From Shadow to Light: Stories of Hope and Healing from Survivors of Child Abuse

BY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN

Children are abused and neglected every day, in every community—including yours. It’s hard to write about child abuse without sounding alarmist, but the truth is that the statistics reflect a reality that is deeply alarming. Every seven seconds in America, a child is born, and every ten seconds, a case of child abuse is reported. That figure represents six million children, nearly ten percent of the youth population under the age of 14. Four children die every day as a result of child abuse and neglect. More than three-quarters of those children are under the age of five and more than 40 percent of young victims won’t live to see their first birthdays. If you take anything away from reading this story, we hope it is this fact: 90 percent of abused children are victimized by someone they know. When it comes to sexual abuse, the statistics are equally staggering. Our imaginations strain to come to terms with the fact that the very people who are meant to care for their children commit such brutalities, so we do our best to keep this reality at a safe distance, and tell ourselves, “Not in my family, not among my friends, not in my community.”

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But even these statistics don’t tell the whole story. Despite laws mandating the reporting of abuse, the signs of child abuse are often unknown to most community members, and child abuse and neglect are still often viewed as a “family matter.” Well-meaning citizens look the other way out of fear of “breaking up the family,” being wrong in their accusation, or facing some sort of retaliation by the abuser. Take society’s reluctance to take action and pair it with the abusers’ manipulative strategies to keep children quiet, and you have a powerful isolating force that keeps children in these damaging circumstances, where they feel afraid, ashamed and alone.

According to Irma Seilicovich, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of The Village Family Services, an organization that assists more than 3,000 at-risk children and families each year in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley,“When you consider the effects of abuse on a child’s social, emotional and intellectual development, it’s clear that situations like this really have a tremendous lifetime impact. And no matter the circumstance, children blame themselves for what happens.”

Accepting that they are not to blame for the abuse is just one piece of the recovery process. The road from victim to survivor can be a long one, as it’s a complex process to unwind and resolve these layers of emotional trauma. Three courageous survivors have stepped forward to share their stories of abuse and recovery in order to help others understand the impact of abuse on a person’s life and provide inspiration and hope to people whose lives may in some ways mirror their own.

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