a letter to the hidden survivors

by Elora

According to recent statistics, there are 39 million of us walking around the US with wounded souls.

We look just like everyone else, minus the crippled heart. We mask ourselves in anger and perfection, and fear intimacy with a vengeance. And although we may talk a good game about trust, it’s really a four-letter word we avoid.

Most of us live in silence. Though we are large in number, few of us will ever say a word about the darkest secrets lurking around the corner of our memory.

For me, the telling proved more difficult than the remembering.

It’s hard, finding the courage to say the one thing you promised never to share. Even if threats were never spoken, the fear runs deep. Your heart pounds and your hands shake and you struggle for balance because suddenly, the air seems a little thin.

You are not alone.

I wish I could tell you it will be easy. I wish I could smile and say that everyone will believe you and that those closest to you – the ones who must know – will take up the fight on your behalf.

It doesn’t always happen this way though, and for that I’m sorry because I know this only deepens the wound.

And sometimes, the very person who stole your innocence will be the one who shows up unannounced. Sometimes, you’ll need to learn to lean on others who you know will protect you – even if it’s from the very people you thought held your heart with care.

Be gentle with yourself. Know that opening your mouth and saying those words – even in a whisper – is the bravest thing you’ve ever done and your heart will need a little time to heal. And in speaking the truth you are flinging wide the door to freedom for those behind you.

Because darkness cannot live where there is light. And somewhere, there’s a persistent shining on your deepest pain and your heart feels on fire because you just aren’t sure how much longer you’ll survive in the quiet with the screaming inside your soul.

Know this :: there are 39 million of us standing behind you. Cheering. Crying. Lifting you up when you can’t lift yourself because baby, you’re worth it and so is your soul. 

Healing is possible. You are brave enough to speak and strong enough to survive.

And when it’s over, when your knees stop shaking and your heart finds her rhythm again, you’ll find the One who was there all along, picking up the shattered remnants and placing them together piece by broken piece.

All statistics were gathered from Darkness to Light. I also recommend Mary DeMuth’s  Thin Places: A Memoir and Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

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47 Responses to “a letter to the hidden survivors”

  1. daring November 1, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    “Dark and treacherous dusty paths once trod, not easily forgot, slowly buried, yet ever present. Now once again, my feet must tread this same bloodying path. For what seems an eternity, I feel myself staring into the shadows… my very heart shrinking in fear. Surely, He would not ask this of me, and yet, He does. I am paralyzed. Fear grips my very soul, pain wracks my chest… everything in me, begs to run so very far away. Silence, oh silence, friend and foe alike. I can keep our golden truce no longer. Above the pounding and quaking of my heart, above the raging roar of the ocean… His voice beckons, and leads my weary feet back to this path. I can not turn and run, but I must, for my heart is cracking from the inside out. Would that I could stem the pain flowing from within. And still He beckons, thru blood, thru tears, with outstretched arm, He beckons. I can not run, I must not. With tearstained cheeks, I close my eyes and grasp His hand. In that moment, another ocean crashes down upon me, but this one, of peace. It does not sweep away the pain, but gentles it. It does not wash away all fear… but brings with it instead a newly refreshed trust. With every step, my soul leans heavily upon Him drawing strength from every gentle beat of His heart.”
    I wrote this when God lead me to report my dad for what he had done… before anyone even knew and I had even finished the first steps my dad ended up in ICU for over 3 months and we were told he would die… … so I never followed thru… Strangely, God miraculously spared His life… and I am still sitting here in confusion…. uncertain of where He now leads.

    So for now, this is me cracking the door open…
    “Silent tears slip down her cheeks as she watches from afar. Piercing words whisper in her head, “you don’t belong”. This little girl timidly peers from the shadows, heart aching. “Will I never belong?”, she wonders. This gaping yearning from deep within… to be loved. Oh, to be loved, just a touch… oh gentle caress she never knew, yet longed to feel. Her unspoken plea, locked behind her gaze.
    One day, oh dark and treacherous day…while it was still yet night… the touch came. It’s icy betraying fingers… this was not love… no gentle caress… no warmth. Confused… shattered… broken… her heart screams, bleeding its pain. Oh hands she once longed to embrace her… now cause her to shudder in fear. She sobs til merciful sleep finally delivers her from that which haunts her. Her world, now a nightmare. She doesn’t belong.
    All she ever wanted… to belong, to be loved. Afraid, she is now of a strangers touch…she is bound, this crimson secret enchains her. Fear … shame… duty… hold her to this frozen silence. She dies a little more each day.
    Yet laced deep within this fear and pain still ever lingers… the yearning for love’s gentle touch… a kind embrace… a loving caress. Her deepest longing… her greatest fear.
    She swore she’d never again be vulnerable… As the years passed she learned to hide…brick by brick she built these walls… her lonely fortress. Running… protecting… hiding… its all she knew. Walls built to protect now hold her prisoner.
    Then one day… oh day etched deeply into the very fiber of her soul…. Another’s Touch came. Oh warmth of Love that flooded her soul… it was inescapable. The liquid pain from within now found release… His Gentle Hands slowly washing it away and binding up the gaping wounds. She is lost in His Loving Embrace and knows that if nowhere else… here.. in His Arms… she belongs.”

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 5:59 am #

      Your comment brought me to tears. Thank you for cracking the door – if only just a little bit. Your bravery is beautiful.

  2. Julie November 1, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    How could you possibly know that just yesterday I told my counselor that I think I’m ready to finally talk about my own abuse? We’ve been meeting 2-1/2 years and I’ve barely cracked the seal on that part of my life. I still wasn’t ready yesterday, but your post is bolstering me and giving me strength. Your timing is obviously God ordained! Thank you!!!

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 6:00 am #

      And here’s a confession :: I almost didn’t write it. I knew two weeks before the due date it was what I needed to do, but chickened out and wrote something else. It wasn’t until a few days ago that the Spirit grew stronger than my pen. Thankful for His prompting. Praying for you, Julie.

      • Julie November 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

        I sat here this morning with tears streaming down my face. I read it twice – I just could NOT believe the timing. His Spirit is truly powerful!

  3. Tracie November 1, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    “Healing is possible. You are brave enough to speak and strong enough to survive.” Yes. Just yes.

  4. Holly November 1, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    Into my heart’s night
    Along a narrow way
    I groped; and lo! the light,
    An infinite land of day.
    ~Rumi

    Praying and holding up your arms when you are no longer able, friend.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 6:01 am #

      This fills me with so much life, Holly. Thank you.

  5. Chryssie November 1, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    It gives me strength to keep opening up and continuing to speak about my hurting heart knowing that others are right there with me. I feel alone and that no believes me or cares sometimes. Its hard, but knowing I am not alone helps me continue to fight. :) thank you for writing this!

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 7:55 am #

      Oh Chryssie – you are not alone. Ever.

  6. Preston November 1, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    I can hear your voice, dear friend, and I’m undone. You are believed. You are seen. You are strong.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      Your belief – among others – keeps me strong. Grateful for you, friend.

  7. Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth) November 1, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    Thanks for sharing your heart here and being brave, brave, brave. I’m thankful Thin Places blessed you, and I pray it blesses others who are beginning the journey of telling their stories. Perhaps my story can embolden.

    I wrote about the second rage of sexual abuse over at Christianity Today this week. The second rage is when you tell people and they dismiss you or don’t believe you. It’s very, very hard to experience that. But be tenacious and dare to tell another, then another until you are believed.

    Here’s that post: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/10/the-second-rage-of-jerry-sandu.html

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 7:58 am #

      Mary, it was your article about the second rage plus the article you tweeted a few days ago from ChurchLeader that prompted me to write this post. Thank you for continuing to speak, continuing to embolden.

      • Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth) November 1, 2012 at 9:57 am #

        Thanks Elora (pretty name). I’m so proud of you for being brave.

        • Annie Barnett November 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

          Mary and Elora, I am so, so grateful for your voices & vulnerability here. So much grace to you, sisters.

  8. Jennifer Dougan November 1, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    Elora,

    Thank you: for writing this, for your courage to speak out, and for that helpful resource. I too found Mary DeMuth’s book Thin Places to be achingly hard but necessary, and helpful. I have given my copy of her book away already.

    As a mom, and a youth pastor’s wife who works with teens all the time, this article and the Darkness to Light website was very helpful. I recommended the site on my facebook page too, encouraging others to read it also. Let’s advocate for some more kids… and protect all we can.

    Thanks, Elora. I am so sorry for your pain, and for the pain of others who go through this.

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

  9. Sharon O November 1, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Incredible writings and truths, yes the hardest part of telling is saying the words that were sealed against ones heart. The telling and the admitance is breaking all rules that were held within. Keep sharing for those who are not ready yet or for those who need encouragement and power given them.
    we are survivors because we survived on many levels.
    we are helpers for those who are on the path behind us.

  10. Courtney November 1, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I love when God uses words like these to confirm a prompting of His Spirit to share and overcome in the writing and the speaking. I think it is time for me to share the whole story and it is scary and yet His Word so full of hope and promises. By the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony we overcome…thank you for your words.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      Deep breaths with you, Courtney. If you need anything let me know.

  11. Em November 1, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    so grateful for you, sharing your story today
    so much Hope-Beautifully written!
    Most times I don’t feel like anyone understands and that no one is cheering me on
    There is at least One that understands…
    much thanks

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      there is One – you are right.
      and me, too. I’m cheering for you.

  12. Misty November 1, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Thank you Elora and the other commenters. Brave, beautiful words. I’ll confess I was tempted to ignore these words and not go there today. But I did, and I thank you.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      I’m so glad you did, Misty. Thank you.

  13. julie+ November 1, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    thank you for the reminder to be brave…it is hard, yet holy and freeing. saying those words out loud for the first time in a safe place brought new life. how wonderful it would have been to hear the cheering of those 39 million me then. broken hearted that there are so many of us, yet hopeful we are learning to be brave.

    thank you for sharing our story and reminding others it is good to say it, even in a whisper. that whisper is indeed a light in the darkness.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

      hard, holy and freeing. yes. even though you didn’t hear the cheers when you said those words, we’re cheering now.

  14. Ed November 1, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    May this post launch many others on their journey toward healing. Be blessed today!

  15. Megan November 1, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Elora. Beautiful, sweet, dear Elora. Thank you for your courage. Your bravery. Your words. Thank you for surrendering to the Spirit’s nudges and for trusting us – all of us – with this. What beauty and what hope you are. YOU. Your words and YOU.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

      This made me breathe easier, Megan. So grateful for you and these words that bring me life.

  16. Emilie R November 1, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    THIS “Healing is possible. You are brave enough to speak and strong enough to survive.” is healing and emboldening. I re-start counseling soon and have been wrestling with whether to finally tackle this issue or not. You have planted a seed of courage in me. Thank you for writing this.

  17. Genevieve November 1, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    I told my story two years ago after the Devil and the Church he loves to manipulate forced my hand. I told it from the aftermath of the psych ward in my 30s and I only spoke so I could stay living in my own skin, because four babies love this skin now and need ME inside it. Two years have passed and many shackles have fallen. I can sit in the dark alone for the 1st time since I was 8. But I still run upstairs, panic in basements, must sleep with three sides of my body protected so there is only one to defend. We must speak to find freedom, yes, but it is still elusive, and it is a long road, this building atrophied muscles of the mind and torn down bridges of the soul. I suspect I’ll be a Construction Zone Christian until He wipes all tears away.

    • julie+ November 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      praying with you Genevieve. know we are all in the construction zone!

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

      Oh Genevieve – you are so right. Healing is so elusive, isn’t it? But it’s there and it’s possible. Here’s to fellow “construction zoners” walking alongside each other.

  18. Melanie @ M&M November 1, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    Eloquently said Elora and so totally accurate. I have been fighting this battle for so long, and just yesterday recognized a shift. The Spirit is moving, and I wrote about it here — http://musingsandmeanderings-mlp.blogspot.com/2012/11/flooded.html.
    Thank you for your bravery and your heart. Thank you for reminding us all to tell, to talk, and to never stop.

    • Elora November 1, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

      You’re right – there IS a shift. I’m so thankful.

  19. Becky S. November 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    “Because darkness cannot live where there is light.” This is absolute truth. I pray for healing for you and so many, many others.
    Part of my healing came from attending a SALTS (Survivors of Abuse Leadership Training Seminar) conference in Michigan put on by Open Hearts Ministry http://64.27.51.78/ . Interestingly, they had a required reading before the conference (not sure if that is still the case) of Dan Allender’s book you recommended. I would recommend this conference to anyone able to attend, and they have support groups all over the country.
    Becky

  20. Diana November 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Elora – I am grateful and humbled that you would share this painful story with us in this space. This is so important!! And your words are beautiful, encouraging, hopeful. And my thanks to Mary DeMuth for her powerful article at CT this week. I continue to be stunned by the number of women I meet in my capacity as either a pastoral counselor or a spiritual director who are dealing with this issue. My very best friend, who died 16 years ago this month, suppressed her memories until they could not be held at bay any longer. She became a healthier person emotionally and a strong advocate for others after she confided in a good counselor, her husband (who became her strong advocate in her family of origin) and some trusted friends. She also took the necessary steps to protect her own daughter from a predatory dad/granddad. To give others the freedom and the power to speak is the greatest gift you can offer – so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for these good, strong words.

  21. Leslie November 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    It’s amazing how our obedience to the Spirit opens doors of honesty and healing we could have never imagined. Thank you for your obedience, Elora.

  22. Jennifer Upton November 2, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    Elora- From the few responses I read here I would agree that this my friend truly is holy ground. Just imagine the many invisible footprints here as well….beauty. i shared my story in part about being touched as a small girl last week. And yes they do show up enexpectadly and in my case have never vacated until this year. So proud of you coming out of the dark to lead others to safety.

  23. mariam November 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    thank you so much for this post ,, i needed it so much ,, may God bless your heart and enlighten your path , ,please know you are loved

  24. Amy K. Sorrells November 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Cheering and crying and lifting YOU up today. Love and prayers and blessings to you always, from another one of the 39 million.

  25. HopefulLeigh November 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Proud of you, friend.

  26. Amy K. Sorrells November 5, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    Found your post through Mary DeMuth’s site. As another one of the 39 million, I’m crying, cheering, and lifting YOU up today!

  27. Anna November 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Thank you for this. I’ve been on the journey for several years now, seeking healing, wrestling with God, slowly finding peace. So good to remember we are not alone ~ it’s so important to have community that truly believes (in our experiences AND in the Redeemer of broken hearts). Hugs!

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