CCAHT + Grow Free Tennessee are celebrating one year with a survivor who came to us in June 2016. These are her words of all that the past year has brought.
Oh, that I had wings of a dove, I could fly away and be free…We landed in the arms of angels in East Tennessee!
Well here we are, my son and I, at our first anniversary here in Knoxville. Its a little hard to believe.
We were rescued at the end of 2015 and relocated to Tennessee with just what was left of us that we could carry. We spent time in domestic violence shelters and a transitional apartment while waiting for benefits and services. This was extremely traumatic and difficult. We did not feel safe yet. We did get a consistent response from service providers in the small towns we had been in that we needed to go to Knoxville. CCAHT and all their helpers were there for us and brought us to their Knoxville, our new home.
We had a long, organized needs list, because we needed everything. The restoration team helped so much that by Christmas we had accomplished most of it. We have a lovely home in a safe neighborhood with a great school district. Kate and Katie worked tirelessly to find the perfect fit for us and they did!
Our place has been furnished beautifully using recycle, resuse, refinish, repurpose principles. We have an environment of comfort, creativity, peace and havingness. A place to heal. No one would know if they came to our home that a year ago we had only the barest of necessities. There are just a few things left on our list for our home. We know maybe not today or tomorrow but those needs will be filled. No one can steal this away from us anymore and that is Priceless.
The school is a compassionate partner in mainstreaming my son from isolation and trauma at his pace. He has some learning disabilities which are falling away to his strengths. He will go to his first classes at the school this coming Fall! We are hoping for a Big Brother for him soon. Positive male role models are very needed as he has never had this in his life. If you ask him, he’d say, “ It’s my dog, I have my dog!” Mourning the loss of his dog through the dismantling of our lives by the traffickers was difficult. His precious Luna LaCorgi, our Emotional Service Animal, has been with us a year now too. He wanted this little pupper ever since we arrived. She came on his birthday last year. Oh and he wanted to be sure I included his computer, the best gaming computer ever! He’s starting to make safe friends online, which is progress. My son thinks the zoo and the aquarium would be good places to go and I think he’s ready. I can’t wait for him to discover more about how really awesome he is!
Medical and behavioral health care had been nearly impossible for a very long time. We had been denied medical treatment many, many times. We both have disabilities and being an older survivor we were disregarded, disbelieved, discounted and written off for any number of judgmental, assumptive and ignorant reasons by medical service providers. After years and years my son’s developmental delays/disabilities have been accurately diagnosed and he is getting treatment. I have many long term injuries and disabilities from the extreme physical abuse. I am finally treated with respect and dignity and we have medical provider partners that are concerned with our health, first and foremost. Healing is not easy. We are in agreement that we really started healing when we came to Knoxville.
We have excellent behavioral health, trauma informed care and case management from our partners, Helen Ross McNabb and The Sexual Assault Center. It’s quite a lot to learn what normal is when you’ve only known chaos, drama, trauma, fear, disappointment, pain, etc. It’s cathartic to find out what this was that happened to us, it wasn’t any choice we made and it wasn’t our fault. There is such a relief in this understanding. We have quite a ways to go with socialization, making friends, even leaving the house is still difficult. Our CCAHT Allies are wonderful gracious partners in this journey.
We had a small crisis here recently. I knew I could call Kate for support and assistance. Having someone to ask for help and the reasonable expectation that will be met with a reasonable, productive response has not been my prior experience. I’m certain I will get used to it! My son said, “Mom, we’re safe, we have people that love us, we have everything we need and WE ARE OK!” There just aren’t any words to express how that feels right there because we never were or able to be before, ever.
Restoration is so much different than recovery. Restoration moves past recovery to include discovery. I am definitely finding there’s a process of discovering myself after decades of trauma and abuse. Art is my trusted partner in this process and we are getting to know each other again.
Alice Walker expresses it better than I could.
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before.
Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of it’s shell on it’s way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening […]
Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding it’s breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”
-Alice Walker, Living By the World
Now we have reached the edge of all that we’ve known or imagined, and our imagination of this place sustained us during the worst of times, we are excited to see what this next year will bring for we have never been here before with such good company!