Transformed To Tell

Transformed To Tell

My journey started when I was twenty-nine yrs old. I remember someone saying when you’re about to reach those 10-year milestones in your life you should reevaluate your past to have a better future. Well I was almost thirty. As I did my evaluation I realize I was controlling and had set limits on my life and the life of my five children. I had no real friends and I wasn’t a real friend. I was felt alone and depressed. See,the previous eight years I had been experimenting jumping from relationship to relationship; men and women alike. I liked whoever liked me and when you’re constantly failing and there’s a different variable. What’s the common denominator “ME.”

I had left a homosexual relationship of five years. Another failed relationship, it was summer I sent my children to their father with plans for them to stay the following school year.
So after many years of being a mother wife and my mother’s most responsible child I needed to learn how to just be “Sabrina” and so my journey begin.

I moved into a one bedroom apartment “my cocoon”, bought a small car that would never hold 5 children it was time to become someone other than who I was. Someone who loved them self in order to be loved. I had to find myself. I had to learn to be myself but where should I start “The Beginning”

My beginning I have always had a memory of an event, I remember i was a toddler. I remember being in a pamper. I remember everything. Yes,I remember. Yes My first memory of being molested I was between two and three years of age; he was someone my mother trust it my stepfather he was supposed to protect me but he violated me instead. Remember I said something about being the common denominator I remember being 5 years old and my cousin and then 6 years old the babysitter son and then 10 years old my mother’s other husband, was there a sign on my back that said molested Sabrina? I don’t know but what I did know was that all my past events had made me who I was at that moment and I felt as if I was nothing. That place of darkness was real I was depressed but because of those five beautiful beings that I had given life I had to be better I had gone into the Cocoon a caterpillar but I had to make sure that a beautiful butterfly emerged and not a moth.

I started breaking down and shedding my old skin I had to become the person God has allowed to survive all the mental physical and emotional trauma. I surrounded myself with beauty I started taking special care of my person my hair my nails my eyebrows facials. I started going to church meditating praying and tithing I started reading more and not romance but reading to gain knowledge about how to be a better me. With all that I had to figure out how to break out of the mental and emotional bondage I have found myself in my resentment to my past experiences had gotten me know where. My abuse is still violated my mind I was still restricting my life experiences by not caring and loving because other than my children loving had always come with conditions either on my end or the other person. So I had to love me unconditionally. I had to let go of the what if he hadn’t touch me? What if he hadn’t kissed me? and what if he hadn’t violated my mind? After all of the years that had passed if I have not received an apology

I wasn’t going to get one and I had to be okay with that because no matter what anyone had done to me “I am responsible for my happiness.” I had to learn to love me and in knowing the root to my freedom; breaking free from darkness in the light and emerging a beautiful, vibrant, bold butterfly; was in FORGIVING ME…..

“I TRANSFORMED”

Sabrina is the author of Transformed to Tell Her journey to finding forgiveness after abuse.

A Survivor’s Story: Finding Love

A Survivor’s Story: Finding Love

Like many others, I was born in a Christian home. I got baptized with my two older brothers when I was five or six, and I remember the pastor asking me:

“Who is Jesus to you?” without any hesitation, I replied,

“My Savior!” To tell you the truth, I didn’t really know what that meant. Honestly, I didn’t really know the guy at all. I said it because that’s what you’re supposed to say, and because I was a good little churchgoer who knew all the churchy answers. I had never needed a savior before; I lived in a Christian bubble without any knowledge of pain or heartbreak.

Pretty soon that bubble started to shatter.

Within a few years one of my brothers started getting forceful. Not like normal older brother stuff where they make fun of you and push you around—that I was used to. It became so violent that he would punch me if I made him mad, or mock me until I sobbed. He was always angry, always wanting things his own way. Every time my parents left him as babysitter my little brother and I would try and avoid making him mad, or just hide from him altogether.

We hated him—we were terrified of him.

I remember the first time I woke up to him crouching by my bedside.

Eventually, I just got used to it and assumed this is how families treated each other. He had become so threatening to me I wouldn’t dare say anything for fear of getting hurt. As the years went on, things got even worse.

I remember the first time I woke up to him crouching by my bedside. It was late, maybe two in the morning, and I felt a tingling all over me that always happens when there is someone around I can’t see. I opened my eyes and he was right there.

I told my parents the next day, and my dad thought I had been dreaming. I insisted I wasn’t, but they thought nothing of it. It happened again, over and over. He would be in my room late at night and always make up some excuse. Some nights I would have dreams of someone touching me, and I would wake up to him sprinting from the room.

I kept insisting to my parents that I wasn’t dreaming, but my dad didn’t really buy it. He ended up putting a lock on my door—one of those that doesn’t have a real key, you can just open it with a tiny screwdriver. After that didn’t help, I took all the screwdrivers from my house and hid them behind my closet door, hoping if he couldn’t find them then he couldn’t get in.

I finally reached a turning point—up until this point I was able to pretend that nothing was really happening, but even that small comfort was stripped away as I lay in the darkness of my room that night.

I was so consumed with fear that I would try to sleep anywhere but my own bed. I slept on the couch—though it was more out in the open, my room felt so much darker. I was too old to tell my parents I was having bad dreams, so I couldn’t get in bed with them. Sometimes I would wrap myself so tightly in my blankets, thinking that if he couldn’t get through them he couldn’t touch me: it would get so hot I couldn’t sleep and eventually had to unwrap myself. For months on end I would lock my door, only to have it mysteriously opened. When I woke up, when I got out of the shower, there was no peace. One night, I broke. I woke up to his hands in places that I didn’t know existed. I was paralyzed: unable to move or cry or even breathe. It felt like fire was running through my whole body as I tried to comprehend what I should do. I finally reached a turning point—up until this point I was able to pretend that nothing was really happening, but even that small comfort was stripped away as I lay in the darkness of my room that night. Before school the next day, I wrote my mom an email. I was too scared to tell her that her beloved son was sexually assaulting her daughter.

After that, the bubble was burst for good.

The first, and most awful thing was having to go to the District Attorney’s office. I went in to a cold bland room with a man I didn’t know. I stared down the camera in the corner as a man told me to draw “draw an X where he touched you,” and other such humiliating things. I walked out with a stuffed teddy bear and that was that.

It became a world of secrets, of not being able to tell my friends what was going on: of me being left at friends houses and at practices because one of my parents was busy, and the other couldn’t leave him alone. I became emotionally numb: I was embarrassed, and faked my way through court ordered therapy visits and stared blank faced as many of my family and friends asked me questions with tear filled eyes.

I ripped the head off that poor teddy bear.

Suddenly, it was over. I had refused to feel anything—convinced everyone that I was fine—he was moving back into the house. For the length of time it went on, it seemed that in the blink of an eye the biggest tear in my family life was taped up and thrown in the back of a deep dark closet, never to be spoken of again.

That was when I decided that no one could take care of me but me. 

I felt worthless—the only people that professed to love me spent all the time I could remember in denial of what was happening to me. When they finally did believe, they spent the rest of the time taking care of my brother—the problem—instead of helping me as the victim. I was so angry that my parents were never there, that my brothers didn’t seem to care, and that my friends couldn’t know. I decided that the only person I could trust to care of me was myself.

Then came high school, where I entered into an extended period of bad decisions, numb and spiraling. My freshman year I met a boy. He wasn’t good looking, charming, or even tall. He wasn’t anything special, or even smooth talking. But he was the only person who ever paid attention to me. We started dating, and my parents were against it. I wasn’t allowed to see him, so I would sneak him in my room at night through my window, or sneak out and go to parties with him and his older friends. They introduced me to alcohol and drugs—things I had been so sheltered from I didn’t even know what they were. I was desperate to seem put together and cool, so I would do almost anything. Little did I know, this entire time he was manipulating me.

He was untrusting and always seemed hurt by me, threatening to leave me regularly, and always being offended if I didn’t sneak out to see him. He told me that if I professed to love him vocally, I had to show it physically.

This was the only love I’d ever known—the love I thought I deserved. I accepted him cheating on me, spreading lies about me, making me do things I didn’t want to do. I had never wanted to have sex, I wanted to wait until marriage like a “good Christian” would do: he didn’t care.

I had gotten myself into a pattern of doing whatever he wanted, and so when he wanted sex I couldn’t say no. I thought that if I didn’t, he would take it from me anyway. I thought it was better to be a slut than a victim again.

I thought this was love, and once I felt it I wanted nothing to do with it ever again.

I got away from him, but I carried the shame, memories, and pain from my youth with me all the way to college, shoved so far down that I didn’t even know how to feel it. I self-medicated with drugs, alcohol, destructive-relationships, even sports. The fall semester of my sophomore year was when everything changed. Within the span of two weeks my life exploded, in every possible way. I was injured working out, my credit card was stolen after my car was broken into, my apartment was broken into while I was inside, my roommate was getting stalked, I literally could not pay for meals, and to top it off, my boyfriend didn’t like me “not being happy,” and broke up with me. After a mental breakdown and crying all the tears I had held in for almost a decade, my roommate called a guy I hardly knew, who stayed up with me almost all night, and told me something I will never forget. He looked me square in the eyes and said,

“Katie, I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I know that God is telling me that if you just let it all go and chase him, he will make it more beautiful and more amazing than anything you have ever experienced before.”

 

My story of healing is really a story about meeting Love.

Love is a person who has taken every flaw, every mistake, every thing I want to be ashamed of and turned it into a beautiful story of redemption, that I have seen change lives. Love is a person who despite me shoving him away my whole life he never stopped chasing me down. Love is a God who gave me every ounce of himself to save me even when I continually broke his heart.

When I found true love, my life was over. At that second I became someone new. I was able to feel, connect, even speak about my experiences. I experienced radical healing mentally, emotionally, and even physically. I became someone who had never been jaded by worldly love and wasn’t broken to pieces. He even restored my relationship with my brother, and helped me forgive the boy that destroyed my heart.

I finally, truly understand what it means to say Jesus is my savior: it means that he fell so in love with me that he couldn’t bear being in heaven without me, so he came down to earth to die in my place, so that I could live with him eternally. When he died, he took pain, sin, and death to the cross with him—he buried my past a long time ago, and no matter how deep someone digs, they can’t revive a past that’s dead.

This story is submitted by Katie Mackey, a Stetson graduate whose digital photography work, “Driftwood,” focuses on stories on survivors of sexual assault. 

Our organization has become the proud owners of these pieces. See Driftwood here!

A Survivor’s Story: Your Healing Journey Start Here

A Survivor’s Story: Your Healing Journey Start Here

“You are so strong! I don’t think I could have survived what you had to go through,” they would say to me. I didn’t feel so strong. Yet, I had to put on a strong face and find the strength to fight. I wasn’t just fighting another person, but fighting for myself.  It was a fight for custody of my daughter, but I was also fighting for my integrity, my freedom and my state of mind.

 

My husband was not just emotionally, verbally and financially abusive to me, but he took that abuse to the next level by having me arrested (for throwing a wedding album at him in retaliation for his verbal assault) in front of my two children. Then to add insult to injury he emptied the bank accounts and filed a restraining order to keep me out of our home and away from my six-year-old child. Then over the next year and a half he did everything legally and mentally possible to destroy my life.

“You are so strong! I don’t think I could have survived what you had to go through,” they would say to me.

There were many layers to my healing process; enough so that I will have to share them in a series of blogs. So, let’s start with the very beginning. I had to come clean…. with myself. I had to face myself and the reality of what had happened to me. I didn’t even realize what I experienced over those 7 years of marriage was abuse and was still finding it difficult to reconcile. Remembering to breathe. Taking a deep breath, and stop going far ahead into the future. Being present with where I was in that moment in time was difficult. My mind was like a squirrel. It took lots of practice. I knew I was safe at that moment. I had a roof over my head at that moment. I had food to eat, at that moment. There was no use in being worried about what he would do next. He would do something, so it was a matter of how I would respond to it. These little shifts started the ground work of my healing.

I had to come clean…. with myself. I had to face myself and the reality of what had happened to me.

I was in crisis mode. You may not be there, but you may still be triggered by your experience and need to take the simple steps of taking a deep breath, becoming aware of where you are at this moment, and know that now, in this moment and time, you are safe. Release the past, ignore the future and stay in the present.

 

Story submitted by Marjorie Phoenix, author of the book, Who The Hell Do You Think You Are? and founder of The Forgotten Women Project. 

A Survivor’s Story:Unbroken

A Survivor’s Story:Unbroken

He began stalking me, showing up outside of my work, blocking my car in, begging me to come back. I finally was able to get protection from abuse and he was allowed no contact with me. He was allowed to see my son on Saturdays for a few hours until one evening he was drunk and tried to bust out my mom’s window and refused to give her my son, he finally return him late that evening and I never sent him again. He continued to harass me and every time I would call the Police he would sneak off before they got there, there was a warrant out for his arrest and after several months of dodging the Police, his luck ran out. He spent a few days in jail and entered a program for alcoholism; he never once admitted he was an abuser.

Soon after I started seeing a counselor and sharing my story, However Caroline, who was my saving grace, spent hours on the phone with me almost every night talking about the abuse. Through those conversations, I found myself again, that 14 year-old girl who loved to swim and laugh and was fearless. I never realized, I had the power all along, I didn’t understand that abusers prey on your fear and insecurities. Once I took back my power, I let all of my fears out and began to heal.

My first hearing was for the Order of Protection. I went out and bought a dress, (I was never allowed to wear dresses) then I went and got my hair cut (I had hair almost down to my waist, and I wasn’t allowed to get it cut in the 10 years I was there) I got it cut to my shoulders, I was extremely nervous when I walked into the courtroom, but felt empowered at the same time, I was taking MY life back. I also began taking a 40 hour course to be a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter, but it seemed just too soon.  I wasn’t ready and was not able to the fact that you couldn’t just go pick the women up when they called. I decided it was too soon in my journey to do that, but I learned a lot from the courses. I ended up finding a new job in a nearby town and although I was terrified to leave my safe haven and Caroline, she encouraged me to take it. It was a good opportunity and I wouldn’t be stalked or watched anymore. I cried for days before I left, it was a difficult decision, but I felt safe there, they protected me when no one else would. I still vividly remember my abuser coming to try to talk to me one day, I was so scared I was shaking, and Caroline went right up to him and told him to leave, I was terrified I thought she was crazy and she told him, you might scare her, but you don’t scare me, and she told me over and over, he only bullies you because you are vulnerable and afraid, he backs down to everyone else. Then I started to slowly stand my ground, when he would block my car in I would put the car in reverse and tell him if you don’t back up, I will smash his car. He couldn’t believe it, I was standing up for myself.

I started working as a cashier and worked my way up to Asst. Manager. This year will be my 20th year anniversary. My son is doing well. He us working a fulltime job, has his own home and a son of his own. I am now happily married and have two other children from that marriage, a son 13 and a daughter 8. Caroline is still my best friend. I never thought in million years I would get out of there, I honestly thought I would be killed or end up killing myself. Today I am no longer that scared little girl hiding under the bridge. I am outspoken, strong willed and determines. People who know me now cannot believe it when I tell them that I am a domestic violence survivor who endured 10 years of abuse. All it took was for one person (Caroline) to not be too scared to stand up for me, to tell me its not normal for women to be hit and screamed at and belittled, I had been hearing it and living it for so long I thought that’s how all women were treated. I am telling my story today because I want other women in abusive situations to know, there is a way out, and there is hope. Find a friend or someone you can trust, call the hotline, you can be saved from a life of violence and abuse, just like I was.

Story submitted by Becky C.

A Survivor’s Story: Recovery

A Survivor’s Story: Recovery

When I was 16, my life ended. I know that sounds dramatic, but in essence it’s true. The person I was died and I became somebody new. A person I didn’t always like, or recognize, but me nonetheless.

I was a child and in love for the first time. My boyfriend, however did not feel the same way, he wanted to own me, body and mind. He wanted to control me and see how far he could make that control go. One night he and his best friend brutally assaulted me and left me for dead. That was the beginning of the end. What followed was years of self-harm, drugs, alcohol, and sex with random people. Anything to forget who I used to be and stop the pain.

One day, after a particularly rough night, I realized I couldn’t keep this up or I would literally die. I wouldn’t live to become an actual adult. So, I did the only logical thing I could, I joined the military, ran away and never looked back. Totally normal, right?

Flash forward 13 years, I have a career I’m proud of. I have an amazing husband who has put me back together more times than I can count, a man who supports me in anything I do and truly loves me. Together we are raising 2 awesome, self-confident, and way too smart for their own good kids.

In no way is my recovery easy, nor is it complete. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, Depression and Anxiety. I take medication every day in order to function, I go to therapy and spend entirely too much time crying on her couch about the child that died that day. I wake up sobbing at 3 a.m. next to my poor husband who holds me and comforts me when all he really wants to do is sleep. I go behind that same insanely patient husband and re-check all the locks. I still have days where I sit in the car for 45 minutes, working up the courage to go grocery shopping. I’ve found that headphones and music work great to keep me calm in the store.  I still have trouble completely accepting that what happened is in no way my fault (it drives my therapist crazy). More days than not, it’s a struggle just to get out of bed and some days I still lose that struggle. Thankfully on those days, my family understands and leaves me alone to curl up in bed, with my dog and watch Doctor Who all day.

Every day is a step forward on a long, rough, tiring road and I’ve wanted to quit many times, even now. I will never be “normal” again, I will never be that 16 year old, in love for the first time. However, with the help of a lot of understanding, patient people who love me, I’m pretty ok with the person I am today.

 

Story submitted by Kimber Lewis Bergstrom. Kimber is a writer and part of RAINN Speakers Bureau. Her poem “WHY” was featured in our October 2016 Languages of Abuse production.

Story Time & Wine

Story Time & Wine

Stories are the foundation of The Forgotten Women Project (FWP). We all have one to tell. Something that has shaped us or tested us. These stories are important, and sharing those stories brings healing and a sense of empowerment. It can be a vulnerable act, yet aslo courageous, to tell others about our pain and adversity. There are many women that are suffering in silence, and we believe our collective voices can be warrior cry for them.

We believe that creativity is an important part of self-expression. Story telling is an art form. There is no right or wrong way, but there is an energy and power behind each word, tone and gesture that can influence, persuade and impact others. At FWP, we aren’t interested in conforming to the way other non-profit organizations raise funds or garner help. We believe that each event should be engaging and enlightening for participants. So, when we decided to go into the Seminole County area it was important that we reach potential partners, donors, volunteers and clients in a way that allows them to experience what we are about. Story Time & Wine offers that opportunity.

Sip and share in a safe space knowing you are heard, you are seen and you are supported. Prompted by a question, each participant has a couple minutes to share something about themselves. When they are done, others in the group affirms that story by responding,

“We see you. We hear you. We support you.”

Once everyone has had an opportunity to share we will then spend a little more time to dig deeper individually, ask questions, and embrace one another.

Not everyone is willing to be transparent or vulnerable. But, for those that are realize it can be transformational.

If you would like to take part in this event and for more details go to Story Time & Wine in upcoming events.

Unable to attend but you would like to support our cause, you can donate here or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 114, Flagler Beach, FL 32136

A Survivor’s Story: It’s My Story to Tell

A Survivor’s Story: It’s My Story to Tell

At the age of 19 years-old I entered into a relationship with the brother of my pastor. Like most relationships things started off great. I thought he was heaven sent.  See, my parents were going through a very heartbreaking divorce at the time, so anything that seemed comforting I ran to it. The first couple of years was good. Then boom! I realized, it’s like they say, “Everything that glitters isn’t gold.”  I received my first punch. Little did I know that that would be the first of many. The first person I told was my pastor. I thought he would help me. That’s what pastors are suppose to do. But I guess blood is thicker than water. He quickly defended his brother and threw the minister collar out the door. He had every excuse in the book for his brother’s violent acts.  I was getting beat so often that I became numb to the pain and numb to the excuses. It wasn’t until I became pregnant that I gained the courage to start calling the police. With each arrest, came more excuses from his family. By this time, I was totally brainwashed thinking it was something that I did. That somehow I was in the wrong. Finally, on my son’s first birthday, I saw the light. I got the courage to leave my situation and move miles away. Leaving my son behind with my mother until I got myself together, I moved to Orlando, FL with only $100 to my name. Within two weeks I found a job and shortly after got my first apartment. When I moved to Florida, things started to happen for me. Good things started falling in my lap. I give all the glory to God!

Now everything wasn’t a walk in the park.  For the first few years I suffered from PTSD. I was having flashbacks and had a hard time sleeping at night. I strongly encourage counseling for anyone who’s a victim of domestic violence. I went to counseling every week and studied the teachings of my pastor at Great Faith Church. This really helped me get my joy back. I finally started to pour out everything that happened to me, and allowed new things (happy things) to fill me up.

Story submitted by: Cydni R.