I have forgiven you in my heart. I really want to believe I have. I am slowly beginning to understand how dysfunctional our family was when I look at it through the lens of someone older. And if anybody were to ask me “Do you remember when…?” I would probably hesitate and say “Yes?” Because as I have gotten older, I remember less of the happiness and more of the sadness surrounding my childhood. The memories are still there, I just have no feelings towards them. Come to think of it, I do not have any real feelings at all. They were stolen from me when I was a child. You see I am a survivor of sexual abuse.
When I was a child there were no words in my vocabulary to accurately describe what was happening to me. Happening to me, by a person who lived in the same house. That person was just a boy of maybe twelve when his parents separated. Being the oldest of four siblings, he struggled to understand what was happening in his life. We all struggled. Our mother probably most of all, as her depression and alcoholism took a permanent root in her life. My brother being given a power he had no control over, became the man of the house.
As time wore on my brothers spent more time out of the house than in and me being the youngest, could not come and go as I pleased. Many times, I just play by myself. Other times my oldest brother offered to play with me. I was grateful for the attention, but little did I know that these games we played, were just a precursor of what was to come.
My nightmare began the night you first entered my room. Climbing on top of me, you used the weight of your body to rub yourself against me. I remember the motion of you going back and forth until you were done. You stole my innocence, breached the boundaries of trust, and left behind a scar that would never heal.
Yet I was the one who paid the price after telling our mom. As I tried to explain to her what it was you had done, I found I couldn’t really. In the end, I was the one being sent back to bed not to be believed, and you instead of being sorry denied it even happened. I knew there were other things I could have told her but looking back I can see it was all too much for her. So, I filled the bottom of my bed with stuffed animals and vowed to protect them, knowing, in reality, I couldn’t even protect myself.
Soon this scare became my secret, and any feelings associated with it I erased. Building a wall, I worked hard to keep people out, and from that distance at school, I was perceived as strange. Having no clue how to interact with other people my age, I was constantly laughed at and bullied. Not knowing how to defend me the abuse continued. My self-worth was basically nonexistent. School should have been a great experience for me but instead, it became another nightmare. This time I told no one what was happening to me and any feelings associated with it I once again erased. My solution? To float away in my mind. And as I got older this floating away became more frequent. Sometimes striking without warning. When people talked to me, I could not recall a single thing they said. When I read a chapter in a book, I remembered nothing. Important dates also became forgotten. I had trouble focusing on anything I didn’t want to deal with.
And then one day it happened. I found myself looking at how other people were living their lives in comparison to mine, and I felt lost. So much of my life had been spent hiding on the inside, that I became socially inept at knowing what a normal relationship was. The first boy to look my way, caused me to jump all in with my eyes closed. As it turned out I was one of the many girlfriends he had at that time. Every boy I dated after that got progressively worse and eventually, they turned violent, as I struggled to find a sense of worth in myself from them. In my last relationship, I was physically and mentally abused for eight years by an alcoholic who I thought would one day quit. The only good thing to come out of that relationship was my daughter. And it wasn’t until I fled with my daughter and went into a shelter, that I started the process of healing myself.
Throughout my life God was always present, he was just someone I kept in the foreground. As a child, I went to church every Sunday with my grandmother, my mom, and my three brothers. After my mom passed away, my father remarried and the four of us went to live with them. It was during this time that I became Catholic. I always believed in God; I just didn’t trust God enough to share all of my life with him. It was until years later, that I began to realize it didn’t matter where I was in my spiritual journey, God would meet me there. And no matter how messy I appeared He still loved me. Scars and all.
Laura Foley Bio
My name is Laura Foley and I am a survivor. Although my younger years were painful and difficult, I have chosen to use my experiences to help others.
Currently, I am Secretary of Healing Waters Global, a nonprofit 501c3 charitable organization. We serve women and girl survivors of sexual abuse, and those living and affected by HIV/AIDS. I also facilitate a monthly Butterfly Sister Circle support group in New Brunswick for survivors. Of the women we serve, 1/3 are survivors of domestic violence. In addition, our signature program is called The Forgiveness Frees the Butterfly Healing Retreat. During the retreats, I provide Reiki healing sessions to all participants. As an accomplished Reiki Master, my main clients are also survivors.
I am a volunteer with S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution). SOAP is an organization that brings people together to fight sex trafficking within their state, by providing local hotels and motels with free bars of soaps that have the Human Trafficking Hotline number on them. Additionally, as a volunteer with Love True, an anti-human trafficking organization, I participated in raising funds and awareness.
In my desire to be a powerful voice for survivors, I have written over 27 poems on the subject of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and have also created videos on the subject. In 2019, I was a recipient of the Traffic Slam’s Empowerment Award for my poem “Hush,” sponsored by the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
My passion is writing, listening to music, singing, and providing healing where needed.