Hopeful Hearts is a Voice for Survivors
Last month the #MeToo movement merged with the #NoMore movement and the conversation continues with what will no longer be tolerated. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, as well as National Child Abuse Prevention month. Author and speaker Shannon M. Deitz wants to continue the discussion offering a voice for survivors. She has been putting herself through a ‘reboot’ of inventory. Reflecting on “who I am, what do I stand for, what do I want, what I will tolerate and what I will not tolerate.”
Essentially this is what #NoMore means. Deitz states “In order for us to claim #NoMore then we need to be specific and also certain about what our boundaries are. What are we willing to tolerate, why we will tolerate certain actions or situations and what we will no longer let slip by?” Setting boundaries and recognizing tolerances we need to stop tolerating can be frightening. If someone has lived decades without solid boundaries set then setting even the smallest boundary can seem foreign and difficult. As an abuse survivor she founded an organization to help others and Hopeful Hearts Ministry continues to expand.
Deitz suggests starting with the simple daily aspects of life. “For example, ‘I will no longer tolerate my son leaving his clothes in a heap on his floor,’ or ‘I will no longer tolerate dishes sitting in the sink.’ These are easily rectified with setting expectations and boundaries. We can only control the way we respond to others.” Deitz shares her personal #MeToo / #NoMore boundaries. A few examples include:
• I will not allow someone who shouts at me to define my self-worth.
• I will not engage verbally with someone who shouts to demean me.
• I will not take criticism personally; I will use it to better strengthen my resolve and myself.
• I will not allow myself to be abused or shamed.
“Setting boundaries doesn’t mean attacking. Boundaries can be set lovingly and firmly,” continues Deitz.
Daily news continues to show the prevalence of both child abuse and sexual assault worldwide. Sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, spans across all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. According to a Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013. On top of the guilt and shame that abuse can bring, most victims know their attackers, which can lead them to be silent about their traumatic experience. Staying silent, however, does not lead to healing, according to Deitz.
“Both sexual assault and child abuse are so devastating that most of us don’t even want to think about them being present in our society. This makes it extremely difficult for any victim of assault or abuse to feel comfortable enough to speak out, which is exactly what they need to be able to do. Be it a child, a teenager or an adult, anyone who has been abused needs to be able to speak about what has been done to them without question or judgment.” comments Dietz. With this in mind, Hopeful Hearts Ministry created 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.
With firsthand experience, Deitz understands the pain and stigma of being a survivor of sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult. “The shame, despair and inability to cope with the painful events can lead to depression as well as dangerous behavior, as survivors tend to seek other ways to block out the memories and dull the pain. My goal is to help others see their worth and become the best they can be,” comments Deitz. Through the power of her own testimony, she helps people see that they no longer have to live as a victim. They can begin a journey of healing because they are not defined by their past and they have immense value.