I was raped, can you help me?

Since the launch of Made in His Image, we have received thousands of emails. Some of the most heart wrenching to read involve the following. I was abused, can you please help me? I don’t know what to do and I feel like abuse is all I’m good for. My boyfriend/father is abusive, how do I get out? I was raped/sexually abused, what do I do now? I feel gross all the time after the abuse, can you help me? What happens after a sexually assault? What do I do?

Should I Report My Attack to the Police?

We hope you will decide to report your attack to the police. While there’s no way to change what happened to you, you can seek justice while helping to stop it from happening to someone else. Reporting to the police is the key to preventing sexual assault: every time we lock up a rapist, we’re preventing him or her from committing another attack. It’s the most effective tool that exists to prevent future rapes. In the end, though, whether or not to report is your decision to make.

How do I report the rape to police?

Call 911 (or ask a friend to call) to report your rape to police. Or, visit a hospital emergency room or your own doctor and ask them to call the police for you. If you visit the emergency room and tell the nurse you have been raped, the hospital will generally perform a sexual assault forensic examination. This involves collecting evidence of the attack, such as hairs, fluids and fibers, and preserving the evidence for forensic analysis. In most areas, the local rape crisis center can provide someone to accompany you, if you wish. Call 1.800.656.HOPE to contact the center in your area.

Can I report to police even if I have no physical injuries?

Yes. In fact, most rapes do not result in physical injuries. So, the lack of such injuries should not deter you from reporting.

The rapist got scared away before finishing the attack. Can I still report it?

Yes. Attempted rape is still a serious crime and should be reported.

I knew the person who raped me and invited him/her in. Can I still report it?

Yes. About 2/3 of victims know their attacker. And the fact that you were voluntarily together, or even invited him/her home with you, does not change anything. Rape is a serious crime, no matter what the circumstances.

I’m afraid that my actions will be scrutinized and I’ll have to testify about intimate details of my personal life.

Many successful prosecutions end in a plea agreement, without trial, which means that the victim will not have to testify. However if your case does go to trial, you will generally have to testify. Although there are no guarantees, prosecutors have legal tools they can use to protect you in court. One tool is called a rape shield law, which limits what the defense can ask you about your prior sexual history. The prosecutor can also file legal motions to try to protect you from having to disclose personal information

If you are worried about having to testify about intimate matters such as your own sexual history, let the police or prosecutor know about your concerns. They can explain the laws in your state and help you understand what might happen if you do go to trial.

For these and other questions, please read the complete article by clicking HERE. And please don’t hesitate to contact MIHI for further help. We exists to serve YOU!

My Love, My Cross, My Joy: Marriage following Abuse

This evening, I’m very honored to welcome my dear friend Faith Hakesley to MIHI’s blog. Faith, a survivor of sexual abuse, wrote for the National Catholic Register about her experiences several months ago and this evening Faith will address a very sensitive topic for survivors: Marriage Following Abuse.

As the founder and president of MIHI, I would like to sincerely thank Faith for her candor, courage and perseverance. Her faith, and choice to see beauty, despite her suffering is extraordinary. The things that most people complain about are unparalleled to what this woman has overcome, through the grace of God.

This is a repost from Jan. 2011 due to the emails MIHI has been receiving.

By Faith Hakesley

Following months of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest when I was fifteen, marriage and children were gifts I felt totally undeserving of. “Why would anyone want to marry me now?” were the words frequently haunting my traumatized mind. In our society, women who have been abused or raped are often seen as “damaged goods” and it takes a rare and special man to be willing to “deal with” and share the repercussions a survivor experiences. God blessed me with one of those rare and special men, however, and, even though it is not easy by any stretch, we have built a strong relationship of incredible love and unity.

“You are my love, you are my cross, you are my joy.” These were the words spoken by the officiant at my husband’s (Alex) and my wedding three and a half years ago. The priest held up a crucifix as he spoke these powerful words. Some people might just shrug these words off. To my husband and I, however, these are the words that we have learned to live by in our marriage. My crosses have become his crosses, my joys his joys, and my love his love (and vice versa).

The road is difficult and different for each family but it is possible to overcome trauma. I was fortunate enough to have come to terms with and gotten help for the traumas I had experienced before marrying. When Alex’s and my long-time friendship blossomed into something more, I was at a point in my own recovery that I was able to help him understand what I was going through, and he was able to support me in my recovery. With the help of therapy and the loving support of my family, Alex and I developed our own boundaries so that I could continue to heal without him feeling as though he could somehow fix it all. We have worked hard, both individually and as a couple, to create a relationship of honesty, communication, and complete faith and trust in God.

A male survivor of clergy sexual abuse gave my husband some great advice several years ago. “If she’s having a bad day, don’t assume that it’s because of memories of the abuse. She still has feelings and, if you want to help her, validate that she can feel human again and it’s okay for her to be upset about other things.” The abuse is a big part of my history & has certainly made me who I am today, but it’s not all I am. Guys can have a hard time reading women and (let’s face it) we can be mind-boggling puzzles sometimes!

I have learned to be open and honest with my husband about my feelings. I’ll say “I’m having bad memories today” referring to the sexual abuse or “I’m having a Matt day” if I’m missing my brother who passed away ten years ago. Sometimes it’s just, “I feel angry today but I don’t know why.” When I struggle with thoughts of, “I’m such a burden…,” Alex laughs, rolls his eyes and says, “Faith, I married you…I love you and I will always be here for you so get over it!”

My husband has created a safe place for me although he has had to embark on his own journey in order to better understand me and my experiences. He has attended some therapy with me in the past, done his own research on trauma, and has learned to ask questions. If he is ever struggling with a question or concern, he will discuss the issue with me but, if I just don’t have the emotional energy to talk about something, he will go to my parents. He has cried with me, screamed with me, thrown stuffed animals with me, and prayed with me. Alex carries me when I need to be carried but also pushes me when I need to be pushed. He is my “lion” and stands up for me when necessary. He even has stood up to me when I have criticized myself!

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past, I have a very skewed perception of my body. Although naturally frustrating for him at times, he is there to reassure me that I am beautiful. He supports me in prayer and during times when I don’t “feel” my faith. It takes a very special man being graced by God to be able to put his own emotions and needs aside in the moment and put you first! Yet, even if I experience a flashback in the midst of an intimate moment, Alex will hold me and say, “Faith, it’s okay…nothing can hurt you…I’m here with you and you’re safe. Come back to the present. Come back to me.” He has grown to be especially sensitive to my fears of intimacy and, in the past, has sometimes been hesitant to touch me for fear of upsetting me.

Alex has gone through his own struggles to accept the rape. I will never forget the conversation we had some years ago during which I told him all the details of the abuse. It was a difficult conversation, allowing myself to be vulnerable to a man once again but it was an important step in rebuilding the trust that I had lost when the abuse took place. Alex has never blamed me, but he did spend a lot of time being angry about “why” it happened. He went through many of the same struggles as I did – he blamed God, he blamed other people, and he looked for answers that just didn’t exist. Over time, I was able to help him as were my parents, my therapist, and the good God above I believe gave him the graces to move forward. We have both experienced resentment of having to “deal” with everything that has come our way, but we choose to let that anger make us stronger.

Our son, Matthew, (born last year) puts life into perspective for us both. I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom and sometimes long hours alone with an active and precocious toddler can play havoc on the mind. However, I work hard to prevent any negativity on my part to affect him. Over time, I’ve learned to put my thoughts into words through prayer, writing, exercise, or music and I call on these wonderful things everyday. For a long time, I was surviving for me, then for my husband and I, but now I survive for our son too!

If you have ever experienced abuse, don’t look for someone who’s going to carry you all the time. Rather, look for someone who can both carry you when you need carrying and who can push you when you need pushing! Choose someone who is willing to become a part of your journey and someone who is willing to take on a part of your burden. My husband chose to be a part of my life and that includes my past, present, and future experiences no matter how negative they may be. In the end, a strong relationship is based on hard work – the harder you work, the stronger you will both be! Our marriage is far from perfect, but as long as you both pursue healing and strive to move forward, God will be present amidst your joys and love and, when there are crosses, He will carry you both.

When the Jury Says, “Guilty” and the Judge Slams the Gavel

A woman asked MIHI, What do I do after my rapist is convicted? What do I do then? How do I heal? How do I move on? Can MIHI help me?

One woman said, They are going to take him away because he raped me. What do I do? I don’t want to hate him, but I do? I’ve read all of your blog posts, what do I have to do to love like that?

One woman involved with MIHI sent this to me after testifying against the man who sexually assaulted her. So in therapy today, I totally overcame a milestone! Thanks to you and Made In His Image and the Lord (of course), I’m NOT a victim of abuse anymore and I never will be again!!! I never thought it would end. I was always so sure that abuse would happen for the rest of my life but it’s not! I always thought that if I didn’t hate my abuser, then he would win. His whole objective was to abuse and still not be hated but that’s not the case anymore! Because I am not a victim and I don’t hate him. I get to choose my own path now. I get to be happy and am given the opportunity to love everyone that God places in my life! People are so precious and I know what it’s like to not feel love and I don’t want anyone who knows me to feel unloved! Life is so precious and it can only get better from here. 

I am exceedingly proud of these women for their candor, courage, strength, faith and perseverance.

Most women who have been sexually assaulted shroud their secret for fear of shame and embarrassment. Or they keep it buried, because they think it’s their fault, that they should have stopped it, that they are bad, or in an attempt to deny it actually happened.

MIHI seeks to shatter these pre-conceived notions. We exist to offer you hope and healing. We are a safe haven for you, and your voice, feelings and recovery are our priority. Yes, to answer the questions in the beginning of this post – we can, and will help you! Just like the woman in the previous paragraph, you too will take your life back. Fear, nightmares, dark shadows, crying, withdrawing and depression is not your destiny. Freedom is your future and you have the choice to seek it.

1 in every 4 women have been sexual assaulted. Do you know ONE? Are you that ONE? It’s not your fault! The time is now to break the silence and take your life back!

Image via Kara May Photography.

“She left pieces of her life behind her everywhere she went…

It’s easier to feel the sunlight without them she said.”

Yesterday was the anniversary of the date I started therapy and a reader asked if I could describe part of the process. I had spoken with this doctor once on the phone before packing everything I owned into my Honda accord to move 18 hours to see him and to start a new life. To put it bluntly, I was terrified. Sure, I was excited for the change and the opportunity for healing but those thoughts paralleled with the uncertainty of the future.

The night before my first therapy session I could barely sleep. I woke up early and went for a run in the hot southern heat. On my drive to his office my mind churned furiously. What if he can’t help me? I mean seriously, what good is this even going to do? Why do I think that telling a complete stranger everything that has happened to me is going to make me better? How could that take away the nightmares? What if he doesn’t understand? And frankly, it’s really none of his business. 

Sassy and naive I know.

Okay, calm down Maura. Trust in God, you have trusted Him to bring you here and this is going to be no different. I knew in my heart this was what God wanted from me, but I was petrified, especially since the doctor was a man. I started praying the Rosary and arrived at his office.

He was late and my mind used that as an excuse to try to run away. But I fought those thoughts with God’s grace, as I sat down. Even though I was shaking, by the end of the 2 hour session I knew God had placed this doctor in my life as a tremendous gift to me. As soon as I closed his office door, I bowed my head in grateful thanksgiving.

Despite that realization, therapy was still exhausting and intense, and that day, I promised myself I would never give up. No matter what. My third session was exceedingly challenging and when I left that afternoon I couldn’t stop crying. This is so hard, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through. I’m just not that strong, how am I going to do this? Later that day I went to adoration and decided that I was going to offer up each session and homework activity for my future children. I desperately yearn for my future children to not have to suffer from the ramifications of abuse.

So, when therapy seemed unbearable, or I had to draw or describe events and bodies that I thought I would never be able to do, I would close my eyes and picture what my future children might look like. I imagined their tiny hands and toes and how I would desire to surround them with love and tenderness. I thought about all that I would want to teach them about God the Father, Jesus, Mary and the Saints. Then I thought about how strong I would need to be for them and how much I needed to grow and heal before I could get married and have children. Then I closed my eyes gently, as I opened my doctor’s office door and proceed to another therapy session.

You know what I think? I think you’re bravest when you’re terrified, but you trust in the Father’s loving guidance and keep moving forward, with your eyes fixed on seeing beauty in your suffering.

What pieces of your life do you think you need to work through and let go of in order to not just breath, but truly LIVE?

“I think we carry our wounds until the end; they do not fully go away but keep us humble, patient, and more open to trust. The healing lies in the fact that our wounds no longer defeat us or cause us to harm ourselves or others. Wounds become our daily offering to God, and they develop in us compassion toward the weakness of others.”- Richard Rohr

Sexual Abuse: A True Story of a Shroud Unveiled

But I just can’t tell. I know it was partially my fault. I really had it coming to me because I didn’t fight back hard enough. Maybe if I was prettier I would be worth something more than abuse, or maybe it was my weight? If I told, he would kill me. I’m not strong enough to go to therapy I could never do that. I can’t even talk about it, let alone face the person who abused me. It was totally my fault. 

This is a glimpse of what I hear daily from women recovering from abuse. Their voice mirrors millions of women in our country, and around the world. The mission of MIHI is to begin a dialogue with you, a discussion, in a safe and compassionate setting, to foster hope and healing and to empower you to turn from victim to survivor.

An exceedingly brave woman reached out to MIHI over six months ago for help and throughout the months that followed, I had the privilege of mentoring her. Today, MIHI would like to honor her immense courage. After years of shrouded silence, this woman stood up, and boldly broke the silence associated with abuse. Her undaunted spirit has catapulted a life changing environment for several of her family members and she endured excruciating pain and humiliation to follow through with her brave decision. No string of words could adequately describe how proud MIHI is of her.

Below is what she wrote.

I wanted to say thank you and I appreciate everything you have done for me. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have told my counselor about my abuse and I would still be living with my dad. Thanks for all of your encouragement. I owe you my life because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have one now. I am exceedingly grateful for all your advice and help with everything.Thanks for everything, really. You are the most courageous woman I know. Made in His Image saved my life.

Nicole Kidman supports Made in His Image!

The world of entrepreneurship can be pretty big and scary at times for this former pastry chef and baker. On Wednesday, I had a meeting about fundraising for MIHI, which produced brilliant ideas to take MIHI to the next level. The incredible woman who was helping me stressed exposure. I immediately thought of Nicole Kidman for several reasons.

Nicole Kidman is a gorgeous woman. I have seen her in Nashville and she is truly a natural beauty, who doesn’t need to wear a pound of makeup to look beautiful. She radiates confidence and carries herself with tremendous poise. I have witnessed her sweetness and tenderness towards her adorable children, which is beautiful. What struck my heart deeply is her yearning to promote awareness against abuse. Her work to launch Say No UNite to End Violence Against Women is extraordinary.

So, sitting in a local coffee shop in Nashville, I tweeted to Nicole Kidman. I saw that she followed 25 people – all of them famousbut that didn’t deter me. After all, this is the Father’s work and I have nothing to fear. Within an hour, Nicole Kidman was following Made in His Image. When I returned from the gym, I tweeted back to her. She then tweeted back saying that she had read my blog and would like to support Made in His Image!!!!!!!!

I screamed with excitement!!!! I use to dream about moments like this, somebody pinch me please.

Later that night, I wept tears of thanksgiving to God. What He has done in my life is a miracle and to Him be all the glory. I thought about all the times I wanted to stop counseling, but didn’t. Completing trauma therapy was harder than being a NCAA Division 1 athlete, but I wouldn’t trade those sessions for anything. I deserve to be released from the ramifications of abuse, and so do you. The abuse wasn’t my fault, and it took years for me to comprehend that fact.

The same healing is possible for you too! Let Made in His Image help you. While you can’t go back and change the past, you can catapult your healing by owning your recovery.

One in three women will encounter violence in some way, shape or form against them in their lifetime. So much of it is shrouded in silence. What we are trying to do is say this is something that needs to be addressed. A lot of it is taking away the stigma, creating awareness and not making it a silent pandemic. I want to encourage people of all nations to unite behind our call to end violence against women. – Nicole Kidman

“From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says, I survived.”

TAKE A STAND! ABUSE IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

BREAK

THE

SILENCE!

So I did what any entrepreneur would do…

In April 2011, the doctor I completed therapy with, recommended I see the movie There be Dragons. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it tells the story of St. Josemaria Escriva and his childhood friend, Manolo Torres. As the two lads mature, Josemaria answers God’s call and becomes a Catholic priest and founds the movement, Opus Dei (work of God). After leaving the seminary himself, Manolo becomes a spy for the fascists.

As hatred, betrayal and jealousy escalate throughout the movie for Manolo, he becomes a slave to his anger. As a Catholic priest fighting for his life, Josemaria chooses to spread seeds of hope and forgiveness. On one particular occasion while Josemaria and his priests were hiding for their lives in a psychiatric hospital, a beautiful red-headed woman approaches him and shows Josemaria the scars on her wrists, where she had cut herself. Petrified with fear, she says, I was raped and still sleep with the lights on. I lock my door at night and put a chair under the door handle. Gentle tears rolled down my face as she continued to say, I have accepted that God can be terrible. And now my prayers are deeper. I fight Him with love. 

My heart almost pounded out of my chest. Her courage was inspiring, and her innocence radiated true beauty, as she said gently, yet firmly, I fight Him with love. This woman had suffered immensely, but her response to suffering was saintly. She was one of the most minor characters in the movie, yet her reply, I fight Him with love, made her one of the most compelling.

After the movie, I did what any entrepreneur would do, I created a blog and planned for Made in His Image’s launch. The tagline for MIHI’s blog was taken from There be Dragons. What does I fight Him with love really mean you may ask? Great question! This woman knew that God allowed evil to happen because of man’s fallen nature. Therefore, the tagline means that instead of turning inward and focusing on her own resentment, anger and hate, she was going to focus outward and make the choice to love. She was going to fight her anger with love, mercy and forgiveness. When faced with suffering you have two choices: you can love or hate. You can combat the person or situation with the love and mercy of the Father, or you can hold a grudge and let anger deteriorate you. The choice is yours.

Today, June 26th, is the feast of Saint Josemaria, who is one of Made in His Image’s patron saints, a very beautiful day for MIHI.  So now I’m going to go for a run and then do what any ex-professional baker would do: drink a beer, make some pasta and bake some key lime tarts and chocolate tort.

Happy feast day dear readers and always Fight Him with Love.