September 12, 2012

A Beyond Survivor's Story: Spoken Secret - Part 4

Hi all,

Here's is the conclusion to J. Eve's amazing and inspiring story!


The new-found independence I experienced in college and the support of a mature, sensitive, patient, loving partner helped me erase the messages I’d internalized from my family. I was beautiful and resilient and could be proud of my strength. I deserved to have meaningful sex. I was sick of feeling invisible to my family and ready to feel independent and strong. I was an activist at heart who’d always been committed to helping people.

I realized I could do something positive with this awful part of my past, and I didn’t need approval from my family, though I would still struggle to get it for years to come. As scary as it was to be vulnerable in front of strangers, classmates, and new friends, it felt right to talk about it. With mic in hand, I participated in “Take Back the Night,” an event uniting the campus to raise awareness about sexual violence. The people attending these events wanted to hear my story, in contrast to my family who’d never even asked for any details. As I experienced my first round of applause and received my first emails detailing how my story moved someone, I felt proud. No longer did the abuse have to be a source of shame, guilt, and sadness.

I learned how widespread sexual violence is—it is one of the most under-reported crimes because of the complex pressures from families, communities, and perpetrators to stay silent. This confirmed my belief that breaking the silence would inspire other survivors to come forward. In speaking out, I became part of a community of survivors. I was no longer isolated by my family. I had found an outlet to channel my mixed emotions about reconciling with my abuser and remaining a part of my unsupportive family.

As I embraced my new identity as an outspoken leader on my college campus, the pain of my family’s abandonment had less power over me. My mentors, professors, and friends made up my created family, and they couldn’t have been more proud of how I was thriving.

I continue to seek new forums to share my story so that I can make sexual violence less of a taboo. This issue is rampant, plaguing young girls and women all around the world. I became a speaker for the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network and am working on a book to let every survivor know she is not alone.

It is my hope that one day my family will learn how to be there for me, but my testament proves that it is possible to survive and thrive without them. I want to use my experiences to teach others how best to support someone who has been through trauma. The details of my story may be unique, but the patterns of being silenced and isolated are universal.

I will no longer be silenced by my family’s fear of the repercussions. Silence perpetuates suffering. Silence was in the room as I was molested, during the months when my innocence was taken from me. Silence was in my house as I suffered alone, feeling guilty, responsible, and confused. Silence was forced upon me so that my family’s lives would not be impacted by the past. Silence has stolen the voices of women all around the world as they suffer alone because so few people can safely and confidently come forward.

Someday my family might recognize the strength and courage I possess. If not, I will surround myself with those who admire my integrity, values, and my healing. Those are the people who matter the most. I’m confident that in time the abuse won’t feel like the center of my world—it will fuel my passion but won’t hold me back. I won’t ever stop telling my story. My commitment to prevent child abuse and advocate for those abused will be a part of me forever—a part of me I love.

J. Eve is 23 years old and graduated from Trinity College in 2011 with a degree in Human Rights. She wants to move to Colorado from the East Coast to enjoy the sun, mountains, and community. Her career ambitions include advocating for abused women, criminal justice, youth leadership and development, and sex education. She loves learning to cook, meeting inspiring people, and spending time with her partner and friends. During challenging times she looks to Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler and Oprah Winfrey for strength and plans to follow in their footsteps as courageous, fierce feminists!

In 2010, Lisa Shultz and Andrea Costantine published the anthology, Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories from Inspiring Women. Their goal with this book and its subsequent volumes and spin offs is to provide a beacon of light, hope, and connection for women as they navigate their lives while overcoming challenges and difficulties along the way. They had 49 contributing authors in Volume One who shared their stories of family matters, love and abuse, faith and spirituality, health and healing, and finding their path."

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