Stories From Survivors
The most powerful testimonial to the gains made at Shepherd's comes from the survivors themselves.
Out of respect for privacy and to maintain trust, Shepherd's does not solicit stories. We are profoundly grateful to survivors who volunteer to share their journeys as a part of their healing process and in the hopes that others will be encouraged in their own healing journey.
“The funny thing about trying to describe my life before the abuse is that I don’t really remember a time before it started. It shaped so much of my childhood, slithering its way through even normal memories now as I look back.
At some point, maybe early middle school, I remember just crumbling inside. To the outside world I was still the perfect image of a smart, happy, young girl.
But I have memories from that time that are so sharp they cut like the edge of broken glass. It felt like I had hundreds of questions and no way to understand them. Did my mother know? Was this something that all daddys do to their daughters?
Even after I moved out of the house to college and most of the physical abuse stopped, the brain-washing power that my father had over my life still completely dominated me. The words that came out of my mouth were his words. The choices I made in school were his choices. I was his play-thing and I danced to his tune.
I found my way to Shepherd’s because at 28 the secret was starting to destroy me from the inside. I was terrified of having to acknowledge it even in my own brain. The first day of group counseling, the group leader asked us to write down our goals. All of mine centered on keeping the secret: how do I pass as normal? I remember my shock when one of the other women’s goals was to confront her father about the abuse. I couldn’t even imagine doing so.
But something about sharing my story in a group of other survivors changed me. I found anger in me. I found deep sadness. I found a great well of strength and a desire for realness. Keeping the secret and feeling shame became simply unbearable for me.
Confronting my father, breaking my mother’s heart... These were not easy things. Through it all, I kept going every Tuesday to share the support and the journey with my group of other survivors.
Did it save my life? Possibly. But what is even more important to me is that I found a life worth living that I hadn’t even know was possible. Looking back now it feels like those old movies where everything starts in black and white and then a switch is flipped and everything is touched by beautiful Technicolor. I may still have struggles, I will always be a survivor of abuse, but I’m living a life of truth. A life that shame has no part in.”
~Paige, Former Shepherd’s Client
Other Survivors' Experiences at Shepherd's
Safety at Shepherd's
"Within these four walls, I have found safety for the first time in my adult life."
Taking the risk to be vulnerable
"To lose this valuable resource would be devastating to the community of souls who have benefited from the nurturing environment created by the staff. These souls have earned this safe harbor by taking the risk to be vulnerable and open in a world that has been deeply unkind to them."
Finding a home to trust
"Shepherd's is my home away from home. I know that sounds funny to be saying about a counseling place, but this one is different. The counselors have a way of making a person feel like you are a part of them. So I can trust them very much."
Starting to feel safe
"I am starting to feel safe again. I thank God that I've found a place to help me."
I couldn't run fast enough
"I am a 39-year old survivor of sexual abuse. I spent nearly a lifetime telling myself that I was strong enough to overcome my history. I bought books, tried different counselors, ran myself ragged trying to outpace my fears, my insecurities, my self-doubt. But I couldn't. Eventually, I couldn't run fast enough to get away from myself ... and when I stopped running, my emotional world began to close in on me. I called many organizations looking for help, but there are few dedicated to helping survivors of sexual abuse. Despite our society's best efforts, discussing sexual abuse and incest is still taboo. Shepherd's Counseling Services is the only facility in the Seattle area that offers low-cost group counseling for survivors of sexual abuse. Let me repeat: the only facility in Seattle."
Going on to help others
"Because of the help I've received at Shepherd's, I got my Bachelor's degree last year and decided that I want to work with survivors of abuse once I get out of grad school."
Living for the first time
"There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful to Shepherd's ... for giving me my life. It's something I have never had before."
Becoming a whole person again
"I thank Shepherd's for providing safe harbor. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to be a whole person. I thank them for making the services affordable for people living at the margin."
The ripple effect of abuse
"Sexual abuse has a huge ripple effect. It affects all those around you. Shepherd's not only saved my life, but my life is now more meaningful and productive."
What Shepherd's has given me is FREEDOM
- Learn that I have been a survivor and not a victim.
- Communicate with other women who have had similar experiences in order to no longer feel lonely or alone.
- Help extinguish my fears so that now I can sleep through the night instead of being awakened by nightmares.
- Get the support I need to pull myself out of that deep, dank, dark hole of depression.
- Feel my feelings because as children we learned not to feel.
- Know that I am not different because I was abused.
- Not have to try to be someone else because I didn't like myself, and because I felt that I didn't have my own identity.
- Accept that what happened was horrible, tragic and sad but was in no way my fault.
- Truly believe that I can love myself and be loved by others just the way I am.
- Finally feel empowered because of the knowledge that I have gained.
Thank you so much."
A grateful grandfather, abused as a teen, finally finds hope and healing at Shepherds
"Let me introduce myself as a grandfather.
The first life-changing experience happened when I was 13 years old. I was sent to a Boys' Home in Southern California. After being there just a few months, I was assaulted and sexually abused by other boy residents, some bigger, some older. The abuse continued until I left the facility at age 16. This was my very first experience concerning any sexual matters. I had no one to talk to about this – wondered if it was my fault, did I bring it all on myself. I did not have a solid foundation with my parents so could not talk with family, and in those days, sex was not talked about by anyone that I knew, so I said nothing.
As an adult, I buried those early experiences, never discussed them, never got help and tried to get on with my life. I married, had a family and as the years progressed, I realized those childhood experiences needed to be addressed. Professional help eight years into my marriage failed and so did my marriage. The doctor was unfamiliar with sexual abuse treatment.
A few years went by – I worked hard at two, sometimes three jobs, spent as much time as I could with my two young daughters, attended church and continued to bury the past. One Sunday afternoon, I was invited to dinner with friends, and it was there that I met the 'love of my life' – and once my heart was involved, she was all that I could think about. After a year and a half, we were married - promising to share our lives together and raise our children in a Christian home, though never mentioning the Boys' Home experiences. (We will soon celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary.)
In 1998 I was diagnosed with cancer, which required very serious, life-threatening surgery and a very long recovery. During the recovery period, I had many long days and nights to reflect back on not only my mortality, but also my childhood experiences that had robbed me of so much. Every experience seemed to surface all at once, and I felt like such a miserable person and such a failure to my wife and children.
As I was recovering from the cancer, God brought about a second life-changing experience – when I opened the newspaper one morning and read an article about Shepherd's Counseling Service and the work they were doing with victims of sexual abuse. I was so excited to think that there may be help on the horizon for me, but I carried the phone number around for some time before getting up the courage to call. This grandfather was a nervous wreck - for once in my life I felt like maybe there was someone who could help and understand, yet fearful about the process.
With my heart pounding, I made the call. Not only was I concerned about how I was going to pay for the service, I also was concerned about digging up past history. The person I talked with was very kind and helpful and asked that I come in for an interview. After the interview, I was told me that someone would be in touch with me in a few days and indicated that help was available. I left the interview so full of hope and promise, yet so full of fear!
In a few days, my first appointment was arranged. I was past being nervous, especially over the thought of revealing my personal sexual abuse experiences. In her wisdom, the therapist assured me that to help, I would need to be open and up front about my past. I had no idea how much those early childhood experiences affected every aspect of my life, but with Shepherd's help, I have learned so much about myself. I have been given tools to use and other resources to assist me in everyday living. There were times when I wanted to quit because it was too painful, but I know that without Shepherd's Counseling Service and their staff, I can only imagine where I would be today.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your help. We never get too old to seek out help – thank you for being there for me, Shepherd's Counseling Services!!!"
– A Forever Grateful Client & Grandfather
Finding support and validation through group therapy
"Earlier this year I began a search for help. I needed to find support and counseling for childhood abuse and trauma. Although I had resisted for years, I knew that the time had come: I needed to face up to the problems that have interfered with living a "good" or "happy" life, instead of continuing in a whirlwind of problems and fears. I was referred to Shepherd's for group counseling, and it has been so helpful to me. Not only was the staff wonderful to work with, but they worked hard to help me come up with a price that I could afford. I work for another nonprofit, which does not pay very highly, and my checkbook is very tight.
The group work that I have done has enabled me to take a deeper look at myself; to feel comforted that I am not the only one who may feel a certain way or respond to things differently than many people; has provided me a wonderful source of support and a great group of women that I feel safe with; has encouraged me to stand up for myself and to be prouder of who I am; and has encouraged me to keep growing and healing, no matter where you are in your healing process.
Group counseling has been essential to my healing path, and I am so grateful that Shepherd's has contributed to this journey. I sincerely hope that they can continue to help me become a stronger and happier person."
A survivor – not a victim – for her daughter's sake
"Ever since I had my daughter, I have realized that the only way that I can be a good parent and good person to myself is if I begin the healing process that I've delayed. A process that should have begun 10, 15, 20 years ago – but one that I could only begin when I realized that I needed to ensure not only my survival but hers. To ensure that she grows up in a place that is nurturing, a place that is safe, a place that opens up her life to possibility. You see, I am a survivor – of a lot of things. I realize these things more each day that I go to group and realize that the things I considered normal or even quirky that happened in my family are actually quite disturbing.
Shepherd's is a safe place, for I am starting to breathe because I can utter all of the things that have been stuck deep inside me with women in the group that are also survivors who feel these things. These women are trying to become better, trying to see things clearer. These beautiful survivors.
I call myself that now. A survivor. I am not a victim. I am a survivor of all of these things and trying to become a better person – now – more whole, more aware, checking in everyday – for my daughter – for myself. This is my step – a hard, long step in the right direction.
This is a safe place, this place called Shepherd's."