Survivor Spotlight: Pearl Lilly

Child sexual abuse survivor Pearl Lilly portrait Meet Pearl Lilly.

Pearl’s childhood was tarnished by sexual abuse. She experienced assault at the hands of family members. The abuse continued throughout her childhood and into her late teens, until the local Department of Human Services removed her from her home.

Pearl, like many Americans, struggled with self-harm, the act of physically harming oneself, to cope with the difficult or painful feelings. For Pearl, it was a method to discourage her abusers.

“My experience with self-harm goes way back to when I was as young as nine years of age. I felt that causing self-harm would make my abusers not love or want me anymore, because I was tainted and my skin was no longer beautiful.”

Self-harm can take many forms, from ‘cutting,’ burning or hitting oneself to excessive body piercing, hair-pulling and head-banging. These acts can cause permanent damage to the body, as well as additional psychological problems that hinder the healing process, such as guilt, depression, low self-esteem or self-hatred, along with a tendency toward isolation. The act offers only a temporary relief, making it an unhealthy way to deal with the trauma.

Pearl advises that there are coping techniques to help with the healing process and to avoid self-harm. “Take it one day at a time and try to find new strategies to help with the need and want of self-harm. Talk with family members, friends and other loved ones, and a therapist. Just remember that we are all special and when we find the strength within ourselves to overcome the need for self-harm, life will be filled with happiness and pleasure.”

Some other healing techniques to help you through your traumatic experience and ease your mind of self-infliction are:

  • Picking up a hobby – needlework, painting, blogging or anything that you enjoy.
  • Writing a journal.
  • Listening to music, watching television, or playing video games.
  • Meditating.
  • Attending therapy sessions.

Alternative activities contribute to increased mood stability, and a better sense of well being that will provide a greater sense of happiness on the inside and outside.

March, which is National Self-Harm Awareness Month, is a time to reflect on self-worth and the healing processes. “I am constantly challenged with self-harm, but utilize the many coping strategies that I have learned,” said Pearl.

Learn more about self-help.
Tips on how to help a loved one.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or visit the Online Hotline.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 911 immediately. If there’s no one in your life that you feel comfortable talking to about your suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK.