When a child discloses sexual abuse, it is common for parents, caregivers, and other caring adults to experience a multitude of feelings, ranging from anger and distress to confusion and numbness.  In moments like these, it might even be difficult for families to imagine a future for their child of recovery, growth, and viability.

The Hope Initiative seeks to support families that are impacted by child sexual abuse through means of reflection and exchange. By inviting people with lived experiences to share testimonials on the importance of hope and resilience, The Hope Initiative wishes to inspire families of a heartening and promising future for their child post disclosure of child sexual abuse.

Svava is a survivor of child sexual abuse and the co-founder of a nationwide child sexual abuse prevention and education organization in Iceland called “Blatt afram.” She is also a certified instructor and facilitator for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children, as well as a certified Crisis Intervention Specialist, a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, a BellaNet Teen support group facilitator, a Certified TRE® Provider, and a Trauma Recovery Coach.

The mother of three children, Svava has dedicated her life to ending the cycle of child sexual abuse through education, awareness, and helping survivors heal and thrive.  She is a certified facilitator for Advance!, a program created by Connections to restore authentic identity.  Every week, she writes about healing after trauma on her blog and also leads a discussion forum on child sexual abuse healing and recovery online, in her private Facebook groups, and on her YouTube channel. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and two rescue cats.

What would you share with families regarding the importance of hope?

“The important part to remember is that the worst is over. Once the abuse has stopped, healing can begin. Healing after abuse is hard and takes time but children can and do heal. And the sooner we have the opportunity to heal, the sooner we can begin to put the past behind us.  As family members, keep in mind that survivors need to be believed and need to be encouraged with the truth that we can heal.  When the people around us belive in us and hold hope for us until we are able to believe in ourselves, we can move beyond the abuse.”

What would you share with families regarding the importance of resilience?

“Hope builds resilience. Hope is what helps us to let go of thoughts of the past long enough to believe in our ability to build a better future, to do the things we know we need to do to heal from trauma and abuse. We borrow hope from other survivors, we borrow hope from people who love us, we borrow hope from those who show us how to until we can do it for ourselves. Resiliency is contagious; when you show the survivor in your life that you are able to help bear the burden of their pain with them, they begin to believe in their ability to carry the burden on their own. They begin to believe that they are strong enough to overcome their trauma.”

Ignacio is a culture sociologist with expertise in sexual trauma, healing, and liberation for marginalized people. They are an internationally known gender non-conforming speaker, trainer, and consultant. Ignacio is the Founder and Executive Director at The Heal Project, where they work to prevent and end Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Ignacio is the host of Connecting The Dots, and interview show on how CSA shows up in everyday media, as well as the co-host of Caution: Unrestricted!, a talk show that breaks open secual stigma and taboo. You can follow Ignacio’s work on social media (IG-FB-TW) @heal2end, and on their website heal2end.org.

What would you share with families regarding the importance of hope?

“We keep praying, we keep trying to do manifestations and sometimes even trying to negotiate with god or a higher power to help us in these moments. I think people get very afraid to hear those words, as life-long journey of healing, but it is. The hope part is very beautiful, because it is intentional. If we hope for something, it is on our minds, we are intending, and sometimes when we hope for something, we actually create the conditions in which that hope can manifest.”

What would you share with families regarding the importance of resilience?

“When I think of resilience, I think that child needs to have all the time in the world to come to that place for themselves, and that is the responsibility of the adults and people who care for them to create the conditions and be the model, to introduce them to other survivors, be around other families that are going through the same thing, and show them ‘we will be OK, as a unit’, and that is not about the child ‘getting over it’, going back to school, hanging aout with friends again – because that might never ever be the same.

Once something like this has happened, it can never be the same. So, as adults, we need to understand that there is a tragedy that has happened to this child and we have to understand the magnitude of that.  So as adults, we means holding the container of resilience to help them get past this and do anything it takes to support our child.”

What would you share with families regarding the importance of hope?

“As the parent of a teen rape victim, I need hope to help her, despite her feelings of being dirty, unworthy of being around “clean” people, and the ensuing situation which was heartbreaking. Hopecomes and goes, and isn’t always easy to maintain when every new idea fails. Most importantly, I realized I needed our friends and family, as well as my faith in God, to give me hope – and help – to get my daughter away from the friends who were encouraging her to continue to destroy her life and herself. Hope shared is stronger that hope I could maintain myself.

Today, thanks to that shared hope, my daughter is in a new environment where she is slowly recovering and beginning to feel she has some worth.

I now feel hopeful that my daughter will not only live, but that she will be happy.”

What would you share with families regarding the importance of resilience?

“Never give up. It is hard to stay strong, to keep trying when everything has failed, but that is the role of the parent. When our children suffer, we suffer, but they rely on us even as they reject us, particularly when they’re filled with self-loathing. When our children see us being strong and fighting to save them, they notice and know that we love them no matter what. They feel weak and need our strength, even when we feel we have none left.

God has answered my prayers more times than I can count, including during this difficult time when I simply prayed for my daughter to come home or to let me know where she was. My biggest prayer was answered when I was able to get her away from home and help her begin the healing process. My daughter is alive, and healthy, and getting help for the damage caused by her rapist.”

Aishah is an award-winning cultural worker who, for 28 years, has examine the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and sexual violence. Her lived experiences as a survivor of childhood and adult sexual violence, a black feminist Lesbian, and a 20-year Buddhist practitioner committed to healing, accountability and compassionate justice inform the creation of her work.

She is the editor of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology, love WITH accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse (AK Press), and the producer/director of the 2006 groundbreaking Ford Foundation-funded film, NO! The Rape Documentary. Aishah enjoys viewing through provoking narrative and documentary films.

She is on FB, IG and TW @Afrolez

What would you share with families regarding the importance of hope?

“We need hope to move forward to rise from the ashes like a phoenix or emerge like a lotus in the mud. Hope propels us forward to see that which we may not even be able to see in this present moment but to know that something on the horizon supports our healing.

I’m one of millions worldwide impacted by the childhood sexual abuse pandemic. I’m also one of many working towards ending the violence. Being a part of this work has given me hope. Through this work, I see, encounter, and engage with people who are on their heling journeys that are parallel and also ahead of my own.

Our lives don’t have to stop or be defined by those moments of our victimization. We need to acknowledge it, and we don’t have to be defined by the experience. For those who can be public about our trauma and subsequent healing journeys, we can play a supporting role in cultivating hope for those who haven’t yet begin their journeys.”

What would you share with families regarding the importance of resilience?

“Resilience looks very different in everyone’ life. So, what is defined as a resilient situation in one way doesn’t necessarily mirror another situation. I believe this is where hope and resilience go hand-in-hand.

…the first acknowledgement of what happened to me was the first step toward resilience. I was in deep denial before that, which was a coping mechanism. When I was an adolescent, I had to be in denial to survive. My parents didn’t remove me from the situation despite my telling them about the abuse. As a young adult, I learned to name the harm that enabled me to dig up the root of the abuse. The following steps included cultivating self-care resources through therapy, meditation, and engaged activism to disrupt and end sexual harm. These resources are hoe I break my silence and support others doing the same.”

“What would you share with families regarding the importance of hope?”

“What would you share with families regarding the importance of resilience?