A PLA​CE OF HOPE AND HEALING



HELPIN​G SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE HEAL

 CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE & HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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                               --Iris, Spring 2013 Graduate 

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.”

                       --Angelee, Spring 2014 Graduate  

As April 2014 comes to an end, so does a chapter of my life: Silence.


It took twenty-three years, my engagement, Eddie, Sandi, and Miss Gwen for me to seek help, but I did. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I was molested by a classmate in elementary school, molested by my uncle, and raped by a friend in college. I was ignored, denied, and blamed by a surprising amount of loved ones. I lived with shame, false guilt, and false responsibility that didn't belong to me. You see, the unfortunate thing about sexual abuse is that the victim lives with all the consequences. As long as everyone was happy and everything was in harmony, I could hide and live with my pain. I lived behind a facade of what I thought was normal, because if the real and broken Angelee was revealed, nobody would love me.


However, Someone already loved me now and before I was born...God. God loved all of me, good and bad. He wanted me to seek Him first. "Cast all anxiety onto Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) God had already forgiven me for my past, so I had to do the same. I am now ready to live the life God has intended for me. He has and continues to be SO good to me. God has revealed truth to me little by little through my healing, and I am forever grateful. If my story is the same or similar to your story, I hope it inspires you to seek help. Or you may be in a position to support a loved one in a similar situation. If you're in the middle of your healing process, I encourage you to keep going. Yes, healing has at times been difficult. BUT...It is worth it.

MOST OF ALL, I want to express my gratefulness to my circle. Thanks be to God, my beloved Eddie, Sandi, Gwendolyn, Penny, my sisters, and all my loved ones who knew and continued to support me. Without your unconditional love, I would not have made it through this journey.

                             --Jasmine, Fall 2014 Graduate 

A native of Texas, I was born into a Christian family where I was taught the fundamentals of Christianity, but in 2008 I began to formulate a genuine relationship. I received my degree in Biblical Studies from Southern Bible Institute in 2013 and has utilized it to spread the Gospel and help people heal through many avenues. I knew my passion and wanted to focus in on women, of all ages, who needed healing. As a survivor of sexual abuse, which took ten years of my childhood, I have taken this tragedy and turned it into my testimony.


I began recovery by participating in a Shelter from the Storm© support group in late 2013 and upon graduation in December 2014 I was truly launched into service. I have spoken to young people about sexual abuse, the wounds it leaves and how God can heal.


On January 17, 2015 I began a new chapter in my life as a wife, which was something I never saw happening because of my past. I am a daughter, sister, stylist, a Shelter Sister and most of all a servant of God. All of these components have helped me to become a Survivor and an Overcomer.

                     --Zava, Spring 2015 Graduate

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.

                         --Hannah, Fall 2015 Graduate  

I was sexually abused by my father from the ages of 13-16. It wasn’t until the age of 21 that I realized what had happened. I was a very angry person inside and I feared and hated men. However, I did not fully understand how this had affected me spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Through several different people, God brought me to ARISE! International and the Shelter from the Storm© curriculum.


During my time in Shelter from the Storm©, I discovered the lies that I had been living with as a result of my abuse. I was able to peel back the layers and replace those lies with truths from God. I acquired sisters for life who could fully empathize and support me. I received tools that I can use for the rest of my life to help me fight off the devil’s attacks. Finally, I was also able to confront my father and set boundaries so that I could feel safe.


Now I want to share my story so that others like me can receive healing and restoration. There is hope. Nothing is too bad that God cannot heal. I am now married to an amazing man and I have a beautiful 5-month-old daughter. The cycle can be broken!

                              --Alicia, Spring 2016 Graduate 

Thursday, April 28, 2016: Tonight, for the first time I stood in front of strangers and friends. I shared a small part of my story... Having been involved in a domestically abusive relationship where I was told by my ex that he would kill me and sought to destroy my worth with belittling words.... I survived. I shared my story of having being raped by a family friend and family member as a teenager and how the pain of my past affected every area of my life.... I survived that, too.


The road to recovery of faith in God's promises after the deep pain and trauma of intimate partner violence and rape at times seemed impossible. After walking through the storm, I'm stronger, I'm wiser, I have peace and an internal joy that could only come from God. Every day is unique in its challenges but I have faith in God's restoration and healing from the very sinful and painful situations that tried to destroy me.


I stand in amazement of God's love for me. It was so encouraging to stand amongst women-of strength and courage. Tonight was just one of those unforgettable ones!

Woman of Faith "Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she smiles at the future.