You are the only one who can clean up the mess in your own mind, but you don’t have to do it alone. When you hear someone else tell a story that’s similar to your experience, you are drawn to that person’s vulnerability as they share. Your perspective begins to shift. You begin to realize that you are not the one who should be ashamed.
That’s what happened to me during that psychodrama exercise. Seeing other people stand up and tell their stories empowered me to tell mine. I needed to see someone else go first. And that’s why I’m telling my story in this book. It’s my turn to go first.
It took so many years and so much work for me to come to a place where I can openly say what happened to me: I was sexually, physically, emotionally, and verbally abused by my father. I can say it, so you can hear it and know you are not alone. Most victims, when they are being victimized, don’t have that kind of clarity. They don’t know what to call what’s happening to them, so, too often, they don’t call it anything at all. They say nothing, and the abuse continues.
Today, I am a big proponent of speaking up and speaking out. I work daily with survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and related crimes in civil court, and I have seen how empowering it is for victims when they finally speak up about what happened.
Why now, though? In some ways, I feel a responsibility to the clients I represent. They come to me every single day to share their stories. They tell me about the abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of others. They tell me about their trauma. Sometimes those things happened in the past. Sometimes they’re ongoing. But the result is the same: the worst details of their lives go into a public document, to be filed with the court. These survivors will eventually have to sit and be questioned about what happened—and often whether it happened at all.
They are so brave. These survivors are putting everything out there to stand up for themselves, for others, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. There are so many reasons to speak out. Not only do their stories empower me to tell mine, I want them to know I understand what they’re going through because I have lived it. I feel many of the same things my clients do. It’s why I can defend the people who come to me for help with such passion. It’s why, when I’m interrogating an abuser, my words come through with such fire. I believe the unique ability I have to fight for my clients comes from many things. I have guilt over not speaking out sooner, and for not speaking up in the moments I watched my sisters get abused—that feeling is one I’ve carried since I can remember, and it motivates me to speak up now. All the things I didn’t say or do back then come out in my words and actions on behalf of those who have been victimized and abused by people who hold power over them. Those things come out for my clients.
Speaking out about how you were sexually abused or harassed is difficult. There’s so much shame, and it’s completely understandable to be frightened to say something against those in power. But every time you speak up, you’re building toward taking meaningful action, whether it’s removing yourself from the abuser’s reach, reporting the abuser, healing from the trauma it has caused, saving someone else from the same fate, or something else. The more we talk about it, the more other survivors will be believed, and we will be able to recover from the trauma it left behind. The more you repress and keep it in, the more you will continue on a path that is not the one of your dreams.
What I’d like you to take away from this book is that you can say what happened to you, and when you do, you’ll find out you are not alone. You’ll discover that your experiences, memories, and feelings are common. They’re valid. Listen to your feelings and trust your intuition. If a covert or overt sexual invitation or act makes you uncomfortable, you are right to feel that way about it. You were not destined for a life of shame, unworthiness, or lack. Others are not the only ones that get to live their best life, while you hide in the darkness.
You have the power to create a life of light and joy, too.
Discover my story and catalyze the courage to share your own with a copy of my new book: Fired Up!