If you’re like most survivors of childhood abuse, the journey of healing can seem mystifying and overwhelming. You’re not alone. I’ve been there too.
I started Overcoming Sexual Abuse over seven years ago to empower survivors of childhood sexual abuse to have fulfilling, impactful lives. I am an author, coach and incest survivor. The struggle to gain back my own life free from the effects of abuse led to me creating my own healing path. If you’re ready to create a new life for yourself, I’m thrilled to share what I’ve learned with you. If you’re wondering where to start, check out the page, Getting Started. Welcome to Overcoming Sexual Abuse!
I was afraid every day of my childhood. I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t a struggle. I struggled to fit in. I struggled to be good enough. I struggled to figure how to make people like me. Life was hard.
I came from a family of four. My mom stayed home with my brother and me until we were older. My dad had lots of different jobs: golf pro, business owner, office manager, bartender, truck driver, handyman and others. We seemed like a normal family. We took vacations together, we celebrated holidays together and we ate dinner together. All the time we lived together, we were emotionally distant from each other. Virtual strangers.
I don’t remember how young I was when my dad first sexually abused me. Most of the sexual abuse that I remember comes from the time I was eight or nine, though I know he abused me before and after those years.
The way I seemed able to earn my dad’s approval and “love” was through sexual acts. It seemed impossible to earn approval or love from my mother so my dad was my only hope not to be abandoned.
I didn’t always remember my abuse—at least not consciously. I repressed most of it until I was an adult. It came back over a period of years. When the memories returned, they didn’t seem real. They felt a lot like dreams or like those things happened to someone else. The only things that seemed real about them were the intense fear that came with them and how they all tied together. There was something very familiar about them. They fit.
Even though I didn’t remember most of my abuse or define the things that I did remember as abuse, I still suffered the effects of it. Among the effects that I was most conscious of, I felt shameful and dirty. I grew up feeling different from everyone else, as though I didn’t deserve to belong. I was terribly alone, no matter how many people were in my life.
My memories started to come back after I divorced my abusive ex-husband and discovered that he had molested our daughter almost all of her childhood. I started having graphic flashbacks and dreams.
The flashbacks, nightmares and other memories revealed that my father not only abused me himself, but also traded me to other men. He took me to sex parties where young children were exchanged. My dad sent me to the neighbor’s house, where the neighbor raped me with a pool cue in his basement.
It was hard to accept those things as real, but they kept coming up. All of them seemed to have a common theme of betrayal and violation. As hard as it was to accept, it was hard to deny that they fit all that I’d felt my whole life and the ways I behaved.
It’s taken me about seven years to get to where I am now. By addressing the worst part of my life, I made it possible to live the best part of my life. Even though those things happened to me, they don’t define me. My life is far more than the abuse.
I’ve faced the fear, the pain and the anger from the ways I was treated and those old memories don’t haunt me anymore. Most effects of the abuse—the ways I coped—are a distant memory. I’m delighted with the person I am. I’m surrounded by people who value me the way I value myself. I’m thrilled with the life I have!
My daughter, Bethany, and I nervously stood in front of a roomful of 30 or 40 people. We shared our histories of incest by our fathers and Bethany’s decision to report her father to the police. Though we’d been talking about our abuse privately for years, this was our first time sharing it in a larger group. We didn’t know if they’d believe us or if they’d judge us for “outing” our fathers.
Afterward, as refreshments were served, several individuals discreetly approached Bethany and me. Hesitantly, they shared their own stories. “It happened to me, too,” one man said. He was in his late forties or early fifties but was disclosing his childhood sexual abuse for the first time. Another woman had been telling people for many years, but seemed to feel condemned to live under the cloud of abuse.
One by one, we heard their stories. Our hearts were broken by how alone they seemed to be and how little hope they had for healing. We felt compelled to find some kind of support for them.
Our search turned up two types of support: The first was very nurturing but only a place to share struggles; they were without hope of overcoming them. The second type was uplifting, yet seemed to believe that healing was a matter of determination and a positive attitude.
We knew from our own healing journey that all of those were necessary to heal, but we also believed that without practical steps and real tools, there would be no permanent freedom. Since we didn’t find what we were looking for, we started our own group and Overcoming Sexual Abuse was born in October of 2009.
We started with nothing but a Facebook page and the desire to spread hope for healing. We shared the insights we found useful on our own journeys. We were overwhelmed by the response. Overcoming Sexual Abuse became a community of men and women at various points in the healing journey, all courageous, some eager to share, some only letting us know privately that they were there reading posts and comments.
By August of the following year, we launched our website. For several years, Bethany helped to guide its growth. Now, she’s a busy entrepreneur with a thriving healthy life apart from abuse. She still occasionally writes posts and lends her design skills to OSA.
In 2013, I was sued by my parents for talking about the sexual abuse my dad perpetrated on me. The lawsuit threatened the core of OSA and me. By April of 2014, the suit was settled and I was free to share the truth once again.
By December of 2014, I published “The Rescued Soul: a Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal”. I’m more passionate than ever to share hope with the community of survivors and to empower each one to live a full, satisfying life apart from the influence of abuse. If you share my history, my sincere hope is that you join me along the healing path.
I live in Scottsdale, Arizona with my husband, Don. We share two sons, a daughter and six grandchildren. My passion is writing and speaking about becoming empowered after abuse. When I’m not working, I love playing dress-up with my grandkids, walks with my husband, and quiet corners in my home where I enjoy scented candles while I read.
“I am so grateful for all the help I’m getting on OSA. I am totally changing somehow, it’s subtle but even my ma has noticed and commented on it. I’m starting to get all sorts of motivation to do what I want to do, well at least to find out first what that is without all the uproar in my head! And I’ve been enjoying things, rather than living for tomorrow all the time. OSA and all your help has really been a life saver for me. I can’t thank you enough.” Louise
“I don’t know how I found this page last school year, but I’m glad I did. For the first time, I’ve been able to open up about what has happened to me, and not want to hurt myself the way I used to. I can now say that people understand me, which means so much. Even though I’ve only been talking about my abusers in a private, but I feel better. Somewhat stronger. I know eventually I will be able to share with others, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or six years from now. Oh!!! And I can’t forget to say that now, my dream job WILL be possible! Thanks Overcoming Sexual Abuse!!!” Danyelle
“You guys inspire me to keep moving forward, to let my voice be heard, to remind me I am worth all this hard work, and I will turn this all into something positive! My words are no longer locked inside of me, they are slowly emerging into written form. Your courage and inspiration is untouchable!” Charlotte
“I can’t explain the difference it has made to have so much support. Having happy people cheering me on has been like a light at the end of the tunnel make it easier to keep moving forward. I’m doing the walking but you guys are the light.” Jennifer
“I am so pleased and amazed that I found this site. Thank you all for being brave to post these well thought out, articulate messages. My healing had stalled. I was at a point of depression and listening to others as to “what I should do”. You made me aware that even that is another form of manipulation (even if it is from well meaning people). Thanks for reminding me that I need to start being true to myself. Thank you again.” Patricia
“This site has helped me immensely, to come here to know I’m not alone is so relieving. Makes me feel a little more sane and yourself and the other creators of this page have inspired more than you will know. This page reminds to hang on and keep fighting…. The part where it has possible indicators of sexual abuse totally made me realize I wasn’t in the wrong after all. Most of the points resonated with me and it’s been the biggest step in my healing so far. I will be bringing what I have learned to therapy and for the first time I feel different about myself. I was too young to understand and a lot of people took advantage of me. It is not my fault. You have no idea how much you have saved me. xxxxx” ” Mairéad
“Oh my goodness, just within the moment I joined I couldn’t tear my eyes away reading and reading SUCH inspiring, helpful, and healing words from members and the site. This has and I know will continue to help! The discussion board is awesome, it’s wonderful to know I’m not alone and terrifying to knowing how common it is…Thank you and I will spread the word about Overcoming Sexual Abuse.” Micaela
“I remember being so amazed when I found OSA at the beginning of the year. I had never heard anyone speak out about their abuse and had always felt alone. Finding people like me, who understood me was a life saver. OSA continues to be a lifeline and support and family to me and many others and I hope that it always will.” Penny
“I’ve been so helped by this site recently, just in leaps and bounds, am coming to understand myself and express myself better, am so grateful. Validation I think might be one of the most important ingredients for healing especially as it’s the opposite of abuse and trauma…This site is truly a rare treasure.” Louise
“I was filled with hatred and tons of pain and fear…I had no idea how to share my feelings… now I find this site …wow, what a big difference it has made in my life and I have only been here a few months…We share problems and ideas and help each other. I knew out there somewhere had to be somebody that I could share with …that really knew how I felt…life now doesn’t seem so helpless or confusing…I will reach my goal to be me and love myself whatever it takes.” Deb
“I really appreciate what I read and hear from others like me, and can appreciate that fact that there is hope from victims of sexual abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse. I appreciate all that I read on the various blogs and although some of them bring me to tears when I read them and remember what I have gone through in my life, I feel a tremendous amount of courage found when I read them and that is what gives me hope. Please keep doing what you do!” Sheila
“Thanks for all the great things my wife gets from here! Her transformation from a sad contained injured afraid person to a vibrant loving caring outgoing person has been truly astounding to be a part of!! She continues to amaze me daily!!!” Phil
“This site has been a God send to me. I can’t believe the difference in how I feel in just the few months I have been on here! There is not one person on here that does not understand how you feel. It’s an awesome sister/brotherhood of understanding people. You are not alone anymore!” Suzie
“Thank you so much for this site, a place we can get together and listen and support each other. Some don’t have anyone else they feel they can go to so this place is truly a blessing.” Mary
“It is a pleasure to watch so many people being enriched by this site!!! …I am so amazed and grateful!” Calvin
“My name is Danielle and I’m sixteen. I know you don’t know me so this might be a little weird but I really wanted to say thanks for writing and inspiring your website OSA. Just two short months ago I took the first step in asking for help and told the truth about my step dad sexually abusing me. It’s been a rough couple of months and recovery has led me to find hope and guides in many places (your website being one of them). And so I guess thanksgiving put me in the mood to tell everyone how thankful I am for their support and you were on my list. Thank you for writing and understanding.” Danielle
“As a child I numbed myself of emotion, I never let it out. To speak the words that I felt all those years ago was like a release. I finally allowed myself to feel. Seeking strength in groups like this has been a HUGE contributor. It gave me the security of being safe in my own home, but actually dealing with people who genuinely understand. When I’m having a bad day I can vent without ridicule. Healing is possible for everybody! You just need to find the method best suited for you…” Marg
So happy to have places like OSA where I feel safe enough to get my thoughts out. You all are filling a void for so many survivors, it’s really an amazing thing to watch. I know you are just as amazed as anyone at how many people are responding in need, and finding hope among other survivors! Carla
“Happy birthday OSA—best, most beneficial website created. Bethany, you really have accomplished something big creating this site you should be very proud of yourself. Christina, you’re just a beautiful person and I am forever thankful for being given the opportunity to connect with you and everyone else, I’m sure you all have played your parts in making OSA as successful as it is. I certainly have learned a lot just reading what’s available from the sight other people’s stories, thoughts and feelings. xxx” Christal
“I really encourage this group there has been so many groups concerning with sexual abuse, but they were rather more negatively, not offering any practical information that could help. I’m an advocate of this and I know that there isn’t anyone who should go through this and remain silent about it. Healing starts with letting it out..God bless you all. Continue with this group..it’s really helpful. I would surely invite more people to this group.” Nardeen
“I just wanted to thank you for starting OSA. I have tried fixing myself for 10yrs, numerous therapists–I have finally found the right therapist–week 10. Your site has helped me understand so much about myself and for once in my life I don’t feel alone.” Krista
“I just have to say how good it felt when I found OSA, and how after only two days it has already helped me to see that I’m not alone in feeling the way I do. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story, and for showing me that there is a light in the end of the tunnel.” Martine
“I also feel a bond with all my fellow survivors. It is such a relief to be among friends who understand. I’ve never had that or even anyone to talk to since I’ve never gone to therapy or anything. The couple people that I have opened up to sympathize but I can tell that they don’t truly understand and it made them uncomfortable so I quit talking about it. This site has helped me understand so much about myself and why I am the way I am. I can’t thank you enough, Christina, for being brave and caring enough to open this forum where all of us can feel safe, can speak our minds and can be understood and cared about. You are a wonderful woman.” Penny
“Somehow the way you share snippets of information is often exactly what I need to hear and I always learn something, and then you’re really good at giving feedback and that’s so reassuring. Can’t give enough praise really.” Louise
“The future is looking brighter than ever. I feel like I am at a turning point in my life in a lot of ways. This might sound silly, but I feel like my life is dominos and I have been working to get them all lined up for a while, but needed OSA to push the first one and get them going. Now the pieces are all starting to fall into place.” Jennifer
“I honestly don’t know how I would have kept going if it weren’t for finding your site. I was quite literally drowning in the pain of the past. I can never thank you enough for starting it and I know there are many others who feel the same way. Just finding I wasn’t alone, or crazy, or wrong to still be struggling with it meant everything to me. So, thank you. Know that you have truly made a difference.” Penny