Turning Tragedy into Change

04 10 2015

Amy Malin was brutally raped, beaten and tortured both mentally and physically. Today she is volunteering for the RAINN Speakers Bureau, sharing her experiences with violence, survival and recovery. Here is her story:

hen I was eighteen years old, a man in his thirties made me his prisoner and kept me chained up to a column in his home for a year where he and his friends raped, beat and tortured me. In addition to the extreme physical and sexual abuse, this man also used psychological warfare against me. Every day he told me how “worthless, useless and unlovable” I was. He also called me a fat ugly whore and said I was his “property.” This man threatened to kill me and my grandparents if I ever tried to leave him. Since he was someone that always made good on his promises to hurt me, I lived in fear every day that he would take away the only thing that mattered to me.

A few times a week, he would take me out into society and parade me around as his “girlfriend.” He would use these public outings to shame and humiliate me. For example, he would bring me along to a business meeting and when I ordered a salad and a glass of water, he would tell the server not to bring me anything to eat or drink because I was “too fat and didn’t deserve to eat.” This man completely broke me down and I had no self-esteem left. I was his puppet. He also trafficked me under the threat of violence to dance at a strip club and into a situation of prostitution all for his sick pleasure. I was unable to process and talk about what happened to me for many years after sustaining this horrendous physical and emotional trauma. This is typical for many survivors. Many people who are not survivors of violence don’t understand that the invisible wounds of violence such as PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety, depression and agoraphobia can be crippling and can make it impossible for a survivor to come forward. The shame and blame culture of our society also prevents survivors from coming forward to share their truth. Instead of embracing survivors, offering them love and support and programs and services to help them heal, history has sadly shown how many survivors that were brave enough to share their truth have been shunned. The time for change and to tell my story and the story of survivors all over the world is NOW. We need to create a new culture of empathy and compassion for survivors. We need to continue to shine a spotlight on this very important subject, because violence thrives in the dark and there are tens of millions of men, women and children in the United States suffering in silence.

Even though I am a survivor of horrific violence and have seen the worst in people, I still try and always see the good in people. I am a hopeful optimist and I believe in the power of the human connection. Healing is a lifelong journey and every survivor needs to find what healing modalities work for them. Different methods resonate with different people. Acupuncture, meditation, yoga, Pilates, screaming into a pillow for an hour, listening to the same song on repeat about thirty times and taking hikes out in nature are some of the activities that have worked for me on my journey of healing. The biggest proponent of my healing has been the love and support I am blessed to receive from my husband and our son. They have made the biggest difference in my life and have given me the wings to fly. Having a support system is critical to the healing process. I was trying to work through my pain on my own for so many years before I met my husband. I was unable to make progress because I didn’t have anyone to be there for me. If you are a survivor of violence, find the people in your life who genuinely love and support you and lean on them. If you need someone to talk to, the RAINN hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE is a great resource for free counseling and to point you in the right direction for resources and emergency protocols. The hotline is completely anonymous and is a safe space to share.

I decided about a year and a half ago to come forward with my story and turn my pain into a powerful way to help other survivors. I am proud and honored to be working with my soul survivor sisters Desirae and Deondra Brown of the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse on landmark legislation to abolish the statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes. Our dream is that all survivors of violence will have the opportunity for justice. We look forward to the day when the laws will actually protect the survivors and discourage criminals from becoming repeat offenders because they will be liable for their crimes. We are producing and starring in a documentary that will be directed by Jamielyn Lippman, which will follow our journey to get the laws changed and which highlights the stories of survivors from all walks of life who have been affected by the current statutes of limitations.

If you are interested in booking me for a speaking engagement, my survivor, speaker and advocate website is http://www.amymalin.com. You can find me on Twitter @AmyMalin.


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