Finding Peace After Sexual Abuse With the Atonement and Art

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My journey of healing from sexual abuse in my childhood began long ago when my parents decided that instead of taking revenge they would turn the other cheek. Though my father wanted to kill the neighbor who had taken such liberties with my sister and me, he held his peace and the neighbors were suddenly gone, in my memory, to where I did not know. I remember feeling so glad.

The journey would take many twists and turns I could never have expected. When my perfect BYU marriage fairy tale story fell apart a few weeks before the wedding, I had never experienced such shock. I remember feeling a sense of unease the first night I had been to a party with Greg (name has been changed), but I continued with the relationship anyway, trusting his words and his Elder’s Quorum president pre-med educational pursuits. He knew a little of the abuse I’d experienced but wanted to marry me anyway. Then he changed his mind and called it all off–

After the breakup I finished grad school at BYU, worked as a speech pathologist in Utah, pursued my love of theater and music through choir director callings, community theater productions, an independent film– finding myself still single and over 30, I moved to New York, studied acting, singing, dancing– bought an apartment–

And experienced severe depression. Worked with a therapist during time after work. Started a course of medication. Unearthed memories of abuse that were so painful to deal with that I remember literally feeling I would fall over. I think angels were sent to help me. Angels of the NY dance world who were there to catch me when I literally felt I would fall over after leaving the therapist’s office and the abuse survivor recovery group. How these angels found me I don’t know, but God does. I remember feeling almost completely unable to deal with the pain at first hearing a song called “Silent All These Years…” the soundtrack in a movie made by a girl who’d experienced sexual abuse from a cousin. I remember somehow finding a research paper online written by a BYU social scientist about the effects of sexual abuse on women– marriage later in life than those who’d never experienced abuse, more sexual dysfunction, more generalized feelings of unease when considering marriage. Everything I had experienced so far except the sexual dysfunction– not having married yet this part of life, sex with an intimate, loving, and equal companion was still something in my future, I hoped.

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I finally rejected therapy after feeling it had run its course, and reading Ensign articles made me feel that what I needed was to heal through the atonement. This I did, being fanatically positive and militantly optimistic– writing music about the atonement– serving the deaf in my stake, learning sign language– attending the temple with great frequency, dating again, nearly becoming engaged again, then experiencing another heartwreching break-up, watching the marriages of many wonderful men, missionaries, who’d supported me so well in the deaf branch– pain–

And finally, after much more time in the temple, more songwriting, studying yoga, becoming a certified instructor of yoga, soul-searching– feeling prompted to attend a dance one night– becoming engaged again– preparing for an eternal marriage–

Finding more and more healing in degrees. Chieko Okazaki says that this healing process can last a lifetime, so I look forward to the day when all traces of sadness, depression, hopelessness are erased. When all I feel is joy, love, companionship, the blessings of youth and strength and happiness in companionship that I’ve dreamed of every since hearing fairy tale stories, happily ever afters, the story of my own parents’ courtship. Every bit of that for me. My personal garden of Eden, as Jeffrey R. Holland says. The Savior is my high priest of good things to come.

So what is the moral of the story? For me, it has several parts. One, never leave your young children on their own alone in a home with a neighbor who smokes, drinks, tells stories about gambling in Vegas, and stays at home while his wife is out working, no matter how kind or grandfatherly he seems. Check the homes where your children spend time and make sure there is a good spirit there. Follow church guidelines from the handbook– especially guidelines on childcare.

If you are going through this kind of healing process yourself, I would say unequivocally to look to the Savior and to his atonement to help carry your burden or even take it away. Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic that things will work out, no matter what kind of doom and gloom people try to get you to subscribe to. Find what helps you to feel joyful, and immerse yourself in that. Ask for priesthood blessings. Serve at church, attend your meetings, and prepare for lessons by reading. Write to me if I can help you. I will do all I can.

(The author has decided to publish anonymously; however if you would like to write to midsinglestoday@gmail.com we will forward your message.  They will also monitor comments left on the article if you want to leave a note.)

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