Tag Archives: child abuse survivors

Overcoming Fear to Fight Abuse

Q&A with Abuse Survivor and Founder of Hopeful Hearts Shannon M. Deitz
As a sexual abuse survivor I know first hand the pain that abuse brings, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected. We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public. This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.          Shannon M. Deitz

What do people need to understand about sexual assault and child abuse? How have these tragic crimes continued to take place and have they grown over the past 5 years?

Child abuse is more difficult to determine the true statistics because those reporting the abuse are often outside of the home, however still, 3.6 million referrals are made a year. Both sexual assault and child abuse are issues that render discomfort and disbelief when discussed so it takes an extensive amount of courage to speak up and tell someone what has happened. The stigma of shame and displaced guilt often keep the victim quiet and fearful.
However, the more we can bring awareness to both issues, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the louder survivors can be with their stories, and the more prevalent the issue can become in the public eye. The statistics (from what is reported) rarely change. 1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 15% of them will be under the age of 12 the first time they are assaulted. Often when one is assaulted the shame and guilt are embedded so deep that their defenses become lower and they find themselves in the same situation repeatedly throughout their lifetime.

These crimes continue to remain high in numbers because it is such a difficult and uncomfortable subject. We must pay attention and react and respond instead of turning a blind eye when we notice something out of the ordinary, or when a friend admits to an assault.

One young man confided when he was a freshman in college and rushing a fraternity he walked out of the bathroom at his frat house’s party to find a line of his ‘brothers’ waiting to ‘rape’ a young woman in the bedroom. While he didn’t participate, he also didn’t do anything to help the young woman. To do something would have meant to take a stand, to cause waves, and people instinctively shy away from confrontation. Yet that moment missed to help her still haunts the young man today.

These crimes are not fading, yet the more we continue to bring awareness the better chance those listening to other survivors’ stories will be apt to recognize the abuse they are suffering and want to speak out, and or make safer decisions. In bringing awareness we offer the opportunity for survivors to speak out and help others to know that they are not alone and to inform generations to come, encouraging them to get beyond the discomfort of confrontation.
*statistics taken from RAINN and Child Help
What do people need to understand about survivors of abuse?

Survivors of abuse, both male and female, are not fragile. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors will hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.

What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. I want to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others can relate and recognize that they can also be victorious over their past.

How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given.

What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

Hopeful Hearts Ministry aids the long-term recovery of survivors of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, and public awareness services. Our faith-based care alleviates suffering and helps restore confidence and self-worth.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse. In 2012 a friend said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.” Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Tell us about the I Have a Voice project and the feedback you have received from viewers.

In 2013, I realized the importance of a survivor speaking truth and being heard. I decided to create the “I Have a Voice” YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of survivors of abuse. This hope-filled project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims to overcome their past and be empowered to move forward. Men and women have responded as a result of the videos, expressing their gratitude in knowing they are not alone. They are empowered to move forward in their lives. Since 2013 we have added 2 more I Have a Voice Videos. From one male viewer:

I came across your website yesterday and was very moved to listen to your short YouTube video “I Have a Voice – Childhood sexual abuse and forgiveness”.

Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. I especially liked the part where you defended the (any) abused child by saying “it’s not right” (to take away the voice of a child).

That really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child. ~ James, TX
Shannon M. Deitz is the award-winning author of Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him and Redeemed. She was recently listed as one of the best authors in Houston by CBS Houston Radio.

For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit her website:

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

I Have a Voice

This may be used with permission and credit attributed to Shannon M. Deitz, Hopeful Hearts Ministry 2017.

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, as well as National Child Abuse Prevention month, survivor Shannon Deitz speaks out on the pervasiveness of sexual assault nationwide.

Sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, spans across all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. According to a Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013. On top of the guilt and shame that abuse can bring, most victims know their attackers, which can lead them to be silent about their traumatic experience. Staying silent, however, does not lead to healing, according to Shannon Deitz, abuse survivor and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry. Below is a Q&A with Deitz on this important topic.

about shannon2

Q: What do people need to understand about sexual assault and child abuse? How have these tragic crimes continued to take place and have they grown over the past 5 years?

A: Both sexual assault and child abuse are issues that render discomfort and disbelief when discussed. In both instances it takes an extensive amount of courage to speak up and tell someone what has happened or is going on in the home. The stigma of shame and displace guilt often keep the victim quiet and in fear.

However, the more we can bring awareness to both issues, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the louder survivors can be with their stories, and the more prevalent the issue can become in the public eye. The statistics (from what is reported) rarely change. 1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 15% of them will be under the age of 12 the first time they are assaulted. Often when one is assaulted the shame and guilt are embedded so deep that their defenses become lower and they find themselves in the same situation repeatedly throughout their lifetime.

Child abuse is more difficult to determine the true statistics because those reporting the abuse are often outside of the home, however still, 3.6 million referrals are made a year.

These crimes continue to remain stagnant in numbers because it is inherently a difficult, uncomfortable subject which forces us to pay attention and react and respond instead of turning a blind eye when we notice something out of the ordinary, or when a friend admits to an assault.

One young man confided when he was a freshman in college and rushing a fraternity he walked out of the bathroom at his frat house’s party to find a line of his ‘brothers’ waiting to ‘rape’ a young woman in the bedroom. While he didn’t participate, he also didn’t do anything to help the young woman. To do something would have meant to take a stand, to cause waves, and people instinctively shy away from confrontation. Yet that moment missed to help her still haunts the young man today.

These crimes are not fading, however, and the more we continue to bring awareness the better chance those listening to other survivors’ stories will be apt to recognize the abuse they are suffering and want to speak out, and or make safer decisions. In bringing awareness we offer the opportunity for survivors to speak out and help others to know that they are not alone and to inform generations to come, encouraging them to get beyond the discomfort of confrontation. *statistics taken from RAINN and Child Help

Q: What do people need to understand about survivors of abuse?

A: Survivors of abuse, both male and female, are not fragile individuals. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every single form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the affects of the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.

Q: What has inspired you to reach out to others?

A: I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

Q: Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

A: When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. I want to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others can relate and recognize that they can also be victorious over their past.

Q: How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

A: The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Q: Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

A: My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given.

Q: What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

A: Hopeful Hearts Ministry strives to help those who have suffered abuse not just survive, but to thrive.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse. In 2012 a dear friend of mine said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.” Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry is a 501 c3 National Non-Profit.

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

Hopeful Hearts Ministry Provides a Voice for Survivors

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.45.44 AMApril has been designated as National Sexual Assault Awareness month, as well as National Child Abuse Prevention month in recognition of the pervasiveness of sexual assault nationwide. Sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, spans across all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. According to a Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013. On top of the guilt and shame that abuse can bring, most victims know their attackers, which can lead them to be silent about their traumatic experience. Staying silent, however, does not lead to healing, according to Shannon Deitz, abuse survivor and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry.

“Both sexual assault and child abuse are so devastating to most of us that we don’t even want to think about them being present in our society,” Deitz says. “This makes it difficult for any victim of assault or abuse to feel comfortable enough to speak out, which is exactly what they need to be able to do. Be it a child, a teenager or an adult, anyone who has been abused needs to be able to speak about what has been done to them without question or judgment.” With this in mind, Hopeful Hearts Ministry started the “I Have a Voice” abuse awareness project where survivors share their personal stories of abuse (domestic, sexual, incest, rape, neglect, emotional and verbal) through intensely personal and honest YouTube videos. The videos show the power of giving a VOICE to survivors that was once kept hidden, and not only aides in their personal healing, but shows others they are not alone and there is reason for hope.

Deitz has the unfortunate firsthand experience of being a survivor of sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult. She sees the month of April as an opportunity to encourage other survivors to speak up and speak out, knowing that it is a crucial step towards healing. “The shame, despair and inability to cope with the painful events can lead to depression as well as dangerous behavior, as survivors tend to seek other ways to block out the memories and dull the pain.” comments Deitz. “My main goal is to help others see their worth and become the best they can be.” Through the power of her own testimony, she helps people see that they no longer have to live as a victim, but are worth so much more.

For those who know someone who has been abused or assaulted, she encourages them to be good listeners. “Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected,” she explains. “We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public.” April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.”

Deitz’s willingness to share her story in her award-winning book, Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him, as well as listen to other survivor’s stories through the Hopeful Hearts Ministry, has created hope and a safe place for abuse survivors of all ages and backgrounds.

Mary from Canada shares, “I am blessed and thankful for the support I received and continue to receive from Hopeful Hearts Ministry. It’s a good feeling knowing that no matter how rough my road to healing may be, I always have genuine caring support.”

The “I Have a Voice” videos are opening new doors for Hopeful Hearts Ministry outreach. After watching the video ‘Child Sexual Abuse and Forgiveness’, a gentleman personally contacted Deitz in appreciation. “Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. It really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child. Your ministry is powerful, important, and needed.” Deitz continues reaching out to those who are struggling through her speaking engagements, blog, Just Show Up, and ministry website.

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

I Have a Voice

I Have a Voice – Rape and Abuse Survivor Shannon Deitz Shares Hope

about shannon4Shannon Deitz is a woman in love with God, excited about her faith, and secure in her purpose, but it wasn’t always this way. She was only three years old when the abuse began by a family member. While still a teen, her boyfriend was tragically killed in an auto accident, and she began to question a God who would claim a young man with so much life yet to be lived. At the fragile age of 17, she was raped and continued to distrust a God who would allow such things. Again, as a freshman in college, she was raped a second time and earnestly put as much distance between herself and God as she possibly could.

It has been said that the best thing about hitting bottom is, when we do, we have no place else to go but up. Such was the case with Deitz. Growing up with such evil, it is no wonder she struggled with low self-esteem. At the age of 27, having run from God as far as she could go, she found herself at the bottom of a life that was no longer tolerable. With no place to turn, she found God, surrounding her with his peace. It was the beginning of a love story that continues to unfold day by day.

Shortly after her romance with God began in earnest, Deitz felt a distinct calling to begin teaching the teens at her local church. Not only did this give her an opportunity to share her own struggles as a teen and tell others how God changed her personal tragedy into triumph, it also allowed her to look beyond the traditions to more deeply explore the intricacies of her faith.

Her work with teens led to a full-time youth ministry. Within the next four years, that ministry blossomed, allowing her to witness God’s amazing work in her church and her life. In 2007, her youth group was voted in the top five of EWTN’s Catholic Youth Groups in the United States, and in 2008, she was invited to speak on God’s unfailing love at the World Youth Day Festivities in Sydney, Australia. In 2011, she was again asked to speak at the WYD Festivities in Madrid, Spain.

Having spread the message of God’s amazing love to thousands of teens, she eventually felt called to broaden the sphere of influence through her personal story. Shannon wrote Exposed: Inexcusable Me…Irreplaceable Him (Believers Press 2010) as a way of offering encouragement and hope to both teens and adults suffering from physical and emotional abuse. In 2011, she stepped away from her parish ministry to have more time for speaking engagements and to start Hopeful Hearts Ministry, an advocacy non-profit organization (501c3) giving a voice to survivors of abuse. The ministry exists to help others understand their worth and realize their full potential while also providing support to outreach programs that serve to educate and improve the lives of those similarly victimized. Hopeful Hearts Ministry strives to help those who have suffered abuse not just survive but thrive. Beginning in 2012, Shannon has been called to keynote retreats and seminars for women’s groups in Mississippi, Washington and Texas.

Deitz’s purpose in founding Hopeful Hearts was to help give a voice to those who are afraid to speak out. “My experience in helping survivors of abuse is no matter the age or the type of abuse, you don’t feel like you have a voice. You are either shamed into silence, made to feel guilty, or belittled enough that you begin to believe you deserve what is being done or said. You don’t matter. I think it’s time for survivors to recognize that they do matter and they are not alone. It is my desire to be a voice for them and hopefully encourage survivors regardless of age, gender, or race to begin the conversation about abuse. The more we talk about it, the better chance the cycle will be broken,” says Deitz.

In 2013, Hopeful Hearts Ministry launched the I Have a Voice YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of abuse survivors. The I Have a Voice project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims overcome their past and be empowered to move forward.

Deitz was honored with the Family Time Women of Achievement Award for Women’s Advocate in 2014. Her monthly column, “Shannon Deitz: On Hope,” is particularly geared towards parents of teens. She has also contributed articles to CatholicLane.com, Lifestyle & Charity magazine and Catholic Women magazine. She and her husband, Neal, live in Kingwood, Texas, where they are active in their local church and community. Together, they present a refreshingly honest (and sometimes humorous) marriage seminar entitled “The 3 C’s of Marriage: Covenant, Commitment and Compromise.” The couple has two sons, Ryan and Seth, who provide them with endless joy and reason to continually count their blessings.

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com