The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Standing in the Truth

Truth-telling is an important part of the healing process. Yet, "standing in the truth" requires some preliminary healing and a great deal of support.

Recently, I had an online conversation with someone about healing from abuse, estrangement, and reconciliation. In the course of the conversation we talked about "standing in the truth" - the point in our healing process when we are able to confidently speak the truth and reclaim our lives.

From Heal and Forgive II: The Journey from Abuse and Estrangement to Reconciliation:

Chapter Five

Standing in the Truth

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

-Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from
the Birmingham jail, April 16, 1963

Breaking the cycle of abuse is one of the most important undertakings I have attempted in my lifetime. I knew that breaking the cycle would take more than not seeing my mother. Living a new life required healing, understanding my mother, our family dynamic and myself, if I wanted a better life for my children and me.

Long into adulthood, I was drawn to my mother, craving and searching for her love. Although rebellion was often my mainstay, on a certain level, I accepted my mother's blame, denial and the minimization of my abuse. Yet, during therapy, I pondered how I would react if someone threw one of my children down a flight of cement stairs. The thought of anyone hurting one of my kids horrified me. Although difficult, turning the corner from internalizing blame to accepting
my mother's responsibility freed me from denial. Once freed, I began to speak the truth and to realize that I was justifiably angry. I knew I was angry; but, for the first time, I gave myself permission to be angry. My anger helped me give voice to my experiences. Standing in the truth was a positive move towards breaking the cycle of abuse.

I suffered a huge price for standing in the truth. Taking a stand against abuse is not possible without breaking the silence and exposing injustice. Therein lies the biggest obstacle to creating an abuse free family legacy.

Truth telling is an uphill climb for the victim/survivor. In an abusive family, the rest of the family often condemns the family member who "breaks the silence" and tells the family secret.

Silence aids the abuser and shields him or her from accountability. Silence maintains "status quo" for the rest of the family. Silence is easy; silence requires no action; breaking the silence, however, requires strength and unimaginable loss. I have since learned that an abuser will normally do everything within his or her power to keep the victim, survivor, professional, or other bystander silent. When the perpetrator fails to maintain silence, he or she will resort to discrediting the victim or bystander with persuasive arguments. Like many survivors, I found myself ostracized and alone. The spectators remained silent.

Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., describes this occurrence in her book Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic Books, 1997) p.7:

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of the pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering.

It is my experience that people don't want to believe the victim. There is something in us that wants to disassociate from the truth. We don't want to taint ourselves with the horrible acts committed by individuals that we care about in our families and our communities. Human nature is to deny the truth, protect our illusions and avoid unpleasantness.

Victims who try to break the cycle of violence by themselves usually face retaliation on top of abuse.

For twenty-five years, since the age of ten, I stood alone in the truth about my family. In the years since the loss of my sacred childhood, I thought I was alone in this experience. Unfortunately, mine is not an isolated experience. There are thousands of survivors, such as myself standing alone in the truth about our families.

The appearance of normalcy and safeguarding the family secret takes precedence over everything else. THE SECRET is more important than the victim. THE SECRET is more important than health, happiness, family or relationships.

Had I known the price I would pay, the losses I would incur, and the isolation I would feel for simply telling the truth, I would have thought twice. However, the truth always has a way of coming out - if not in this generation, in the next.

I didn't understand the power of THE SECRET. I wish I knew then that my resolve to speak the truth about my family would be tested time and again.

I loved my mother. I didn't want to hurt my mom, but I wanted her to love me too. I didn't know that when I told the big family secret, I would have to choose between my mother and the truth. Still I told the truth.

I worried that my family wouldn't love me if I broke my silence, but in the end, I didn't believe they would all abandon me either. I didn't know that one by one I'd have to choose between my three brothers, my grandmother and the truth. Still, I told the truth.

Life has a way of asking:

  • Will you tell the truth even when the perpetrator retaliates?
  • Will you continue to tell the truth even when the offender convinces family and friends that you are "crazy," that you lie, that the abuse is your fault, or that it is all in the past?
  • Will you tell the truth when one by one; family members and friends sever their relationships with you?
  • Will you still stand in the truth when you find yourself standing alone?

Copyright © 2008 Nancy Richards. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Ten People I Couldn't Have Healed Without

1. My dad (he died when I was nine): who bestowed upon me his loving parental heart in an otherwise barren childhood. His unconditional love planted the seeds that I would later dig up and use to internalize self-love.

2. My aunt Julie (Mom's sister): who was/is the closest thing I've had to a nurturing mother. She has stood by me (amidst great external opposition) my entire life, including during my fourteen year estrangement from my entire family of origin. Her support made the difference between my emotional survival and falling into the abyss. I love her!

3. My friend Nina: who was the first person to listen to me about my abuse. And who continues to "be there" for me no matter what. I'll be forever grateful to her and for her!

4. An unnamed bad relationship: who taught me that I can learn and grow even from the bad stuff!

5. My gentleman friend Bill, who stuck with me while I worked through all the childhood stuff that affects my relationships. What an amazing blessing he is!

6. & 7. My daughters: who gave me the joy of finally experiencing a loving mother-daughter bond.

8. A really great therapist: who helped me tear down my old emotional construction and rebuild a healthy new emotional foundation.

9. Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, founder of the Faith Trust Institite; the first person (and for many years the only person) from the religious community who told me that I didn't have to forgive. She gave me the freedom to focus on my own well-being and to nurse myself back to emotional health; which sent me on a healing journey that eventually (and ironically) freed me to forgive.

10. Last - but not least - me: for my courage, strength, determination, self-love and self-respect.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

"I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I believe that today - but there was a time......

I felt so hurt and alone, I ached for some sort of physical evidence of God's love for me. Had He abandoned me too?

Sometimes, survivors tell me that they feel abandoned by God; or, that they have a hard time believing that God cares about what has happened to them. My heart always breaks when I hear these stories. I have been there.

I think it is natural for survivors of faith to feel abandoned by God, especially since so many people have turned away from us and/or abandoned us in our time of need. When I felt physically and emotionally alone, it was hard for me to imagine that I wasn't spiritually alone as well. So much of God's Love comes in the form of messages from the people that He sends to us. Sometimes I felt so wounded, that it was hard for me to recognize these people and/or messages.

Every so often, when I shared my pain with someone they would simply say, "God is with you." This statement didn't seem to be enough; it often left me feeling all alone.

I know I'm not the only one who has felt this way... Even Christ wondered if what was happening to Him mattered to God. In Matthew 27:46, Jesus cries out with a loud shout, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?"

My minister once told me that when I feel alone, I should visualize Christ on the cross. In the human sense, He was completely alone. Yet, He was not alone. God was with His beloved Child.

Visualizing Christ, suffering alone, but not alone, gave me the strength to feel God's presence meeting me right where I am......

I felt God's presence when after years of "not being able to feel," He blessed me with healing tears to wash away the pain.

I felt overwhelming gratitude when He sent people who were willing to bear witness to my pain!

Sometimes, I wrapped myself in a blanket and imagined God's unconditional love surrounding me like giant hands tenderly holding me, loving me, and keeping me safe.

I felt awe when His promise came within reach.......

I do have hope!
I do have a future!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse

Welcome to the February, 2008 edition of
The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse!

Whether you submitted a post, or you are taking the carnival for a spin in support of the cause, thank you for being a part of this community!

Quite a few new bloggers joined in this month. Welcome! All totaled, we received many wonderful submissions. I hope you are as moved by them as I am.

As always, please use caution when reading. Many of these posts may trigger.

Our first category in what I believe is the twenty-first edition of The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse is:


Mary's poems quite often touch the vulnerable little girl in me. Today, she shares a simple poem that speaks volumes about the lasting pain of childhood sexual abuse titled, The Past How it Makes Me Weep posted at Nippercat's Home. Thank you Mary, for sharing your brave voice.

Healing and Therapy

Faith Hoffen, of Hope for Coping with Traumatic Stress joins us with two posts straight from the heart. In her first, titled This is a Safe Place, Faith generously offers a safe, compassionate ear. For her second post, I Choose to Forgive, Faith says, "This post is about my choice to forgive, and struggle to heal." She makes it clear that forgiveness isn't about forgetting. It is all about her, and isn't a free pass for her abusers! Kudos for making it about what is best for you, Faith!

The next contribution is from Colleen, of Surviving by Grace. Colleen joins in with a beautiful, healing post titled, A Beloved Daughter. Like Colleen, I know many other survivors who "wince" at the phrase "God the Father." Thank you Colleen, for sharing the tender way in which you are healing this wound.

Little Sheep, of My (Sick and Ugly) Story, offers a gripping poem to our collection. She says Don't Call the Psychiatrist Yet "is a sorta poem, but i think it goes in healing and therapy more than poetry. i'm so glad i found the community of child abuse bloggers..." Welcome Little Sheep! We are glad you found us too.

JIP, from Life Spacings sent in a list of wise therapy guidelines that she learned the hard way - through experience, in her post, Top Ten Most Valuable Therapy Tips. Thanks for passing on these hard earned lessons!

In another wonderful post packed with helpful tips, Girl Anachronism, from the blog of the same name, presents, Some of the Things I do to Stay Grounded During Crisis. Wow! Great pictures. Great Ideas. Everyone should check these out! Way to take care of yourself GA!

Girl Anachronism, also offers another beautiful post titled, Creating a Safe Space. She says, "This post is the result of an art therapy assignment for which I was given a box in which to create a safe space." Again, her creativity is incredible!

Holly, from Woman Tribune, offers a DVD review from her perspective as a survivor in her post, DVD Review: Healing Sex. Holly said, "'Healing Sex' is an educational film that presents verbal and physical exercises to help establish trust and intimacy in relationships after trauma." Thank you Holly!

Mike McBride from Child Abuse Survivor, sent in a thought-provoking post titled, Outliers and Emotional Intelligence about the ability to successfully navigate life. I think this one will strike a cord with most survivors.

In my own post, Hope for the Future, I reach back to comfort and reassure the less-healed and more fearful me that she does indeed have a peaceful future to look forward to.


In order to protect the vulnerable and deal with injustice, every society must construct and understand the rules a community is to live by. Marcella Chester of abyss2hope, offers her debate over the definition of "consent" in her post No Clear Presence Of Non-Consent. Thank you for your powerful advocacy, Marcella!

In another post regarding "Non-Consent," Enola, from her blog of the same name, offers What I learned from Romance Novels. She said, "I hope that women everywhere will consider the effect that romance novels have on them, and on their children. It is amazing the things that young girls pick up from the books they read and the shows they watch. We, as parents, have an obligation to consider that. Now that I have both a son, and a daughter, I will be watching from more than one perspective." About her subsequent post, Raising a Son - a New Perspective, Enola says, "This is a follow-up to my first submission - looking at things from another viewpoint." Thank you, Enola for two great posts!

Our Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse founder, Marj aka Thriver, presents A Dissociative "Doh!" Marj said, "I am still caught quite off guard with some of the aftermath I deal with from my childhood abuse, trauma and subsequent dissociative disorder. What things resulting from your childhood trauma still sneak up and surprise you?" Great question Marj!

Survivor Stories

Mile 191 of Come into My Closet, joins us with The Rape - Trigger Warning!
She included her blog heading with her submission: come into my closet, come under my bed, where you'll find me hiding, the fear in my head. abuse in the past, now, where do i start, making my future, healing my heart. crushed, and broken, falling fast- needing comfort, make it last. There is a content warning before entering Mile 191's blog. If you are an abuse survivor - use caution when reading her post(s) as they may trigger. Thank you, Mile 191 for your bravery!

Advocacy and Awareness

This next submission breaks my heart. Again, use extreme caution when reading the following post. Ciara, at the newly formed blog, Abuse Angels..., submitted the story of Baby P, which is just one of many posts raising awareness about death by child abuse and assuring that these children's short, horrific lives are honored and not forgotten. Although the stories are horrendous, it is important to call attention to child abuse and encourage child protection!

In the News

Heart, from Women's Space, presents a disturbing news article titled: 43 Alaskan Native Americans File Suit Against Jesuits for Rape, Sexual Assault; Alaska was Catholic Church's Dumping Grounds for Rapist Priests. I ran the gambit of emotions reading this article from anger over this mind-boggling injustice, to compassion and encouragement for those who finally broke their silence after as many as sixty years.

I thought I'd follow up these stories by updating and encouraging the fight and the progress being made to protect our Nations children with: What's New at the National Association to Protect Children?

That wraps up this edition of The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse! My gratitude to Marj a.k.a Thriver for all of her promotion and for guiding me through the ins and outs of being a guest host! What an honor!

BTW, Marj sent me a message to include in this edition, she said:

"If you've participated in our carnival by submitting posts that have been published in our carnival editions, I'd like to invite you to take the next step and host an edition at your own blog in the future. It's easy. It's fun and you get to meet a lot of new bloggers. And I make sure to help you every step of the way. Think about it and leave me a comment at my blog if you are interested. Thanks!"

~ Thanks for sharing these great posts! All my best to everyone!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse - Last Call for Submissions

Today is the submission deadline for The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. Publication will be on Friday.

If you haven't already done so, please join in by submitting here!

We still haven't received any posts for "In The News." It would be great if someone could round out this edition with a newsworthy post, but regardless of where your post fits, please submit! We would love to hear from you!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's New at The National Association to Protect Children?

The National Association to Protect Children is a membership association dedicated to providing political strength and leadership to create tougher laws for the protection of abused children. They make a tremendous difference on both the State and Federal level!

I've posted information about PROTECT before, but it is always worthwhile to check in to see what new laws have passed, what new laws are pending, and what we can do to help safe guard children everywhere!