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This story is part of World Pulse’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.

Learn more about the campaign.

IRELAND: Meditation for Healing from Sexual Abuse

My meditation practice has made this sense of belonging my everyday experience of reality instead of a rare retreat from it found only in nature. It has also given me an unshakeable strength, the type of strength that can only come from facing the horrors that human beings are capable of—facing it and moving onward.

When I was 18 years old I almost couldn't believe that my father was letting me go to university in England. It was like he had forgotten his obsession with destroying me. I ran in case he remembered and stopped me. But he didn't and after that the memories faded and an uneasy tension took over our relating, like I had something 'on him'.

This unconscious power over him lasted until I was 26 years old and started having flashbacks. At the same time he started telephoning me ranting and paranoid, accusing me of being crazy 'just like your mother'. So I left my Masters program in Dublin, moved to Donegal to be around gentle and kind people and immersed myself in nature beside the wild Atlantic.

I told members of my family about the abuse then. The abusive phone calls stopped when I told my father I would go to the police if he came near me. He was dealing with an adult woman now not a frightened child.

I got on with my life after this, so relieved that he had lost his power over me—that he was afraid of me now. Fast forward to 2005, a trip around the world later, and I went on my first 10-day meditation retreat. Like opening an unfinished compost bin, thick and smelly, all the memories flooded back and I trawled through them, turning them all to black gold with my newfound meditation ability.

The 'body scanning' technique of meditation is a wonderful tool for unraveling knots and allowing tensions to melt away. It is the perfect tool for healing trauma as it allows you to address the feelings without going too much into the story.

It felt like a miracle to have found this simple, easy meditation. For the first few years of meditating at home and on many retreats I was in utter bliss from the dissolving of all the painful body sensations that had been twisting me up my whole life. My body had been in such constant pain that I always had to gently pat myself dry after a bath. I couldn't bear to even rub a towel on my legs or arms. The relief from all this pain was divine.

Trust is an enormous issue for people who have suffered such extreme betrayal in formative years. Because meditation is a solitary and self-administered healing tool it doesn't challenge boundaries in the way other person-to-person healing techniques do. It allows trust to be built up from the inside out, which I have found to be a much more gentle way of dealing with what I went through.

On my first retreat the teacher said that the amount of pain one feels will be equal to the amount of ease one experiences after practicing this meditation for some time. I have found this to be very true. The joy I feel now is the same size as the terror I felt as a child. It is vast and deep.

This healing was only possible with the help of some very good friends, family members, and therapists. I have found a therapeutic relationship vital in my more recent stages of healing. The free counseling offered by the HSE in Ireland for survivors of abuse is a wonderful resource and I encourage anyone on a healing path to avail of it.

I am still in Donegal, the wild Atlantic in the distance, the mountains surrounding me. I am here doing all I can to stay in balance, love myself, and help others transform their hells into heavens. I teach meditation classes and retreats weekly and have had so many people contact me saying they feel less alone for having read my story.

I wish everyone who reads this a greater understanding for their own pain, for when we understand our pain, like magic, it disappears and leaves behind the deep well-spring of ease that resides in us all.

Since publishing this account of my life on my website I have been threatened with legal action by my father. I told his lawyers that I have no intention of taking down my story and shutting up. While there is breath in this body I will speak the truth.


mystika802's picture

Thank you for sharing this.

Thank you for sharing this. Its amazing to hear what the power of meditation can do for healing the body and mind. By sharing your story you give hope to voiceless women everywhere and allow them to feel like they aren't alone in their struggles. Thank you for standing up and raising your voice.

Nusrat Ara's picture

Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for sharing.


Funke Arogundade's picture


Thanks so much for sharing your story. it has opened my eyes to see the dept of what some of us might be going through.

louiseqin's picture

You're a warrior inside

Thank you for sharing your story and most importantly, telling and standing up to the truth. I'm deeply impressed by your mental strength to harness power from such hurtful experience and turn it into a peaceful mind and a drive to help others. You're a role model for women marching on the empowerment road!

Quenby Wilcox's picture

Thank you for your courage

Dear Aoife,

Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately, atrocities like the ones you experienced are occurring everyday to millions of children around the world, and being covered up by the judicial systems and governments who have the power, authority and obligation to protect these children.

I admire you for your courage in speaking out. In the past 6 years, I have experienced intimidation and pressures to remain silent about my own experience with a psychologically abusive husband (with the same accusations of "crazy, paranoid" to cover up for his abuse.) I am well aware of the price one pays for speaking out.

I have been defrauded of all of my assets and thrown onto the streets with nothing by corruption in the courts and negligence of my legal counsel. I have also been denied any contact with my children for the past 5 years in retaliation for having denounced my husband's threats upon my life and person. All because I defied his wishes that I not work outside the home, and tried to start a company and develop financial independence for me and my children.

And, no my story did not happen in an Arab or African country to a Muslim woman. It happened to an American living in Spain; a country where women are provided with more rights (on paper) than any other country in the world. (Details about my case and my efforts to bring those involved to justice are posted in my journal.)

Again, thank you for speaking out, and remaining firm in your resolve to do so, even in face of the intimidation of your father and his lawyers. If more victims spoke out and were encouraged to do so, instead of intimidated into silence, then atrocities like your own would cease to exist.

My heart goes out to you and your courage, in speaking out and moving forward in your life. The horrific torture you experienced for so many years, and at such a young age, is inexcusable, and societies (and courts) around the world MUST stop turning a blind eye to these atrocities.


Quenby Wilcox
Founder - Global Expats

Nadz's picture


I am tempted to say beautiful, but I thought of your story and thought beautiful would not be appropriate. But how can I not say 'beautiful' when all I see and hear from your story is forgiveness, healing and moving on. Thank you for sharing your story it has inspired me, I too love to meditate and believe in the healing power of silence and reflection.

Thank you

Life is just for living

Noreen D.'s picture

I feel your pain

Dear Aoife,

I read your story last night. I woke up thinking of you. Thoughts of what I wanted to say to you crept into my own morning meditation. I am compelled to communicate with you.

Although the paths we are destined to walk are different (My challenge is a physical disability) and you are young and i am a bit older (65), we have several things in common. I am Irish-American. I love Ireland, but I realize the unspoken tradition of "family secrets" and how shameful and guilty one can feel if they break the tradition In my own naive experience, a friend of the family (a graandfather figure) french kissed me behind the shed when I was twelve. You may laugh. But it was completely disgusting. I felt so ashamed, I did not tell my mother 'til I was in my forties!

Most of all, we are both women, forever attached by the divine femiinine bloodline. When you hurt, I hurt. When you are violated, I am violated, and when you rise, I,we, rise with you. You are a woman on FIRE and you've got a story to tell. And we are with you. Bravo !

Noreen Donohue

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