I believe we are all survivors of something. All people have had something theyíve had to overcome in some way. I was sexually molested by my uncle, my momís sisterís husband at the time.

My mom didnít have a resource to help and support me. So she really had to find her own ways to get through the trauma of what she was going through as the parent of someone who had survived sexual abuse.

The word courage was our word. My mom taught me how to walk into the fire, and that you donít have to be afraid. Having the courage to share our stories helps other people to find the courage to share theirs.

We have this incredible gift to reframe what happens to us in our life and we donít have to be victims forever. If youíre holding something in, a truth that only you know, itís eating you alive, in some way. Having the courage to ask for help is the greatest gift you can give yourself, itís freedom. And thatís what everybody wants is to feel freedom and to feel their own love and their own joyÖ Thatís what true freedom is, itís self-acceptance. Itís self-love.

I think that releasing what no longer serves us helps us to see the gifts in the things we survive and overcome. Now Iím experiencing life as a mother, itís another opportunity for me to do a deeper level of healing. As (my daughter) grows and as we grow together, it makes me feel so good. It makes me realize, history doesnít need to repeat itself.

Amber Lilyestrom, 35, of Hampstead, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Courage Speaks is a collaborative movement that uses photography and storytelling to empower survivors and their communities to raise their voices against violence. Courage Speaks NH is a partnership of HAVEN, the YWCA of greater Manchester, and Seacoast Media Group's award-winning photographer Deb Cram. The stories shared are all in the survivors' own words. Our goal is for Courage Speaks NH.org to serve as an expanding platform for Granite State residents to share their stories and learn how others have traveled the path of healing and survival.†


HAVEN has trained confidential advocates available.

Advocates are available 24-hours a day through HAVENís hotline: (603) 994-SAFE (7233). Walk-in services are offered Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 20 International Drive, Suite 300, Portsmouth and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 150 Wakefied St., Rochester. HAVEN is the violence prevention and support services crisis center for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, serving southeastern New Hampshire.