My name is Ann. I’m a 24-year-old Kenyan. I was sexually abused at a very tender age, for a long time by two close relatives. I remember being so afraid of the threats they told me, that I didn’t tell anyone, or even fight, or argue. This was just the way life was for me. As a child, I knew I hated it but questioned myself: Why me? Why this? What did I do wrong? Am I a bad child? They convinced me if I behaved and didn’t tell, they wouldn’t hurt me or others around me.

Hate, anger, bitterness, and low self-esteem were constant feelings for me. I lived life scared. In school, I felt it would be better not to have close friends or socialize. I thought that all people were mean and abusive. I hated the sight of men. I didn’t understand why my family let me go through such pain. I always smiled to make sure no one would notice my pain or see my feelings so they would avoid me and maybe I could protect my cousin from being hurt. But it didn’t stop them.

I didn’t trust anyone. I tried to fix people’s mistakes or problems, because I thought I was the cause of my cousin getting hurt. All I felt was pain, mistrust and depression.

I learned about ARMS from a doctor at a medical clinic. I was messed up, and emotionally tired. I was done with life and just wanted a way out. I hoped that ARMS would give me a way out.

I never imagined being able to forgive anyone or even myself. The bitterness and shame were too great, but with each class, I began to discover a new me. The forgiveness lesson was my saving grace. I learned that the abuse I experienced was not my fault. I didn’t make anyone abuse me or my cousin. I learned forgiving my abusers didn’t mean I was being weak or condoning the behavior but rather it was my choice to step into my freedom and a better future.

Learning my identity in Christ lifted my self-esteem and helped me see myself differently. I now believe I was never the mistake my abusers had led me to believe. I learned how to set boundaries with my family, in my workplace and even in my relationships. I am not responsible for another person’s feelings or actions. I learned to say “no.”

I have never been in a better place in life. Now I can laugh. Now all I want to do is share the ARMS program with other young people like me, who have no idea what abuse is and what to do when it gets out of hand. I want to share this knowledge about the mind of an abuser and show victims they can’t change an abuser by behaving a certain way. I especially want to share here in Kenya where abuse is like a way of life. While I am still in process, I’ve never been better, thanks to God and ARMS.