Hardship Series: A Journey of Healing From Sexual Abuse

LISTEN TO EPISODE 29 HERE.

Today's topic is a hard one to talk about. However, it's one of those issues that most definitely cannot be ignored simply because it's hard to talk about.

This week, we invited Marion Mann on the podcast share her story of sexual and spiritual abuse. Marion is the visionary and the executive director of the HESED Alliance, which is an organization dedicated to offering compassion, understanding, and empowerment to survivors of abuse. 

"I grew up in a family that was not Christian," "Marion said, " and I have always had a people-pleasing personality. I looked for affirmation and really wanted to earn people's love." When she joined the middle school band, she was invited to play in a local church's orchestra. Here, she found everything was looking for: affirmation, love, and support from this church community. However, over time, she was sexually abused by a pastor at the church. When the church covered up the abuse, it led to 10 years of grooming and further spiritual and sexual abuse. 

"It left me in a place of not knowing who I was and not knowing what my faith was," Marion said, "The abuse came out because a friend questioned me on what my relationship with this church and one of my perpetrators was."

She recounts how her world completely crumbled. Since that moment four years ago, she has been walking through a healing and reporting process.

"I have seen the damage a church can do when they do not care well."

When reflecting on her own experience as well as the experiences of others survivors that she's walked alongside, Marion emphasized the way that abuse deeply changes the way that a survivor sees oneself. It changes one' identity and restructures the brain's neural pathways. "There's always a sense of shame and self-blame involved," she said. Abuse often leaves the survivor questioning trust in themselves as well as their other relationships.

"At its core, abuse fractures the soul."

When talking about her own journey of healing, Marion acknowledged the importance of deconstructing one's faith in order to build it back up again. "Survivors need to be able to reclaim autonomy, control, and true belief in what they believe rather than what the trauma and abuse has put on them," she said.

She emphasized that the healing journey is messy: it's often two steps forward, and two steps back. She encouraged survivors to reach out to a  clinically-trained, faith-based counselor who can "really dig into those depths with you." This was central to her healing. A support group was also instrumental for her. 

"We cannot walk this healing journey alone," she said, "We need people who will listen as we tell our stories, to be an empathetic witness, and to hold our pain well." 

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