Her head is down, she looks at the floor. It is hard for her to keep eye contact. She paces and is visibly agitated. The smallest noises make her jump.
These are the signs of every woman that has come into our home. PTSD and shame are an incredibly forceful combination.
Shame because of what she thought she had to do. Shame because her parents knew. Shame because the images are online now forever. Shame because she has been someone else for so long.
She faces night terrors. She faces the desire to use. She faces fears that seem incomprehensible to anyone who has not been in her shoes.
And that is exactly the point... no one has ever been in her shoes. Yes, there are a thousand girls and boys out there that have been put through the same hell, but no one has walked in her shoes. No one has the trauma she has. It is hers.
While her head is down, ours will remain up. When she can't look at us, we look directly back at her and smile with confidence in the women she is. While she paces, we sit in calm. While she jumps, we breath and relax.
The simplest and most powerful thing that we can do is love. Choose to love her each day in the midst of her trauma, PTSD and guilt-ridden days. Choose to love her despite the anger.
Our choices each day help to give her the time and space to decide on the life she would like to live. Each day, we see little inches of growth. Her head begins to lift. She laughs back with us at our stupid jokes. She doesn't hear the car backfiring any longer down the street. She sleeps and dreams. She smiles and looks us in the eye and we talk about life.
This is what hope looks like. A head lifted, a smile on her face, and the idea of freedom building in her heart and spirit.