My Shoes, My Story: The Lived Experiences of Abuse Survivors

I have held onto these stories for quite some time, not knowing what to write. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but looking at these stories, I become speechless. I could throw some statistics your way, I could lecture you on positive parenting, I could give you my speech on rape culture, but abuse isn’t a statistic and its depth cannot be captured in the facts. It’s all important and worth knowing, but nothing blows me away like actually hearing these people speak about the darkest parts of their unique experience. There is so much that I could say, but I am going to let these individuals speak for themselves. Abuse does not discriminate on gender, age, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, social economic status, etc. – abuse can affect anyone. Domestic violence, teen dating violence, and sexual assault are particularly stigmatized and misunderstood. The perseverance of these people is the most inspiring thing I have ever seen and we owe it to those who have been affected by abuse to listen, to hear, to empathize, and to learn from them.

Most know that I spent seven months doing mental health counseling at a center for abuse. Clients I saw were victims and survivors of sexual and/or physical abuse. In leaving the center and sadly all of my beautiful clients and teen group behind to start their next chapter as I start mine, I wanted to make an impact. In a collaborative project with another counselor, Michelle Lewis-Prince, and an advocate, Morgan Chambers, we have created “My Shoes My Story” to capture the lived experiences of women, men, and children who had the immense amount of courage it took to share their stories. We intentionally gave clients vague direction, wanting this to be as raw as possible. We asked “what would you like others to know about your experiences to help them understand what it’s like to walk a mile in your shoes, or what would you like to tell yourself in the past?” This is just a glimpse and is just the beginning as this project will continue at the center long after I’m gone. I’d like to share all of these vulnerable voices (with permission) so that their stories are seen by as many as possible so that those struggling with something similar know that it is not your fault, you and your story matter, you will be heard, having the courage to be vulnerable is what makes you strong, you are not damaged, and your story does NOT define you. To all of my amazing people who participated in this and anyone reading who can relate – I AM SO PROUD OF EVERY ONE OF YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY TO RECLAIM YOUR LIFE!

“I was a normal girl. I laughed I played life was grate and then my life came crashin down when someone that was family, someone that I trusted, someone I believed would never hurt me did what they did to me for almost a year, left me feeling so hopeless, so useless. I was shattered, I was scared, I wanted to die. I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror and say I was beautiful because I felt like a waste of space. I didn’t laugh any more, I didn’t smile, I felt alone. it took me years to finally get the courage and tell someone and as I did, I felt this huge weight lifted off of me. I wasn’t drowning anymore. I was pushing myself to the surface. Take the mask off. Stand tall. Be brave. Shout. Broken wings will heal and one day you will fly again.”
“Deepest Regards
‘Motion, Motionless, Emotionless. they are the same words but mean so much different.
The tears gall down my delicate face
Stop being emotionless they tell me
Stop being motionless they tell me
Being happy they scream
Happy is someone who has nothing to fear
Happy is someone who doesn’t have anger issues
Happy is someone who doesn’t understand why I’m angry
To someone who is happy, my anger is the red fuming monster that hid under your bed when you were five.
To someone who is happy, just because I have sad days doesn’t mean I belong in a mental hospital, but thank you for your concern.
To someone who is happy, I don’t think I need to explain myself any further than I already have
Deepest regards from someone who is SAD’
Although my heart is broken I am now stronger than I have ever been. I AM STRONG AND HAPPY. Yes I have bad days but hey, there are so many other ones.
Love, a poet”
“He drained me of my identity, and injected self doubt into my veins. He left me questioning my own sanity. Walking around aimlessly at war with my own body…every day trying to scrub his heavy words off my skin. My mental state was shaken to its core. I spent minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months…over-analyzing the situation…trying to put the pieces together…justifying what could have or would have happened if I never met him that day. He took something away from me that I’ll never get back, but I’m not going to let him corrupt my life anymore. What happened to me has made me who I am today. When I look back at my life, I see pain, darkness, and heartache. When I look in the mirror now, I see strength, happiness, and a fearless and worthy person. I’m not allowing you to control my life anymore. I deserve to move on…and that’s just what I’m going to do!”
“I can still feel the pain like it was yesterday. The pain of feeling rejected – worthless, obsessive. Helpless. Jealous. Not good enough. I remember crying on the floor holding my stomach because of how much the anxiety tore it up. Being in a mentally abusive and manipulative relationship for three years really messed with my soul, insecurities, personality, and self-love. It kept me up at night praying to God to go to sleep. In my head, everything was my fault. His behavior was always justified because I was the ‘crazy one’. For three years, I lived a life revolved around this man in order to do what I thought would please him. The rage in his eyes is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. As he tackled me on the ground and gripped my hands I feared he would hit me. The hold he had on me when he got on top of me with all his weight still affects me. Afterwards, I continued to lie there like a rag doll – defeated. The worst part is the lies I told to everyone afterward. The lies I told myself in order to justify his behavior. Sometimes I even believed them. But that – that wasn’t love. After I finally escaped this relationship, I felt a weight lifted and I had to slowly put the pieces of my heart back together. I began to rebuild. My feet have been down a destructive path before but here they stand in a path of beautiful, blossoming flowers. Ready to take on the world again.”
“a year & two months
If one year ago you told me, I’d make it through this, I’d look at you crazy. a year ago I was at my lowest, didn’t even imagine happiness. but here I am today living my life, happy. It’s a roller coaster. theirs good days & bad days. Some days feel like pure joy, others feel like never ending hurt. a year ago I sat in a counselors office crying and saying ‘I’ll never be happy again.’ and till this day I remember he said ‘you can’t let him control your life. happiness comes within. everything you need is within you don’t let him take that from you.’ I live by that every day. I went home that night cried and talked to my mom & that’s when the healing journey started and continues. Its the lowest points in life when your vulnerable & hurting so much. That’s when you truly start to heal. This past year & two months have been surrounded in supportive counselors, teen group, advocates, & my mother. I’m taking back MY life, one day at a time.”
“Everything in my life was fine, until the day he showed up. At first, everything seemed fine, he was ‘kind’ and ‘polite’ but I guess when I really was happy about was the fact that I would have a father figure in my life. I guess that’s the mind of an eight year old though. Then, everything changed. He finally showed us what type of person he really was. Abusive. Violent. He always yelled, always hurt us. He constantly bombarded me with words that always brought me down. He blamed me about all his problems, including with his marriage with my mom. And, what was worse, I actually believed him. It got to the point that every day he came home we all hid in our rooms. Every day was full of fear of what he might do or say, so we all had done everything that came to mind to please him. but nothing worked. what hurt me the most was that he told me that I was a burden, and that all I did was bother everyone around me and that I should just kill myself. Every action I made I had to think twice, because his voice hounded me where ever I went. I became cold, and angry with everyone around me. He robbed me of my emotions, all I could feel was pain, worry, and sadness, But after everything he did to me, I always forgave him, because I still believed that I was the one always messing things up. But it was because of this, that I grew. I knew that people like him exist all over the world, and that non of us can stop it so that’s when I realized that in order to stop this cycle of pain and hatred that I had to be better than him, and to always treat others the way I longed to be treated all those years.”
“You promised you would be there. You promised to wipe away the tears. You promised to mend my broken heart and fading soul. You promised you would never let me go. I saw our future. I saw our everything, but you saw nothing. You lied and broken my heart and soul. You took everything I had left. You left me in the dark to rot, and now when I close my eyes all I see if you, in our final moments together right after you stripped me of my virtue. Something I want people to know about my assault is that even in your darkest hours, you can find the light. You can mend your own broken heart. You can find who you truly are. You can build yourself up from the ground. You are not alone but only you can make the decision to see the good and be happy.”
“Our relationship hadn’t always been so miserable. I was strong before I met him. I became fragile. I was 14 when the butterflies in my stomach turned into bruises around my arms. He isolated me so that his voice was all I heard. He told me that it was always my fault, that he was doing me a favor by sticking around. Being with him was a constant roller coaster of emotions. That moment on the roller coaster where the cart is upside down for a split second is filled with both fear and excitement. That rush is what makes people get back on. That’s what I felt with him. He told me that nobody would love me but him, but eventually I picked myself off the ground and left him. He almost killed me in the process.”
“I was raised in a home where I was physically + emotionally abused. To make it worst, sexually abused 3 times by family friends. My self esteem was shattered and believed I was unworthy. I married a man who was a narcissist and a sex addict. He physically + emotionally abused me. I was at the verge of suicide one to many times. I was tired of being tired one day he sexually assaulted me + pushed me down the stairs in front of our two little boys. Never going to forget their look. If I felt unworthy, now I don’t know what less I felt! It took me time + determination…I seeked help, and found out was not alone and was inspired by others who had overcome abuse + survived to become who they wanted to be. I learned soon that when I deny my story, I allow it to define me, but when I OWN my story, I actually get to write my ending. The truth is that falling hurts! But I dared to being brave and feeling myself back up. I can tell you now that truth and courage are NOT always comfortable, but I learned that most definitely they are NOT ever weaknesses. Through this journey, I learned that my story matters. Why? -> Because I matter. Because I am enough. Because I have a purpose and a gift in my heart + soul worth sharing with others who deserve being around me. Because I am not perfect, and that’s OK 🙂 because I am as others, wired for struggle, but I am also worthy of love and belonging. I learned that its OK to show up and be seen, to ask for help, for what I need, to talk about how I feel, to have the courage to have the hard conversations. Today, I am free and finally know what loving myself means, because loving myself unconditionally perhaps has been the greatest and bravest thing I have ever done. #METOO”
“0-14 yrs
confident, loved, hopeful, strong, intelligent, determined, lots of friends.
14 yrs
raped, gossiped about, embarrassed, low, worthless, numb.
16-42 yrs 1 mo
met a boy, married, abused, belittled, friendless, shaken, successful business owner, doped, drugged and almost murdered. 89 lbs. Running for my life
42 rs 6 mo
scared, homeless, new town, jobless, stalked
Happy, divorced, loved. Lots of friends celebrating life!! Healthy, 115 lbs. & working.”
“These shoes have walked many miles In order to make it this far and have walked away from many years of sexual abuse, as a man it is hard to admit when abuse occurs, or is currently happening
to all the young men, boy’s, and husband’s, speak up, don’t be afraid to ask for help, always know that no matter what always push forward always look for the good and your not far from help or a solution. Remember your not alone”
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars – Khalil Gibran”

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