Tag Archives: rape survivors

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

Q&A with Shannon M. Deitz Abuse Survivor, Founder of Hopeful Hearts Part 2

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April National Sexual Assault Awareness month, as well as National Child Abuse Prevention month in recognition of the pervasiveness of sexual assault nationwide.

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 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 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 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 talents you’ve been given.

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

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

Every dollar earned from the book EXPOSED, the HOPEFUL HEARTS CHARM, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, RETREATS, ETC goes toward the Hopeful Hearts Ministry. We are a 501 c3 National Non-Profit

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.

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

This may be used with permission and credit given to Shannon Deitz 2015.

Awareness Can Help Stop Child Abuse and Sexual Assault

about shannon2April 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.

Survivors of abuse 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 form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering 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 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. Shannon M. Deitz

Q&A with Shannon M. Deitz Abuse Survivor, Founder of Hopeful Hearts Part 1

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.

Your book, Exposed: Inexcusable Me…Irreplaceable Him, is a no-holds-barred accounting of your personal self-destructive journey and how, with God’s help, you triumphed. 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 helped 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. By writing EXPOSED I wanted to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others could relate and recognize that they could also be victorious.

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 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.

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

“I have a Voice” -Holly

My name is Holly…I felt invisible

…but I have a voice.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry presents 5 videos for the I Have a Voice Video Project.

This project is set to help survivors of abuse:

  • Recognize the abuse they have suffered and bring it out of the darkness and into the light….
  • Understand they are not alone and the abuse they have endured does not define the person that they are.
  • Overcome being a victim and realize the full potential of their lives.

For more information visit www.hopefulheartsministry.com

“I have a Voice” -Shannon

My name is Shannon…

…and I have a voice.

Healing and the many facets of forgiveness.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry presents the first of 5 videos for the I Have a Voice Video Project.

This project is set to help survivors of abuse:

  • Recognize the abuse they have suffered and bring it out of the darkness and into the light….
  • Understand they are not alone and the abuse they have endured does not define the person that they are.
  • Overcome being a victim and realize the full potential of their lives.

For more information visit www.hopefulheartsministry.com

I am a Survivor

A Conversation with Author and Abuse Survivor,

Shannon Deitz

ShannonIt is hard, but it is healing…

…when you expose things.

Q. I look around me and all I see is everything getting worse and worse. How am I supposed to find hope in that? 

 A. God brings good out of everything—this I know for certain and would bet my life upon. There was a time when I felt that every time I turned around another bad thing was happening to me. “Really, God?” I would think and let the anger towards Him and everyone else around me build up until I was blinded by anything that could be good. I was so stuck in focusing on the “bad” stuff that I wouldn’t allow myself to see the good that was forming from it all. The more that I stayed beaten down, the more I made decisions that reflected that attitude—which brought on even more “bad” stuff. It wasn’t until I literally could not live stuck in that hopeless despair and anger that I finally gave it all to God. I felt there was nothing to lose because it was all bad anyway. Once I started to look up and see what He could do better with my life then that is when I started to see the good that was going on around me. Now I look back at that time in my life and I thank God for it…not that I’m glad it was done to me, but for the strength and wisdom I received having lived through it.

Q. I was raped by my boyfriend and now everyone acts like I’m the one who did something wrong. How am I supposed to get over this and move on with my life? 

A. First of all, I am so sorry this happened to you. No one deserves to be raped, taken advantage of or abused in any way. When it is done by someone you trust, like your boyfriend, it is a deeper wound to heal and it often is harder for others to understand because they can’t fathom that person acting in that way. Stick with those that love you and are there to support you through this difficult time. You can’t make others believe you, but you can stick to the truth and soon enough the actions of your boyfriend will be revealed. Please go to counseling and talk about what happened to you. Talking is the best healing, along with prayer. And, remember, what has been done to you does not define you. One step at a time is how you move on with your life, trusting God has more for you in this life. You will get through this.

Q. Like you, I suffered with feelings of unworthiness for years. I’ve finally come to see myself as a beloved child of God and now I’d really like to help others, just as you are doing. How did you get started?

A. I started by helping through my church with teens. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to help them not make the same mistakes I made. And, if they felt they already had made those mistakes or things had already been done to them, I wanted them to know that their life was not over or defined by these things. From there I just kept talking and telling about what had happened to me and how I overcame the depression and despair. More and more people wanted to know so they asked me to speak to their groups. Honestly, I wish I could give you a formula for how I got started, but it truly was a multitude of little moments that led up to what I am doing today. My advice would be to just start talking and sharing your experience and offering your time to groups you think could benefit from the wisdom God has given you through your journey. If you are feeling called, then know that God will open the doors. 

How can I know that God loves me?  

A. Take in a breath. And let it out. With every breath you take, He is beside you, within you, around you. I think the hardest part about “knowing” is the ability to feel worthy of receiving His love, because how can we truly know it unless we accept it? That’s the real question. When I think about knowing God’s love for me, I think of Jeremiah 1:5—“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” When I think of God’s love, I think of how He knew me and wanted to create me, just as He knew you and wanted to create you and continues to want you to fulfill the purpose for which He created you. 

Visit Shannon’s blog at http://www.shannonmdeitz.com/category/blog