I woke up with jitters and faced the world. Only to find myself being comforted with friends, family and a community of encouragers.
I want to thank all of you for helping me on this journey. I share this with you all, dedicating each sentence to you. I didn't do this alone. God has used each of you. Thank you.
Thank You Kiesa Kay for writing...not about me but about the work the Lord has done, will do and will continue to do. God Bless You.
Edwards finds hope in educating
Tuesday, November 19, 2013, Tryon Daily Bulletin
by Kiesa Kay
Mary Edwards an outspoken advocate for children's rights, has discovered a mission that fuels and empowers her.
"I would rather educate to prevent child abuse than have to worry about the healing, but I also believe in giving people hope in healing,” she said. “We have to educate everyone, starting with our churches, and get people to open their eyes. So many children have been abused, and yet many of us don’t want to admit it or don’t think it can happen here. It happens everywhere.”
Edwards cited FBI statistics that say one in every four girls and one in every six boys in the United States are sexually abused by the time they reach age 18.
“I can’t be quiet about it any more, because being quiet hurts,” she said. “Now I share my own truth to let people know they can begin healing, too. If I can let people know that every day people have been abused, then they can begin to accept that it could happen even in their own homes.”
Edwards identifies as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, from the time she can first remember until she reached age 14.
Sharing her truth with her friends and family freed her, she said, and strengthened her courage to heal.
“When I released the pressure of that silence, a peace came over our family,” she said. “My husband and family have been very supportive of me now. Every time in the past, when a memory or hurt would be triggered, I couldn’t tell them what was bothering me … Now, they are more compassionate, because I can explain. I felt like I had a hidden, dirty secret, and I don’t feel dirty any more. I know I’m worth more than all the mud I’ve walked through.”
Edwards attributes her healing to her family’s love, good therapy from Bobbie Shannon who once worked at Steps to HOPE, and her faith in the Lord.
“God has given me a shield in this ministry,” she said. “I am a warrior woman for God. There’s a song that says ‘Be a Voice for the ones who have no choice,’ and when I first heard that song, I knew what I had to do.”
Edwards recently attended the Christian Communicators Conference to hone her speaking skills. She also delved deep into her own heart, and found strength in a kind of forgiveness.
“I had to forgive my mother, who neglected and did not protect me. I had to forgive the people who had laughed at me in my life, or called me degrading names because of what I’ve experienced and its effects on me. I had to forgive the violators, and understand that when they did what they did, they were under Satan’s control. I had to forgive myself for my own mistakes,” she said. “And then I had to forgive God, who saw what happened and did not stop it. I know now that God was with me even in the darkest times, and I wouldn’t have survived otherwise.”
Education about childhood sexual abuse will prevent it from happening, as people learn the signs and symptoms and how to help, she said. Many times, children can’t or won’t tell what’s happening because they’re frightened, and sometimes the perpetrators may be the only adults paying much attention to them at all.
Sometimes perpetrators groom the children, giving them gifts or special attention in order to buy their silence. And children, with their kind hearts, often do not want any harm to happen to anyone at all, not even to the person who’s harming them, Edwards said.
“If I had not been educated about this, I would still be a miserable person,” she said. “I want to reach every adult in every church, because I believe in the power of prayer. If we admit that it happens here, we can begin to end it. We can’t reach into every home at once, so I want to begin in places that accept God, and use my faith.”
Edwards wants every child or teen who has been hurt to know that no matter what the circumstances, it isn’t the child’s or teen’s fault.
Edwards writes a blog at www.writeblessings.blogspot.com, and writing has helped her feel whole again, she said. Prayer has been a huge source of comfort for her, too.
Edwards has four children and three grandchildren, and her husband has become a source of kindness and support in her life, she said, but not everyone understands.
“Just because I’ve found a place of overcoming doesn’t mean that other people are there yet, but I want to do what I can to begin to offer education and comfort,” she said. “I like what I see in the mirror now. It’s a God thing.”