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I have always enjoyed taking pictures. In the past I was focused on taking pictures of buildings and events. When I took pictures before 2013, I really didn’t see through my camera’s lens like I do now. Before 2013, I just took  a picture to get the shot over and go to the next picture. I had no patience, I was not concerned if my picture could tell a story to the viewer. My senses were dull but I thought my senses were operating at their best.
Then in 2013 I started a journey of healing I had never taken before in my life. Between 1992 and 2013, I did just enough healing from the damage done from childhood sexual abuse to function everyday and feel as though I was healed. I kept feeling something was still missing on my journey of healing. I never wanted to or planned to share my journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse with anyone. Finally 2013 God had another plan for me, I would go deeper into healing by sharing my journey of healing publicly. Speaking publicly is not for everyone and that doesn’t mean you can’t heal and enjoy life if you never speak publicly about your journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse. I avoided everything that was connected to childhood sexual abuse, that included fundraisers, visiting or speaking to any organizations or people who worked or supported helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Finally in 2013 I agreed to be the keynote speaker for the Georgia center for Child Advocacy annual fundraising breakfast. I had spoken many times in the past publicly but never about my journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse. Because I had spoken publicly in the past, I figured this would be easy and no problem. Little did I know I was wrong, as I started to speak that morning, emotions came from deep inside I didn’t know existed. I started to cry and couldn’t stop. I cried through my entire speech. Something amazing happened that morning during the speech, a new feeling came upon me, a feeling of internal and emotional freedom. My senses were awaken in a new and powerful way. I believe the tears were washing away the things that kept me from digging deep into my inner being for healing. Not long after that event I was asked to speak and write more about the impact and healing from childhood sexual abuse.
One of the most important things I learned from my senses awakening was patience from photographing nature and wildlife. I never got excited about photographing nature or wildlife because I thought it was boring. Also I didn’t like to be alone with my thoughts because my mind would wander thinking about panic attacks, I would get anxious, and those imaginary fears creeped into my mind. Then that magical moment happened during my first public speaking event, my senses became alive. I saw through my camera lens in a way I had never seen before in my life. I saw a story in every picture for the viewer. I learned to sit still and wait for the moment to start taking pictures. I could finally be alone with myself and not let the imaginary fears take over. I now enjoy being alone with my camera in nature. I love to hike in nature, and my senses now allow me to feel, smell, touch, see and hear things like never before in my life.
I still have moments where the impact of childhood sexual abuse creeps into my life, but now I face those moments not with fear, but I face them as a strong survivor that just patiently allows the moment pass. I have a friend name Greg Thompson that recently told me while we were working in Honduras, he said to me ” You know Dave, God has control of the steering wheel and when we try to take the wheel, we steer off course” God is in control of my journey of healing and  I pray everyday I let God steer and I keep my hands off the steering wheel. When I speak now on my journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse and that is often, I don’t cry, I feel strong because I know God is in control and this is my way of helping others heal and find joy from a terrible trauma in a child’s life.
Please do what you can to help protect children. This month is National Child Abuse Prevention month. Lets keep learning how we can help save our children. Enjoy a few pictures of nature and wildlife I have taken recently, I hope they tell story.

Andrea Arena
  • Apr 10 2016
Thank you for your courage, your leadership and your tireless efforts to protect our children.

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