Survivor

Holly's Story

I grew up in a small fishing town in Washington State. I was 3 when the abuse started by my (Step) father. He raped me at least once a week when my mom went to work or whenever he felt he could get away with it (including in public places). It continued until I was 11. I was 14 when I finally told about my abuse because he had married someone with two children, and I was worried for them.

I testified in court on behalf of all 3 of us. He plead guilty to indecent liberties instead of being charged with sexual abuse or rape. This has so many implications that would play out for years. First, he was sentenced to less than a year. He broke parole went back to prison. This time he was in there for a couple years. Fast forward to 15 years ago, I found out by accident that he had been removed from the sexual predator list. Washington State has a law to protect those falsely accused and invites those with good behaviour off the list after a time.

I married a Marine when I was 18 years old and were married for 23 years. I have two children that are now successful adults. I have had a successful career and until I was 40, thought I had gotten off lucky from that abuse. However, the wounds of the abuse were there, I just did not recognize them. I blamed our marriage issues on him, my age, and our personalities. I would numb by shopping, keeping as busy as I could with my kids and working hard, continuing to be the best I could at work and as a mom.

When I was 40 my life came crashing down. I was not able to keep boundaries with another person which was not in my core value system. This was the demise of my marriage. My family became aware and it was an awful time for all of us. I was told about an inpatient trauma program. Within 2 weeks I checked myself into a 30-day intensive trauma program. I was fortunate, my insurance paid for all of it and I was able to go on paid leave at work. I had people who had been abused for 30 seconds and others who had different types of abuse in treatment with me. It proves that it does not matter how long it was or how long ago, there is support to help us heal. (Happy to talk more about my time there)

It has been 12 years since I was in that recovery program. SLA meetings helped me get through this and lots of counselling. 4 years ago, I did another two-week outpatient intensive to work on my “mom” and abandonment issues. I feel so grateful that I was able to see some justice for my abuser, get help I needed and have a very strong support system with my friends and family.

My second act: I quit my job at Microsoft and became a certified coach focused on helping professionals move into their next jobs, retire, or get that next promotion. I moved to Northern Ireland 2 years ago for love, went back to school and l want to use my experience to make a difference for others and the community. I am open to what that looks like, but I have spent the last year working for a charity that focused on providing counselling of those affected by sexual assault.

My goal now is to be an advocate for survivors by becoming an Ambassador for NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse), which starts with telling my story. I am partnering with someone else to start ASCA (Adult Survivor of Childhood Abuse) meetings in December in Northern Ireland, finish my degree this coming year and then add to my education with a trauma coaching certification and start coaching survivors. I truly believe there is a place in the recovery journey for coaches to play a part in harmony with the therapist and my dissertation is going to dig into the research for this. My dream is to open an intensive program in Northern Ireland, lobby for the importance of victims to receive the support they need to heal, perpetrators are held accountable for their actions in order to stop the cycle of abuse and publicly tell my story as much as needed to advocate for survivors to share their story and for those who still do not have a voice.