I have to admit it has been far too long since I have posted here. This is going to be a more personal post than the previous posts.
I am currently in my senior year at college, so that's been busy, but I've also been working on a side journey that few have been involved or aware of. In May I celebrated the one year anniversary of the sentencing of my father, for those that don't know he received a sentence of 805 for a combination of charges involving rapes, incests, etc. that were committed against myself. Upon and since this anniversary I've had to admit somethings to myself, while I am relieved of this I do admit he is still my father and I have dealt with a lot of emotions involving the guilt of "putting him away" to relief that he won't do it t another child to anger (which is something I am not used to feeling) to sadness and empathy towards myself, my family and his family. So it goes without much saying, I've been all over the map with my emotions lately. I had previously been avoiding therapy, mainly due to the denial that I needed it, but have now been seeing an amazing therapist for roughly the last 4 months or so. As much as I have convinced myself of how healed and strong I am, I have had to admit to myself that, while I have come a very long way since the beginning of my journey, I am not completely healed and still have a lot to work on. This has been both depressing to have to admit and eye-opening at just how much abuse does change and effect a person and their life, no matter how much you try to deny or ignore it those effects. My flashbacks have decreased significantly and I feel more functional than ever before (and hell, I will be graduating this coming March, so I can't be doing too horribly I guess), but I still have a very long way to go and now that I have begun to admit this I am hoping to further work on and hopefully one day be free from the struggles I still have.
Putting myself out there some, because I think it's only fair. I am not the "fully healed survivor" that so many believe I am. During my high school and into my college years I struggled with eating disorders, self-injury and depression, and some of these have still been an ongoing struggle for me. I haven't injured myself in some time, but as any "addiction" it's something I do think of on occasion. I am still struggling with a miscarriage I had at the age of 15, something that I so amply denied prior to court and something that I really don't tell or talk to many about. Not a day goes by that I do not think of the abuse, the court process, my struggles now, or where I want to be after I am able to heal a little more. My point in putting this out there some may wonder....because there are so many people in this world that go through similar things, that have similar struggles and that struggle on a daily basis, and I think it's only fair that I admit not only to myself but to those looking for the support that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Being a survivor doesn't mean you have to be completely healed or completely whole. I hope one day I will go an entire day without thinking of what happened. I hope that some day I will wake up in another life where I can speak of my childhood in the good context of the positive memories I have. Today is not that day and tomorrow won't be either, but for the moment I am happy with where I am, how far I have come and I have hope for how much further I can go. This may always be a battle, but it's one that so far has been WORTH fighting and I could not be more content with how things have come about to this point. I think that's something that most people don't understand, those that have not been through a major struggle in life, each small accomplishment seems like a major step and in the end sometimes all we have to hold onto is hope, but sometimes that's all that's needed to get you through to the next day.
Since it had been so long since I posted I thought it was only fair I put myself out there and really let you all know what goes on behind this side of the computer screen. I am still speaking out, I have two "gigs" in November that I am looking forward to, and I still am here as a support and guidance for those who want/need it, but I also want you to know that I am also 100% human and still have my struggles and barriers. We will get there together!
PLEASE if you need/want support or advice or even just a listening ear feel free to email me at Speakingout2endsilence@gmail.com. If you are more comfortable speaking over the phone or skype for some reason, shoot me an email saying "I'd prefer to speak via...." and I'd be more than happy to provide you with that information! I have fixed previous issues with the email and now am able to respond typically within 24 to 48 hours.
Thank you all for continuing to be a support and keeping up the awareness!
I've been knee deep in school work and planning, and have to apologize for not posting something here earlier.
Yesterday I attended a conference for prosecutors, and shared my case (along with my team who worked the case), as a case study. I am more and more in awe of what an impact my story can have. Living through it each day, I've become...immune? I guess, to the affect it can have or the fact that it is not the "norm". Anyway, this conference was a special one for me, mainly because of the people that were there with me and the affect that I know first hand the prosecutors who heard my story can make on another victim's life. The healing did not come with the conviction. Am I glad that he's in jail and unable to hurt another child? Sure. Do I feel safer with him being locked away currently? Yes. However, that is not what has helped me transform into a survivor and advocate. The truth is the three woman that sat next to me in court (or fought for my case in front of the judge) made the difference. Not because they are super heroes, but because they allowed me to see them as human, and they treated me like a human. I know that sounds funny, but you'd be amazed how many people see you as a "broken" or "damaged" person, but to them I was not this. To them I was "Libby"...did I have problems of which they were aware of? Of course I did, as I too am human, but they accepted me, supported me, encouraged me, and showed me I was WORTH something. That's where the true difference came in.
It is extraordinary to look at the person I was 6 years ago when the case was first came to light, two years ago when it was reopened, and now, just one year after the case has ended. I am not the same person. I recently saw a therapist, yes I avoided them for some time as well, but I promise you, if you find the RIGHT one for you (there can be good therapists, but the right therapist is hard to find, but worth the process!). Well, I spoke with a therapist recently and we spoke of how I will never be the child I was born into the world as, the child that existed before the abuse happened, that child is gone, that person is gone. It reminds me of the quote that has sat with me, originally from Oprah but sent to me by the detective that worked me case..."he killed the person you could have been"...and how true that is! I am a different person, but I can have the life I want to live none the less. I have CHOSEN to be an advocate, and boy has that opened a new world to me. Now that the conference has ended, I'm scheduled to speak someone at the school about how their department can participate in advocating and awareness, and then next week I am suppose to speak to a class on campus. I have had so many people tell me how brave and courageous I am for speaking out and how so many don't think that they could do it. The truth is, it's not bravery or courage. I at one point did pass out when public speaking (seriously, I had a high school teacher that was afraid to call on me in class because of the shade of pale I'd turn, haha!)....speaking out for me is not about courage but determination, and a touch of resentment even. My question is Why shouldn't I speak out? Cancer survivors, Car accident survivors-especially those affected by drunk driving, natural disaster survivors all speak out....so why shouldn't sexual assault/abuse survivors speak out?
Project Unbreakable, where survivors write down quotes of which their abusers said to them and take pictures with them, is yet another example of the large community of survivors that, if given the chance, do want to have an outlet to advocate, to gain support, to gain closure...this subject needs to be talked about more in order to end that stigma associated with sexual violence, to end the silence victims are suppressed by, and to let people know they are NOT alone. Speaking out how shown me what a beautiful and supportive community we can have, and I would argue that victims deserve to have that support in their community. Before this turns into a novel, I want to thank you all for reading this because you are part of that amazing community that I've seen glances of, and I encourage you each to continue that role of advocating.
Six years ago today, my battle had merely begun
I often questioned my strength, so unaware of the war that would be won
Six years ago today I sat in a small office finally speaking of the abuse
Finally sharing the secrets of how, by my father, I had been misused
I shook, I cried...often questioning my chosen destiny
Was this the world that had been meant for me
Scared, confused, feeling oh so alone
I now can look back on this life, not just with a happy family, but with an amazing home
Looking back I don't regret reporting, I don't even regret the hurt and pain
As I'm happy with the person and advocate I am today
As I sit in my classes, imagining where I came from
I cannot thank everyone enough for helping me to hold on
I'm so thankful for the life I now have, the new life I have now begun
And February 24 six years ago initiated the war that I'm so thankful to now have won
I cannot get over the thought of it having been six years ago...I remember every detail of that day. I remember the camo skirt I wore, tracing the patterns with my fingers as I sat in the office with the detective and social worker. Yet, I think of all that has changed and happened since then and I'm amazed it's only been six years. I am truly a completely different person than I was that day, I'm a completely different person than I was last May when we got the 805 year sentence. I sit here not with regret or sorrow but with a celebration of the life I now have. I'm a year away from graduating with a counseling degree, I have three parents that love me dearly (my mom and the aunt and uncle that have now "adopted" me). I am truly blessed. Six years ago I thought my life was over as my world fell apart, and I am so thankful I held on to see the beauty in life that I previously was shadowed from seeing. I am so thankful and I have chosen February 24th as a day to celebrate my life for what it is now, and not for where it was. Thank you to all those who have helped me to get to this point. <3 May love, peace and comfort find you as it has me! <3
Firstly let me wish you all a very happy New Year! It's been a few months since I've posted, as things have been slightly busy! Well first off, Christmas this year was an eye opener. I don't know what exactly it was that felt different, but this year was so much different than before. The difference? I was free, unburdened of my past....my first Christmas as a survivor! It was amazing to actually be able to soak in the season's joy, to feel the togetherness, and to truly enjoy the comfort and peace that Christmas brings. It was amazing!
On January 5 I also met another major milestone, my 21st Birthday!!! While that's a milestone for almost all people, it was especially rewarding for me because I spent a night not thinking about past memories or worrying who at the bar may be looking at me the wrong way, but I instead went out with an amazing group of friends and had dinner and sang karaoke and lived as a 21 year old should. It was a new beginning to me, as this is the first year I will not be carrying on the burdens of my past. No trials, no testimonies, no worries or fears...it's my choice what and when I talk about stuff now, advocating is my choice and in my control. That in itself is overwhelmingly amazing! Though I don't want to jinx it, I also want to share that in 5 days it will be a months since I've had a flashback. Before now, I had yet to live a week without a flashback, heck, I almost couldn't live a day without one! What kept this in check so far? I wish I knew! I'm not complaining though!
As far as advocating, as that's what this site is mainly about, I have had some movement there. My amazing prosecution/court team has been invited to a conference in April, and we will be speaking together at it. It's exciting for me to be able to share this part of my journey with these wonderful woman, as they really have brought me to this place! I've also found several new resources for victims/survivors, and will be posting those on this site, as they become available.
I also want to thank all of you for being on this journey with me, as each of you has become a member of the advocating community, even if just reading this! Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!
November is of course the month of thanks and for the speech yesterday it couldn't have been more appropriate!
It was amazing, as always, to be able to tell my story and see it impact people, but to be able to speak to the law enforcement officers, Child Protective Service Officers, and a few attorneys was in itself meaningful! I was nervous to have a close member of the team there, but excited that she was able to see me speak finally, what I did not expect was for 3 of the 5 woman who supported me through the week in March we battled in court, to be present at this event. It was incredibly moving for me to not only be able to help the officers who were not familiar with my case have a better understanding of a victims perspective and what some of our wants and needs are (though each person is different and so are their needs!), but to be able to share with these members of the team just how much they have helped me....it was mind blowing! The one thing I'm normally pretty good about containing during these events are my emotions, yeah well....not this time! I cried, which I don't do so often, but it was a very emotional and impacting event and I am thankful and honored to have been able to present to such an incredible group of individuals.
Those woman that were there from my case, the prosecutor and detective especially, changed my life, and for that I will never be able to thank them enough! For each life that I impact and each person I help it will be because of them that I am able! This journey may have begun in my life, but they made it "our" journey and no longer made me feel alone! They helped me to see that I was WORTH something, the most incredible gift anyone can be given! It was a moving event for all, I hope! I know it was extremely meaningful to me! I also realized yesterday it's not always where it started or what the ending was, but in the journey itself. I didn't have this much healing over a verdict....but over the people I interacted with and the events that took place on the journey to gaining that verdict. Don't ever let anyone tell you words can't change a life, because I'm living proof that they can make the biggest difference!!!
Yet another successful speech and another piece of myself restored and acknowledged! Thank you to all those that make a difference in other's lives! I know it is not easy what was done for me and I cannot be more thankful to those amazing people who helped me to achieve as much as I have and more! I will be forever thankful to them for giving back what was stolen from me! <3
Song of the moment: Legendary by DJ Khaled...it's pretty empowering!
Speaking to my class went well today! They were very open-minded and attentive. It was nice to talk to peers for a change too! This was also yet another example, no matter how small the audience, in this case 8 people, you can still make a big impact, as they can on you!
Looking forward to next week's long but extremely inspirational and empowering event! I found out that my hero, the world's greatest detective, will not only be there but will be introducing me (and the case)! I feel honored to have a chance to speak with these people that really do make such an amazing difference! I've been asked to share the errors of the first investigation as well, a little less in my comfort zone, but to have a chance to improve the way these incredible members of society interact with victims of sexual crimes is worth it! I also am very much looking forward to being able to thank them, especially my detective, for the thank-less work they do to better the lives of those who have been silenced. It's a tough job and not one that should be looked upon lightly! Speaking out to increase understanding and awareness, that's what I'm all about!! :)
It's going to be an exciting month in November. While I've been caught up in college and have begun to once again reach out for events to participate in, though am always open to them coming to me. Two days after deciding I was ready to get back into speaking out, completely out of the blue, the detective involved in my case called me to ask if I'd be able to speak at a training event for her supervisor! I would do anything for these people, as they have changed my life, and I was more than honored for this opportunity to speak to the training detectives, and hopefully offer them a better understanding of how victims think, what helps us get through these horrible events and having to relive the events through the reporting and court processes (though I don't regret any of my journey in the least bit!!!), and how they make a difference in this sense. Hopefully I can make an impact on them, and as with each event I've ever done I know they will make an impact on me. I also may be speaking to one of my own classes, which will be both nerve racking and exciting! It's the most amazing experience to be able to share my story knowing that it could help other people down the line!
With each new day comes a new challenge and a new opportunity, I live for these moments as without them life would be dull and no change would be made in our society. I don't expect to end all abuse, but if I can make a difference in just one survivor's life, it is 100% worth it!
Other than speaking out again, I have found a new lease on life! It's amazing just how much pressure was relieved with the trial being completed (and the 805 year sentence!). I can finally live without worrying about who my father could be hurting, or if I may "casually" bump into him someplace. FREEDOM! It's exciting and rejuvenating, but also VERY unknown territory. The ending of this physical battle has brought to face just how lucky I am to have had the amazing people and resources I have had. There may never be a complete end to this journey (as I'm hoping there won't be!) but what there is are the tools to get through each hurdle you come to, tools to work through the effects of what was done, and amazing people that you meet and connect with along the way. It's a slow process at times and fast at others. I can tell you right now, I am not the same person I was a month ago (I'm almost unsure of what to do with myself without anxiety and frequent flashbacks!), I am certainly not the person I was a year ago....and don't even get me started on the person I was 5 1/2 years ago when I first reported. It's not about finding an end to the journey but in finding the joy, .
Now as I am loaded on caffeine and suppose to be focusing on school assignments I want to share with you one last thing, being abused isn't your identity. It may be part of it but it's not ALL of it. The beautiful thing about healing is finding all the other parts, the MANY MANY parts, that make up the rest of you! I'm a lot of things, and one of those things is an advocate and I wouldn't change that for the world!