5 Signs of Abuse

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child abuse
Experts state that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Here are the signs of abuse and how you can help. (Flickr | Patrik Nygren)

Don't be afraid to hear a survivor's story. Survivors want to know they are heard and will be safe and protected. They do not need to be "shut up," because their situation is too hard to hear. They need people who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for them if the choice is made to go public.

Survivors Can Live a Normal Life.

It is important to know that abuse does not have to define a survivor. You can overcome its debilitating effects. If you have been abused, find that "safe place," that "someone" you can share your pain with. The more you talk about what has been done to you, the more you will heal. Although it will never "disappear" from your past, it will be a chapter of your life that can be closed. The more you keep the shame, guilt and fear locked away, the more power you continue to give the perpetrator and the more likely you will continue to remain their victim.

If you want to remain anonymous, write your story in a journal, but get it out. Each time you release the abuse from the depths of your memory you are giving yourself a VOICE and the power to fight back. Specific details do not need to be remembered or recalled. There is no healing in putting yourself through the details, however, admitting that it happened is freedom.

Those of us who have survived abuse are not fragile individuals. We are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual or verbal. Every form of abuse affects us emotionally, lowering self-esteem and our sense of worth. We often hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for us to heal is to have a voice to what has been done or said to us, to be heard and to know we are supported and loved.

Shannon Deitz 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.

She is founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry and 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. Shannon 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.

To read more visit hopefulheartsministry.com.

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