Anya Gordon grew up in a large, close-knit family. Her mother made sure she and her sisters were active in church and taught them to respect their elders. So, when an adult family member sexually abused Anya at a young age, she was numbed into silence.
“I was taught that children weren’t supposed to engage in adult discussions,” Anya shares. “This person was admired by my family. So, instead I started acting out.”
In her teenage years, Anya began to mask her emotions and hide inside herself. She was drawn to men who were abusive and thought that sex meant love.
“People started saying, ‘Oh, you’re so fast,’ and I knew that was negative,” she explains. “But no one ever asked me what happened. They only labeled me.”
In many ways, Anya matured and grew up. She got married and maintained a stable job at Aurora Health Care, but she could still hear a voice in her head saying, “Something is wrong with you. You’re ugly. You’re dumb. You’re worthless.” So, she continued to hide within and pretend to have it all together.
It wasn’t until her role as a fundraiser for Aurora’s Hope Shining Blue event that Anya finally decided to get help. Hope Shining Blue raises funds for Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services which provides care for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The event is a fashion show and the models are survivors. Working with the models and seeing their courage inspired Anya to seek counseling at Aurora Healing Center on Bruce.
“It wasn’t until I started seeing Trish, my counselor, that I could even say out loud to the models, ‘I, too, am a survivor,’” Anya says. “My healing journey was not easy, but Trish allowed me the space to heal at my own pace.”
Anya went to weekly counseling with Trish for several years and attended group therapy sessions which helped her to see how abuse affects people in different ways. “Some of the sessions were co-ed. I learned that although men and women may respond differently, our pain is the same. We’re all trying to rid ourselves of the shame that was never ours to hold. It’s a bond of survivorship and effort to rewrite our narratives.”
Anya began using those tools to support others in their journey. She used her role with Hope Shining Blue to empower the survivor models in ways that others couldn’t. She also began volunteering with Aurora’s 24-hour crisis hotline. These are just a few of the reasons Anya was chosen as Hope Shining Blue’s Thrive Honoree. The person behind the scenes who encourages others would now have a bright, beautiful light shining on her.
“My faith tradition taught me to have hope, and it is the anchor that helped me to cope and move through life I never saw myself as a leader, but now I realize I’m a servant leader, walking with survivors to support them on their journey” Anya shares. “I am so proud of Aurora and the work we do to help survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. I am a testament to the services and care we provide.”
How you can help
Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services provides healing services for survivors of sexual and domestic violence from the point of crisis through lifelong recovery. To ensure access and privacy for all survivors in our community, services are provided at no cost and are only possible because of the generosity of donors like you. Please consider making a gift today and supporting survivors like Anya.
Get our weekly digest of health & wellness tips