My story isn’t unique. I wish it was but the truth of the matter is everyone, whether they know it or not, knows someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, assault, rape and/or domestic violence . I have lived through all at the hands of 5 different men; my stepfather began sexually abusing me when I was 6 years old; I was sexually assaulted by the grocer who owned the store at the corner of the block I lived on at the age of 12; after a routine checkup I was sexually assaulted by my family doctor - a man who had been my doctor for 8 years - at the age of 15; an abusive and jealous boyfriend raped me at the age of 18; and, finally, at the age of 45 I entered a relationship with a man who not only physically abused and threatened me, but also emotionally and verbally abused me.
At the age of 49 all of these experiences that I tried to push aside, pick my big girl panties up and move on from caught up to me and I had a nervous breakdown. For three months I had to put my life on hold and sought treatment at an outpatient program that literally saved my life. But, after leaving the program I had no place to go, no place to continue healing. Many of those I met in treatment ended up returning to the program because they simply weren’t ready to be on their own again or to implement the skills and strategies we were taught to help deal with our trauma and triggers that accompanied our experiences.
I wasn’t one of them.
I had an idea that started when I was 7 years old. At that age you cannot comprehend what is happening to you or the feelings you are experiencing. How can you when you have no knowledge of what sex is or your sexuality? You know what’s happening is wrong but you don’t know why. The person responsible is telling you it’s not, but everything in your little heart and mind is saying something bad is happening. My way of coping would be to lay in my bed and pray to God that one day I would have a home for little girls to go to when they were sick “in their belly”. In the home would be mommies who would help make the children who went there feel better. As time passed and I grew older the dream went through many changes, but eventually I let it go. I was told many times “That’s impossible”; “There’s no way a facility like that can exist”. I married, had a daughter, built a lovely life and moved on. But, eventually it all caught up to me and coming out of the facility with no place to continue treatment except therapy resurrected the idea.
There is nothing more healing than talking about something that has hurt you, troubles you or has affected you with someone who knows exactly what you’ve been through. That is never more true than if you are someone who has experienced sexual trauma, or love someone who has lived through a sexual trauma. My dream has always been to open a facility victims can go to find support and relief comforted in the knowledge that those who are there to greet and meet with them have walked in their shoes. Survivors reaching out to victims and helping them become proud survivors who can then reach out to victims. That’s the concept of She Is. A 7 day a week facility - a home - for victims to come when they have been triggered or need an outlet to talk and share what they are struggling with. It would also welcome families who may not understand what their loved one is going through after the trauma and need to speak to someone who has walked in their loved ones shoes.
There are many of us; I meet so many at the events I am invited to speak. When I explain the concept many survivors - especially those who have never share their experience - they meet me and tell me not to give up. This is an idea whose time has come. I won’t give up this time. And with your help, together we can make She Is the next step in living our most complete and happy lives.