This past week, I was able to attend The Haven Retreat put on by the Younique Foundation for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
I signed up a couple of months ago, but the last week leading up to it, I was really anxious, scared, and nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know the other women who would be there. I only knew I’d be there with other female childhood sexual abuse survivors.
The first day, we did Kintsugi, which is a powerful metaphor for victims of sexual abuse. It’s a Japanese art form. The idea is that from a broken life (the bowl), we can become stronger (the gold lacquer). We took a bowl and struck it hard with a hammer. It broke into several large pieces as well as some tiny shards.
Taking special glue and mixing it with gold powder, we then put the pieces of the bowl back together again. It took patience, work to fit the pieces together, and many of the pieces no longer fit. In fact, my bowl even has a hole in it.
It made me think that perhaps, as I become stronger and make beauty out of my broken pieces, some old aspects–people, emotions, beliefs about myself–no longer belong in me, can no longer be part of my life. The gold replaces it, or rather new emotions and beliefs, new people, new knowledge and experiences can fill in the missing pieces and make me stronger and a better, more valuable person.
We also participated in a drumming circle. I know, I know…sounds crazy. But it was fun. I mean, I was totally uncomfortable at first, all my introverted-ness showing. But the power from the collective group of 24 women was amazing to feel. Therapeutic in a way I can’t yet explain.
Each woman also received a makeover and had a photoshoot. This was a first for me as well. It was fun, yet awkward, haha. 🙂 They’ll send us the official pictures in a few weeks.
I attended classes on overcoming shame, understanding forgiveness, restorative sleep, healthy body image, nature experience, and art journaling. We learned tools for grounding techniques and meditation. For me, because I’ve been through a pretty comprehensive group therapy prior to this and because of my own research, not a lot of the educational parts were new to me, but still an important refresher course.
We also participated in Muay Thai–an emotional experience to watch as women reclaimed their feeling of power after sexual abuse has made us feel so powerless (And a pretty legit workout!). We did yoga on two of the mornings, which no matter the shape of my body, always makes me feel strong as I hold those poses, and helps me calm my anxiety.
And the location and place we stayed were absolutely gorgeous.
We were taught important, eye-opening information about how our brains work; that even though we aren’t currently being sexually abused, our body and brain remembers, our soul remembers, which is why we can be triggered. Just because the abuse isn’t happening, doesn’t mean everything feels fine now. I loved realizing that sexual abuse survivors have normal responses to an abnormal experience.
The food was AMAZING. I noticed I felt so good physically, which is a good reminder that how we treat our body impacts how we feel. And when you’re dealing with hard emotional things, like trauma from sexual abuse, nutrition can make a huge difference in how you cope, and your mood.
Above all, meeting all these brave, strong, survivor women is the best. Realizing you’re not alone, making connections, finding strength to fight for healing, and creating a new group of friends who understand you better than others, is irreplaceable.
I am so grateful to the people who worked hard to start the Younique Foundation (watch a video about the Maxfields here: https://youtu.be/uX54nCUSv-w) and those therapists, chefs, case managers, and others who give so much more than time to help abuse survivors find healing and strength.
This was just a quick rundown of everything. Perhaps in the coming weeks and months I’ll share some things in more detail. As this past week settles, I’m understanding more about myself and my healing process. Perhaps even some new breakthroughs!
If you are a female (I hope there is something like this for males in the future!) survivor of childhood sexual abuse or know someone who is, please use this information and find out more about The Haven Retreat. (And it’s FREE. You just have to get there.) YouniqueFoundation.org has many resources for survivors on their website as well as ways you can help fund this cause.
You are not alone. There is hope. Healing will come. Reclaim your hope and power. You can choose boundaries. You get to decide the course of your life and who gets to be in it.
You have value. You have worth. You are strong, brave, and amazing.
More about The Haven Retreat.