Tell me about your life growing up—what are your best memories?
My childhood was centered around family. We spent A LOT of time with our extended family during the holidays, special occasions & at our ranch in Christopher Creek. My aunts & uncles would even come & support me at my dance recitals. We were an unusually tight-knit family. Some of my favorite memories were with my cousins. We would build forts, play restaurant or school & would often end up in the mud. We never quarreled. I remember one Easter one of my aunts sewed me a dress with a matching basket. I get emotional just thinking about it. Clearly, it was less about the dress & more about the way it made me feel — special & loved.
What role did your aunts and uncles play in your everyday life?
I spent a lot of time with them growing up. All the cousins were in a group called the Music Makers & it was usually at one particular aunt’s house. I can’t say I have very fond memories of that. I had ulcers as a child & I can remember my stomach aches always getting worse before practice. I would hide in our playroom so I wouldn’t have to go. I’d cry & resist. They have a daughter close to my age so I would spend a lot of time over there playing with her too & at slumber parties. I have 9 siblings in my family of origin, so my mom was spread pretty thin. My aunts played a huge role in my life, they were like second moms to me. I always knew they loved me & they all went above & beyond to support & nurture all of my siblings. This particular aunt was no exception but I can tell you I felt the exact opposite about her husband, my uncle.
Why did you feel this way about your uncle?
Whenever I see pictures of myself as a young girl, I know that behind my smiling, happy face there was fear and anxiety, hidden feelings of ugliness and unworthiness. I was sexually abused by this uncle until I was about 8 years old. It was a nightmare no one should ever have to endure. He is a monster. I always had fear & anxiety around him. We didn’t use words like hate growing up but if I could have this is the word I would use to describe how I felt about him as a little girl. I always suspected the abuse but my memories were locked away pretty good. After three decades of repression and denial, my world came crashing down on me. A flood of ugly, horrific details emerged, nearly breaking me, as I tried to speak my truth and heal my split identity: the perfectionist, happy Jennifer and the shattered, unlovable me.
How did this experience affect your current family and relationships?
These were some of the darkest days of my life. I credit my loving husband who never gave up on me, a sister who walked this journey alongside me and loyal friends. It took a huge toll on my marriage in so many ways. I had so much repressed anger & sadness that I took out on him. He definitely took the brunt of it. My children witnessed first-hand what I went through in healing & then finally coming forward. I know it impacted them deeply. I was in a pretty dark place during this period of time.
How did going to therapy & working through your trauma change your life?
By God’s grace, I was lead to the right people to help me through the healing process. I did a lot of counselor hopping. I eventually ended up with someone who taught a Christ-centered approach to letting go of my negative emotions. Once I was able to release the guilt and shame, I was finally able to have true peace & connection in my life. I finally became strong enough to face my uncle, the person who inflicted so much pain and terror on me and many others. Having to take action against this pedophile (who continued to deny his actions and have access to children) has been another brutal battle. But today, because I stood up to him and other courageous victims came forward, he is in jail awaiting trial this fall.
What prompted you to come forward & take legal action?
That’s simple...I didn’t want him to hurt any more children. His abused spanned over the space of at least 30 years. No one was safe around him. He never stopped. Most pedophiles never do.
What wasn’t as simple was how horrendous it was getting the courage to come forward & actually talking to the detective. First, I didn’t want to betray my aunt, she had been such a light in my life. I didn’t want to hurt anyone or ruin the lives of people I loved. Even though he was my monster he was still a husband, father & grandfather to people I care about. I knew things would never be the same once this came out & that scared me too.
Actually talking to the detective was very traumatic too. Put it this way, you are treated as if you are guilty until proven innocent. I felt very violated. I just assumed I’d go in, share my experiences, they’d validate me & then bam, he’d be arrested. I get how tricky the process is now because there are those that make false accusations. I’ve had to deal with this on a very personal level as well. That was another huge blow. After speaking with the detective, it took about 3 years until he was arrested. It was a very painful & long 3 years. I learned through this process how important it is that those investigating are thorough & that those who come forward have good character & integrity.
How has this experience brought new purpose to your life?
This experience has affected EVERY area of my life. The darkness that once in-prisoned me has now been replaced by light & peace. It was a rocky, tough journey getting to this point. However, it is because of this that I have found my greatest purpose & passion (second to being a mom). It is inspiring, enlightening & empowering women that drives me. Finding purpose in my pain has been one of my greatest sources of healing. This is how Let It Glow ™ was born.
I hold workshops, put on retreats, and work with people one-on-one. I have a Becoming Heart-Centered curriculum I’ve created that I use in all of these settings. I ended up getting trained in the same techniques that helped me work through my own pain. I have enjoyed learning about what you (Lori) are doing in your work. The mind, body & spirit are so interconnected. There is much to learn, you are truly a wealth of knowledge.
It’s an honor to work with people who are seeking that same healing & peace. I’ve seen miracles through doing this.
What are your favorite parts of life now?
I have always had blessings in my life amidst the pain, but now I can fully embrace & FEEL the joy in my life. My favorite parts are any time spent with my husband & children, traveling, my work with Let it Glow & just really connecting with amazing friends & family. My relationships are very important to me, they fuel my soul.
I also just fulfilled a life-long dream this summer — I put on a Let it Glow Retreat in France with 25 women. It was glorious, healing, and a life-changing experience for me and those who attended.
What advice would you give to someone struggling with your same issue?
To those of you who have been the victims of any type of abuse — don’t be afraid to face your fears. You can find happiness and hope. Although your perpetrator may have stolen the innocence of your childhood, they no longer have to rob you of joy. It is possible to find peace and healing on the other side of pain and suffering. Remember you are not defined by your darkest hours. You are NOT alone! You are a warrior, you are worthy of love, you are enough.
Follow Jennifer on Instagram @Let_Itglow