OCRCC Keynote Speaker: Kiara Ruth (recording + script)
Mid December I was invited to speak to an audience of Survivors, Family & Friends of Survivors and Supporters of Survivors that have experienced Sexual Assault by The Orange County Rape Crisis Center at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. It was such an amazing opportunity and I am so thankful to have been the keynote speaker for that evening.
I wish you could have been there and while I am sad that you missed it - I have recorded myself reading so that you can hear exactly what I said. And for those of you who can't listen I have placed the words below (or you can do both)
Good evening, I would like to first thank the OC Rape Crisis Center and recognize the work that they provide and more specifically Laing for creating space for me come and share my story. Here tonight with me, I have my family: My husband, Dr. Terrance Ruth, and our son, Miles who is 8 years old. I am so thankful to be apart of a family unit that is loving, supportive and most of importantly we are family that loves Jesus, and we keep him at the center of everything that we do. Before I jump into what I will be sharing tonight – I want to lead us in a guided meditation – are you guys ready?
Begin in a comfortable seated position. Feel rooted, safe, and comfortable through your seat. This guided meditation script will help you feel less anxious. Once you’re settled, close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four. Try to keep your breathing at this slow pace. As you inhale, imagine that you are breathing in calmness, peace, strength and healing. As you exhale, imagine that you are breathing out all of your anxiety, stress, and worry. There is nothing for you to worry about right now in this present moment. All there is to do in this moment is breathe. Feel your anxiety slip away with each exhale. If your mind drifts to feelings of worry, be mindful. Notice it, without judgment, and then bring your attention back to the breath. You are strong and can handle anything life throws at you. Notice how calm you feel as you sit and breathe. Open your eyes and take this feeling of relaxation with you as I move forward.
In April of 2020, I took a leap of bravery and decided to share my story of sexual abuse through a series of blog post. While it was freeing and very liberating it also opened old wounds and lots of conversations were had. I had to revisit my thoughts and feelings around the abuse. I contemplated whether I was healing or just saying that because it made me sound like a survivor and not a victim. I ultimately realized that yes, I am healing, and yes, I have a long journey ahead.
It was hard to open up about what happened. The first time at 2 years old my mom knew because of the physical evidence. But the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so many more times after that – I was old enough to share but scared enough to stay silent. I ended up sharing my story with someone I felt safe with (my peds doctor) which in turn opened the door for me to share with my close family.
Feelings of shame and guilt are real. My feelings about the abuse were not immediate and they surfaced many years later. When I was younger, I could bury my feelings but as I entered different stages of my life I had to acknowledge and accept that someone abused me and I did not abuse myself, this made room for me to accept that it was not my fault. I did not bring on the abuse and I had nothing to be ashamed about. No matter what the circumstances were, the only persons who was responsible for the assault were my perpetrators.
As a child, teen, and well into my adult life I realized that flashbacks and upsetting memories were a thing. My traumatic experience keeps me on high alert. I shared a lot about this in my blog series and how it directly affected my motherhood and marriage. I am overly sensitive to certain smells and touch. I try to anticipate and prepare for triggers, pay attention to my body's danger signals and take immediate steps to soothe. I am going, to be honest, and upfront; I was not prepared for how the triggers would show up in the beginning but as I begin to see a therapist it really helped me pinpoint the different triggers and ways to properly cope.
Reconnecting with my body and feelings has probably been the hardest thing for me as I walk through recovery. It was so easy for me to shut down which stopped me from experiencing happiness. I would disconnect emotionally and physically (sometimes I still do) this keeps me from living out my best life. Less now, but I would walk through seasons of feeling disconnected, not being able to concentrate, and physically being closed off to sexual pleasure. I found that movement, prayer, and telling myself and my husband exactly what it is that I needed helps me in my healing process.
It is important to me that I stay connected with others. I always try to schedule a coffee with a friend, hop on a phone call or engage with people on social media to keep me connected to life. “Support from others is vital to your recovery” while remembering that “support does not always mean that I must talk about what happened or dwell on it”.
Lastly, healing from sexual trauma takes time. It is not something that will happen right away, and the memories do not disappear forever. This can sometimes make you feel down but there are so many ways to reduce your feelings around the trauma. I found that when I rest my body and mind it creates a sense of balance for me. Another way I keep myself afloat is by making sure that I am taking care of my body: physically, mentally, and emotionally. All these things contribute to the healing process.
I know a lot of the above was about the survivor, but I wanted to also share ways you can support someone who has been abused. Always make sure that they know that you love them. Try to reassure them that the abuse was not their fault. Always be patient to the process. Some people take longer than others and it is important that your loved one knows that you are there no matter how long it takes. Encourage therapy or seeking help but do it in a loving way.
Before I close:
to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with
you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over the island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice will be served, as small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you.
To girls everywhere, I am with you
Thanks for your time.
Meditation By: The Daily Shift
Poem By: Chanel Miller