Survivor Stories – Michelle Simons

Reclamation Part 1

I am of the mind that there is a unique kind of PTSD that all women endure. It’s a combination of sexism and misogyny; both rampant in our cultures worldwide and reflected in everything Michele Simonswe see and experience. Add to this the harrowing statistics of female children who are sexually abused and it’s no wonder that we adult survivors of child sexual abuse struggle with body image, relationships and healthy views of intimacy. It’s a journey of introspection, boundaries, communication and observation of ourselves and those around us. It’s uniquely female.

At 47 I’m still learning about myself and working everyday at actively unlearning the sexism, misogyny and sexual abuse of my body, mind and heart. Some days I integrate all the positive energy of my journey to wholeness and some days I struggle.

As an 8 year old child I was not given the understanding that my body was my own. I was given no authority over it; conversely I was taught that “it” belonged to someone else.  I did not grow up to embrace my body or my autonomy, because it wasn’t mine to govern.  There were times that I dissociated and there are whole periods of my youthful years that I have little recollection of. I’ve come to appreciate my brains ability to blur out the parts that hurt to recall. I’ve decided that herein is an opportunity to rewrite joy into my story, blank sheets of my book where I have the power to tell a story of hope instead of despair.

My body is not simply the physical manifestation of me; I believe “my body” encompasses the muscle memory or touch memory of what I have endured as well as everything I feel. I have had a challenging relationship with touch and I longed to find a way to give and receive healthy touch in ways that built me up, was life affirming and healing regardless of what side I was on. This took me on a path to becoming a Certified Massage Therapist. The education and experience has forever changed me in ways that are sometimes difficult to express. I have worked with elders and youths, healthy and diseased, and yes I have worked with survivors of CSA. My goal when working with a survivor has been to support him or her in their own reclamation, to support them in reclaiming healthy touch as part of a complete life and to be their witness to learning how to be present in their body in a safe environment, while supporting them on their way to wholeness.

Our bodies are amazing! They are designed to heal themselves. Our hearts and minds can be somewhat slower to recover, but they do too when supported and nurtured. I think that homeostasis or balance occurs when we reclaim what’s ours and for survivors I think that begins when we reclaim our bodies in all of our perfection. We are perfect.

As part of writing my own book of life, I had the honor and pleasure to receive my bodywork education if a very special facility that embraced all of me and facilitated a path to my own wholeness. During my residential education I was given many incredible gifts of life, one of which was simply a song played for me by my dean. The lyrics have stayed with me every day since; “Hands” by Jewel. I listen to it often, on days I feel whole, on days I’m struggling and on days I am supporting the journey of another.

The chorus is:

My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

And so, my wish for us all is to reclaim our bodies as part of our healing journey. To learn to embrace ourselves, to take a long look through the eyes of self love, to hold our own hand and heart, to create healthy boundaries and relationships  and to remind ourselves everyday that our bodies are not democracies, they are our empires to self govern. Reclaim your body, it’s YOURS!

Michelle Simons

RAINN Speakers Bureau

2 thoughts on “Survivor Stories – Michelle Simons

    1. Thank you Gal!

      My experience has shown me that my reclamation has and is including the intersection of my physical body, my mind, my heart and my essence. It’s a journey of integrating all the parts of us.

      Best,
      Michelle Simons

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