This dream started for me about ten years ago.
This is when I started to deal with the abuse I had suffered over the course of my life. My life was changed drastically when I was five years old. A man that lived in the same apartment complex as I did decided that I was cute, and he wanted to touch me in inappropriate ways. He would take me to the store and buy me new clothes and toys if I did not tell anyone. This continued for the next two years. Then we moved away and the abuse stopped. But the damage was already done. I had been shown things and done things that were way ahead of my time and what my brain could comprehend. This led me to act out sexually with my friends through grade school. Then in middle school, at age eleven, I got into my first serious relationship. That does not even make sense, however it is true. I started a sexual relationship at age eleven and got pregnant the first time at twelve years old. I did not know what else to do besides have an abortion. I was a child so how I could possibly raise a baby? Then the guilt got to me and I ended up pregnant again within a couple years. This time I kept my baby. I was only 15 when she was born. I named her Kellie Anne. Her father, the boyfriend I had spent every day with for the past four years, did not want anything to do with us. This pregnancy is what ended my first serious relationship.
At 15 years old, I was a single mom with lots of family support. Of course, like typical teenagers, I thought I knew everything. I thought that my parents were overbearing, trying to control what I was doing, how I was parenting, and I did not like it. So I was looking for the fastest way out on my own. Instead, I found my next abuser. I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, and a mother. I needed a job. The man that hired me was 28 years old. He had his own apartment and he seemed to like me. He invited me to dinner and I accepted; within a month I had moved myself and Kellie to his apartment. Kellie was about six months old.
For the first few months it was great. I had my own place, no one telling me what to do. Then, it started. I was out for the afternoon with some friends and when I got home, he was there waiting for me. I had never seen anyone so mad. He didn’t say anything. He just slapped me across the face. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. Within an hour or so he had calmed down and was very apologetic. Then everything was fine for a while. Then the abuse got worse and grew to include mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Because of my younger years of molestation I did not see how bad it was. I had always had low self-esteem and this relationship just brought me further down. I thought that he was the best I could get. I had been treated poorly by men all my life. My father left when I was 5, the man who lived next door took my innocence, and my first love left me stranded at 15 with a child. For some reason, even though men had treated me so badly throughout my life, all I wanted was their love. For many years I put myself and my children in risky situations with men and other areas of my life.
It was not until I was thirty years old that I really started to acknowledge what had happened to me. I started to have flashbacks of the abuse when I was very young. I struggled so much; I was reliving the whole thing over and over again. I sank into a deep depression and lost control of my life. I had always used work to hide from my feelings. I would work an average of 60 hours per week and neglected my family. When the flashbacks started I could not work anymore. I could not be a wife or a mother. All I could do was sit and cry in a dark room. I did not want to see anyone or let anyone see me. I was full of shame, resentment, guilt, pain, and sorrow to name a few of the emotions I was having all at the same time.
At this point I started on a path of healing. I started to look for a therapist that I could afford, one who could understand and help me in my time of need. I found some very good therapists, but they were expensive and I could not go as frequently as they felt was necessary, so we would try to make do with what I could afford. I would go once a week or every two weeks, but without any income this was added stress to my family’s financial situation. Then it got to the point that I felt it was doing more harm than good. To bring everything up for an hour, then go back into the real world was just not working for me.
I continued to seek help in the form of relaxation therapy, but my healing was something I would have to achieve on my own. I bought myself some workbooks and worked through each chapter at my own pace. I would work on things when I had enough time and energy to spend (more than an hour). I tried to find support groups to help me stay on track with my healing. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any groups in our area that met regularly. I was on a few waiting lists, but the groups never materialized. I continued to struggle and work on my own for the next year or so. Then my mother found out about a retreat called “From Grief to Grace.” It was a religious retreat to heal the wounds of sexual abuse.
I was very skeptical because I am not a very religious person, and I did not enjoy traveling away from home. The retreat was held in Philadelphia. My mother offered to come with me and pay the expenses, so I finally agreed.
When we got there I felt overwhelmed. We were staying in the sister house with about 50 other people, male and female; young and old. During the retreat we participated in many living scriptures, large and small group sessions, with healing activities and individual counseling if needed.
The retreat lasted three days. We started at 7 am and continued straight through until 10 or 11 at night. It was exhausting but it worked. We had time to dig deep into our souls and feel the emotions we had been tucking away day after day for so long, and were given the freedom to heal and change those feelings by the end of the retreat. I had to attend this retreat twice. I had been so skeptical at the beginning that my healing was inhibited. Also, I had not set up my surroundings for further healing when I arrived back home.
About five years later I heard that the retreat was going to be held in Philadelphia again. This time I was ready to go. I had continued to work on my own healing in-between the retreats, and my relationships around me had improved. This time I was open to the healing and embraced it. I knew what to expect going in and I had a plan for when I got home.
This time the retreat changed my life. I knew it had a chance because I had at least begun a good experience the first time, even though I had been filled with apprehension. My second attempt at healing exceeded all my expectations. When I left, I felt healed. Even though I knew I still had a long road ahead of me, I felt as though I could travel it, and I now had a support system that I could count on, and the tools I needed to be healthy and safe.
So based on my own experience, those of others that I have bonded with through the healing process, and the opinions of educators, social workers, and other professionals I have networked with over the years, I have decided to build a place for adults to come and heal from childhood sexual abuse.
The long-term goal is to have a property that will house 10-12 guests at a time. I want to provide holistic treatment to adults who have not been able to live a fulfilling life because of what someone else did to them. I would like to have guests stay for a period of up to two weeks. They would receive a combination of group and individual counseling focused on areas of self-esteem, trust, anger, rage, forgiveness, relationship skills and family issues, to name a few. We will include life skills, social activities, art, music, touch therapy, mediation, and relaxation techniques in our treatment as well.
The property should be set on at least ten acres of land so that we can provide walking paths with meditation and journaling areas. The house should be big and open with a kitchen big enough for the whole group to cook together as a family. There should be at least two large conference rooms suitable for group sessions and presentations, and 5-10 smaller offices and individual conference rooms. There will be a meditation and relaxation room. Upstairs, we will have 10-12 bedrooms, with shared bathrooms in-between. The house will have a very peaceful and serene setting throughout.
Please join me in my efforts to make this dream a reality.Watch Amy share her story here.