My daughter, Bethany, and I stood in front of a roomful of 30 or 40 people and shared our histories of childhood sexual abuse by our fathers and Bethany’s decision to report her father to the police. We didn’t know if they’d believe us or if they’d judge us for “outing” our fathers. Though we’d been talking about our abuse privately for years, this was our first time sharing it in a larger group. We nervously stood there, hoping to inspire them to be aware of sexual abuse.
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, 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 but 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, 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.
Welcome to Overcoming Sexual Abuse!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the truth. Truth is stability in a chaotic world; it stands solid in the midst of brokenness. Truth is safe.
As a kid, my hero was teen detective, Nancy Drew, who boldly investigated clues and lived to solve mysteries. Nothing fascinated her more than finding the truth. In my teen years, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was my favorite amateur sleuth. A sweet, unassuming, grandmotherly-type, nobody could fool her. Miss Marple always saw past the deceits and facades, even when the police were stumped. I still enjoy crime novels and picture myself catching the thieves and murderers next to the fictional detectives.
Though I’ve always loved the truth, my childhood sexual abuse meant most of my life was based on lies and secrets. Instead of the criminals hiding the truth, it was my own mind concealing it. For years, I repressed the memory of my abuse. I imagined myself an eagle-eye detective, yet the truth remained hidden to me.
My recovery from sexual abuse has been the discovery of truth. Telling the truth about my past was the first step in healing. Every step came by overturning the lies the abuse taught me. Each painful feeling led me to a clue; each haunting memory was a puzzle piece that led me to the truth. The healing process reminds me of a murder mystery, except that my goal wasn’t to find out “Whodunit?” Rather, “Who am I?” My restoration has been the process of uncovering my distorted image to find my true, genuine self. I love truth.
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 personal growth and empowered living but I love quiet corners in my home where I enjoy reading, scented candles, and chai lattes.
When I meet people and they ask what I do, I typically roll my eyes. I live in Hollywood – Land of the Superficial. I don’t want to be just a job title or a stepping stone to someone. I want people to ask who I am as a person. So, who am I? I’m a woman who’s pretty spunky at times – maybe even mischievous. Yes, I was sexually abused by my father, but that’s not who I am.
All my life I had grand ideas of who I wanted to be when I grew up. Then, I actually grew up and found myself stuck. I was living the 9 to 5 office life that my dad always wanted for me, all while dreaming of the day I could break free and let my creative juices spill over.
And one day it all happened. When I was 24 I finally made the decision to report my dad to authorities. It was my first “No” to him and oh, it felt good. I was no longer under his control and who he destined me to be. My “No” to my father was a big fat “YES” to my dreams and the life I always wanted to live. I can do what I want, be the person that I want. I’m finally free to be me. I found who I am apart from what the abuse taught me and this journey has been one that is well worth it.
The search for who I am has led me down that creative path I’d yearned for so long. I picked up my brushes again and got to work as a freelance makeup artist – something my dad said “No” to long-long ago.
So, who am I? I’m Bethany – artist, jokester, performer, fighter, with a touch of eccentric. I love to push the barriers of creativity. Bring on the art! Everyday I get to ask myself, “What are we going to make today?”, and I think to myself, “Yes, I’m finally who I want to be.”