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healing from abuse, never give up

A warrior’s story of healing from abuse

by Matt Pappas

Guest Blogger Dawn, bravely shares her story of healing from abuse, as a warrior and survivor. As you read the following, it will speak to your very soul. Her resolve to not give up is evident, and her willingness to give her inner warrior a voice for others will encourage you.

I told my therapist that I have the most beautiful life.  I have two wonderful boys, I have an amazing, supportive spouse, I have a little house out in the country that sits on two acres, I have chickens, a dog, a cat and a rabbit.  I have a beautiful life….now….but the past keeps creeping in to my brain.

It is this damn PTSD.  So here I am in her office.  She is a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Trauma specialist.  She has helped me greatly in the half-year I have seen her.

**Trigger Warning** Dawn discusses some intimate details of her survival story and healing from abuse, so please be kind to yourself as you read. 

I tell her that this is Healing III.  She asks what was Healing I and Healing II….Here is what I explain:

Healing I –  I finally gathered the courage to look at the sexual abuse.  I had always thought that it had started when I was eight.  Then I remember age 7 years.  I have medical records that state things like “her hymen was broken” and her “vaginal opening is large for a child of her age.”

The nightmares were plaguing me badly, so I went to therapy.  This was one of the more difficult things as I was raised in a very strict independent Fundamental Baptist home/church/school which taught the Bible has all the answers.  When he abused me, my father, would quote the scriptures to me.  “Children obey your parents….”  and many other verses.  He would also beat into me to never tell.  At this young age, the abuse was physical, mental, spiritual and of course, sexual.  He would come into my room late at night and pick me up and carry me to his bed.  My mom slept at the other end of the house.  He would r*pe me and then take me to the bathroom, clean me up and take me back to my bedroom.  This he would do maybe three or four times a week.

Abuse By The Scriptures

Obey your parents for this is right

Listen to them don’t put up a fight

Do what they say, no matter the cost

Honor is what must never be lost

If I beat you, you will not die

It is rebellion if you cry

Do not move an inch you are obeying God

Just so you know, “I won’t spare the rod”

Train up a child the Good Book says

Don’t obey …I’ll beat til you’re dead

I’m showing love as I do this to you

I’m doing what God wants me to do

If you tell, you are in sin

Promise me promise me no one knows where we’ve been

You made your promise, you made your vow

I’ll beat it in you, I’ll do that right now

With each swat of the board, say this…just yell

“Before God Almighty I will never tell.”

We are all witnesses to what you promised to me

Because this is the way God said it should be

HEALING II – I met and married my spouse and was so extremely happy.  We worked on her healing from her abuses…and when that happened, I seemed to get a break from mine.  Yes, I still had nightmares….but the flashbacks seem to slow to a very rare trickle…and the body memories the same…  TEN Years of this…and then they came back with a vengeance.

In healing II, I began to look at exactly how his abuse escalated over the years.  It went from him raping me two to four times a week, to him handing me to his brother and showing his brother how to do things  to me.  It escalated to him parading me naked in front of three men at a time, bending me over, showing them the goods and selling me to them to “do as they please for an hour”….and they did.  It escalated to him using restraints on me so he could hurt me more.  Tying me up, hanging my by my wrists, using ties on my wrists and ankles to hold me in place while he raped me.  Healing II involved me speaking these abuses out loud for the very first time.  I did not want to go back to therapy so I worked with a therapist via email.  We did this almost daily for an entire year.  Until she decided that I needed a trauma specialist when I began to tell her of the escalation of his abuses.  She wants me to take our emails and make a book of them called the Warrior’s Song: Healing from Sexual Abuse and Torture

Healing III – Dealing With The Torture. He took me on trips to different places.  Mostly remote cabins.  These trips would last for three to four days (this started when I was 14 years old and lasted til he died when I was 24 years old).  One trip, lasted for seven days….It took me two months to tell of that trip to my therapist.  I called it the worst seven days of my life.

He had a few tool boxes.  One of the boxes was a very long box.  He built it himself.  It contained his beating implements.  In it he kept the following:  a riding crop, a leather strap, a three-foot green rubber hose, a horse whip and a bull whip.  He used those each on me many, many times.

The second box contained pulleys and ropes and a hitch that would click as he turned the rope in it.  He would build a rope and pulley system in order to tie me up to it to use it like the old-fashioned rack.  He would stretch my body as far as he could without breaking anything or pulling the bones out of joint.  He had a special cabin where he would do this the most often.  It already had the eye hooks in the door and wall needed to make the pulley system work.

The third box contained a back up battery….something like a very small car battery.  He built a machine where he could administer electric shocks via clips on the end of a wire.  Something like small jumper cable clips on the end of insulated wire.  He could turn the electric shock from something like a 9v shock where it kind of stings to a full-blown muscle jumping, me screaming, type shock.  The first time he did it, he burned me.  He never ever made that mistake again.

He did full research on all of his torture devices.

His torture was not limited to these devices.  He tied me above fire, he tied me to trees and poured honey on me and left me out there all night, he branded me with a can on my back, he drilled a screw into a rib, he put me in a dog carrier and thew me in the crawl space below the house where I stayed for several hours….and there is much more.


And yet…… I am strong….I will speak my truth….I will hold down a job…I will raise my boys to be good citizens and respect people…..I will not allow him to win.  I am a Warrior.


I feel the need to not keep my abuse to myself.  To me, if I keep my abuse to myself, what does that make me, his victim.  However, if I speak out and help others hold on for one minute more. … If I help my patients (I am a Respiratory Therapist) and give the survivors a voice……then I make what he did to me worth something….and I am a Warrior and he loses.




main image courtesy of abduzeedo.com


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Toni Boyer September 2, 2016 - 12:12 pm

I know Dawn personally. She has been such an inspiration to me and is an amazing Warrior. She has helped me so much in my own healing journey from my abusive childhood, and I am honored to be her friend. Thank you for sharing your story. ..he always loses

Dawn H September 3, 2016 - 5:41 am

Hugs Toni

Toni Boyer September 3, 2016 - 12:53 pm

Hugs back to you my friend

Joy Richardson September 2, 2016 - 7:12 pm

I am a little confused by some things here. How did no one notice all the scars from the whips and the burns? Was your mother completely oblivious or did she simply let it happen? It’s so horrible to me how your father would pervert scripture that was written to set us free but he used it to keep you in chains, literally. I am interested in hearing about HOW you healed/are healing from this…I feel like I can’t put all the pieces together because I don’t know anything about your healing process. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story.

Dawn H September 3, 2016 - 5:40 am

The numberone question I receive is how did my mom not notice. I was 14 years old…she did not see my back. He placed them all very well. She suspected my father of having an affair…she thought I was “screwing all the boys”. She never put the two together.

I am healing from this daily. Every day since he died. From lighting his grave marker on fire to learning to feel safe when I am safe. Please ask a specific question on my healing so I may answer it better. Thank you for your comments and kind words.

Joy Richardson September 4, 2016 - 4:58 pm

I think I would be just as angry with my mother as my father. It is an interesting point you make and one hard to grasp…How to forgive and heal but still allow yourself to be justly angry.

Dawn H September 4, 2016 - 5:59 pm

Hi Joy,

I have not forgiven him at this time. I believe that my anger is righteous and quite frankly, he has never ever asked for forgiveness. I know everyone has their own beliefs regarding forgiveness, and right now, I am not there. Don’t know that I will be there any time soon. Anger and grief are both emotions that I have really not been able to express well until just recently. I need to be able to just feel. There are emotions I have never been able to feel with any sort of depth and these are new and coming out. As I work through things in therapy….as I learn new tools to deal with the aftermath of his abuse…as healing takes place…however that takes place…I will be gentle with myself and heal at my pace and in my time.

Joy Richardson September 4, 2016 - 6:26 pm

A lot of priceless wisdom, thank you Dawn.

Laura Wright September 3, 2016 - 12:34 pm

Oh My Sweet Jesus!!! I have been friends with Dawn for 17 years, when I first met her I knew we were soul sisters but I didn’t know why. When I started working at our place of employment I absolutely hated it but something kept telling me I was meant to be there, don’t give up. I think Dawn might have been why I needed to stay. My first year there I brought in a Birthday Cake for her, which wasn’t a common practice. Maybe I was trying to let her know, “hey I want to be friends”. I watch Dawn do her work and she is amazing!! Everyone LOVES HER!! She’s not only great at healing the physical problems but the spiritual reinforcement she gives is miraculous. I’m 60 yrs old and I have never met anyone like Dawn. Now knowing the more intimate details of her torturous past just puts me in a speechless AWH. The word strong doesn’t come close to what Dawn is. I’m struggling with choosing the right descriptive words to explain how very amazing she is, there are none. Her little family is wonderful; two very handsome sons that are practically genius and a partner that works with the less fortunate and loves it! Dawn has made an amazing life for her self and her family, she has beaten down the EVIL that plagued her. Now that she has so openly shared these horrific memories I pray they will leave her alone. I too have had a difficult life but nothing like my very dear friend Dawn. Please learn and heal from her Blog, I’m sure this is the reason for her sharing.

Joy Richardson September 4, 2016 - 4:59 pm

You sound like a wonderful person, Dawn, people only have good things to say about you, lol.

Dawn H September 4, 2016 - 6:00 pm

I am blessed to have amazing friends in my life. Indeed.

Dawn H September 3, 2016 - 3:59 pm

Thank you Laura. You know, what happened to you is the worst thing because it happened to you. One really cannot compare. Thank you, my friend for your more than kind and generous words.

lynda September 5, 2016 - 5:59 pm

Hi Dawn thanks for sharing such a personal story i have been where you are still recovering your amazing brave courageous women. I want to know are you still religious and how can you heal from spiritual sexual physically and emotional abuse when religion/bible/god/jesus was portrayed alot in your abuse and scriptures and teaching commandments ect. i wasnt a christian but am now but grew up as a mormon but suffered similar abuse to you and religion was a big factor in it with the bible god jesus joseph smith. i really like your poem it resonated with me and the religious words and abuse you went through similar and silence with threats and physical abuse how can you heal with religion all through in with it when it might not make sense to a person who is not religious. Thanks for sharing some of the stuff torture ive been through similar with my ex so both as a child and my ex so it was good to read someone else story and that has been through similar experiences. Thanks again take care kind regards big hugs Lynda

Dawn September 5, 2016 - 9:16 pm

Hi Lynda,

Thank you for reading my story and for your kind words. I have stepped away from religion. I do, however, have a deep faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I just cannot hear a man talk about it right now it is very triggering for me at this point in my healing. I cannot hear people quoting Scriptures and try to tell me how to live my life. I know that seems to be the job of the Pastor…but I just cannot hear it now. That is not to say that will always be forever.

I am sorry for all that you had to endure. I wish you strength, peace, healing, light and safe hugs. I hope I was able to answer your questions.

laslynda September 19, 2016 - 6:31 pm

yes Dawn thank you for your kind words it does answer my questions like you for years could not go back to a church nor could i sing take sacrament or pray in a church but have recently have attended anew church so im taking it one step at a time thanks i need strength peace now its been a fractious evening take care kind regards Lynda

sherylburpeedluginski September 8, 2016 - 10:11 am

Dawn, You are an inspiration and a source of light for all who are brave enough to look at and listen to and learn from your story. I wish you continued healing and commend you for sharing your story. Also, thank you for sharing your poem. I am interested in writing as a way of healing, so I wonder if you could say a few words about how/if writing has been a tool in your healing journey. In awe and gratitude, Sheryl

Dawn September 8, 2016 - 11:31 am

Hi Sheryl, Thank you for gentle words of kindness. Writing has been a big part of my healing. I have written out some of my stories for people who have asked, but when I write my anger, it comes out in poetry…when I write my sadness; my grief, it comes out in poetry. How this has helped me and how it has been a tool for me is that for me, it gets it out. We tend to keep our abuse inside and endure. We tend to keep it in our bodies and our bodies repay us in pain and illness. To be able to express it out, I think, has been healing not only emotionally, spiritually, but also physically.

One more thing, my abuser, my father, made me promise before G*d Almighty…like a vow from the Bible …. that I would never tell. During Healing II, my therapist gave me a recording of Joan D’Arc by Mark Twain….when she got to the trial, she told her accusers the following: Any confession you get from me under torture is not valid because of the torture… This is me BREAKING that. I am speaking aloud what he did to me. I will continue to speak my truth. I will not honor a promise a child made whilst being beaten. So in that aspect, my writings are also healing.

I wish you peace on your healing journey.


Falling through the Cracks. - Surviving My Past September 18, 2016 - 10:00 am

[…] response to her story shared here on the blog, Dawn has graciously offered to share a follow up piece with some additional information. Some of […]


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