Are you a Survivor?
Individuals who have been abused are often plagued by questions. How can I deal with having been abused? Who can I trust? Should I tell anyone what happened, or is it in the past and needs to be forgotten? How can I get revenge on my abuser? How will the sexual abuse I experienced in childhood impact me as an adult? How do you develop self-esteem after experiencing abuse? Was it my fault?
The questions we ask ourselves illustrate cries for healing – cries to be heard, to be understood, to understand ourselves. Am I survivor of abuse? OR am I still a victim trying to survive?
Healing from abuse takes courage. We must be strong enough to face an experience that harmed us in many ways – and experience that altered our identity, held us captive, and attempted to destroy our lives.
Healing begins with a simple question, “Are you a Survivor?” Many victims of abuse struggle to find hope. Their experience with abuse is heavy and separates them from the life they long to have. Movement from abuse victim to abuse survivor occurs as you destroy the power abuse has had over your life.
Let’s take the “Are You a Survivor” quiz!
On a scale of 1 to 10, please honestly asses your answers to these questions.
1. My experience with abuse negatively impacts my life today.
Give yourself a score with 1 being EVERY SINGLE DAY and 10 being NEVER.
2. I believe that the abuse might have been my fault.
Give yourself a score with 1 being EVERY SINGLE DAY and 10 being NEVER.
3. I have made the decision to pursue healing from my experience with abuse.
Give yourself a score with 1 being I AM NOT INTERESTED and 10 being I AM PURSUING HEALING.
4. I have identified a core group of friends and mentors who I trust to know the real me, strengths and faults.
Give yourself a score with 1 being I DO NOT TRUST ANYONE and 10 being I DEEPLY TRUST MY CORE FRIENDS.
5. I am in a counseling relationship where both my counselor and I are mutually contributing into my healing journey.
Give yourself a score with 1 being I DO NOT BELIEVE COUNSELING IS IMPORTANT and 10 being I AM FULLY EMBRACING COUNSELING AS A TOOL FOR HEALING.
6. I have established healthy boundaries to support my healing. I understand that boundaries are found in compassion, in self-respect, in a desire to promote health and safety, and in a desire to bring clarity.
Give yourself a score with 1 being I STILL LET PEOPLE HURT ME and 10 being I FEEL CONFIDENT SETTING BOUNDARIES.
7. I believe that my experience with abuse can be used by God.
Give yourself a score with 1 being NOT AT ALL, IT IS HIS FAULT and 10 being ABSOLUTELY, HE IS MY STRENGTH.
8. I can see how my abuse experience has made me stronger. Things I learned as a result of my abuse can be used as strengths in other areas of my life today.
Give yourself a score with 1 being NOTHING POSITIVE HAS COME OUT OF MY ABUSE EXPERIENCE and 10 being I RECOGNIZE STRENGHTS THAT MIGHT NOT HAVE EXISTED HAD AI NOT BEEN ABUSED.
9. I am unique, special, and loved by God.
Give yourself a score with 1 being I DON’T LIKE MYSELF and 10 being I AM IMPORTANT.
10. I am a survivor, not a victim.
Give yourself a score with 1 being EVERYTHING BAD IS A RESULT OF MY ABUSE and 10 being I LIVE A FULL AND COMPLETE LIFE.
Are you a survivor? Add your scores and think about your healing process.
⦁ If you scored between 0-30, there is hope. Although you are still struggling with impact abuse has had on your life, the fact that you are reading this article shows that you want to heal. You want to live a life of purpose and freedom. Keep pursuing healing, freedom and a fulfilled life are within reach!
⦁ If you scored between 31-60, be encouraged. You are beginning to recognize that healing is possible. You are willing to think through difficult truths like (1) Abuse is Not Your Story. (2) Your Story is created by the decision you make. And, (3) You did not make the decision to be abused. It takes courage to face your abuse experience, but you can do it! Keep asking questions! Keep pursuing healing!
⦁ If you scored between 61-90, it is time to celebrate! Healing from abuse is a journey. Don’t forget to celebrate how far you have come. Take time to journal about your life today and enjoy the healing you have experienced! Yes, you may have areas where you still struggle, but you are growing and becoming stronger every day. Celebrate this!
⦁ If you scored between 91-100, when asked the question, “Are you a Survivor?” You exclaim yes. You have embraced healing. You are finding your identity as unique, special, and loved by God. You no longer live bound by your past. You remember it, but it no longer has power over your life today. Keep growing! Encourage others! Share your story of victory with those who are struggling to heal.
Transitioning from victim to survivor of abuse is important. It is the journey of finding yourself, establishing your importance, and healing your heart. Are you a survivor? Yes, you are…. Deep inside of yourself you know that you are important, you have a purpose, and your healing is important.
Let’s look at several tools that can help us as we begin our healing journey.
In my book, Abuse is Not My Story, I outline 5 milestones on our healing journey. You can read more about these milestones here. These milestones not only encourage us that healing is possible, but they help us equip ourselves as we journey from abuse victim to abuse survivor. Let’s look as some of those tools.
Let’s start with our core team:
Your core team consist of three types of people.
1. Cheerleaders – Cheerleaders are your friends. They are people who enjoy spending time with you. They do not view you through the lenses of your experience with abuse, but they see you as you are today – a fun, engaging friend they enjoy spending time with. As survivors spend time with cheerleaders, they begin to see that the cheerleader’s definition of you is located in that moment, not in your past or your experience with abuse. Your cheerleader may or may not know about your experience with abuse. Please understand. . . This is okay! Cheerleaders are not your counselor. They do not need to be your emotional sounding board. They are your friends. They can appreciate you for exactly who you are in the moment you are enjoying together.
I encourage you to read more about friendships in my interview blog with Erin Comer. It can be found here.
2. Investors – An investor is a mentor – a deep friend. Investors possess the internal ability to accept themselves but also share part of themselves with you. They are comfortable talking about your experience with abuse and have the ability to reach deep within you and challenge you to see and believe things about yourself that you may have forgotten or never believed. Investors acknowledge your experience with abuse and encourage you as you heal from the experience, but it is important that you realize that, like cheerleaders, they are not your counselor. You will need a counselor in your core healing group.
I encourage you to read more about mentorship in my interview blog with Carolyn Russell. It can be found here.
3. Counselors – Let me share an adamite belief that all survivors need a good counselor or counseling team. The act of starting a counseling journey is an action step, which communicates to yourself that you believe in your worth. In my book, Abuse is Not My Story, I share many ideas on how to select the right counselor. Finding the correct counselor requires time and intentionality. But it is worth it. A counselor is a critical team member on your healing journey.
In addition to your core team, survivors often benefit from several practical resources. There are many, many potential resources. Below I will list just a few of my preferred resources.
1. Journals – A journal is a treasure. Journals can range from a spiral notebook to an elaborately decorated notebook. Regardless of appearance, journals allow survivors the freedom to express what they may not be ready to communicate yet verbally. Counselors often challenge their clients with journaling assignments. These assignments allow survivors the opportunity to think through topics and write about their thoughts before feeling the vulnerability of expressing their thoughts out loud.
The book Abuse is Not My Story is full of journal activities. After survivors read chapter content, they are challenged to journal about several questions as they reflect on their personal experience. This journaling activity is called guided journaling. Survivors focus their writing on journaling about specific topics. Open journaling is when the survivor writes about anything that is on their mind. This journaling is extremely helpful also.
2. Art and Music – Survivors benefit from all type of art. Many survivors create collages to tell stories of their emotions and feelings. Other survivors tell stories through painting, drawing, and watercolor. Some survivors appreciate the structure offered in adult coloring books. These books have been cited by many to relieve stress and help ground themselves as they pursue healing. Still other survivors appreciate music. Music has an ability to calm survivor’s emotions and create peace in their spirit.
The Abuse is Not My Story Coloring Companion is offered as a free PDF download on the website www.abuseisnotmystory.com. It is also for sale in book format on the website for those who prefer book format. If you do not have a preferred art outlet, the coloring companion might be a great way to get introduced to this tool of healing.
3. Support Groups and Online Forums – Many communities and counselors offer survivor support groups. Support groups can be encouraging venues to remind survivors that they are not alone in the healing journey. Connecting with other survivors and hearing about their healing can be encouraging and challenge growth at the same time. However, I challenge you with one piece of advice. Please make sure the support group or online forum you are utilizing is focused on healing, not just rehashing the past. There are acceptable levels of discussing your experience with abuse, but support groups should be about challenging you to heal. It can be negatively stimulating to hear other vivid details of other survivor’s experiences with abuse. The correct venue to discuss the details of your abuse experience is in counseling.
As you utilize these tools to move from abuse victim to abuse survivor, I offer you this encouragement.
Are you a survivor? Yes, you are. Abuse is not your story. Your story is created by the decisions you make. You did not make the decision to be abused.
You do not have to allow your abuser’s lies to hold you captive any longer. Are you a survivor? Yes, you are. You are special, important, and created in the image of Christ. You have a purpose and are loved.
As you transition from abuse victim to survivor, you will acknowledge your abuser’s responsibility in the decision they made to abuse you. The darkness and destruction of that choice is their responsibility. They have to survive the horror of their choice. For a period, their choice did place a shadow over your story. But you learned to fight, even when you did not know what it meant to fight. You were fighting for the life you live as a survivor. You are not ordinary. You were created extraordinary, in the image of Jesus Christ Himself. As you embrace your story, you will experience the freedom to be uniquely you. You will recognize blessings and experience the wonder that exist around you every day. You will relax and grow.
Are you a survivor? Yes. Survivor, be proud. You have overcome the hurt and pain of abuse.
For those of you still on your healing journey. . . you will make it! You are a survivor! I wish you lots of love on your journey.