By Joyce Aubrey
My childhood on a small Kansas farm sparked a lifelong appreciation of the simplicity and wonder of nature. From the one-room school where my education began to a Master’s Degree and throughout careers of teaching, counseling, and fabric store owner…I embedded creative expression in my work.
At fifty-three years old, married for thirty years and mother of sons—ages 17 and 25—flashbacks to childhood incest invaded my life and compromised my ambition, spirituality, and even my sanity. Flashbacks revealed abuse that had continued for more than a decade and included many perpetrators…father, mother, minister, brothers and others.
Three years after the first flashback, I was a Colorado resident, divorced and unemployed. Three months later my mother passed and my brothers attempted to discredit/disown me. I sought healing through traditional and alternative modalities including massage, psychotherapy, Rolfing, myofascial release, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, rebirthing, acupuncture, prescription meds, and process painting.
Initially, I spoke only to other survivors about my childhood experiences of sexual violence. Their warm and reassuring response helped me understand that I was not alone in feeling crazy, isolated and rejected by family and former friends. It seemed so natural for me to speak of my pain; I was shocked to learn that most other survivors were unwilling to even acknowledge their sexual abuse.
The first time I spoke out in a public venue was at a Yoga Ashram. As I moved from the tree posture to child posture, I went into a spontaneous flashback. At the request of the teacher, I explained my outburst. After my revelation of incest, nearly half of the 50 participants came to me to tell me of their experience of sexual violence. Most had never told anyone, not even their therapist. Instead, they had focused all their efforts on dealing with their addictions, physical symptoms and/or mental illnesses—never considering that their sexual abuse may have been a root cause. It was at the ashram that I knew I was destined to share not only my experience of abuse, but more importantly, the personal empowerment that comes from speaking out.
Today I live in Colorado Springs with my husband Ed, our cat Bootsie and puppy Vanilla Latte`. Our home sets high on a hill west of downtown, in a xeriscaped yard of native flora and tranquil waterfalls. In addition to speaking and writing of my recovery from sexual trauma, I use my creative voice singing with a Senior Chorale and painting with oils.
My passion is to help other survivors heal their victimhood beyond surviving to a life lived to greatest fulfillment. At the state level, I do that as an enthusiastic CCASA volunteer. Locally, I follow my passion as a founding member of Finding Our Voices, a non-profit that sponsors art events designed to empower survivors. Another activity of FOV is to advocate for the prevention of sexual violence. As an advocate, I present “Aftershocks” using healing paintings as visuals. Audiences witness how process painting helped transform my incest memories from a painful past to an empowered present and hopeful future. Like other survivors, images emerged from my random brush strokes and their form revealed information that had been trapped in cellular memory and wasn’t yet in my conscious awareness.
In June of 2011, I was humbled and honored to receive the CCASA “Excellence in Advocacy” award. In homage those who recognized my efforts, my goal to spread the word that speaking out is the most empowering choice I have ever made. It is my genuine intention to radiate hope…I feel no shame, no remorse, no anger, no regret…about my sexual abuse. As I worked to heal memories of horrific abuse, I gained inner strength, I emerged blanketed in peace, and I was infused with a sense of fulfillment far beyond anything I could have imagined before flashbacks. As a senior citizen, I believe I am where I need to be…doing what I am supposed to do.
Joyce Aubrey is a survivor whose childhood experience included more than a decade of sexual abuse including incest, gang rape and what we would today refer to as family trafficking. Joyce has two adult sons and her past careers include high school teacher, community college counselor and for more than 20 years owner/manager of Joyce’s Fabric in Colby, Kansas. As a founding member of Finding Our Voices, a non-profit that provides healing art activities to empower survivors of sexual violence, Joyce has been the leading force behind six annual art events that showcase survivor visual art, poetry, song and dance.