My daughter, Bethany, and I nervously stood in front of a roomful of 30 or 40 people. We shared our histories of incest by our fathers and Bethany’s decision to report her father to the police. Though we’d been talking about our abuse privately for years, this was our first time sharing it in a larger group. We didn’t know if they’d believe us or if they’d judge us for “outing” our fathers.
Afterward, as refreshments were served, several individuals discreetly approached Bethany and me. “It happened to me, too,” one man said. He was in his late forties or early fifties but was disclosing his childhood sexual abuse for the first time. Another woman had been telling people for many years, but felt condemned to live under the cloud of abuse.
One by one, we heard their stories. Our hearts were broken by how alone they seemed to be and how little hope they had for healing. We were compelled to search for some kind of support for them.
Our search turned up two types of support: The first was nurturing but only a place to share struggles; they were without hope of actually overcoming them. The second type of support we found was uplifting, yet seemed to believe that healing was a matter of determination and a positive attitude.
We knew from our own healing that all of those were necessary to heal, but we also believed that without practical steps and real tools, there was no true overcoming. Since we didn’t find what we were looking for, we started our own group and Overcoming Sexual Abuse was born in October of 2009.