My story isn’t unique. I wish it was but the truth of the matter is everyone, whether they know it or not, knows someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, assault, rape and/or domestic violence. I have lived through all at the hands of 5 different men; my stepfather began sexually abusing me when I was 6 years old; I was sexually assaulted by a local grocer at the age of 12; after a routine checkup I was sexually assaulted by my family doctor - a man who had been my doctor for 8 years - at the age of 15; an abusive and jealous boyfriend raped me at the age of 18; and, finally, at the age of 45 I entered a relationship with a man who not only physically abused and threatened me, but also emotionally and verbally abused me.
At the age of 49 all of these experiences that I tried to push aside, pick my big girl panties up and move on from caught up to me and I had a nervous breakdown. For three months I put my life on hold and sought treatment at an outpatient program that literally saved my life. But, after leaving the program I had no place to go, no place to continue healing. Many of those I met in treatment ended up returning to the program because they couldn't or simply weren’t ready to implement the skills and strategies we were taught to help deal with our trauma and the triggers that accompanied our experiences.
I wasn’t one of them.
I had an idea that started when I was 7 years old. At that age you cannot comprehend what is happening to you or the feelings you are experiencing. How can you when you have no knowledge of what sex is, or your sexuality? You know what’s happening is wrong but you don’t know why. The person responsible is telling you it’s not, but everything in your little heart and mind is saying something bad is happening. My way of coping would be to lay in my bed and pray that one day I would have a home for little girls to go to when they were sick “in their belly.” In the home would be mommies who would help make the children feel better. As time passed and I grew older, the dream went through many changes, but eventually I let it go. I was told many times “That’s impossible.” “There’s no way a place like that can exist.” I married, had a daughter, built a lovely life and seemingly moved on. Eventually it all caught up to me, and coming out of the facility with no place to continue treatment except therapy resurrected that 7 year old girl's dream.
What others said couldn’t be done is now a reality
There is nothing more healing than talking about something that has hurt you, or has affected and changed the course of your life with someone who knows exactly what you’ve been through. That is never more true than if you are someone who has experienced sexual and/or physically abusive trauma, or love someone who has lived through a sexual trauma. My dream has always been to open a facility victims can go to find support and relief comforted in the knowledge that those who are there to greet and meet with them have walked in their shoes. Survivors reaching out to victims and helping them become proud survivors who can then reach out to victims. That place exists. We opened Marilyn’s Place on September 4, 2018. Victims and survivors are finding us weekly, participating in our peer led support groups, workshops, retreats and art classes. We are forming bonds and sharing laughter with tears, joy with pain and living fuller, healthier lives with the reassurance that we are not “the only ones”. And, as is the policy of Marilyn’s Place and Because She Is, all of what we offer is free of charge.
We won’t stop. We will continue to grow our special place so that we can open another place, and another, and another. Taking control of our healing and creating our network - our tribe - of thriving hearts who care and understand exactly what we have experienced is life-altering. It’s what we do at Marilyn’s Place.
From the heart of a 7 year old girl was born an idea whose time is now.
“It’s not a me thing; it’s a WE thing.”
The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential access to domestic violence information and services, including crisis intervention, referral, and advocacy.
The Middlesex County Center for Empowerment (The Center) is the state designated sexual violence program for Middlesex County.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
A grassroots organization supporting survivors and advocates.
The VictimConnect Resource Centeris a referral helpline where crime victims can learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately
Copyright © 2020 Maureen Spataro - All Rights Reserved.