Author who survived child abuse teaches her experience to help others. #superheroalert

Lukysha Sims-Neal, a child abuse survivor who writes a blog about living beyond childhood trauma, comes to us today to talk about how we can all, survivors or not, help the healing. Some of her answers are really challenging and even surprising, so I hope you’ll read all the way to the end. This is important stuff, SuperPeeps.

Lukysha, thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your survivor experience on #superheroalerts. I can’t imagine your bravery, and I deeply appreciate your perspective.

I really want to focus on ways that we can all support survivors and help protect each other from abuse and care for each other afterwards. First, can you tell us a little bit about the story of your experience? Only as much as you are comfortable sharing.

My knowledge is simply based on my own experiences. This question has crossed my mind so many times. I felt like I was kept from living a life that dealt with the truth so that no one would know my experiences as a child. My job was located in a sub-terrainian sweatshop, where the strong decided the day and the weak suffered through it. I was at the end of my rope. Everything that had taken place in my life up to that point had drained me of my vitality and left me without the will to remain. I knew then that I had to push forward and refuse to be silent.

Based on your experience, what advice do you have for survivors to become their own heroes–to heal themselves, and others, both before and after abuse?

The impact of abuse is massive with any survivor; it permeates every aspect of their lives. It shows up in our personal power, and how one views oneself. Many will turn off their ability to feel, because it puts them in a place of vulnerability.

“It is also important to get yourself back into your body; a process that is terrifying for many. While it is impossible to heal all of the damage that has been done overnight; it is very possible to overcome the negative effects it has on your life.” I believe the best advice I would give survivors to help themselves is that this will require patience, perseverance, and lots of self-acceptance. Start a journal to help write your thoughts and feelings. Working with someone who is qualified to help makes the road to restoration a lot more bearable.

What have other people done that has been heroic, in helping you along your journey? How can non-survivors become heroes for survivors?

Wow, the most powerful thing that other people did to help me stand tall and regain me, myself and I, was to listen
to me, which is the most greatest feeling beyond time and space. The greatest gift non-survivors can give to become heroes for survivors is to believe, trust, support and listen to them, don’t push them away. Don’t judge or blame the person for what happened.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

Send Me An Angel To Set Me Free (Living Beyond a Childhood Trauma ™). This most definitely is not a children’s book; this is more than just an eye-opening memoir. I invite the reader to explore the full depths of dealing with rape, verbal abuse, molestation, depression, suicide and highlighting the importance of
learning to love again.
Within the pages of Send Me An Angel To Set Me Free you should be compelled to process your replace and remember cycle to a point of completion, and by allowing some key steps to finally take place, you should also feel more empowered and encouraged, understanding that we are never truly alone in the challenges we may face along our journey we call life.

Is there anything else you’d like to end with–any other advice we can take away in our search to go above and beyond and become heroes for others?

Please don’t ask a survivor to forgive and forget. First of all, there is nothing we would rather do than be able to forget because we can’t. Another piece of advice to go beyond and become a hero for others: Please don’t ask a survivor if they are done dealing with it yet. That is a hurtful and shaming question. The process of healing may take an entire lifetime.

***

Wow, that’s some truly powerful advice. At this point I really had to take the interview and think, because this cuts. A lot of us see heroism as an active thing, so we have a tendency to get all up in the sufferer’s business, but Lukysha makes it very clear that causes more pain than healing. Passive things: listening, NOT asking questions–those are the things she’s asking from those who want to help survivors. That’s a very sobering lesson. What we really need is to just step out of the way, knock our egos down a notch, and stop thinking about ourselves as actors, so that we can truly give the victim space to become her own actor.

That cuts.

At the risk of talking too much, when I should be closing this interview, I was deeply struck by Lukysha’s statement, “Please don’t ask a survivor to forgive and forget.” I should let other, not-me, people do the talking, whether I agree or understand one hundred percent or not, so read those links.

There have been a number of studies done on the power of forgiveness for mental self-healing and even physical cardiovascular health. I know a mental health professional who runs her entire practice around forgiveness, with great results. But often when those of us who aren’t child or sexual abuse survivors say, “forgive and forget”, we’re really devaluing the experience of the survivor to protect our own feelings, or even forcing a premature resolution to avoid letting justice be done. There is a huge difference between a survivor’s personal inner stage of “forgiveness” when the abuse no longer dominates her life, vs the acceptance or condoning “forgiveness” that says “this isn’t a big deal.” At its worst extreme, the latter might even force the sufferer to keep allowing abuse to happen. Justice matters. We want survivors to experience the health benefits of inner forgiveness, but most of us can’t even learn to forgive what some idiot posted on Facebook yesterday. We’re the worst kind of hypocrites.

Gentleness. Passive steps, giving space, without rushing questions. That’s our job. Let the survivor become the actor.

Lukysha gets the last word.

***

Please don’t ask a survivor to forgive and forget. First of all, there is nothing we would rather do than be able to forget because we can’t. Another piece of advice to go beyond and become a hero for others: Please don’t ask a survivor if they are done dealing with it yet. That is a hurtful and shaming question. The process of healing may take an entire lifetime.

And last question, Lukysha, and thank-you again, so much for sharing: what is the most important sound in the world to you?

The most important sound in my time and space would be the power of my voice.

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