To the Sister Who Made this Hygiene Kit

READER POST: Dear Sister,

I was there. With you. Just a year ago.

We assembled hygiene kits for the local women’s shelter. We laughed. We ate chocolate chip cookies and drank pink lemonade. We talked about our kids and our next vacations.

One shampoo, one soap, one toothbrush, one toothpaste. Some get dental floss if there is enough. Sealed in a Ziploc bag. Toss in the bin with the others. Forgotten just as quickly as it was assembled.

I was there. With you. Just a year ago.

And just a year ago, I became one of those women. The ones we made the hygiene kits for. The ones we don’t talk about. The ones we don’t know. The ones who are faceless and nameless. The ones we keep at a safe distance, so we don’t have to feel the discomfort of their story.

Just a year ago. I needed one of those hygiene kits we made. Actually, I needed five. One for me and each child. You see, no one plans on being a victim of abuse. Me included.

But there was more I didn’t plan on. I didn’t plan on losing emotional support I thought I had. I didn’t plan on feeling so alone and empty. I didn’t plan on being labeled or doubted. I didn’t plan on losing friends I had known for years. I didn’t plan on being re-victimized or re-traumatized by those at church. And I didn’t plan on feeling re-abused by church leaders.

Just a year ago. I set foot in a women’s center. For the first time. Ever. I had nothing but my four kids. I was a shell. Empty, void to my core. Lacking any prized luster or expected gleam. Cracked, battered, broken. I had no self even though I had four reflections of myself reminding me who I was. And they were looking to me to lead them now. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of having nothing and everything at the same time.

Just a year ago. I learned what I was made of. I learned how resourceful I am. I learned how strong I can be. I learned that there are no words to describe the pain that was palpable with every breath. I learned that those dark nights always dawn into new mornings. I learned this because I lived it.

Just a year ago. I went to a women’s group. A women’s support group. We didn’t eat chocolate chip cookies or drink pink lemonade. We didn’t talk about our kids or our next vacations. We talked about our abuse. The abuse. The kind that people doubt because our abusers were “worthy.” We didn’t laugh; instead we cried. We didn’t assemble hygiene kits. We took them. We needed them. To wash away the fear, guilt, and obligation that was deposited onto our souls. To chip away at the build up of confusion, mistrust, and shame that comes with living in the dark depths of abuse and betrayal.

We shared our stories. Our pain and our stories. Our hopes, our fears, our anger, our sadness. Our trials, our triumphs. We leaned into each other’s pain because it wasn’t uncomfortable for us. It was real for us.

Just a year ago. I learned I was not alone. I learned that I am important and I matter. I learned I am unique. But, sadly, my story is not unique. I learned there are others. So many others. They are in your wards. In your neighborhoods. In your families.

And

Just a year ago, I saw firsthand. We are out here and we are alone. And we feel alone. We don’t have language to describe our plight. We are confused, unsure, and in need. Too often, our friends have turned away and our leaders have failed us. But you don’t have to.

Just a year ago, I learned. You could be a refuge for her. You could be a safe haven. You could lean into her pain. You could talk about abuse. You could keep her trust. You could start by believing. You could make the difference to her. And to them.

And I know this because

I was there. With you. Just a year ago.

~Lesley~

READER BIO: Lesley Anne is an RN by trade, but feeds her dominant right-brain by embarking on various creative endeavors, such as photography, writing,  and design. She is a single mother to 4 young children, all of whom love art, play-doh, and dance parties in the kitchen. She comes from a heritage of Mormon pioneer-stock and appreciates her roots.  Lesley has taken a proactive advocacy position for survivors of spiritual abuse with her efforts at unrighteousdominion.org and has joined in raising awareness for the #MormonMeToo movement. Her previous submission may be read here.

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2 Replies to “To the Sister Who Made this Hygiene Kit”

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