope of practice. So I found another temporary therapist, supposedly the local EMDR expert. Unfortunately, within weeks, I began referring to her among some of my friends as Bad Therapist.

Apparently she thought Donny and I had spent the past three years playing tiddlywinks or staring mutely at each other, because she insisted that I was not ready, not strong enough, to tell my story. She also saw nothing wrong with a therapist touching a sexual trauma survivor without permission, and found it weird that I didn’t appreciate this boundary violation. Supposedly all her other clients loved having their knees and thighs touched suddenly and without warning.

Knowing nothing about my rape, she asked me if I had reported it to the police. What? Why not?! Then she took issue with my answer.

Far be it from me to discourage anyone from reporting, I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for those who do. They are my heroes. Really and truly. But there has never been a moment in all the years since then that I have ever regretted not attempting to press charges against my rapists.

I was not strong enough.

Back then, I was only 23 years old, and it took more years than that until I was finally ready to tell my story, in as much torturous detail that I could manage, to my therapist. Donny believed me. This was not open court. He did not pick apart my account in an attempt to disprove my allegations, paint me as a liar, and try to convince a jury that I was the worst slut ever while my rapists were kind, upstanding citizens. Yet telling him what happened the night I was raped was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever made myself do, even all those years later. He had to cancel his next appointment because I was in no shape to leave his office when I was done with the telling. After that, I drove home somehow and collapsed in bed for the rest of the day, only to be tortured with night after night of flashbacks and nightmares.

Some people, and not just Bad Therapist, take issue with any survivor who doesn’t immediately go to the police. “Oh, yeah? If you were really raped, if it was a legitimate rape, you would have reported and your rapists would be in jail!” “You must not have thought it was that bad if you didn’t want your rapists locked up so they couldn’t rape anyone else.” “Obviously you knew your story wouldn’t hold up in court. Why should we believe you when you claim you were raped?”

But, if your rapist was caught in the act, and the case goes to court, and your rapist gets a slap on the wrist, some people will cry that this promising youth has suffered enough for his “20 minutes of action”, that being a registered sex offender is almost too overwhelming a punishment for any man to bear, and that the poor lad deserves our sympathy for all the trauma he has had to endure and will endure for the rest of his life. Besides, if young women didn’t drink and hang out with participants in the hook-up culture, rapists would have to figure out another tactic, and some might become so discouraged by the effort involved that they might even rape a few less women. At least that seems to be the logic.

We expect a lot from rape survivors. From birth onward, they need to be above reproach, living virtuous and cautious lives, avoiding any possibility of danger. Without being paranoid or anything but kind and gracious, they must not let down their guard for a moment. They must neither date nor should they reject men wishing to date them — lest their rejcted suitors feel compelled to rape them — but they must not date the wrong man either. They must be mind readers and self-defense experts who can predict the future. They must be tough, fierce, and fearless, incapable of being intimidated by any threat or the brandishing of any weapon. If, through no fault of their own, they manage to get themselves raped anyway, they must conduct themselves perfectly afterwards, showing whatever it is that we believe to be the appropriate emotional response and actions. They must immediately demonstrate expert knowledge of proper post-rape behavior, along with such clarity of thinking, impeccable instincts, wisdom, and a perfect memory for details, that it is as if their mental abilities and quick reactions were not just untouched by trauma, but enhanced by it. They must never make what we consider as a single mistake, not before the rape, not during, and not after.

I was 23. It seems awfully young to me now, but I was old enough to have learned these cultural lessons well. And, much to my sorrow, they are driven home to me again…and again…and again…whenever a rape case is discussed and dissected in the public sphere.

We need to change. We need to be different.

Allowing others to define us | Survivor Saturday

Recently I was listening to a podcast that discussed, among other things, the difference between guilt and shame. It gave the example:

  • Guilt says, “What I did was bad.”
  • Shame says, “Who I am is bad.”

As I listened, I was contemplating the place in my healing journey when I began realizing that I am not my actions. I may fail at something, but that does not mean my identity is “Failure”.

Much of my healing has involved dismantling lies and replacing them with truth. Sometimes those lies were told to me by others, but sometimes they were things I told myself. As I was reflecting over this, I was reminded of some of my previous blog posts, especially one titled We are not fragile or weak. I ended that post with the following:

We can’t help the blindness of others. But it is important that we open our eyes to who we truly are. We are survivors. We are the ones who cling to hope. We are the ones who bend, but never truly break. We are the ones who put back together the pieces of our lives that are broken, and emerge even better than before. We are not fragile, or we could not endure. We are not weak, or we could not do the hard work of healing. We are survivors. We are overcomers. We are strong.

Looking back over my healing journey, it’s obvious that I didn’t act like a strong, brave, victorious, conquering Super-Survivor every step of the way. Sometimes I felt like I kept getting knocked down, over and over again, and could barely pull myself up to stand one more time. I felt weak. Sometimes I felt like the most dismally frail and weak failure of all time. I would drag myself up the stairs to my therapist’s office and whine, “I can’t handle this. It’s too much for me.”

He would point out that I was, in fact, “handling this”. I had managed to climb the stairs once again, had managed to sit myself down on his couch yet another time, had managed to continue to bring to light the most terrible of my terrible secrets…and I did this week after week after week. As we were winding things down, and I was getting ready to “graduate” from therapy, Donny let me know that he had asked me the most difficult questions that he could, and that I had bravely faced every single one. We left no stone unturned.

Healing from trauma is messy. Sometimes it’s kind of like being stuck in a time warp. We may find ourselves feeling, acting, and being like our much younger selves. It would be funny if it wasn’t so disconcerting. Other times, it’s not even remotely funny, but simply raw and ugly. None of that looks particularly admirable to those who don’t understand the healing process. So, when they attempt to label and define us — even if they don’t mean to be insulting or belittling — they tend to accentuate the negative. Often, it’s all they see.

When people define and label us…even if they are using positive labels…they are attempting to speak into our identity, to tell us who we are. I am not sure anyone really has the right to do that. Even if they refuse to separate what they observe about us from who we are — our actions from our identity — we need to insist on doing so.

We are not our sins. We are not our failures. We are not our trauma. We are not our pasts. We are not what people did to us. We need to be very clear on this. We will not be freed from the burden of shame — the burden that Christ bore for us on the Cross — until we stop allowing the lies of shame to define us.

Guilt should lead us to conviction and repentance — and that’s a good thing, because it heals our relationship with God and makes intimacy with Him possible. Shame, however, leads to condemnation, and that never leads us to anything or anywhere that is good.

One of the most powerful parts of my healing took place this past year, when I received some intensive inner healing ministry. Probably the most beneficial aspect was examining the whole concept of identity, and getting rid of the false beliefs — and the resulting shame — that had plagued me for far, far too long. Only God, my Creator, has the authority to define me, to speak the definitive and enduring truth about my identity, and to tell me my worth. And I need to remember that the same applies to other people: it is not my place to label or define. It’s time we agreed with God about who we really are. Our truest identity is found in Him, and in Him alone.

The open letter I wish Douglas Wilson had written

Pastors are not infallible. None of us are. Sometimes we want to believe so desperately that someone has repented and changed, that he or she is trustworthy, and that the past is in the past, that we throw caution to the wind…only to have our trust betrayed. “But they promised…!” 

Humility enables us to admit that we were duped, overly trusting, naive, mistaken, whatever. Pride blinds us and makes us prone to repeat our mistakes.

First some background: Doug Wilson’s Failure to Safeguard Children

And now the open letter that I wish Douglas Wilson had written, instead of the numerous blog entires he has been churning out of late:

In light of the recent court proceedings involving Steven Sitler, and the resultant coverage of those proceedings in the media, I believe that it is necessary for me to make a public statement taking full responsibility for my actions in this matter. Rather than get bogged down in details that are readily available elsewhere on the internet, I would like to confess the following.

I made several grave errors in judgment. As Mike Sloan and Beth Hart have stated, “Offenders are masters of deception and manipulation, often saying what people want to hear so that they attract attention and compassion toward themselves and away from their victims.” I was deceived. But it’s worse than that: my pride prevented me from listening to the warnings and advice of others with more knowledge and expertise.

Furthermore, I misapplied the Scriptures that state it is better to marry than burn, and that each man should have his own wife because of the temptation to sexual immorality. Obviously Steven Sitler is not dealing with garden-variety sexual temptation. His desire to abuse, molest, and harm children will not be fulfilled or healed by the love of a good woman, and it was naive of me to think so.

I believe in the power of the gospel to transform lives; however, it was both naive and prideful of me to think that I could judge whether or not Steven Sitler’s repentance was genuine. Anyone can appear godly and contrite in half a dozen meetings in his pastor’s office — especially when the pastor is, like me, unqualified and untrained in counseling sex offenders — and the fact that he was willing to read some books means little. Furthermore, if he was truly repentant, he would understand and accept that he can never have a close relationship with any child, and certainly cannot be in an authority position over one. Thus, a Biblical marriage — one that is open to life — would be out of the question for him.

If I had to do it over again, I would have advised the elder in my church to give up on his misguided matchmaking efforts. I would have advised against marriage for Steven Sitler, and quoted Matthew 18:6 to him at every opportunity. It would be far better for a serial pedophile to have a great millstone around his neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea than for him to have the opportunity to harm and damage any more children. If we would not allow him to babysit children in our church nursery, certainly we cannot encourage him to have children of his own. It was wrong of me to perform that marriage ceremony.

I wish to repent publicly of my pride, arrogance, and lack of compassion.

Furthermore, I wish to repent of erroneous statements I have made regarding the very nature of marriage itself. Years ago, I foolishly wrote, “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants.” What a mischaracterization of the beauty and tenderness God intends for the sexual relationship! What an offensive way to describe the act that God designed to be an expression and means of intimacy, unity, and fruitfulness! 

In addition, I maligned many good, decent, loving men by claiming, “Men dream of being rapists.” I should have stated that only ungodly, immoral, depraved men would dream of such a thing, and that men with these desires need to repent immediately — and women need to protect themselves from these men until they demonstrate lasting fruit of repentance. Counseling by someone far more qualified than I am would probably be in order as well.

I deeply regret that much harm that has been caused by my pride, foolishness, poor judgment, and grave error. I pray that those I have harmed and offended would find it in their hearts to forgive me. I am grief-stricken over how I have contributed to the sufferings of even just one innocent child. May God have mercy on us all.

Of course what Douglas Wilson has really written is nothing like this.

There is such a thing as human frailty and need | Survivor Saturday

For awhile, I was on a roll, planning and pre-writing a bunch of blog posts about how some of the things people criticize as a sign of weakness are really nothing of the sort. Perhaps I will still write those posts. But today I can’t help remembering that there is such a thing as human frailty. We get sick. We struggle. We fall down. We fail. Sometimes life has a way of beating us up and leaving us feeling broken and bleeding. Sometimes we literally are broken and bleeding.

Sometimes we need help.

My first child was born by c-section. He was, to put it mildly, not a good sleeper. For the first three months of his life, I never slept more than an hour and a half at a stretch, and rarely more than an hour. I was so sleep-deprived that I could barely function, and it was overwhelming just to take care of the baby, do laundry, and put dinner on the table every night. Not only was I exhausted, but I had what no one recognized until later as quite a serious case of postpartum depression. (At the time, I had no idea you could be head over heels with joyful love over your baby and depressed at the same time…until the fog lifted.) In addition, something had gone wrong during the spinal, and I had alarming bouts of pain and strange electrical shock like sensations going up and down my spine for over a year. My abdominal muscles had been so damaged that the surgeon had afterwards gone into near hysterics, insisting, “I didn’t cut your stomach muscles! I didn’t cut them! You need to know that I didn’t sever any muscles!” Since my spinal hadn’t even worn off yet at the time he repeatedly made his frantic claim, it seemed a bizarre and out of the blue thing for him to get so upset and almost hyperventilate over. In fact, it took months for me to discover that my abdominal weakness and pain was not normal. On top of all that, and while minor compared to everything else, my external scar was uncomfortable and never healed properly.

Physically and emotionally, I felt like a wreck. But life had left me with a dangerous motto of “Show no weakness!” During those early weeks, I entertained and even cooked for a steady stream of guests, supervised a major data entry project for my husband’s business, traveled out of town with the baby for a weekend while sick with two separate infections, did all the housework except for the mopping and vacuuming which the doctor had strictly forbidden, kept up with all the laundry including cloth diapers, and — after the first week or so — cooked all the dinners. It was insane. As a result, my healing and recovery from surgery took longer than it should have, and my immune system took a beating, which only made things worse for me.

My unwillingness to allow others to see my weakness was, in itself, a form of weakness.

We were not designed to carry every burden all by ourselves, nor to soldier on all alone until we drop. We were designed to live and function in community. We were designed to give and receive help — and it is not weakness to recognize we need help, and to seek out someone willing and able to help us.

It took a wonderful and wise group of mothers to convince me that I did no one any favors, least of all my baby, by pretending to be The Heroic Supermom Who Stands Alone Against All Odds. It took a near collapse on my part that left me sobbing in the arms of a woman I’d just met moments before to admit that things were too much for me. That didn’t make me weak — it meant the burden was overwhelmingly heavy. No wonder I struggled.

Years later, I watched two very strong men carry our heavy oak bookcases up our stairs. Neither of them attempted to carry a bookcase all by himself. No one thought them weak because they couldn’t carry their load unaided. Some things are more than one person can carry, and we all knew the oak bookcases were heavy. Later, when a terrible illness debilitated one of the men, no one would have expected him to carry anything in his weakened state.

My husband had never had major abdominal surgery. I was not much of a complainer, which left him thinking it must not be a big deal. Because I shielded him from much of the reality of life with a sleepless newborn — he woke almost every morning fully rested and slept in late on Saturdays — and because his life before and after baby was kept as unchanged as possible, he had no idea of the enormity of my burden. He hadn’t even tried to lift it to feel how heavy it was, because I had given him no reason or encouragement to do so. Consequently, we both began seeing me as weak, and as a failure for not being able to function as if my life had not been profoundly and wonderfully altered. After all, hadn’t I once foolishly pronounced, in my ignorance, that I would never allow a cute little baby to throw our lives into chaotic disarray?

I was not so foolish with subsequent babies, but I did not apply the lessons learned to the rest of my life. For years, I struggled alone and unaided under the load of sexual trauma. It was an invisible burden to everyone else. Finally two major family crises got piled on top of all that, and I could no longer carry my burdens. I almost collapsed under the weight.

Those who had never seen my burdens, never felt them, never tried to help carry them, those who had no idea of the extent of my wounds — because I operated under the principle of “show no weakness” — those who didn’t know better saw only my sudden inability to no longer function as if all were well in my life, as if I weren’t being crushed under a load far too heavy for anyone to carry. No wonder I was perceived as weak and fragile.

My therapist treats children as well as adults, and sometimes he will pass on the wisdom they share with him. One described therapy as the process of crawling out from under a giant backpack that was filled with rocks, opening the backpack in order to sort out what shouldn’t be in there, and remaking the backpack so that it was human-sized and appropriate to carry. Needing help carrying an oversized backpack full of rocks doesn’t make you weak — it just means you’re human, and the load is too heavy.

I was thankful to find my “tribe”, which consists of some of the strongest people I know. We have gone from wounded birds afraid to show weakness to eagles locking our wings and flying above the storms. That doesn’t mean we are a superhuman bunch (although we joke that one of us is) and it doesn’t mean that we haven’t stumbled, floundered, fallen, or been crushed. The thing is — we know the weight of those invisible burdens. We know the pain of the struggle. When someone is collapsing under the enormity of it all, we don’t say, “Look how weak she is. What’s wrong with her?” We say, “That burden is too heavy. Let me help. Here, lean on me.”

The same God who designed us to live and heal in community, to bear one another’s burdens, also sent His Son to lift those burdens we were never meant to carry.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ ESV)

Having and expressing human emotions is not weakness | Survivor Saturday

We aren’t being “emotionally fragile” when we feel human emotions in response to trauma.

Survivors are often labeled, by ourselves or others, as being “weak” or “fragile”. I previously wrote about that here. Since then, I’ve been giving some more thought to the whole idea of emotions…feeling them…accepting them…expressing them….

Some of us are, by nature, more “feeling” type people, and may be more expressive and communicative as well. Some may see this as a weakness, but why not argue that it is a strength? We need to affirm qualities like, She is so connected to her emotions, or She is so expressive and full of life, or even, Wow, she’s so emotionally gifted! Aren’t emotions part of our very human nature? Where did we get the idea that it’s wrong to feel some of them, or that they need to be suppressed and ignored?

Some families, more than others, stifle this part of their humanity. They might have unwritten “family rules” about emotions, such as:

  • Only men and boys are allowed to get angry.
  • Only girls are allowed to cry.
  • Women and girls need to act “happy” and “nice”.
  • Certain emotions are unacceptable.
  • Only positive emotions are allowed.
  • You are not supposed to talk about feelings.
  • It’s important to act stoic all the time.
  • Emotions should not be expressed — not even happy ones — except in a subdued, quiet manner.
  • Emotions are dangerous. Don’t listen to them.
  • Emotions are scary. Try not to feel them.
  • Emotional people are inferior. Don’t be like them.
  • Emotions are divided into good ones or bad ones, and the bad ones are sinful. Don’t feel them.
  • Getting in touch with your emotions is for California hippy types or wimps. Don’t be like them.
  • It’s OK to blame others for your emotions.
  • It’s the role of women and girls to make sure men and boys are happy.
  • Mothers are responsible for all the emotions in the home.
  • You should be happy — or it will make everyone around you unhappy.

Any of those sound familiar?

Some of us were told, growing up, that we were wrong to feel a certain way — or even that we were wrong about how we were feeling: “No, you can’t possibly be angry at your father! You are really happy for him.” We may have been told we were overly sensitive, or that we needed to tone ourselves down. We may have learned to suppress our own emotions, lest we anger or upset our parents. It’s a wonder more children don’t grow up wondering if they are the only ones in their families with any emotions at all!

People raised in emotionally inhibited (that’s nicer than saying “emotionally stunted”) families tend to take this discomfort with emotions out into the world with them. After all, if our parents were kind, decent, loving people, it’s rare that we scrutinize our upbringing for flaws, or spend time and energy analyzing the nuances of our family culture. Unless we have a good reason to change our minds, we tend to think the way emotions were handled in our home is pretty much the right way, even if it was fairly stifling.

Let’s imagine that two such people marry, and that the wife is a trauma survivor. If she has been raised to believe she must “keep your chin up no matter what”, she will find the vast chaotic swirl of trauma-induced emotions to be a sign that there is something wrong with her — rather than that her emotions are a natural response to the fact that something wrong was done to her. Painful emotions are painful no matter what, but the less emotionally savvy we are, the more tempted we are to numb or escape them. Like us, our hypothetical wife will most likely tend to follow her family’s lead in numbing, escaping, and/or suppressing.

Her husband will be quite content with an emotionally numb wife, if that is familiar to him because of what he grew up with. In fact, if she isn’t “good enough” at suppressing all her “negative” emotions, he will no doubt encourage her to keep her emotional range within his comfort level. If she fails, he will see this as her being weak, overly emotional, hysterical, etc.

The irony is that when his wife begins a deeper process of healing, when her emotions become unbound, when she becomes more fully alive, when she faces the truth of what was done to her and allows herself to feel all her emotions in response to such evil — when she is finally strong enough to do that — that is when her husband, instead of applauding her courage, is most apt to tell her that she is weak and fragile.

It is all too easy to accept that assessment. We think, yet again, that there is something seriously wrong with us. I remember crying in my therapist’s office, “Why does this hurt so much more now than it did back then?”

“Because,” he said gently, “back then, just in order to survive, you had to try to pretend it away. There was no safe place for you to feel, to grieve, to get angry at the cruel injustice of it all. You had to hold it all together. It was too scary to face the truth.”

It’s still too scary! I wanted to scream. In fact, I probably did…or, more likely, whispered it in a frightened gasp. Therapy session after therapy session, I bemoaned “ever opening up this can of worms”. Why not just keep on holding it together? Even if it wasn’t better for me, wouldn’t it be better for everyone else if I just went on pretending I was mostly fine? My therapist, God bless him, kept giving me assuring, encouraging, hopeful words — even when I accused him of lying or just mouthing therapeutic bullshit. But he was right. My sister-survivors and brother-survivors — my tribe — kept telling me the journey of healing was worth it, that I was not being selfish, that it was the right thing to do…and I grew to believe them more and more as I watched them walk it out.

Healing is messy. If we are human, experiencing trauma, betrayal, violence, humiliation, hatred, and dehumanizing acts will wound us deeply. We aren’t just recovering from those events, but from the years in their aftermath when we did not adequately heal. It takes courage and strength to face all that head-on…to stare down our worst memories…to allow the most extensive surgery to be performed on our most painfully wounded parts.

Emotionally healthy people actually feel and express their emotions. We may be a bit messy while learning to do so. We have been through a cataclysmic event; naturally there be some cataclysmic emotions…and, if we have held in many or most of them for years, they will seem overwhelming, like a dam bursting. It takes a lot of strength and courage not to avoid or numb that.

It takes even more strength to go against a lifetime of conditioning, to become more alive instead of less, and to pursue healing when it is so painful. But when the people who are supposed to care for us the most keep tearing us down rather than building us up, discouraging us rather than encouraging us — when they offer us words of weakness and failure rather than strength and hope — then it takes even more strength and determination on our part.

“Strengthen me by sympathizing with my strength, not my weakness.”
— Amos Bronson Alcott

So…my words of advice to any potential allies out there, anyone who wants to walk alongside a sexual trauma survivor on her healing journey: Don’t tear her down. Don’t demean her. Don’t add to her negative self-talk. If all you see is weakness and fragility, you don’t know her well enough to be her ally. If you have no words of encouragement and hope, if you cannot see her strength and worth clearly enough to remind her of it, keep your mouth shut — except to encourage her to find real allies.

And this is for those of us who are survivors, no matter what it might be that we have survived:

“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt in You Learn By Living

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it with use.”
— Ruth Gordon

“The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.

You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt in You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Note to my fellow and sister survivors: Although I am somewhat of a loner by nature, I believe very strongly in the value of finding a “tribe”. We heal best in community. If your current “community” — be it family, friends, or church — is not truly encouraging and supportive, in a healthy way, of your healing, this doesn’t mean you have to dump them. It just means you have to look elsewhere for your “healing community”. Don’t give up.

I’d love to hear from you about your healing journey. If you found a tribe, how and where did you find them? If you grew up in an emotionally open and expressive family, how did that help you in the healing process? If not, how are you overcoming that?