These 12 Survivors All Battled Sexual Trauma with the Same Secret Weapon

Forty-four percent of sexual violence victims are under age 18. Transitioning from victim to survivor takes bravery, time, self-care — and a secret weapon: a loving, compassionate friend, partner or advocate. Here’s how these 12 survivors of childhood sexual trauma wielded the power of partnership to thrive.

1. "My sister does not take shit. From anyone. EVER…She has been teaching me how to be strong for a long time, but I don’t think she knows it.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Rachel Berzack / Intimate partner rape, age 20 yrs. / Partner: Dayna Berzack / Sister, Co-Survivor

2. “Danielle is my best friend and my sister…without her, I’m not sure how I would have made it.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Anne’ka Marzette Armstrong / Child sexual abuse, 8–14 yrs. / Partner: Danielle Moore

3. “We’re an army, my sisters and I.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Kimberly Kaiser / Child sexual abuse and intimate partner rape, age infancy, 6–8 yrs and 18 yrs. / Partner: Brittany Kaiser / Sister, Co-survivor

4. “I think, in some ways it’s harder to know what’s happened to her because I can’t fix it. And I want to.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Laurel Domino / Childhood and adult rape, ages 12–14 yrs and age 20. / Partner: Lauren Manston, wife, co-survivor/ Childhood and adult sexual abuse, ages 4–5, 15–17 and 20.

5. “I am not sure if Serena really knows what it meant to me for her to say the words — ‘I believe you.’”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Charlene Stefanowski / Child sexual abuse, ages 5–15 yrs. / Partner: Selena Craft

6. “Allow the wound to be the space the light pours in. Fill it up with truth, warmth and hope. Trust that you are never alone.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Kirbay Preuss / Child sexual abuse and incest, ages 4–7 / Partner: Cynthia Wagner / Friend

7. “I taught you and now you are teaching others. You are.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Tashmica Torok / Child sexual abuse and incest, age 6–8 / Partner: Lisa Griffin — “Mrs. P’s” / Teacher, Contemporary & Co-survivor

8. “I share my story on a small scale with those who need to hear it.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Cecilia Garcia / Child sexual abuse and assault, ages 4–7, 14 & 17 / Partner: Tashmica Torok / Co-Survivor

9. “We advocate for one another and will forever, but the next thing for us, I think, is learning how to advocate fully for ourselves.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Becca Robinson / Acquaintance sexual assault, ages 13–14 / Partner: Laura Swanson / Co-Survivor

10. “My father did whatever was needed to help me heal; even when he thought he couldn’t take it.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Angela Tomasko / Rape — stranger, serial rapist, age 29 / Partner: My daddy, Kenneth C. Olson / Dec 17, 1935 — Nov 5, 2006

11. “She saved my life.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Kayla P. / Child sexual abuse, ages 8–24 yrs. / Partner: Aliyah

12. “I no longer feel like a slave to my own secret, to keep it a secret. My story is free now. I am free.”

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Survivor: Holly S. / Child sexual abuse and sexual assault, ages 4–6 yrs and 15 yrs. / Partner: Katie Livingston

13. Be a partner now

Photo: Jena McShane, McShane Photography / Hair & Makeup: Heather Jarous, NicoAna Beauty

Where did all of the beautiful, brave stories come from? Every year, The Firecracker Foundation produces a calendar to honor survivors of sexual trauma and to fund programming that supports their healing. The photos and stories of the featured survivors are then unveiled and celebrated at an event called Soulfire. These incredible individuals were a part of last year’s Soulfire calendar and event.

A new Soulfire is kindling. The stories and images of 12 more survivors are being chronicled. The event is being planned. You can be a part of Soulfire 2015 and support survivors of sexual trauma in two ways: by getting your tickets to the big gallery reveal on Nov. 12 or by purchasing the 2016 calendar. Through your support, you can help keep the healing fire alive. You can be the partner a survivor needs to thrive.

The mission of The Firecracker Foundation is to honor the bravery of children who have survived sexual trauma by building a community invested in the healing of their whole being. This is pursued through advocacy, individual therapy, therapeutic yoga and caretaker support. To be a part of a community that is committed to protecting children and facilitating their healing, support The Firecracker Foundation today or to get involved as a volunteer.

Oh, and did we mention the gallery reveal is Nov. 12? And that you can get your tickets here? Can’t make it? You can reserve your 2016 calendar here. Just checking.

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