This is perhaps my most personal blog post ever, but I had to share because I knew in my spirit that someone could benefit from my story. Long before I worked with people on personal development and business growth, I was (and still am) a national public
anti-sexual abuse advocate. This work is a huge passion for me because of my own experience surviving childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my older brother and cousin. For years I worked on my own recovery, but had not seen either of my perpetrators in more than 20 years. Well that all changed on a recent visit to my hometown of Boston.
While out with my mother, we ran into a gentlemen who looked disheveled. He appeared to be close to my mom’s age so I assumed he was an old friend of hers by the way she greeted him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. The man looked vaguely familiar, but I could not figure out where I knew him from, so I introduced myself, but the man did not tell me his name. The disheveled man and my mother talked a few feet away from me as I sat on a bench poking at my phone, waiting for them to finish up.
However, the man was only half-heartedly listening to my mother. It appeared, he too was trying to figure out who I was. Just as his bus pulled up (he was waiting at a bus stop), he turned to my mother and asked, “Is that my sister Sylvia?” I peered up from my phone, startled by question, but realizing he was right. It was my brother, who looked nothing like his former self. He had lost quite a bit of hair and his face had sunken in and aged considerably.
Immediately, I thought back to the letter I had mailed to him years ago -- it was my way of acknowledging what he had done and releasing myself from the pain of that experience. My brother has a clinical diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia that he once self-medicated with drugs. Though he is now clean and on prescription medication for his illness, I could see how the effects of the drugs had diminished his appearance and aged him considerably, making him barely recognizable. It was evident, he was still trying to wrap his brain around our unexpected "reunion" and quite frankly, so was I. He boarded his bus, and as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared.
As I sat processing the encounter with my mom, I realized I was not sad, nor angry or bitter. In that moment, I realized I was FREE, no longer a victim, no longer pained by the abuse I experienced at the age of 5. This unexpected encounter with my brother helped me see that all of my hard work in therapy and support group had paid off. I was free! It makes me proud to know that I no longer felt the need to shrink, retreat or carry around the pain from what he did to me. It was EMOTIONAL PROOF that I was truly no longer his victim!
Why am I sharing this with you? To show you that you too can break free from whatever is holding you back
from getting out of your comfort zone and live the life of your dreams. Neither of my perpetrators have power over me, and I share that message whenever I participate in anti-sexual abuse awareness campaigns. My perpetrators will never have a front row seat in my life, but I don’t have to carry around hate for them in my heart. If I did, that would destroy my emotional health. And I’ve worked too hard on my recovery to give my power away.
Recovering from sexual has enabled me to share my story through Oprah.com, NPR, Ebony magazine, Essence, and so many other media outlets. And now I am helping others identify and get rid of the experiences that prevent them from getting out of their comfort zone so that they too can pursue their passion. I hope that you are inspired to do the same! To read more about my recovery from sexual abuse, check out the video on my home page or go here.