Welcome to Reunion Issue No. 4

BY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN

When we first met about six years ago, it wasn’t long before we were deep in conversation about our hopes and dreams for the future, as well as our personal histories and how they have shaped who we are today. It was after a Joyful Heart workday, and we were gathered at Mariska’s house for some food and fellowship.

Andrea:  It’s a moment neither of us will ever forget: sitting on the large white couch as Maile disclosed about her early life and the sexual abuse she suffered for most of her childhood, starting from the age of five, and a later sexual assault that occurred in college. I must have sat perfectly still, frozen like a statue, hoping to be a safe place for her words. Maile’s story deeply affected me, and I soon learned that, even though she had been working as a mighty force in the fields of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault prevention and response for more than a decade, she had never disclosed her full story to anyone. Her belief that this pattern of abuse was somehow invited created a veil of shame that had never fully lifted, and she had settled into believing that she deserved it.

At the same time, Andrea was putting together a book of triumphant stories told by women about overcoming hardship, called NOTE TO SELF, and in 2009 Maile agreed to step out into the light and allow her story to be published, to free herself and so that other survivors might find comfort and begin to heal.

Maile:  Joyful Heart and Andrea came into my life at just the right moment. Healing is a lifelong path, and I was blessed to have someone meet me with an open heart to bear witness to all I had suffered without judgment, and to see me and celebrate that I am so much more than my wounds or the sum of my work. Since the book was published, I’ve felt empowered to stay in the light—to never retreat back into the darkness of shame and isolation—and to live my truth and speak my truth without shame. And while it is always difficult to share my story, it brings me peace that in doing so, I am helping to bring about a change in the way we acknowledge, understand and respond to violence and abuse.

All of us at Joyful Heart have a personal connection to the work we do. Some of us are survivors, others are mothers and fathers who want a brighter future for our kids, many of us are citizens of the world who want to see justice for all those who have suffered at the hands of an abuser and some of us are all of the above.

As a mother of two and a new mom-to-be, respectively, we hope to do our part in creating a new possibility for the next generation. One that says, “No more.” A future that sees an end to the cycle of violence and abuse. If we do our part today: end complacency, foster and educate our communities around the issues of child abuse and neglect and take each step with compassion and grace, future generations have a real chance at a life without child abuse, and stories like Maile’s will be a thing of the past.

All of this begins by learning more about the issue and speaking up about it.

This edition of Reunion is intended to help start or further that dialogue. We hope it contributes to your conversation.

In fellowship
and with deep gratitude,

~ Maile M. Zambuto & Andrea Buchanan

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