One of Emily’s Tellvik’s earliest memories is being sexually abused by a family relative. From everything she’s been able to piece together through therapy, she believes the abuse started around age three and continued for seven years. Her abuser always seemed to find a way to get her alone during family gatherings for birthday parties or during the holidays. He would even show up at the house when he knew a babysitter was over. So most of the time, the abuse was actually happening while her family members were sitting in a nearby room hanging out. She felt like this person must be so powerful to be able to do this to her repeatedly, right under the watch of her parents without getting caught.
Emily’s abuser would threaten to sneak into her house in the middle of the night and kill her family if she ever said anything and so as a little girl, Emily remembers feeling the weight of needing to keep her secret. She actually felt like she was taking on the burden of protecting her family. Finally, Emily’s family moved away from her abuser when she was 10-years-old and he no longer had access to her.
For years she kept her secret and even managed to suppress many of the memories until at age 14 when she got her first boyfriend. A first-kiss attempt sent Emily’s body into a triggered state and the flood gates opened up, allowing so many horrific memories to come back to her.
The pain of it all was simply too much to bear and so one evening after school when no one was home, Emily took a knife and started cutting herself. She felt that if she could just inflict more pain than anyone had ever inflicted on her, no one would ever be able to hurt her again. Once she started cutting herself, she simply couldn’t stop. She made over 100 cuts to her body until her mom came home. Emily was sitting in a pool of blood in her room and immediately remembers feeling a sense of shame. She ran into the bathroom to hide but when her mom found all the blood, Emily decided she needed to finally tell her mom about the abuse.
As Emily reflects back on her parents learning about the abuse, she knows they loved her and wanted to do the right thing to help her but she can also see now that they were ill-equipped to handle the emotional weight of it all and truly make Emily feel like she had their support. They sent her to counseling as they were told that was what she needed but they really never spoke of the abuse after that and told Emily not to speak about it with anyone except her counselor.
When Emily went away to college, she had enough self-awareness to know that it was time to take her healing into her own hands. When people live in shame and try living life by denying a part of their story or sweeping it under the rug, it really forces them into living a half-life… never fully experiencing what it means to be loved for your whole self and the thing you think makes you unlovable.
Emily had so many feelings of being more broken than everyone else around her. She felt disgusting and like there must be something so wrong with her for someone to choose her as their victim. For years she really felt like somehow, the abuse was actually her fault. She even remembers when the abuse was happening, thinking that she would actually prefer her abuser not be caught because she couldn’t bear other people knowing about the things he was doing to her or making her do to him. The shame of the actions being forced upon her was so great, she literally didn’t ever want anyone to find out.
Joining a support group for victims of sexual trauma at her college and choosing to go to her own personal counselor was the first step to a long road to healing that Emily continues to be dedicated to still to this day. Hearing the stories shared from her peers was the first time Emily really realized there were other women out there just like her who had been victims of the same thing. It was also the first time in her life that Emily finally realized the abuse was not her fault.
Today, Emily has built a life as a mother and a wife that she is so proud of… and it’s actually a life she used to believe she didn’t deserve. Her marriage is thriving, her kids are thriving and the biggest message she wants to send to people is that yes, the path to healing is really hard work, but healing and wholeness IS possible if you’re willing to take responsibility for your own personal healing journey.
Emily has started her own business called Best Next Steps with a mission to show people that you CAN take control of your life and create the reality you’ve always dreamed of… the path to get there is just one step at a time.