March 26, 2013

Support Group of One

by

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but never felt like I could. Today, though, I figured if not now then when. When will I find the courage to just say how much it’s not awesome to go it alone when dealing with something. These days there is a group (whether online or in person) for pretty much anything you’re experiencing. Helpful, supportive, insightful people who are at different stages of whatever it is you’re dealing with and can relate.

I’ve got easy access to other parents of gifted kids, only children, science-loving girls, girls who like robotics. I’m part of groups dealing with elder care issues. I’m connected with other women who are in inter-racial marriages. You name it, you can find other people who share your experience. Except for one.

I’m the mom of a sexual assault survivor. There are groups for the survivors. Many survivors write about their recovery and challenges. I have only met one other woman who is the mother of a sexual assault survivor. Then again, I’ve known her for my entire life. Ginny (not her real name) has a daughter who was sexually assaulted. The stepdad did it. Totally different from my situation. Ginny’s family and my family were close friends. I was in college when I heard about what happened to Ginny’s daughter. People talked about it but they didn’t talk about it, if you know what I mean.

I never had a reason to talk with Ginny about what happened to her daughter. It’s not like you just bring it up in casual conversation. Besides, Ginny is about 10 years older than me. I’m like a little sister to her. It’s only within the past several years that we’ve created this sisterly bond. Still, it wasn’t a topic I ever thought to bring up.

About 9 months ago I had dinner with her. We were talking about her daughter (who is married and has kids herself) and some of the challenges she’s been through. Ginny knows I know the story. Ginny knows I know it’s not something she talks about. But as we sat at dinner, I asked her if my Grandma had ever mentioned to her that she and I had something in common about our daughters. If anyone were to tell Ginny what happened to my daughter, it would be my Grandma. But she didn’t. So I did.

I’ll tell you now that it wasn’t easy to tell Ginny, but that telling Ginny was a pivotal moment in my recovery. For the first time I could openly talk about my feelings with someone who could relate on a common level. For the past 15 or so years, Ginny had no one. For the past 5 years, neither did I.

I know there are other moms out there. These are children, they have parents. Given the statistics, I should know several moms like me. I’ve been to conferences with 500+ women who have daughters. Again, statistically, I should be able to find at least one other mom whose child is a sexual assault survivor. Stuff like this does happen to people like me. I can’t be the only one. If I am that’s both awesome and sucky at the same time.

It was in talking to Ginny, telling her about what happened, I realized her silence reshaped her life. She’s a brilliant and successful woman. She’s a professor at a major university. She was head of HR for a Fortune 500 company. She had her own local TV show about politics. She’s been appointed to several governmental commissions. She’s definitely “someone like me”. Yet, she’s carried her story like an albatross around her neck weighing her down.

But I know I’m not the only one. That Ginny isn’t the only other mom like me. I know Elizabeth Smart has a mom. And Jaycee Dugard. And many others. Both Jaycee and Elizabeth have written books about their experiences. Their moms haven’t.

In talking to Ginny, I hear her reluctance to talk. It’s different for her. Her daughter is older. Her daughter has to tell her story on her terms. But what about Ginny’s story? Jaycee’s mom? Elizabeth’s mom? We have a story. We have a need for support. Don’t we? We’re not invisible, right?

Sexual assault isn’t easy to talk about. I know that neither is cancer or autism or ADD or cerebral palsy. But there are countless support groups and people to connect with if your child has any of a long list of special needs or unique qualities. But there’s no group for people like me.

We have our own story, apart from our daughter’s. Our story is important. It doesn’t have a month or a color or a ribbon. And even if I did stand up in a room full of moms and said I am the mom of a sexual assault survivor, chances are the room would go silent after a collective gasp. No one would step forward and say they are too. It’s too risky. It’s too stigmatizing. It’s too connected to our daughter, we don’t want to “out” them. They need to recover and move on.

But what about us? Don’t we deserve to recover and move on too? 

Image Credit: HealingDream at FreeDigitalPhotos

Sara

{ 17 comments }

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang March 26, 2013 at 7:42 am

Dearest Sara, first of all – I will continue to pray for your healing and peace and safety.

Thank you for bringing issues to the front. So many times, it takes that first person to say something – and everyone stands there, scratches their heads and someone says – um, yeah… me too. Your bravery is stunning and I am positive that you have helped someone today.

Sara March 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Kate, thank you for your support and kindness. I appreciate that you care so much about me. ~ Sara

Julie March 26, 2013 at 8:03 am

((HUGS)) Sara. I wish there was a support group for you and other moms of sexual assault survivors. There needs to be. And maybe as a part of your journey to heal, you are called to start this group. Because it just takes one voice.

Thank you for sharing this. I hope it blesses and reaches out to someone that needs to read it in their journey to heal as well.

Sara March 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Julie, thank you for reading, sharing and commenting. More significantly, thank you for being a wonderfully supportive friend. ~ Sara

Mrs. Jen B March 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

Sara, my heart goes out to you. As Julie said, maybe you’re being called to do this, to start a group. It doesn’t have to be anything huge or earth shattering – at least not at first, or ever if you don’t want it to be – but sharing is crucial. In this situation the parents tend to fade into the background and you’re right, your story is important too. You have every right to feel how you do. I bet you there are so many people who can relate, who wish they had someone to talk to.

Sara March 29, 2013 at 2:05 am

Thank you, Jen, for reading and commenting. I appreciate the support and encouragement. ~ Sara

Alli March 26, 2013 at 9:37 am

<3

Sara March 29, 2013 at 2:06 am

Alli, proof that sometimes no words are necessary to convey a message from the heart. Thank you, ~ Sara

kim March 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

I once had this friend who was really impacted by her dad coming out as gay when she was a teen and wanted to help other kids in her situation by writing a book (or something). You know how that’s unfolding and how many lives are being touched by the project. I’m wondering if you just found a great topic for a book (or something). {Hugs}

Sara March 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Kim, I greatly appreciate that you see in me someone who can make as big a difference as your friend. It’s often our friends who see our strength and ability when we don’t. Thank you for that ! ~ Sara

erin margolin March 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

I wish I could DO something.

I think YOU should create the support group. Amie and I couldn’t find what we were looking for, but once we met each other? We knew we had to—it was needed, and so far, I’m really glad we’ve done it.

I love you, you are loved by sooooo many people, and yes, you need support too!!

xoxoxo

Sara March 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Erin, you already ARE doing something just by commenting here. While our story isn’t the same, you help me to see that there are others out there just like me who are also thinking they can’t be the only one. Thank you for being an inspiration to me to keep looking for others. ~ Sara

Wendy March 26, 2013 at 10:26 am

Sara – you are such a support and inspiration to so many (me definitely included) & I want so badly for you to have the support you need. Most certainly there are others who feel the void of conversation around being the parent of a sexual assault survivor…

Megan March 26, 2013 at 11:12 am

I thankfully have no personal experience with this topic but I wanted to let you know of a group that is located in NEPA(Northeast PA) near where I live that was started by April Loposky, a mom of a sexual assault victim. While the group deals with the needs of the children maybe you can find some other parents through the group as well as the founder April. The group is called Marley’s Mission and the website is http://www.marleysmission.com.

I wish you healing and peace for you and your daughter.

Sara March 29, 2013 at 2:07 am

Megan, thank you for sharing the information about Marley’s Mission. I will connect with April. ~ Sara

Laura Bleill March 26, 2013 at 6:32 pm

You are not alone. And I wish I could help in ways beyond telling you that I love you and will always be here for you. XO

Sara March 29, 2013 at 2:09 am

Laura, just knowing you’re there for me without judgement helps heal my heart. To know I’m not alone will keep me moving forward on this journey. ~ Sara

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