Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Survivor to “Thrivor”

Name: Tori-Lyn Marie Berens
From: Glendale, Arizona
Grade: Sophmore in College
School: Glendale Community College
Votes: 10

What is it to be a survivor of abuse? How does someone continue their life
after such an occurrence? What keeps a person going after something
like this? In many ways it can be narrowed down to three things;
courage, commitment and strength. Now even though this is an essay on
what it is to be a volunteer and why, a little back story can’t
hurt. I am a survivor of a decade long occurrence of child abuse and
sexual assault, and went down a dark path into my early adult years
into another abusive situation this time within an intimate
relationship. I was left with no guidance and no help of
understanding what I had lived with after my case was finally closed.
I was left alone. A fifteen year old girl having to continue on after
finally having the courage to stand up for my rights as a human
being, the commitment to continue with the proceedings and court
hearings, and the strength to see none of this was my fault.

After overcoming my dark times and enrolling back into school I had to
figure out where I was going. I eventually narrowed down my search to
victim advocacy within the military. Both of my perpetrators were
military and I wanted to be a voice to those within this well-known
fortress of silence and solitude. My former victim advocate had found
me and asked if I would come and help her in her newly establish
non-profit child abuse prevention agency. I volunteered over a year
there doing everything from working in the office institutionalizing
their filing system to working within the classrooms with children of
all ages. Each group children was separated by age and gender.
Discussions on topics not too many people can really relate too
unless you have been there yourself.

Being there for these kids was my whole life I was able to watch them grow
and change into wonderful young adults graduating and starting
college, most of which didn’t even think to be possible because of
what had occurred in their lives. Until they met me. I shared my
story to establish that trust and understanding, but unknowingly
giving them a living example of what they can be. I went from a
survivor to what many of them would refer to as a “Thrivor”.

I loved those kids as if they were my own even though I was not much
ahead of them in years. I was in my life experiences. There were days
where I would have a crisis intervention or suicide attempt, and I
had to be brave and walk them away from the situation. One of the
hardest things in the world, when it is facing you all within your
head. I came home so mentally worn out I was physically drained. But
what I took from it was some has to do it. And why not someone who
has lived it? Why not someone who survived? I finally found myself.

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