Each one of us has at least one lie that holds us back, Shannon McGraw Carr told the Rotarians of Lake Houston.
“This lie prevents you from being the person you can be. What is your lie?” Carr asked at the Rotarian’s weekly meeting April 13 at the Lake Houston Family YMCA.
The Rotarians were unusually quiet for what is a normally rambunctious crowd. Some silently nodded their heads as they thought about the “lie” in their life and if they should confess it to their fellow Rotarians.
Carr broke the silence.
“For me, my lie was that I don’t have a right. I don’t have a right to speak up, to set my own boundaries, even in marriage,” she confessed. “I had to learn to think the opposite. I DO have a right to speak up.”
For Carr, the lie began at age three when she was molested by a family member. At 17, she was raped, then raped again as a college first-year student.
Carr also confessed that she wanted to speak at Rotary for some time.
“I have a long history with Rotary,” she said. “My dad was Rotary president at the club in a town north of Dallas. I was a part of the Rotary Exchange and went to Germany for eight weeks when I was 18.”
Carr had been raped just the year before she left for Germany and hadn’t told a soul. Covered it up. Tried to make everything look good. Never told her parents.
“I was filled with a lot of anxiety, and then I go to a foreign country, which I loved, but it was just a crazy, crazy time,” she said. “I came back, went to college, and was raped again.”
This happens so often to sexual abuse victims, Carr said.
“You continue to live the lie and go into that cycle. Your relationships tend to follow the same pattern. And you find yourself in the same situations,” she said.
Her parents knew something was wrong, and forced her into therapy, and it was there that she finally told her parents, then discovered that her mother and her sister were abused by the same person.
Still, Carr was almost 30 years old before she realized she had a right to say no, to do or say what made her feel safe.
“When adults take away boundaries, you go through life with everyone taking advantage of you in that spiral of abuse,” she said.
Today, Carr is more than just a survivor. She is a mother, friend, daughter, author, speaker, Kingwood resident, and founder and executive director of Hopeful Hearts Ministries, a non-profit organization that she started in 2011 to give a voice to survivors of abuse.
She credits God for turning her life around “…and creating something beautiful.” Because of her struggles as a teen, she began teaching teens at St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Kingwood that not only allowed her to tell others how God changed her personal tragedy into triumph but allowed her to explore her own faith.
That is when she found her calling, Hopeful Hearts Ministry which offers individual and group peer support sessions in person and through videoconferencing and produces videos of abuse survivors sharing their experience “…without shame.”
Carr has traveled the country speaking out about being a survivor of abuse and she is amazed, she confessed, at the number of people who come up to her afterwards who tell her about their abuse and the lie they also kept inside them, never telling anyone.
“An 81-year-old woman pulled me aside after I finished speaking,” Carr said. “She said she had never told anyone that when she was 15, her stepfather raped her. After listening to me, she now understood her own lie and why she was married three times. She never talked about it because she never felt safe.”
Anyone who is abused sexually, emotionally, or physically, believes they are not good enough, she said. The median age that people come forward to reveal the lie inside them and their own abuse is 55. She is surprised at the number of men who come forward as well to discuss their own abuse.
In a long conversation with another man, he finally admitted to Carr that his cousin tried to rape him when he was 8. When he told his dad, his dad told him “…never say another word about that.”
His father didn’t step up to fight for him the way he needed to, Carr told the Rotarians, Sometimes, all it takes is to get rid of the lie and be able to talk about it.
“That is what we do at Hopeful Hearts. Give people the ability to have one-to-one peer support,” she said.
Carr continues to speak and write about how survivors can help themselves but, in addition to Hopeful Hearts, she has a new passion, Kingwood Catholic Magazine which spotlights and celebrates residents’ contributions to Lake Houston.
Hopeful Hearts is a 501c3 not-for-profit that is supported by donations. To learn more, hopefulheartsministry.org.
The Rotary Club of Lake Houston Area meets Wednesdays, 11:45 a.m., at the Lake Houston YMCA. The Summer Creek Satellite club meets at the Nimble Workspace on Redemption Square in Generation Park on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. To learn more about the advantages of being a Rotarian, lharotary.com.