It was one of those days...the sun may have been shining, but all was dark in our world. And in reaching out to a dear friend for advise, my husband received a simple piece of wisdom that has resounded in my ears ever since: "Life isn't what happens to you. It's what happens for you."
Just when you think things can't get much harder, they tend to do exactly that. As a surviver of sexual abuse, I am certainly not alone. In fact, statistically speaking, I'm in a very crowded...though unpopular...club. Approximately one in every 3 women will experience sexual abuse at one point in their life. My experience with people has shown this number to be highly accurate...and highly disturbing.
Being a survivor of sexual abuse is a difficult thing. It never really leaves you. The shame and fear get planted so deeply in your soul that you often wonder if there was ever a time when you felt free...when you actually believed you were good enough. And when you finally develop the courage and strength to stand up for yourself, or for others, you can find yourself standing in a very stiff wind...seemingly alone...and seemingly going nowhere.
When I started this organization less than two months ago, I was scared. I was nervous to announce to the world that I was a sexual abuse survivor. It's not the kind of thing you want in your friends' and colleagues' minds when they greet you in the morning. Not the stuff of polite dinner conversation.
But seeing the pain in another victim's eyes...another victim of my abuser...broke through something within me. It broke through my pride. It broke through my fear. I found myself willing to do whatever it takes to save as many people as possible from this horrible thing called "sexual abuse".
I spent hours learning how to establish a corporation, get a business license, and file paperwork with the IRS (thank goodness for the new EZ form!) Then I spent literally hundreds of hours to create a website, logos, gather research and news stories. People began coming out of the woodwork to share their stories...to ask for advice...just to talk to someone who understands. And then I knew that I was doing the right thing.
But very soon, critics appeared. They are accusing me and my family of creating this organization as a way to somehow rob people of their money...to scam the public. I have been accused of making up stories, lying about my abuse, and committing crimes. Honestly, I had no idea that some people could be so downright mean and cruel...determined to believe the worst about me, regardless of what the facts actually prove.
For a short time, I found myself wanting to shrink...to hide...wishing I had never allowed myself to be so vulnerable. The old familiar feeling of being a victim raised its ugly head and...like so many times in my past...I wanted to shrink back and hide. When I expressed this feeling of defeat to my husband the other day, he repeated the quote by our friend, "Life isn't what happens to you. It's what happens for you", and then added, "So...what is the blessing in this?" At the time, my only answer was, "I can't see one."
But this morning, I had an epiphany. There truly has been a blessing in all of the rude and nasty people...the cutting criticisms...the false accusations. And the blessing is in realizing that no amount of "being nice" will ensure that everyone "likes" you. And no amount of shrinking into the shadows will save you from pain.
Survivors of sexual abuse must learn to finally step back out into the sunshine of life. Will there be pain? Of course there will. As long as you are breathing there will be opposition. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if no one hates you, you aren't standing up for anything. The question to ask yourself is, who is on your side? Who is not? Is your life aligned with those you respect because of their integrity and values? Or are you trying to please people whose values are completely opposite of your own.
Life isn't about avoiding conflict. It isn't about making sure everyone loves you. It is about living a life of love and integrity...regardless of the winds that blow or the storms which threaten to destroy you. So...thank you storms (you know who you are). You have clarified for me once again that light will always chase away the darkness. Charity will always conquer meanness. And integrity is it's own reward.