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.
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.