Luka Vaughan speaks directly to you from his own experience overcoming childhood sexual abuse.
Our road back from brokenness to wholeness as a result of childhood sexual abuse is not an easy one.
The damage done is huge. Trust has been broken, and innocence lost. The ability to relate to people generally, and to those in authority in particular, has been shattered, and our self-image has been crushed. We may no longer believe in ourselves. Often we blame ourselves in some way, and carry excessive and unnatural guilt and shame around with us. This changes how we see the world, and sometimes, because of things we have done and said, it also changes how the world sees us.
The recovery journey is uphill. Unquestionably, it is hard. But it is completely and utterly worth it. You know this already – it’s why you are reading this. The questions you probably need to have answered, are, “Is it possible? Can I really find my way back from here, to a better place? What does a better place mean? What does it look like, and how will it feel? Will I be safe there?”
If you dare to hope that this mountain can be climbed, that this ocean can be swum, then I am here to tell you that you are right. The mountain can be climbed. The ocean can be swum – but not overnight, and not without preparation. Not without some training. Not without courage, and serious effort and dedication. But it can be done, and the prize for standing on top; the prize for standing up in the surf on the far shore with a whole ocean crossed behind you, is you. You will have won yourself back.
And you; me; us; we are worth it. You are worth it. You are worth the hard yards and the exhaustion of your very best efforts – for the very best prize of all.
I dedicate my story to you, the one still on the mountainside, the one still in the water. Those of us who have achieved some kind of redemption, or healing, or recovery, or whatever you choose to name it, we are here with you. You are not alone. Although it is the journey of a lifetime, there is a finish line of sorts, at the point where the real you steps out of the shadows and the angry, fearful you stops calling the shots. We want to applaud your efforts, celebrate your success with you, and encourage you in the hard times. Be strong, and keep going. It is worth it!
They call us survivors. But we are so much more than that. We are overcomers.
The lie we have believed is that we are not worthy, but it is not true. For those of us who have had to dig deep to find strength and courage, who have risen above the personal challenges, who have endured the constant headwinds, and are still here, with the chance to write our story still, there is true and resilient beauty to be found. It may not look like the tabloids tell us it should – all surface and Photoshop, but what do they know? There are no illusions here, or portrayals that are only skin-deep and plastic. Here, is beauty to the bone.
This beauty that we have is deeply resilient, and not at all fragile, but for many it is guarded, perhaps buried deeply and definitely cautious in allowing itself to be revealed. Until a wounded soul has found strength through healing, this beauty is hidden and therefore unappreciated. For this inner beauty to be found, and released to the light, redemption must come, and the story must be told. These are stories that we all hunger for, as we all seek the inspiration that others can provide through their personal stories of overcoming.
Wasted opportunities and wasted potential are deep tragedies. In my own difficult past, for many years, my life was lived in tension between two opposites – fear and hope. My life definitely did not even begin to achieve anything of its hidden potential. My compromised life was caused by traumatic and violent childhood sexual abuse that left me crippled emotionally and in many ways, relationally.
The story of the childhood sexual abuse that I endured is not a unique one; too many statistics confirm that breathtakingly horrible and sad fact. But humbly, perhaps the story of my road back to relational and emotional health might just be a story worth the telling. I am nothing special; I know that, just a guy with a story to tell, like all of us. But somehow over the years I cobbled together enough good choices that the turbulent waters calmed, the angry clouds parted and the wild emotional storms abated. Those who know something of my life have said as much, and there is the real possibility that sharing it might bring hope to others.
The fact that we have suffered childhood sexual abuse is not something easily shared. It is by definition a very private; very isolating pain that we who have suffered it carry alone, often for all of our lives. Shame and guilt are powerful motivators; in our case they tell us to hide; to protect ourselves from exposure, from embarrassment.
We build our coping mechanisms in response to these fears, cobbled together in a web of fear and insecurity, and we spend our lives ensuring that our “secret shame” stays secret. But in acquiring the very safety and comfort that that secrecy provides, we pay an inevitable price – our fear and shame get nurtured, not conquered. We start to trust them, and not challenge them. Our mistaken perceptions around guilt, fault and blame become entrenched. Worst of all, we lose sight of our own beauty.
My road has been walked alone, mostly; but sometimes I have had the privilege of friends and communities around me. I have never had professional help, and that is perhaps why this story might be helpful in some way. Many of us come to a place of realizing the need for change, long before we have sat in a therapist’s chair. I am deeply grateful for the healing hands and kind hearts of those who counsel and guide; and I sincerely recommend their help to anyone who can access it. I had a dream of wholeness that drove me through the storm to find the calmer waters. Perhaps my story can be a catalyst for those still in the shadows; an inspiration to begin this incredible journey back to wholeness.
What gives me hope for others is that there are choices we can make as individuals that can calm the seas and bring the grace and relief of healing to damaged hearts and minds. We can make these choices every day, every minute, if we just know what they are. Perhaps, in these pages, some clarity will come as to what choices there are that each of us can make, to begin this journey.
I am by no means healed completely – that is a lifetime’s ongoing work – but I have walked a wonderful, exhilarating path of self-discovery and forgiveness, and find myself now, many years later, at a place where, finally, peace and quietness have come. The winds still blow, but the storm is over, and the unskilled sailor drowning in troubled seas has made way for a far more resilient and capable traveller.
Humbled by grace, and aware that the gift of healing does not come to many, as it has to me, I hope that by the open and honest telling of my story, there might be an opportunity for new hope to emerge where there was none before. We are the once-broken ones, but that does not mean we are ugly or unacceptable! We do not have to be ashamed and hide our beauty from the world. We are the overcomers. The world is desperate for the everyday heroes who have overcome their brokenness to rise up and be counted, so that their stories can bring hope to others, still in the shadows.
Excerpted from: “…and there was light” by Luka Vaughan. Available on Amazon. It is a book about the recovery from sexual child abuse; about the journey back to healthy adulthood from a place of devastation and betrayal.
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