By Sinead O’Donoghue – The brave women who have come forward with their allegations of being sexual harassed, assaulted and/raped by Harvey Weinstein is a powerful call to action for sweeping systemic change. Harvey Weinstein’s behavior would not have come to light without these brave women standing together and speaking out. Our power lies in coming together to support and honor each other. By facing our fears and sharing our stories we break the imprisoning cycle of silence. Together we are stronger, together we can make our voices be heard, together we can implement change.
My name is Sinead O’Donoghue, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a therapist, energy healer and founder of The Movement IaMheR. IaMheR is a platform for women who have experienced sexual violence to share their experience, strength and hope, to empower other women to break the silence and end the shame of sexual violence. It’s a place where women join together in solidarity, to acknowledge, embrace and inspire each other.
I was called to action to create the project when Donald Trump won the presidential election. Like many of us, I could not sit silently by while a man, who has been accused of being a sexual predator and clearly has no respect for women, became the president of the United States of America. I chose to turn my feelings of hurt and outrage into something positive and transformational.
At 25 years old I began to recover memories of my sexual abuse and seek the help that I needed. I was abused as a young child by a ‘trusted’ male figure in my life. I don’t remember when it began. I have very few memories of being a child. It’s mostly all a blank. It went on for years and ended at around age 10. This is when I begin to have clear memories of my life. In order to survive I had to put the abuse in a box; I had to cut off a part of myself and bury it so deep that even I forgot it was there. I had to hold onto it until I was strong enough to face it.
I experience my memories through my physical body and sense memory. I have very little visual recall of my abuse. It’s sounds, touch, scents and very fuzzy, hazy dark visual that is difficult to piece together. This made my healing process very difficult at times because we are so dependent on our visuals to make sense of and re-affirm our experiences. It made me doubt myself; that it ever happened, that somehow I had made it all up. It really made me question my own mind but my heart and my soul knew the truth. Once I accepted this, feelings of sorrow, hurt, anger and betrayal overwhelmed me. My heart felt shattered as if I would never be able to put it back together.
I suffered from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for most of my life. I thought this was the norm. I had lived that way for so long that I never remembered a time I didn’t feel that way. I hated myself. I berated myself all day with my thoughts. I self medicated with alcohol. I turned the feelings of anger, disgust and hatred for my abuser towards myself. Psychotherapy helped me realize how my abuse impacted me. How my little brain and body protected me, helping me to compartmentalize the abuse in order to survive. I gradually began to return the feelings of shame and anger back where they belonged: to my abuser, the person who took advantage of a child to satisfy their own desires with no regard for the damage or hurt that they caused.
In order to survive I had to put the abuse in a box; I had to cut off a part of myself and bury it so deep that even I forgot it was there.
The process of learning to love and care for myself is an ongoing battle. It’s hard to ignore the negative voices that still want to me to take responsibility for the abuse, that believe that I deserved it, that I could have done something to prevent it. I continue to heal my relationship with my body, mind and spirit. In my healing process I have sought out psychotherapy and many healing modalities such as energy and sound healing, art therapy, acupuncture, EMDR, Shamanic healing, among many others. Addressing my recovery on the body, mind and spirit level has helped me regain joy in my life; that has allowed me to begin to trust myself and reclaim my power. I felt so powerless and helpless for such a long time.
A big part of my recovery has been in group therapy. The power of sharing your experience, feeling understood, seen and heard by others is profoundly transformative. Sharing my story with the women in this project and being embraced by women and fellow survivors through The Movement IaMheR has empowered me to be unashamed, unafraid and lets me know that I am not alone.
The Movement IaMheR seeks to provide the platform for women to share their stories of sexual violence and to acknowledge that everyone knows a woman who has been affected by this issue. It is our responsibility to protect our mother’s, sister’s, daughter’s, wives, aunt’s, cousin’s…. We are all connected. Sexual violence touches women regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status. It touches women in all walks of life. Women ending the silence and standing up together is the future.
Read more survivor stories from The Movement IaMheR here.
About the author
Sinead O’Donoghue, LMSW is a psychotherapist and energy healer in New York City. Her goal is to turn The Movement IaMheR into an organization that provides holistic therapeutic services to survivors of sexual violence.