Survivor Stories
Joe Gilvary

“He could not beat me, because he couldn’t reach all of me… who I really am, my core.”

“After his parents divorced, Joe was groomed by a family friend who offered him some much needed attention from an adult male. Then he betrayed Joe and began sexually abusing him. Like virtually all survivors, Joe blamed himself and began a long period of abusing alcohol and drugs. He dropped out of school and drifted. He worked hard at not being noticed; if nobody notices you, nobody will target you. A serious car accident became a blessing in disguise. He found time to return to school and go to college. Although he put the drugs aside and started a career in IT, he still didn’t face the abuse and its effects. He married and had children.

When his marriage began to fail, Joe sought counseling, for the marriage, and then for himself. He began to confront the abuse, and its legacies in his life. He began to realize that it wasn’t he who was somehow “wrong.” What happened to him was wrong. An intense sweat lodge experience became another turning point. “I recognized the similarity in the pain that we all experience.” And Joe realized that “he could not beat me, because he couldn’t reach all of me, he couldn’t reach who I really am, my core.” The experience in the sweat lodge made, “you are not alone” very real. “You know the statement: “All the darkness in the world can’t snuff out the light of a single candle? Well, there’s a lot of candles in the world, and that makes me feel good.””