The Power of Sharing My Story

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ROBy Andrea WakimCo-Founder of Resilient One

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]S[/dropcap]exually abused? There's no way. You were asking for it. You wanted it. If it was abuse, then it was your fault.

Denial was screaming at me as I wept on the phone in my empty living room, sharing with my friend Kristine about my past. I had never told anyone what happened. I didn’t want anyone to know, but I guess I was feeling brave that day. As we talked, she helped me begin to put words to some of my experiences.

That was manipulation. That was wrong. That was sexual abuse.

But was it? I had spent forever believing that I was responsible. Could it be possible that they had taken advantage of me? I cried harder as I finally began to see the truth. For the first time in my life, I felt the shame lifting off of my shoulders. The lens of guilt that I viewed myself through was slowly disappearing. The opportunity to tell my story and put language to my abuse was setting me free.

Then Kristine added one more sentence that solidified everything, "The reason I know this is because I was also sexually abused."  She went on to tell me her own story, and we spent time sharing, listening and mourning for all the innocence we had lost.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]lthough years have gone by, I’ll always remember that conversation. Learning to accept what happened to me was a massive turning point in my life, and hearing someone else's story helped me to recognize and identify what I had gone through. I could now confidently call my abuse by its name.

Kristine and I continued to be friends, and supported each other along the healing journey. Eventually, we began to dream about how we could help others too. Over the last six years, we've both met and cared for numerous women who have devastating stories of abuse and trauma. We've found that for ourselves, and for many others, wholeness and redemption has come through our faith and relationship with Jesus. However, being a Christian adds another level of complication to this process. The Church is not an easy place to talk about sexual brokenness, and unfortunately, sexual brokenness is rampant in the Church.

With the statistics being as horrible as they are – 1 out of every 3 girls in the US will be victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 – we were shocked that there weren't more resources or conversations happening around this issue. Why was the Church not talking about this problem?

Within the last year, it became clear that we had to do something. But what should we do? Encourage women to lead? Empower them into entrepreneurship and mission? We struggled to make a decision because we cared about all of these things, but something was missing.

We eventually realized that it would be impossible to empower, inspire or encourage women unless we first recognized their stories – and not just their successes and accomplishments, but also the various struggles that they overcame to get there. We could not start something unless we stood in solidarity with them by first recognized our own stories and experiences too.

So we made the choice to focus on helping victims of abuse and self-harm, not to dwell on the past, but instead to declare and proclaim life after trauma. We want to help women see that a positive future can come out of dealing with trauma.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]

[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]E[/dropcap]ach month, we interview women of various ages and ethnicities who have overcome any form of abuse or self-harm and now use their past to propel others into mission. Whether that looks like starting a nonprofit, mentoring other women, serving in her community, or being a mom and raising her kids, we have seen so many stories of transformation and healing come out of painful situations. We release these stories in monthly issues that include videos, podcasts, articles, blogs and resources that inspire women who have dealt with their abuse, and encourage those who may still be struggling.

We launched Resilient One two months ago, and it has been the most meaningful work of my life. It has given me the chance to turn my own negative experiences into something positive – I am now the one who can help others put words to their abuse.

I’ve been humbled by the women who have already shared their stories. I've been amazed by the ways that they are able to use the bad things that happened to them for good. I love what we get to do, and although we have big dreams for Resilient One, the heart of our mission will always be to encourage women to seek life, freedom and healing after trauma.