Every day new allegations of sexual misconduct is in the news. Sexual abuse does not only exist within the realms of the rich and famous, politics, sports, media, and Hollywood. And it does not just happen in the workplace; it happens every day in the home, where patterns of abuse begin and are developed in victims and abusers’ lives.
Sexual abuse crimes are underreported nationwide. Alaska’s rate is the highest in the nation. Nearly 80 incidences of rape are reported per 100,000 people, where nationally, the rate is 27 per 100,000. A 2010 survey shows 59 percent of adult women in Alaska experience intimate partner violence, including threats and/or sexual assault.
Sexual abuse of any kind can affect survivors physically and emotionally for years, decades, even a lifetime. I know this firsthand. I share my story of abuse in my recently published memoir, The Shadows in My Heart. One of twelve children and the eldest daughter, I grew up on a small dairy farm in the Midwest. Throughout my life, I contended with sexual abuse and incest. It began at five when a farmhand molested me in the haymow of our barn. To this day, the smell of hay or chewing tobacco makes me want to gag. Uncertain how to escape the embarrassment, guilt, and shame for what someone else had done to me left me feeling alone and trapped. Then I married a sexual predator, who I was no match for, as you will read in my book.
Although years of therapy proved helpful, as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse I still had to deal with issues related to that abuse. Even into my thirties and forties, I felt confused; my reality was not the same as others. I was afraid to trust my intuitions and trusted others too easily. Flashbacks and compromised boundaries left me susceptible to repeated victimizations, common in victims. In addition to mourning the loss of my innocent childhood and normal relationships, I mourned the loss of siblings to Cystic Fibrosis. I spent decades contending with a tangled, tightly-woven ball of anger, embarrassment, grief and at times utter despair. I finally managed to get my husband, three children and myself into therapy, which helped us, resolve many issues. Later, much to my surprise, we were invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, we appeared on three different shows.
Knowing that our story and experiences were possibly helping others inspired me to write The Shadows in My Heart. Mainly, I wrote it for my son and daughters and for my grandchildren so that they might know the truth of what happened and break the patterns that have gone on for too long. I also wrote it to encourage and offer hope to other survivors. You can get help! You can heal! At the core of my story is family—and all the good, the bad and the ugly that came with it. I hope my story will help others who have lived through similar experiences.
The Shadows in My Heart is available in paperback and e-books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indie Books or through local bookstores. For further information, please contact Mary via her website maryhavens.com, Facebook or Twitter. Mary currently volunteers at various domestic violence organizations and has speaking engagements throughout the nation.