City resident Katherine Winters has lived through unimaginable horror in her life, but through sharing her story of childhood sexual abuse she’s hoping to help others find their way to hope and healing.
Winters has recently released a book entitled Let Your Light Shine – A Memoir of Betrayal and God’s Healing. It’s a short but extremely powerful book that chronicles Winter’s nightmare of living through sexual abuse at the hands of her father and others. She is having a book signing at Chapters in Red Deer on March 10th from 1 to 4 p.m.
Of course, as a child she was completely at the mercy of her parents, but there was absolutely no protection or escape.
“There’s such a stigma for survivors. It’s bad enough when it’s sexual abuse but when it’s a parent inflicting this – it took a lot of years for me to come to terms with it and a lot of counselling.”
But the problems ran deeper.
“There was the fact that for years, I felt like I had an invisible sign on my back that gave these individuals permission as soon as I walked into the room. It took a good 10 years of counselling to come to the realization that I had been groomed, from a very, very young age to accept certain actions as acceptable.
“So it’s been a growing and a healing experience by putting pen to paper. There are so many others out there that are living through this on a daily basis. It’s about bringing awareness to a very difficult subject.”
She remembers her school days where she would see that most kids interacted with their parents in healthy, normal ways. “I had to basically re-learn about social acceptance from school to teenage dating. I had to relearn it all. I also had to get into prayer, and find the right counsellor.”
Winters had seen a number of counsellors over the years, but found that sometimes – regardless of the extent of their education – they couldn’t really understand the trauma that she had lived through.
“It’s only been by prayer over the last 15 years, and connecting with the right people spiritually and prayer-wise, that has helped me to get out of that depth.”
Thankfully, her grandmother finally took her and her siblings in to shield them from what they were forced to endure at home.
“A lot of the time, the medical system didn’t even believe me. I would say, I have records at home, and at my doctor’s office, to prove that I’ve had numerous surgeries to correct various traumas,” she said.
Besides all of the pain over the years she was going through, Winters also experienced horrendous depression.
“When you’ve been dealing with depression, I didn’t know that it was the anger stuck inside of me because I thought I was to blame for the abuse that was afflicted on me. It took a lot of years of counselling to come to terms with the fact that I was turning the anger inside because I couldn’t please certain individuals enough. It took a long time to get past that trauma and to be able to trust even just a little tiny bit.”
As for writing the book, Winters said that God spoke to her two different times about recording her experiences.
At first, she felt sheer panic. Finally, she felt that it was simply time to write her story and through doing that, to somehow let the burden of it go.
“Little by little – it was a very gradual process. I would often wake up at two or three in the morning and almost be in a panic – I’d have the pen and paper there and as the words came – there were times I would just write and write and write. And as I did, there was a sense of release and a sense of freedom that the truth was going down on paper. It took about five years – a little at a time – to get it down as it exactly happened,” she explained.
“Some of it is still a fog because the trauma of it is so mind-boggling that I would break out into a sweat thinking, did that really happen? But then there was this power when I would acknowledge that yes, it did happen and then there was a peace that came and I knew it was time to let it go,” she explained. “There was a sense of release with it.”
Winters even chose, ultimately, to forgive her father. She visited him when he was elderly and ill, although it was far from easy.
“God has forgiven me for all of the mess-ups I’ve had in my life, and it was time to forgive my father,” she recalled thinking prior to that visit. “I knew when I got off the phone with my brother (informing her of her father’s condition), it wasn’t a question of, was I going to go? I was going.
“I stood there in the doorway of his room and I froze. I thought, God, give me the strength to do this.”
Her father was in intensive care at the time.
“Just the look of surprise on his face that I was even beside him – he put his hand out and I held it. But there was still that moment when I felt like I was that eight-year-old girl again.”
For Winters, as hard as that day was, it proved to be a time of healing.
“In choosing to forgive, it’s like a burden was finally lifted off of my shoulders.”
Meanwhile, besides featuring her amazing story, the book also contains several informative articles and resources to help victims. Examples include ‘Effects of Abuse’, ‘Child Sexual Abuse in Canada’ and ‘The Long Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse’.
Tragically, not every victim ends up being a survivor, she added. “There were numerous times in my teens when I thought of suicide.”
But with the support of others and the strength she receives from her faith – and of course the therapeutic effect of writing of the book – hope did ultimately appear on the horizon. Now, it’s about reaching out to others to lend a helping hand, she said.
“I knew that the book had to speak to all of the survivors and the victims out there.”
For more information about getting a copy of the book, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.