Scars Speak

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What comes to mind when you read the word SCAR?

A scar can be left over from a surgery or a “trophy” on a veteran of war. It can be a reminder of a painful accident or a traumatic physical assault. And not all scars are visible to the eye. Sometimes we carry internal scars caused by wounds from a verbal assault, emotional or psychological damage.

“We’re stronger in the places we’ve been broken.” – Ernest Hemingway

One thing all scars have in common is they tell us that at some point in time, trauma occurred. They also tell us by their nature, the incident that caused the trauma happened in the past. The hurt may or may not remain, but the scar always does.

Some may look at their scars and be unaffected or even laugh because they don’t have any recollection of the actual incident. They may have had surgery and been under anesthesia. Or, they may have received their wound in an accident but their memory of the event has been erased.

There are some people, however, who have to look in the mirror and live with negative memories associated with their scars every day. They are the ones I’m writing about today. Scars caused by abuse, neglect or violence. Their scars are a constant and merciless reminder of pain. The relentless pain of hatred, rejection or violence against their person or spirit. Those memories summon our worst nightmares and haunt us with torment. Sometimes the scars taunt as if to say, “You deserved what you got” or “You’ll never be good enough. You’ve got the scars to prove it”. They are reminders of the powerlessness in abusive encounters. To some, a permanent warning sign to stay inside an imposed boundary. And they can’t be erased. The most we can do is cover them so the world can’t see. Because if the world sees them, they will wonder how our scars came to be, and we can’t bare to reveal or re-live the trauma.

Donita’s mother burned her with cigarettes and left scars from beatings with an iron hanger. Veronica’s uncle sexually assaulted her and her sister leaving a different set of scars. The pain of shame on top of sexual assault with the pressure of keeping a secret no girl should have to bare. Morgan’s arm is scarred with needle marks from a life she desperately wants to forget from her drug-addicted past. As beautiful as she is, Chandler wears scars under her clothes from cutting. No one knows because she masks it with a fake smile. Shauna wears long sleeved blouses and lots of bracelets to cover her wrists after attempting suicide. Makeup and jewelry cannot completely hide years of abuse to Trina’s face and neck at the hands of an abusive husband. Women and girls with faces and bodies acid-burned by their own husbands, fathers, brothers and family members–people they should’ve been able to trust to love and protect them. Every single scar from abuse cries out, “Why me?” Our faces, our bodies, our minds and our spirits are such a deep part of our identity. When we are assaulted in any way that is meant to inflict injury and pain by another, visible or not, it is inexcusable. When it is self-inflicted pain or abuse, we hurt and scar the same.

Thankfully, as the saying goes, beauty truly can come from “ashes”. We can rise to a better place. The other thing that all scars have in common is they Tell a Story. Your story. A very personal story. A painful story. A pain-filled story. But yours, nonetheless. So what’s so great about having a personal painful story? Nothing. That is, nothing in and of itself. But your scars, our scars, tell us and the world, “I am here!” They say without speaking a word, “I lived through it!” THAT is the story. THAT is the grace. It is your badge of courage. It says you are a fighter, a victor.

The truth is, the scars are proof that you made it through. You are meant to be here. And maybe one day, you will come to understand that you lived (or made it through the pain) to tell your story so that others can learn from it. And in so doing, what someone tried to take away from you, (your confidence, self-worth, freedom, identity, voice) ended up positioning you to give strength (and courage and hope) to another. And in the process, gave you back the voice no one could ever truly take.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Freedom Series: Abandonment to Forgiveness

Abandonment to Forgiveness is a 96-page minibook in the Freedom Series created by Michelle Borquez. This booklet shares a story and life-changing principles that turn hopelessness to hope, bitterness to forgiveness, and the impossible into the possible.

When Michelle Moore was fourteen, her mother disappeared from her life. The woman who gave birth to her, cared for her, and shared life–the mother she loved–was gone, and without warning. She’d changed her identity and vanished without a trace. Her mother left no forwarding address and no explanation. She said, “My mom was my best friend.”

Michelle’s world, as she once knew it, was turned upside down overnight. None of the adults in her life could fill in the blanks for her, and adding insult to injury, no one else in the family–her father, her aunt and uncle, her grandparents—seemed to want her either. In Abandonment to Favor, Michelle’s questions echo what every other abandoned child (or person) wants to know:

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Why did the other person get to move on?
  • What am I supposed to do with all of this hurt?

Abandonment leaves a person feeling devastated along with a string of other adjectives: alone, hurt, rejected, sad, angry, bitter, unloved, and the list goes on. Whether it’s a child whose been abandoned, a spouse, friend, or another close relationship, the damage of rejection cuts deep and it takes a great toll. On top of that, the people around her couldn’t understand or relate to the deep pain she carried. When there are no answers, no reasons, no empathy–nothing–the concept of forgiveness doesn’t seem to make any sense. She writes, I couldn’t get past my past.”  And, like so many others, she learned to withhold forgiveness because it gave her a sense of control.

As she moved into womanhood and became a wife and mother, she began to look closer at her abandonment issues. What was it that she really wanted out of life? How did she want the relationships in her life to be that were present and real? She came to understand that holding on to her anger and pain would keep her focused on and locked into the past, when what she desperately wanted was to move forward. Unforgiveness squeezes out our joy and stifles our peace. She wanted freedom from that burden she’d carried around for so long. Over time, Michelle came to realize that to hold on to unforgiveness was really to hold on to a false sense of control. She falsely believed that she could control something that in reality, she had absolutely no power over. The only thing she did have power over was her own choices.

Michelle Moore, Co-author of "Abandonment to Forgiveness"

Although there was no magic bullet, no mantra, no perfect words or behaviors that could reverse or change the reality or the feelings that came from her abandonment, Michelle chose to take what happened to her and use it for good. She purposed to free herself by embracing biblical truths about forgiveness, her own worth, and allowing God’s love to flow into the devastated places in her heart and fill them with hope and promise for her future. She reset expectations, embraced gratefulness for the good things in her life, and chose to take a realistic path of understanding that she could only control the things that were in her grasp.

In the middle section of this booklet, there’s a mini Bible study by Paige Henderson where, in part, she takes readers through a list of myths and truths about forgiveness. One of the biggest myths is a little like the chicken and egg question about what comes first: forgiveness or healing? Truth: We can’t heal until we forgive. “Forgiving is truly an issue of counting the cost and deciding… that either you can stay bitter and deal with the totality of issues that come with that choice, or you can heal… and live!

In the last section, “Steps to Freedom,” Sharon Kay Ball helps define what true forgiveness is and what it is not. She says, When children are abandoned, they learn very quickly not to trust. They learn how to put walls up to protect themselves so they can survive.”  Abandonment leaves us with missing pieces, like a puzzle. When we don’t understand the “whys” that are a part of our puzzle, we tend to try and fill those empty spaces with misfit pieces (people, things, wrong beliefs) that will never fill them. Until we embrace truth, we cannot find our peace and will always be grasping for answers.

In conclusion, she walks readers through the journey to healing by way of reflection and insight, journaling, the importance of telling their story, appropriately grieving the missing pieces, and through brief but meaningful writing assignments that will help them in the healing process. 

Most women have experienced some degree of rejection or abandonment at some point in their lives. Whether it was as devastating as Michelle’s story, or not, emotional shrapnel gets embedded and it needs to come out. Ultimately, the goal is to move from victim to survivor. It’s time to get free, embrace God’s love, and move forward. “Forgiveness brings ultimate freedom” — Set yourself free!

Purchase the book: Abandonment to Forgiveness

You may also be interested in:

10 Quotes about Forgiveness  

25 Quotes about Anger

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

Note: Rose Publishing provided me with an advanced reader copy of this booklet.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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300,000 Children at Risk of Being Sold for Sex Every Year

 

The Department of Justice states that as many as 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States.

It’s a staggering statistic. The reality of hundreds of thousands of innocent children hidden in the shadows only to be bought, sold, used, and abused for profit and pleasure, every year is unconscionable. It also means they are in desperate need of our voice!

Founder and executive director of Rebecca Project for Human Rights, Malika Saada Saar says, “Americans are right to get angry at the violence against women and girls in developing nations: the Congo rape camps, the widespread practices of female genital mutilation in West Africa and the infanticide of females in China.

Our digust at the violence committed against women and girls is heightened by the culture of impunity that allows the perpetrators of these crimes to go free without condemnation or punishment. That culture also turns victims into criminals, such as the girls in Thailand who are beaten and raped and then ostracized by their families and society.

But our indignation must be turned inward, too. Here in the United States, there is a similar culture of impunity when young American girls are sold for sex. There are 100,000 to 300,000 children between 11 and 14 who are vulnerable to being sold for sex by pimp-captors every year in the United States, according to government statistics.” Read the Full Article: U.S. Should Stop Criminalizing Sex Trafficking Victims.

The Rebecca Project for Human Rights advocates for justice, dignity and policy reform for vulnerable women and girls in the United States and in Africa. You can find them online at rebeccaproject.org and on Twitter @rebeccaproject.

Now that you are aware, help spread the word, and if you see something, say something!

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Phone 1-888-373-7888 or Text text BeFree (233733) Visit Polaris Project to learn more about Human Trafficking.

Source: U.S. Dept of Justice: OJP Fact Sheet–HumanTrafficking

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Joseph Kony’s Aboke Girls: Child Abduction & Sexual Slavery

Aboke Girls: Children Abducted in Northern Uganda is a true story written by journalist, Els De Temmerman. It is a heart-wrenching account that unfolds the systematic abduction and sexual enslavement of girls from St. Mary’s College in northern Uganda. As shocking reports surfaced of the bold and heinous crimes committed against children under the leadership of the LRA commander, Joseph Kony, the world sat up and took notice. 

Aboke Girls: Children Abducted in Northern Uganda

On October 9, 1996, Kony’s rebel army broke into the Aboke girl’s school in northern Uganda like a thief in the night, kidnapping 139 girls between 12-15 years old.  During his diabolical reign of terror, Joseph Kony turned on his own people. Under his command, young boys were forced to become killers, often of their own parents and family members. Young girls were plucked from their homes, or, in the case of the Aboke girls from St. Mary’s College, an upperscale Catholic girl’s school, they were abducted in the night and forced to become sex slaves for Kony’s men.

Child Sex Slaves & Soldiers

These child sex slaves and killers lived in constant fear of their own lives being taken, and the lives of their families. To survive, they did what they were told.  One ex-child soldier tells of  time he was forced to watch 50 small children being massacred to “teach them a lesson”.  Not with a single bullet, but stabbed, beaten or stoned to death. The brutality was always meant to send a message. Often the private parts were cut off of those already murdered. New child recruits were forced to take part in the killings as part of instilling fear and mindless obedience to Kony’s authority. All, as the book details, on the altar of Joseph Kony.

The girls were given to the adult soldiers for their sexual gratification and servitude. Often made to fetch water from miles away, walking through the night in the treachourous bush for miles to evade capture with nothing more than banana leaves to cover their bloodied feet, surviving regular rapes, beatings to keep them in line, and subsisting on little food or sleep.

Although this story is a part of many parts, it is the story of the Aboke Girls. And although much restoration and healing have taken place and the people of northern Uganda are now peaceful and rebuilding their lives, we remember their sacrifices and courage. For those of us a world away, it may seem like a brief period in time. For those living it, an eternal hell on earth. 

Women Who Lived To Tell Their Stories

Ayako survived a vicious attack of the LRA, but they murdered her husband and two children, burned down her house, and plucked out one of her eyes with a wire. For no reason other than she was moving on the roadside when the LRA approached her, Carcy’s lips and nose were cut off and she was forced to eat them. If she cried, they threatened to slit her throat. Nine other people were brutalized in the same way. This was no conventional war.

Human Rights Violations & the Conflict of War

Aboke Girls takes us through the conflict of war, Kony’s twisted idealogies including the cleansing of the Acholi people after their disloyalty to him, stories of the abductions, two girls who escaped, and the tenacious advocacy and voice of Sister Rachele and her tireless search for her students, along with their parents. In 1998, the UN Commission for Human Rights accepted a resolution demanding immediate release of more than 10,000 abducted children. But to no avail. Then, after years of political posturing, the last Aboke girl returned home in 2000, with 20 still missing. That same year, over 400 children were again reported missing, including a two-year old baby.

Fast forward to 2012: The demonized terror mastermind, Joseph Kony, who once lurked and schemed deep in the bush, has again captured the world’s attention. As documented in the film, Kony2012 by Invisible Children and An Unconventional War, one of the most arrogant and perverse human slave masters, child abductor, murderer, rapist and antagonist is now on the run.  The hunter has become the hunted. 

“He who allows oppression, shares the crime” -Desiderius Erasmus

Els De Temmerman has been an award-winning African correspondent for print and television serving in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. In addition to Aboke Girls: Children abducted in northern Uganda, she also authored The dead are alive: Rwanda, an eyewitness, Africa: Continent in Motion and The Horn of Agony: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of  Uganda’s New Vision, and  has recently launched, The New Nation, a bi-monthly newspaper published by Sudan Advocacy for Development, an NGO registered and based in Juba, South Sudan.

 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Generational Oppression: Girls Become Women who Become Mothers

If it is true that we are products of our environment, how important it is for us women who are mothers to pay close attention to the messages we send to our daughters–step-daughters, granddaughters, nieces, foster children–and other girls in our lives.

The Power of Influence

On one hand, it is exciting to know the power of positive influence that we have in our control as women. By the same token, it is sobering to understand that we can easily abuse that power and cause great intentional or unintentional damage as well.

Women who suffer neglect or abuse as children may grow up to become mothers who neglect and abuse their own. This is also true for men who become fathers. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are some mothers who are perpetually self-focused and make decisions based on satisfying their own (real or perceived) needs and desires. How many stories have we heard about a mother who had multiple lovers in and out of her home, chronic drug/alcohol addictions, or stood by her abusive man?  Maybe she longed for the elusive happily-ever-after, but looked for it in all of the wrong places. Or maybe, she watched her own mother and became–just like her.

Is Home Where the Heart is?

“Home” for some, is a place where a family grows together in love.  In a healthy environment it may conjure up memories of laughter, the smell of cookies baking, the expectation of celebrating holidays and family vacations together, playing games or sharing stories and the security of loving parents.

Yet, for others, home, the place that was meant to offer love, nurturing and safety, may invoke memories of a living hell.

It may have been a dark place where in some cases, not only did mother have lovers in and out of her home, but in and out of her bed–and eventually, in and out of her daughter’s bed. For others, it was an abusive place where the one who was supposed to protect us from an abusive father, step-father or boyfriend, instead looked the other way, told us it was somehow our fault, or taught us that was just how men were. Or, a depressing place where when we needed her to be strong–for herself and for us—she chose instead to be weak and not stand up for what was right: to sober up, wise up, or, to simply think for herself.

We Are Our Daughter’s Teacher

When our daughters watch with their little soft sparking eyes, the abuse, addictions, constant verbal bullying, or violence that their mothers endure, they learn by default that this is how life is.  It is the environment that we have created for her. 

                           To be exposed to something, someone has to be the “exposer”

Through the process, she is wrongly taught who she is, what her station is in life and how life is to be lived. She wrongly believes that’s just how men are, and how a woman is to be treated. As time passes, her senses may become increasingly dull and she may accept it as her life. Eventually, those little soft eyes become hard, along with her heart, and her sparkle is stripped away. 

Then one day, she meets a man that will “take her away” and “make it all better.” Often she mistakes a type of man she has seen somewhere in her childhood, as a hero, someone who will really love her. “Love her” as defined by the only definition she has ever known. Before long, she discovers her knight in shining armor was only a fantasy in her imagination. 

The Cycle Repeats 

Sadly, the cycle repeats itself.  All too often, she believes the lie and settles. She settles because she was a good student. She watched very attentively how her mother taught her–either by words or actions–to keep quiet, to not stand up for herself, to not respect herself and that her opinion didn’t matter. She surmised in fact, that she didn’t matter.
 

     “The mother’s heart is the child’s school-room.” –Henry Ward Beecher

She learned to shut down her feelings because they weren’t important. Shut down her senses so she would forget the grave disappointment and abuse. Shut down her hopes because to have hope, you have to want for something better. But she’s convinced that she doesn’t deserve something better.

There are so many stories and reasons why women are oppressed. But in the cases where there is a choice to flee from an oppressor, be it an abusive relationship or a prison she finds herself in from her own poor choices—we need to love our daughters enough to not take them there with us.

If you are a mother who has made choices to live with abuse in any form, don’t think you are hiding the truth, absorbing the hurt, or living through it alone. You are living it, but she is also living it. You are your daughter’s primary teacher and role model and she is watching you.

She is Watching You… Choose Love.

As mothers, we have the privilege and responsibility to teach our daughter’s about life and love—to nurture them and help grow them into strong women who understand the value of their life, and how life is to be lived.

Like little wooden stacking dolls, we regenerate ourselves. Girls become women who become mothers. When your daughter looks to you as her mirror, what will your reflection say to her? Will she see emptiness, betrayal, disappointment and failure—or, will it speak of her value, self-worth and a promising future? Gift her with the greatest keys a mother can give, the strength of love and hope.

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women
(Photo by yazmdg )

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Sexual Violence Against Women: Rape, Abuse and Incest

TWO MINUTES… What Can You Do in Two Minutes?

Put on your lipstick.  Make a quick phone call.  Check your email. Let the dog out.  Change your dress.  Fix a cup of coffee.  Write a postcard.

 QUICK FACT: Did you know that someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every 2 minutes?

Most research concludes that girls and women are at substantially higher risk of being sexually assaulted than males (Matsakis, 1991). These girls and women are not just part of another crime statistic either. They are people we love–Our sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends, co-workers, and the list goes on.

Understanding the Definitions

RAPE: The crime of forcing somebody to have sex against their will

ABUSE: The physical, sexual, verbal or psychological maltreatment of a person

INCEST: sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry

Sexual assault and violence against women do not discriminate. They happen to girls and women of all races and every religious, educational, and financial background.

QUICK FACT: Did you know that 15 out of 16 rapists will never spend a single day in jail?

Help for Victims of Sexual Assault

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, and publicizes the hotlines’ free, confidential services; educates the public about sexual violence. RAINN also leads national efforts to prevent sexual violence, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

Resources for Assault Victims & Their Advocates

Tips for Sexual Assault Victims

Tips for Friends of the Sexual Assault Victims

International Sexual Assault Resources

More Information on Sexual Violence Against Women

“May the love hidden deep inside your heart find the love waiting in your dreams. May the laughter that you find in your tomorrow wipe away the pain you find in your yesterdays.” –Author Unknown

Recommended Reading

Recovering from Rape by Linda E. Ledray, R.N., PH.D

The Rape Recovery Handbook by Aphrodite Matsakis

As Cicero said, “While there’s life, there’s hope”.  While the recovery is daunting, you made it through.  Your life matters, and you are here for a purpose.  Be there for your sisters, and make sure to be there for yourself–you are worth it!

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photo by erikadotnet)

Sources: RAINN, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Matsakis, Aphrodite. (1991). When the Bough Breaks. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

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