I moved to Oregon in October of 2016 with a dream of raising my children free from violence and community stalking. The last attempt that was made on my life raised a lot of red flags in my mind, and my maternal instincts told me to flee the state where I had grown up.
With $450 dollars in my purse and 3 children, we set off on what I told them was an adventurous move to Oregon. The trip took us 4 days because I stopped at every rest area and museum on the way—I wanted to make the journey fun and relieve some of the stress that I knew could turn into trauma. We put whatever could fit into an older minivan (mostly food and clothes) and hit the open road to freedom (we hoped). We drove as far as we could get. We slept inside of our van and thank God we kept safe and were not hungry.
When I learned about the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARDV) and found that I met their criteria for crisis response, I got in touch. The CARDV helped our family find temporary housing in a hotel, where finally we got a chance to relax together as a family, knowing that for the time being we were safe and secure.
I was soon on my feet after finding an apartment of our own within a few weeks’ time. I was so grateful that Oregon has the resources women like me need to regain a sense of well-being, hope, and sanity.
By the grace of God we were embraced by a wonderful community whose mantra is “Everyone’s welcome”. No matter what anyone had said about me, or how mislabeled and misunderstood I had become, people proved their humanity by supporting us, loving us, and giving us a safe area to heal and recover. We are beginning to thrive knowing that just our living here, and sharing our lives, being open about our experiences, and giving love, is our contribution to the community. We are not pressured to heal; we just do that naturally in a loving, supportive environment.
My past is a story of suffering, including childhood sexual abuse and human trafficking. Stolen innocence was my beginning into this beautiful gift that we call life. Having my life exposed to so many in this way left me open to be violated again and again by predators or people just needing to make a quick buck. I was physically abused and psychologically tortured. I was trapped and stuck and made ill by my environment.
I finally left an 11-year arrangement where I was handled and forced to live like a second class human being. For a while I found myself stuck emotionally and unable to grow. But through trial and error, I became a complex social being and learned to bear the stigma of my past. These tragic experiences gave me keen eye to recognize when my youngest daughter had been violated by a trusted family friend. Knowing what I had lacked during that period in my own life enabled me to be attentive, loving, and keep an open and ongoing dialog to her needs and her feelings about what happened.
I love life and am on a loving journey of healing and joy. Thanks to God. I am authentic and have a passion for people. My purpose in life is to serve and help, so I decided with the Holy Spirit in tow to pursue my dream of helping others who have become stuck and are unhappy or suffering in life, find their way out and find a road to happiness and health.
While at a financial aid appointment one day, I saw a flyer which asked if I was ready to change my life and live my dream—it was a flyer for Soroptimist’s Live Your Dream: Education & Training Awards for Women. It resonated with me and I felt a resounding YES!!!!
By God’s hand I was notified just a few weeks after submission that Soroptimist of Corvallis, a volunteer club for women, had decided to honor me and award me with a $3500 award, and they said I am amazing! The first thing I did was hit my knees as my entire past became just that, the past tense. My future seemed to solidify in my mind’s eye. I felt much more than just the human recognition (which in itself was wonderful), but I also felt a deeper level of validation than I had ever known. Like wow, it’s really, really, really going to be alright, knowing that I can succeed, and the award gave me a sense of pride for the authenticity of my human experience.
So I want to say thank you very much for this opportunity and for the enhanced sense of personal power it has given me. I am honored here in my community for my strength, my faith, and my determination to overcome. Even though I have seen much pain and suffering, and though I still face obstacles (like everyone else), I have a greater sense of freedom because of all I have healed from and risen above. And the future looks incredible!
So thanks and thanks and thanks again. A million thank you’s are not enough to convey the gratitude I feel.
2017 Live Your Dream Awards Recipient