I can remember years ago, when the abuse that happened to me was fresh, I thought it would stay fresh all the time. I thought it would never stop being fresh. It was like an open wound, bleeding and I could staunch the blood but it would keep bleeding all the time. 

It’s been 2 years since I stopped going to weekly counseling and talking about how the abuse affected my life. It’s been about that long since I’ve ruminated on the subject. I think about it when I read about it, I think about it when it is shoved in my face on TV or when someone is talking about it but other than that I forget about it. 

I never thought I’d get there. I never thought I could go days, weeks, months without thinking about it. But I have. 

It used to be when I thought about the abuse I would have a PTSD episode. I would be in an anxiety ridden panic and would have no clue how to make it go away. I never thought I could get to the point where I could look back at my abuse as an outsider. I never thought I could think about it without feeling the pain as fresh as it was that day. But I can. 

I used to think that trying hard to push the pain down, trying hard to not remember was the only way to get through the pain but that was the wrong way to think. The only way you can get beyond the pain is to feel it. 

I wish there was a magic pill and you could take it and not have to feel the pain or sadness that goes with healing and remembering but you have to feel the pain to get to the place where remembering doesn’t hurt. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do find myself sometimes sad about it or thinking about it and crying for what was taken from me, but I’m not thinking about it all the time. In fact I can go days, weeks, months without thinking about it and it feels awesome. 

Back when I was dealing with it all the time it felt like my abuse was my whole life. One of my therapists said that one day I would get to the point where my abuse was not my whole life but part of my life. She was right. I’ve reached that time. I’ve reached the time where my abuse is part of my story not my whole story, my abuse is part of who I have become but it is no longer my entire being. It’s a chapter in the story of my life but it’s not my whole life. 

FREEDOM!!! I have freedom from my abuse it feels pretty awesome! Trust me it’s worth the pain to get to the freedom. I encourage you to work on getting your own freedom because it is totally worth it!

“Hold Us Together”–The Healing Journey

I heard this song for the first time this evening and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s called “Hold Us Together” by Matt Maher and it’s awesome! 

It kind of reminds me of the journey of healing, “It’s the first day of the rest of your life because even in the dark you can see the light.” The journey of healing is feeling the dark, it’s about facing your deepest darkest scars and letting them heal. It’s about the fight to better.

The healing journey is not easy. The first step, like in Alcoholics Anonymous, you have to admit that you need the help/healing. You have to admit that someone used your body against your will, that someone violated you. That’s difficult. None of us like to remember what happened but the journey to healing is all about letting it out.

I was once asked by a well meaning friend, “Do you have to talk about it?” She was well meaning but her words hurt me. The truth of the matter is exactly what I told her, “Yes! I do!” Your abuser tells you over and over that you can’t tell anyone so when you start telling people you tell anyone and everyone that listens to you until you find the one person in your life who asks this stupid question, “Do you have to talk about it” and you shut up and learn that not everyone is safe. You learn to share with people that are safe.

In your healing journey you have to find safe people, people to share your story with. When I went though my healing journey I had some awesome people around me that allowed me to talk about it. Who let me open the sore and let it into the light, so that it could begin to heal. They let me be open and vulnerable and even weak and they lifted me up. They showed me the light. They allowed me to be what I needed to be so that I could get the healing that I needed.

I also had 5 years of awesome therapists who each taught me something different about myself. I wasn’t a therapist hopper but instead was having therapy done at a school for therapists and they kept graduating on me :). Not that there’s anything wrong with therapist hopping, you have to find the right one for you, the one you can trust with your story.

My healing journey included the following:

1) Love. Love pouring into me from God, from family and some really awesome friends who helped me through an extremely difficult time.

2) God. The Spirit moved heaven and earth to get me to the place I am today and I’m glad for all the hard work  we did together and one day I hope to share it with as many people that will listen.

3) Writing. I wrote my story so many times from so many different angles, looking at it from different places in my journey allowed me to see the whole picture and to place the blame on the right people: my abusers.

4) Music. Music is a huge part of my journey. I’m not a musician or a singer by any standards but I love music. I love to sing and dance and stand with my arms open wide and worship my Maker.

No matter what your healing journey looks like, no matter how ugly it may seem, it is worth it. It is worth the work to see and be in the light, “Cause even in the dark you can see the light, it’s gonna be alright.”

Healing is worth it, trust me!

Cross Making: Contemplative Prayer Practice

This past weekend I went to a Cross Making event. One of my friends was holding it at our church. She read from a Cross Making book and from Scripture. She guided us through a practice of taking broken pieces in front of us and turning it into a cross.

I used sticks I found in my yard and shinny sequins to make my cross. She asked us to turn to a time when we found healing and remember that moment and then to think about what it means to co-create with God. We each made different crosses depending on how the Holy Spirit led us.

When she asked us to think about a time when we found healing I immediately thought of standing on a mountain at a Sexuality retreat. We were given some alone time and I sat facing the sun and trying to drop a weight that had been weighing me down for years. It’s a similar weight that lots of abused men and women carry. I had been thinking for years that in some way I had caused the abuse to happen to me. I was thinking that it was my fault that these people I trusted abused me but that weight was not mine to carry.

God convinced me that it was not my fault and that I needed to yell it out. So me, a quiet person, screamed over and over again that I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG AND IT WASN’T MY FAULT!!! And I was free from the weight I had no need to carry.

That day, standing in the sunshine, on a mountain, weeping and realizing a lie and beginning to own a truth I gained freedom. I heard someone come up behind me but when I turned no one was there but I felt God holding me while I was weeping.

On that mountain I began to feel and believe the beauty that I was and since receiving that freedom I have allowed the light of that truth to shine within me and I reflect God with every person I meet and tell my story to.

I made my cross this weekend and it reflected all of this. A reminder of that freedom.

God can give all of us that freedom we just have to be willing to go there and trust that God will give us what we seek and need.

If you need help on that journey please do not hesitate to let me know, if I can’t help you myself I can direct you to someone who can help you. cross

The Rub

I was opening my Facebook page today, and reading all of my friends’ posts when I came across an article someone had shared: Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex

It’s a pretty great article, mainly about how pornography is more accessible to kids today, even as accessible as a simple Google image search. I liked the article specifically because of the messages about abuse and it’s connection to shame.

I was abused before the internet (I know so long ago), before everyone had a cell phone that could fit in their pocket and the home computer was huge and had a green screen and took about 5 minutes to boot up and floppy disks were still around.

I was abused by the local neighbor girl and she showed me her parents’ stash of porn. It was gross and to this day I can still close my eyes and see very disgusting things that I’m not going to share with you.

Abuse completely destroys your view of sex. In the article the author, Anne Marie Miller shares that at her talks there are, by the Grace of God, some kids that don’t know what porn is and don’t know what it is for someone to molest someone else.

I wish I had that story. I wish that my views of sex were not distorted, but they are. It’s a simple fact, a fact that I fight against every single day but still a fact.

Can you imagine your first sexual experience happening at the age of 4? Can you imagine that the first time you see a penis is in a magazine that your abuser is showing you, all engorged, hard, and slippery (I wasn’t going to describe it but I did)? That’s not how God intended for us to experience sex.

Sex is supposed to happen in a loving relationship, it’s supposed to happen in a way that is not abusive, it’s supposed to be a giving and a taking. This is not my experience of sex.

My experience is not beauty, not love, not special. My experience is violent, demanding, and ugly. There are days where I still view myself as ugly and punishment seems the best option.

But here’s the question: How do you punish yourself for something that isn’t your fault? 

And there’s the rub, children that have been abused are ashamed and are certain that telling someone will lead to punishment. They are terrified that if anyone knows their secret, their sin will be on display.

Is it their sin? If I’m being abused, forced to look at things, forced to touch things, forced to experience things I’m not ready to nor have the capacity to experience am I at fault?

Can we be blamed for how we cope? This again is the rub. I’m abused at a young age, before I’ve fully developed my coping mechanisms. I can’t deal with what’s happening to me and there is no way I can tell anyone, how do I get rid of the shame and pain long enough to deal? Most kids turn to addictions. They may not understand what an addiction is but they turn to it just the same. They turn to books and literature, if they’re lucky and absorb themselves in a fantasy world. They turn to pornography because their abuser has shown them that a little sexual relief can keep the pain at bay for a few minutes. They turn to drugs or alcohol or they turn to sex itself and begin a life of sexual adventure and become promiscuous  because this is the only way they know how to deal. They need to escape and this is the only way they can.

I don’t think you can be blamed for your coping mechanisms but addictions need to be dealt with. If you or someone you know has an addiction to whatever (there are tons of them) you need to get some help. Whether that’s the local AA meeting or a counselor or a prayer partner, no matter what it is you need help to develop better coping mechanisms. There are better ways to deal, ways that don’t leave you feeling worse than when you started.

Addictions always make you feel worse but once you find a safe environment and a safe way to deal you can come to grips with what happened to you, you can learn how to deal with it and move on.

The rub is of course that you will always be a person who was abused but you have a choice: you can be a victim or a survivor. I choose to be a survivor and it feels so much better than being a victim.

I no longer sit in my pain, I feel it. You may not see a difference but I do. If you avoid your pain all the time and never actually feel it, it can destroy you. If you instead feel your feelings as they come you gain freedom.

If you need help feeling your pain, please message me, I may not be in your area but I have a huge network of loving people all over the country and I sure as heck can get you to someone that can help you.

Please don’t sit in the dark with your pain anymore, get help, because there are millions of hands that want to reach out and help you.


My Drive to Help Others

My name is Tammy Waggoner, I am a 32 year old survivor of sexual abuse with a strong faith in a loving God who wishes all abused, neglected, and broken children to be healed as only he can heal them.

I have first hand knowledge of this kind of healing. I have been healed in the woods on a healthy sexuality retreat, I have been healed in spiritual healing groups, and I have been healed in discernment groups, times alone with God, and groups in the church as well as therapy. God heals us when he sees fit and uses any means to do that. In these times of healing I learned important things about myself and about God. For instance, on a mountain during a retreat I learned that my abuse was not my fault and that I did nothing wrong. For years I had felt that I had in some way caused my own abuse to happen, but in those woods alone with God I realized that I didn’t do anything wrong and the abuse was not my fault. God led me to that moment, coaxed me through it and then proceeded to stand beside me as the truth of those words washed me clean. In the hours after that moment, I realized that every abused child and adult needs to have a moment like that, they need to have the opportunity to set themselves free from blame and culpability.

It was in a spiritual healing group that I learned that God did not neglect me in my abuse. I was thoroughly angry with God for leaving me alone in my abuse and had mentioned this during a group time. I was led through a prayer where I had asked God to show me where he was while I was being abused. I closed my eyes and was immediately back in my childhood room. I could see myself being abused on the bottom bunk of the bunk beds. I then looked around the room and vividly saw Jesus weeping in the corner. He was weeping for and with me, and in that moment I knew that God did not neglect me in my moments of abuse but instead was with me and was just as upset by what was happening as I was.

In my discernment groups God began to show me what other people see. As an abuse survivor for a long time I only saw what my abusers showed me to be: worthless, ugly, damaged, etc. In my discernment group God showed me through others that I am beautiful, have much worth and am not a damaged being that has been ripped apart and cannot be sown back together, I am instead a broken person who God can put back together and make anew. I have worth and I have worth to give.

It was through these times of healing that my calling began to be cemented. I was put on this earth with a purpose and that purpose is to help other girls,* get through what I have gotten through with the help of God and his helpers. Through my internships I began to see the different ways in which God can work and I began to see that many women out there need to discover the healing that I have discovered in their own unique way. Once healing is brought about new life can begin and once new life can begin a woman who has been healed can begin to see for herself just how awesome she is.

*Some question my narrowed focus: why just women? Why just girls? The truth is quite simple: I am a woman. I only know my plight as a woman. I do know that men are abused, I know that they need help as well and I have led groups that have been co-ed. That said, I speak from a woman’s perspective to women. If I were to partner up with a man who was willing to talk from a man’s perspective and to help healing from his perspective I would be willing to work with both men and women. However, without that partnership I feel it is impossible for me to help both men and women, for there is an element I am missing: I am not a man.

Highlight Series: Ministries

I started a series a bit ago that I called Highlight Shelters. Since I started that series I have found some churches and other ministries that are working with women who have been sexually abused. The following is a list of links and some information about the ministries:

  • Shelter from the Storm-Abuse Ministry. This is a ministry for women: teens and adults that have been sexually abused. It is a meeting that is held at Watermark Community Church. From the look of the website, it appears that the Spring session has ended but hopefully there will be a summer or at least Fall session. Be sure to check out there webpage: Shelter from The Storm Abuse Ministry
  • Go Fish Ministries. This is a counseling based ministry. This ministry is led by an ordained pastor and seeks to help women receive healing through advocacy and counseling. Be sure to check out the site: GoFish Ministries
  • Acts of Grace Ministries. This ministry works with both men and women to bring about healing from many painful experiences including sexual abuse. They also work with churches so that they can present the Bible Study materials that they have created. Check out their site: Acts of Grace Ministries
  • Mending the Soul: Bringing Hope to the Generations. This ministry has developed a program that they teach to other communities to use for small groups. Be sure to check out their page for training materials and to find a group near you: Mending the Soul
  • Speaking Truth in Love Ministries. This is another ministry that has developed a program that they bring to churches, schools and other organizations. The unique aspect of this ministry is that is was founded by a husband and wife couple. Be sure to check them out: Speaking Truth in Love Ministries
  • Mercy Ministries. Is a live in home for girls ages 13-28 who are seeking healing from life’s complications including sexual abuse. They are a free service and biblically based. Check them out at: Mercy Ministries
  • Beauty From Ashes. A ministry that works with art and horses to bring restoration and healing to victims of sexual abuse, sex exploitation and sex trafficking. Be sure to check out their page: Beauty from Ashes 
  • Passionate Hearts. Is a ministry that is run through RiverLakes Community Church. It is a support group with biblical basis. Check them out at: Passionate Hearts.

This of course is not an exhaustive list of Ministries out there. This is simply a list from a simple Google Search.

Do you know of ministries that are not on this list? Please leave links to other ministries in the comment box!

Those Who were Lost and Now are Found: Girls in Captivity

Two important news stories have been circulating this week that deal with sexual abuse.* The first is the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. You’d have to be living under a rock this week to have missed the story. But in case you have been living under a rock this week here is the article from the Huffington Post: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus Found Alive in Ohio After Being Reported Missing for 10 Years.

The second story is about Elizabeth Smart who has has been speaking out against the churches’ current teaching of Abstinence. She says that teaching abstinence only brings about a culture of shame and makes women who have been abused feel worthless and damaged beyond repair. To see her own interview: go here.

My responses to some of the things in the video:

  • She mentioned that people ask her, “Why didn’t you leave?” And I want to say, “How dare you ask that question? How dare you question her actions or lack of actions? How dare you, a person who was never been in that situation question how a little girl coped with her living situation? Only a person who has been there, a person who has survived her situation can know how they would react in that situation.” Elizabeth’s answer is to say that she was afraid. She was terrified of her captors. She links her inability to fight back to that of fearing that she was too lowly to fight back. This is a common feeling among those who have been abused.
  1.  First, your abuser tells you they’ll kill you, kill your family, and harm anyone you know if you tell.
  2. Then your abuser convinces you that you are worthless and no one will ever want you. Elizabeth in her interview explains that this message was also drilled into her through her religious circles.
  3. Then your abuser convinces you that even if you did tell, no one would believe you.

You begin to believe the abusers “truths” about you and about the things they will do to your family because no one has rescued you. You begin to believe that you are worthless because no one has saved you. Your abuser uses their power over you again and again and again, until you believe anything they say until the time that you are ready to leave, ready to get out. Until the time that you are ready to tell some. Ready to fight.

The girls in Ohio will be asked these kind of questions a lot over the next few years: why didn’t you call sooner, why didn’t you try another escape. They will be asked to justify their actions over and over again. Here’s my question: Why should they have to justify anything? They have survived and that is the best and the most we can ask of them. We can help them get help and healing and do our best to be there for them but we should not ask them to justify themselves we should only be thankful that they survived.

Questions the church, schools, and other organizations that deal with children and adults before and after abuse should be pondering:

  1. When it comes to messages of sex are we only thinking about premarital sex? 
  2. Is shame the only way to teach about sex?
  3. Where is the grace in our messages of sex and abstinence?
  4. Where is the mercy?
  5. Where is the love?
  6. How can we care for those who fall, for those who have sex before marriage?
  7. How can we best care for those who have been abused?
  8. How can we teach survival in horrible situations?
  9. How can we best prevent abuses?
  10. How can we best teach children to fight back?
  11. When should self defense classes be taught?
*Yes I do know that up to this point there has been no sexual abuse reported in the Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight cases, but I think to dismiss that possibility would be a grave mistake. I am lumping these cases together to show that even though the rescue has happened the journey to healing and a normal existence has just begun for these girls and anyone else that has been held against their will for a long period of time.

Real Beauty

If you’ve been online or watched TV in the past few weeks you’ve probably seen the Dove Beauty commercial. There have been parodies about it and much controversy.

All this jibber-jabber of late has taken away the important message of the video: when it comes to ourselves we see the worst. This is especially true of sexual abuse survivors. As I mentioned in a guest post on a friend’s page, 5 Questions on Dating/Singleness, abusers are not silent in their abuse. If someone in a violent way tells you that you are unworthy and ugly you begin to believe it.

Sexual abuse victims begin a war with themselves the day they are first abused. A war with how they view themselves and their body. I have a healthy body image because I have worked hard to have one. But I knowingly have a broken sexual image.

This may not make sense if you have never been abused. My body was literally used for someone else’s enjoyment and in order to survive the ordeal I had to become separate from my sexual self or my sexual organs. You see my va-jay-jay is a separate entity in my mind. It is something that was used and is inherently ugly and damaged. This may actually be the case, after all they do call it, “bumping uglies,” but I understand this view to be broken.

We are not born with an unhealthy body or sexual image. We are instead born with healthy images and it takes culture and abusers to change that.

Over the years I have managed to work out that I am a beautiful woman, who is wonderfully made. I have also worked out that my vagina is part of my body and is therefore, beautifully and wonderfully made.

But I’m still a work in progress. I work with God, friends, and trained professionals to sort out the distorted views in my mind. It may take a healthy, loving relationship to truly begin to clear out the cobwebs and clean out the distorted broken images to see my sexual self as it is: a gift from God and therefore something to treasure.

Highlighting Shelters Series: Slyvia’s Place in Allegan, MI

Shelter: Slyvia’s Place in Allegan, MI

I mentioned in my blog: Highlighting Shelters Series: Reasons, that I chose websites that had quick exits. Most of the pages I have looked at exit you to a search engine, and usually to Google but this one had a great exit to I loved how unique that was and how innocent it is. Google could be a bad exit because your abuser may not like you to search but it seems unlikely that your abuser would not let you check the weather. I thought this was really ingenious.

Other things I appreciated about this site:

  1. They have a page devoted to how to leave your abuser. It literally tells someone how to prepare to leave and all the things that are necessary to get out. It literally gets a victim out of the house. They have tips to prepare that include telling someone. It is incredible how helpful and knowledgeable this site is. Imagine how helpful and knowledgeable their shelter is. 🙂
  2. On every page, towards the bottom is a success story. They are showing each person that visits that they have success stories and that people have been helped through them. They tell the story of how the person got out and the help they received to stay out. How awesome is that? They are not bragging about what they can do but instead are showing you that they have done it before and they can do it again. Yes!!!
  3. They have a mission to provide safe haven for those who are seeking shelter and to help keep them safe. They are concerned about Domestic Violence escalating to death and are willing to help to make sure that doesn’t happen. An awesome mission and a great effort to make sure it doesn’t happen.

I was really impressed with this site and this group so be sure to check them out: Sylvia’s Place.