In our new blog series, meet the women behind our #WeAreWeCan campaign. We asked these brave and inspiring women to tell us about some of the challenges and struggles they've faced, and share their stories with us. Our hope is that by talking about our experiences as women, we'll recognize that we are not alone and we can help others who might be struggling with similar issues. WE ARE strong, and together WE CAN overcome anything.
For our #WeAreWeCan campaign, we sat down with Katelyn Bellows, age 22, to hear her story. Katelyn was sexually abused as a teenager, and has spent her young adult life learning to heal. Now, as a wife and mother, she tells us how becoming a mom and her love of writing have helped her cope with her trauma. Below, read our conversation with Katelyn and watch her video to learn more about her journey and her advice to other sexual assault victims.
You told us about being sexually abused as a teenager. Could you share more of your story with us and tell us how you've struggled to heal?
When I was a young teen I was sexually assaulted by someone close to me, and because of that, for a few years I was extremely depressed. The only real way I found to cope (that was healthy) was by writing. I wrote a whole blog on my mental health journey, and I did that for almost three years. There were times when writing and talking to other survivors and people who've struggled with mental health were the only things keeping me going.
How have you found hope, support, and strength as a victim of sexual abuse? Have you found support from other women?
Women are the reason I'm still here today. At my lowest of lows, two women took me in and helped me get back on my feet. They were two church leaders of mine, and without them I wouldn't be where I am today. After I went off to college, I confided in my roommates during my third trimester at school, and it turned out that almost all of us had experienced sexual assault at some point. That's when I knew it wasn't just me—I wasn't an outlier. This was happening to my friends and family, and finally I was able to heal and really come to terms with this not being my fault.
My dad and stepmom took me in after the abuse occurred, and my stepmom has been amazing. She set boundaries for me and got me in therapy. She helped me see that the abuse doesn't define me. At the time, I was a teenager who didn't like rules and had so many things going on mentally, so I took my stepmom for granted. Now as an adult, I can look back and see just how much she helped me heal when I was ready to get help.
You told us about your love of writing—do you find that writing about your experience and sharing your story has helped you heal?
While I don't love talking about my abuse, I can say without a doubt that it has helped me heal. Connecting with other women through my writing has been such a blessing.
What advice and/or resources would you offer other teens and young women who are victims of sexual abuse and who are trying to heal and find the strength to move forward?
When you are ready, speak up. Don't let people tell you that you need to talk about it right away. This is YOUR trauma and no one else's. You know what is best for you. This wasn't your fault and you didn't do anything wrong. The number 741-741 is the text crisis line, and you can text them anytime if you need to talk to someone without any judgement. I used this many times and I can't recommend it enough.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
My nana is the greatest woman I know—I talk to her every day and she has always been there for me. She has shown me what unconditional love looks like. She worked her way up at her job: my nana started from the bottom, and when she retired she was at the top, and my grandpa was "the house husband." She's seriously amazing.
If you could go back, what advice would you give your teenage self?
This changes every day, but today if I had to give advice to myself it would be this: Everything you're going through right now is going to make you stronger and tougher than ever before so be patient with yourself. You're going to get through this.
What do you love about your Fawn Design bags?
Well first, they're stunning. The bag itself is huge, which is great because I have three kids under three. And it's so easy to clean, which I need in my life.