A PLA​CE OF HOPE AND HEALING



HELPIN​G SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE HEAL

 CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE & HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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Meet Zava Robertson

When I first started my journey with ARISE! International I was very skeptical because I had tried counseling and support groups before. They never seemed to work. I would go through this cycle of being stand-offish and then people who have been trained in psychology find an avenue to build a report and some type of trust. After that I would begin to confide in the counselor, confess to them my most inner darkest secrets, which created vulnerability. After I would go through all of these steps something I had already foreseen happening would come to pass, which created distrust all over again.


I had gone through a great ordeal of abuse and had experienced a significant amount of betrayal, abandonment, and ultimately pain. I could not even fathom at the time putting myself in yet another vulnerable situation. Coming from a background of a lot of childhood neglect, abandonment, and trauma I felt at that particular time that my heart just wouldn't be able to take another disappointment. In addition to being post-partum, I had just given birth to my second child not too long before joining the Shelter from the Storm© recovery groups offered by ARISE! International. But I must say that it has been one of the best and vital decisions that I have made in my life. It was through the recovery and support groups that I began to really study and discover myself. I started to have REAL conversations with God my Creator and that was no cake walk.


That stage lasted a while, but afterwards I was able to love myself. I literally fell in love with myself! I began to treat my mind, soul, and body differently. I started the recovery program through ARISE! International in the Spring of 2014 at almost 400 pounds. By the time I graduated Spring 2015 I was 113 pounds lighter and had enrolled myself back into college. I took a few psychology courses and discovered a more in-depth scientific perspective on the effects of childhood traumas on the adult brain. That significantly altered the way that my husband and I disciplined our children and propelled me into my teaching career. My bond with my daughters as a result is stronger than ever! All of these things were major esteem boosters which taught me how to not always seek out and rely on other people's validation.


I was becoming the type of woman who could trust and rely on her own intelligence, decision making, and trust in God. For me that was major! My abuse started at 6 years old and did not end until my late teen years. The mental, verbal, and emotional abuse I suffered from my mother did not end until after my second daughter and that was because I decided no more. As years went on Gwendolyn Jones (Founder/President of ARISE! International) continued to support me in exercising my voice even when people very close to me continued to try to silence me. She continued to choose to believe in me and my story. She constantly reminded me that my story would help heal, inspire, and set me free. I have sought out freedom more and more every year since graduating.


I am free to accept my past and the crimes committed against me as a young child, free of carrying the bondage of hatred for my offenders, free of the shame and guilt they left me with, freedom to trust God, freedom to love whole heartedly and my freedom of speech...I am freely loving and accepting myself. It is through this new found quest for freedom within my heart and mind that I have found so much happiness.

Introducing Iris Dunn

It was 23 years before I found shelter from the storm, 23 years before my healing, deliverance and freedom came. Before entering recovery through the Shelter from the Storm © curriculum facilitated by ARISE! International, I was simply trying to survive from the abuse I had been subjected to over the years. When I was raped at 16 by my step brother and three of his friends, the path my life was on was altered. By the age of 17, I was binge eating and purging and felt so alone. One night I decided that I just couldn’t go on feeling like I was nothing and I took some pills to end it all, but God decided it wasn’t my time. Unfortunately, when I didn’t die I resolved that it meant I was supposed to live a life of suffering. So, at 18 I joined the military in hopes of running away and leaving the memories behind me. However, I carried with me so much guilt, shame and just feeling unworthy of any love or kindness. I didn’t trust anyone which made me very controlling and created such isolation. I longed for intimacy but didn’t know how to receive it.


A yo-yo affect was created where I would pull people into my life one minute and the next I was pushing them away. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. I went from one relationship to another, ended several friendships because relationally I was broken as well. Regrettably, I was abused a few more times during my 20 years in the military because my meter for who was trustworthy was off. To cope I developed an eating disorder. I was explosive, sarcastic, moody and lost. I tried counseling several times and the military at the time just didn’t have counselors trained to deal with the layers of issues I was facing. They didn’t know if they should deal with the rape or the eating disorder. By the time I retired, I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. I could no longer pretend I was alright and that I had it all together. The mask had fallen off and I didn’t want to put it back on.


Glory be to God! I met someone who saw my pain, spoke truth to me and wanted to help me. He went with me to counseling and He became my shelter from the storm. This was the pivotal moment on this journey, because now it was a spiritual healing that was taking place. The Shelter from the Storm © curriculum is based on deliverance and healing the spirit, soul and body. Finally, I found a safe place to heal and a place that felt like home because now I was surrounded by women that knew exactly what I was going through and how my life was affected. Each week, I showed up and was finally taking a stand for myself. Each chapter addressed areas that needed attention and I replaced the lies I believed about myself with the love of God and the truth of His Word. There were chapters I couldn’t finish because it was so painful, however the second time around I was able to conquer it. By the third time around I learned that I was strong, free and loved. Now, I had a support system, a family and it felt amazing!


I graduated from the recovery program Spring 2013 and today I have a peace and joy that I didn’t know was possible for me. Peace is defined as freedom from disturbance; tranquility, and a period where there is no war or a war has ended. I can’t even express in words what having peace means to me, but I know I’m grateful. I trust God and have a relationship with him. Hallelujah!


Today, I have honest and loving relationships with friends and family. I can make rational decisions, set boundaries and trust myself to determine who is safe and who isn’t. I am a child of the Most High God, made in His image, more than a conqueror and I’m victorious. Going through the recovery program is like the pain of going through childbirth and then experiencing the love and joy of this new creation.


"I rise up, I rise like the day, I rise up, I rise unafraid, I rise up and I’ll do

it a thousand times again.”