Naomi’s Survivor Story

Naomi Mortensen is the HR Training Design and Development Manager at RAINN. As a survivor of child sexual abuse, Naomi understands firsthand the challenges that survivors face in their healing journey.

Naomi continued to navigate her healing journey and found that support from others was crucial to her progress. While her parents were incredibly supportive, it was her Aunt Noelle who made a significant impact on her healing process. When Naomi disclosed the abuse to her parents at the age of 17, they were quick to believe and support her. However, it was still difficult for Naomi to hear people talk about her abuser, her grandfather, as if nothing had happened.

"When I disclosed to my parents at 17 what had happened to me, they were easily my strongest supporters. But it was my Aunt Noelle who sticks out because she was the first person to explicitly express support and belief. She was so explicit in how much she believed me that she had seen how hard it was for me to sit there and for people to pretend that nothing had happened and just to talk about my grandfather in a way that I had never known him because I'd only known him in this horrible way that was deeply impactful to me."

Naomi shared that the most helpful thing in her own healing has been "knowing who has my back" and recognizing that "sexual abuse is largely a relational wound" that requires healing through relationships with others. While acknowledging the importance of the relationship with oneself and the work that needs to be done on one's own, Naomi emphasized the significance of emotional intimacy and physical touch, such as hugging, holding hands, and kissing, which she avoided for years. She reflected that "exploring trust and honesty with my loved ones has been crucial to my healing journey."

When asked what advice she would give to survivors of child sexual abuse who are navigating their healing, Naomi shared that trauma during childhood is "so complex and so integrated with your development that it will surface at different milestones in your life, despite your best efforts." She initially felt scared and overwhelmed by this realization, but has since come to see it as an opportunity for "immense self love" and empathy for others with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

She advised survivors to not be discouraged by setbacks in their healing journey, but rather to see them as a chance to develop new tools and knowledge. She added, "you will do amazing work and you will reach great places where you feel good. And if you come to a place where you are struggling and it feels like you did all of that work for nothing, you didn't do all that work for nothing. It had a real lasting effect."

Naomi highlighted the importance of emotional intimacy and physical touch, which are often challenging for survivors of sexual abuse. Her message is clear - building a support system and trusting in those relationships can aid in the healing process. As survivors navigate their healing, knowing who has their back can be a powerful tool for moving forward.

"Having people who support and believe in you, and who you can trust, is crucial. It's important to know that someone has your back," she added. Naomi's call to survivors is one of hope and self-compassion. She recognizes that healing is a lifelong journey and that each chapter comes with a different message. When asked about her message for survivors, she shared that in her darkest moments, hope was too heavy, too painful, and too disappointing. It was then that she discovered the value of curiosity. She created her own mantra - "when hope feels too painful or disappointing, it's okay to put it down and pick up the neutrality of curiosity."

Lastly, she believes that curiosity is a beautiful foundation that can help survivors move forward, even if they don't have the capacity to hope. She encourages survivors to be curious about what comes next and to wonder about the future, even if it seems bleak. She understands that it's not always easy to be hopeful and that it's okay to set hope down and pick up curiosity instead.

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