TwitCount Button

Victim to Survivor – Blog 1

Victim to Survivor

The Abuse

I was pinned to the floor with a grown man holding me down, using a piece of glass to cut open the back of my hand, and the backs of both of my ears. My screams went unnoticed. The man was my step-father and I was 11. He was punishing me for breaking a glass while doing the dishes – cutting my hand for being so clumsy, and my ears for not listening to him when he told me to be careful.
This was my life back then. For 10 years this man abused me, emotionally and physically, and eventually, sexually. He told me every single day that I was ugly, useless, stupid, worthless, and unlovable. The beatings would range from hitting and punching, to throwing me down the stairs and across rooms, to strangling me and holding me under hot water.
I would dream of running away, but didn’t want to risk my mom’s safety. I knew he would turn to her if I was not there. When he started entering my room at night, I was 9. The anger over my helplessness grew inside me for years. So did the thought that I was a worthless and useless ‘thing’.


The Teen Years

Going into my teen years, although we were safe from his abuse, my already fragile self-esteem was degraded further with each insult, or snicker launched my way by some person that was dealing with his/her own issues in a negative way. It didn’t have to be a bully, although I had a couple of those too, because I was so reliant on others for acceptance.

Each boyfriend that wanted to use me for my body, and then dumped me when I said no, just enforced that I was an unlovable, worthless ‘thing’ that just wasn’t good enough.

I exploded every difficult situation I faced as a teenage girl out of proportion because of how I viewed things. I was always looking to prove that ex-stepfather wrong. I was looking for someone else to show me my value, show me I was lovable, show me I was smart and pretty and worth being around. Each time someone else failed to do so, I took it very personally. It destroyed me. I was so desperate to prove him wrong that I felt I was proving him right instead.

I was a victim.

Living as a Victim

Living the life of a victim was difficult, emotional, and traumatic. It meant I relived my traumas over and over again. It meant that neither my friends and family, nor I, knew how I would react to any situation. I played the poor me card on many an occasion.

Most of these times were internal. I had a record that would constantly play on repeat in my head. The one that repeated his words – ‘You’re an ugly, stupid, waste of space that nobody will ever love’. When I had hoped for a different result to a situation, I would chastise myself for allowing myself to think I deserved that positive outcome I had dreamt about.

And it seemed like everyone else agreed. Relationship after relationship would end, usually at the hand of the guy, or by me finding him cheating. Friendships were difficult to maintain – but of course they would be, wouldn’t they, with me being useless and all.

Waking Up

One day everything changed. I woke up. For some inexplicable reason, one day I woke up and saw myself for who I was… a victim. I took a really hard look at myself and realized that I was responsible for it all.
Of course, I wasn’t responsible for the abuse, nobody ever is, but I was in control of how I chose to deal with it. And I wasn’t dealing with it very well at all. I was letting myself relive it over and over again. It defined me. I was a victim.
I realized in that moment that there was nothing I could do about the past, but I had complete control over my present. I was a victim when I was a child, but I had survived. Everything changed in that moment. I became a survivor. And, whether or not you can relate to my experience, if you are a victim of trauma, you too can turn it around and become a survivor.

Becoming a Survivor

These are a few of the things I did that worked for me. Please do not think this is an exhaustive list, because I still find things that work and try things that do not work, for me. Everyone deals with things in their own way and in their own time. It stands to reason then that what worked for me might not work for you.
Therapy, for example, is something I tried many times, and while it helped with some things, it did not help me to become a survivor. For someone else, therapy will be exactly what they need. So take my steps with a grain of salt. I will spend the next few months outlining all the successful things that worked for me over the years, in much more detail. Until then, these will get you started (and probably preoccupied for awhile).
1. Learn how to love yourself:
This is the age-old passage, isn’t it? ‘Before anyone else can love you, you have to love yourself’, or some such thing. It is true! For me, this came after figuring out how to respect myself, which came after spending some time recounting all the things I had encountered in my life, especially the abuse. I reminded myself with each memory that I had survived it. Many times it was not pretty, but I came through every single time, learning and growing with each event. I was struggling, but I was alive, healthy, safe, and moving forward. That deserves respect. Life can be difficult, and it is relative – what one person finds life altering, another will sail through without issue. I survived all the events in my life that I felt like the end of my world at the time, and became a stronger person as a result. I can be proud of that!
2. Face it head on:
The hardest part by far was this step. I needed to face what had happened, and let it go. That doesn’t mean I have forgotten about it, or just don’t speak to anyone about it (out of sight out of mind style). It means I had to really appreciate the facts: I was a child and this was out of my control. I did not deserve this and there was nothing I could have done to entice it or prevent it. And, going hand in hand with step 1, I again looked at the survival tricks I learned and implemented for myself to minimize the trauma over the 10 years. I was a strong little fighter. And yes, while I did struggle in my teen years, I stayed away from all the coping mechanisms that could have seemed to help at the time, but really make things so much worse later on. I had been a strong little fighter then too. And now here I was in my early twenties, dealing with it once and for all. I was still a strong little fighter! Respect, with a capital R!
3. The hard look:
Step back and look at yourself. Really. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would they describe you? Do they think you are strong, calm, cool, and collected, or do you fly off the handle and over react? This is not so you can please others, quite the opposite. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you, but you. This is an exercise in truly seeing yourself. When I did this, I saw a victim; an emotional wreck who could find something negative to say about a beautiful sun shining day. And do you know what? That is not the person I wanted to be. I didn’t want to live my life that way, always bringing myself down. I was ready to take responsibility for my own actions, to realize the control I had over my thoughts, actions and reactions. I was ready to stop the negativity. I made a decision right then and there to become the person I wanted to be, one with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude.
4. Redefine yourself:
Now that you’ve seen your true self, it’s decision time. Will you continue on this path, or is it time for a new one? Only you can answer this question, just like only you can do anything different and change. If you did not like what you saw when you looked in the mirror in step 3, what are you going to do about it? If you are negative, treating yourself poorly, showing a lack of respect for yourself, etc…. are you ready to stop it and start living the life you deserve? If so, than it starts here and now, with this decision, in this moment. Choose better – choose your thoughts, your reactions to the actions of others, your internal dialogue, your view on life – your life – wisely. Choose better for yourself. See the world through the eyes of the person you want to be, the person you deserve to be. The way you will do that will be different for each person, but it begins with this decision. Well done!
I will spend my next several blogs outlining exactly what was helpful to me, including positive thinking, energy work, Massage Therapy (positive touch), helping others, books that were incredibly helpful, acting, and so much more!

Books to help

The following books helped me immensely on this first step of my journey:
Subscribe to my blog if you’d like to ensure you don’t miss a thing!
Better yet, book a complimentary call to see how I can help!

By Lisa Cybaniak

I am Lisa Cybaniak, Reiki Master Teacher, High Priestess, Author, Founder of Life, like you mean it, and survivor of 10 years of child abuse. I am doing my part to aid in the evolution of the Earth, and mankind by providing Reiki treatments and training. This, along with Massage Therapy and my monthly Full Moon Women's Circles, offers gentle, yet effective healing.


  1. Dear Lisa,
    I’m at a loss for words. Your blog has left me stunned. Since I first met you in community theatre I have this impression of you as a positive, energetic and funny woman. I was completely unaware of this difficult and awful childhood you experienced. I am so sorry this happened to you. But your words have cheered me too as your blog will be sharing your road to your current state which seems to be healthy and happy. You are an incredibly strong and resilient person and I admire your determination to share. I wish you well and look forward to your next blog. Hugs, Laurel

    1. Thank you so much for such kind words Laurel. It took a long time and a lot of hard work to become the person you have described, but I did it and I am so proud of myself. I hope I can help others do the same!

  2. Sending you a big hug and want you to know how much I admire and respect you ! The entire time I’ve known you , you have always been a beacon of light and happiness . You are a beautiful person inside and out
    I have no doubt your blog will help others to find their way to health .

  3. Lisa what an incredibly brave way to share your experiences, learnings and help others – you’re inspiring!

  4. I had no idea! I always saw you as a very happy and energetic person. A complete delight to be around. Thank you for sharing. I know your story will help many more people than you ever thought possible!

    1. Thank you Emily! I am a very happy and energetic person, because I want to be! I am so happy others see that in me! Thank you for your support!

  5. Lisa, I don’t even know what to say. First and most importantly, I LOVE YOU! I wish you were thousands of miles away so I could hug you, but you are exactly where you are supposed to be so here’s a virtual HUG. I hope I didn’t crush you because it was a big one hahaha. I to am a survivor of being victimized by men in my life that should have been protecting me. For me the worst thing that happen was the other people in my life not believing me, but I understand that they didn’t know what to do or how to respond not necessarily that they didn’t believe me. It was easier for them to shove it back in the closet where it was for 30 years. It’s okay because I can’t control how they feel or how they react only I can control how I react. So I want to tell you that although I am shocked I BELIEVE YOU. You are a wonderful and amazing woman. All my love, Kathy

    1. Oh Kathy, I love you too! Thank you so much for your support! I’m so sorry that you can empathise with me – it seems so many people can. The important thing is having the support to do what needs to be done to be the best person you can be, to help yourself and maybe even others. Can’t wait for that hug in the summer!

  6. You got it babe. And we have our calendars blocked just for you guys on the 24th. Can’t WAIT!!

  7. Dear Lisa,
    I am so sorry you went through that. You are an amazing person and I am so happy for you being the person you have become!

    1. Thank you Dana! Acting and dancing played a big part in my recovery (building confidence, having something I was good at and could be proud of, etc…) and you and your family were a big part of that. So thank you!

  8. I was a little shocked when I read this. I’ve spent a number of days thinking about ‘why did it shock me’ exactly. I’ve come to the conclusion that, I have pre-conceived expectations around what a person who has been abused looks like and acts like … and you Lisa, do not fit that expectation. You’ve always struck me as a woman who has her shit together, confident and empowered, ready to take on the world. Now to learn your story … wow, way to own your ‘stuff’ and rise above it. You are an inspiration and have been added to my list of heroes. Thanks for sharing and for providing me with brain food. My daughters benefit from the strength of women like you. Thank-you.

    1. Such kind words David, thank you! I am a confident and empowered woman now, but I had to work really hard for it. I was the polar opposite for so many years until I saw who I was and made a decision to change. I was so determined to turn this into a positive, but I couldn’t do that, or continue to, without the wonderful people in my life. That includes you and your beautiful family. ???? I can only hope that I can be an inspiration to others, whatever they may be struggling with.

  9. Lisa, I’m so proud of everything you’ve been through and where you are today. We’ve been friends for over 30 years, and although we’ve almost always had much distance between us in km’s, you’re support and friendship have never waivered. Reading your story, there were things I knew however, many I didn’t. Being an abuse survivor myself, I think it’s time for me to ‘come out’, and start documenting my experiences and trauma for my benefit, and perhaps share my story with others, to help as you did. You’ve inspired me to really look inward, take steps to finding myself again, and continue to be an example to my daughters on how to be strong, happy, and confident woman. I’ll keep you posted on my progress 😉
    Way to go Lisa, you’re not only a true friend, but also an inspiration. xo

    1. Oh Mandy, I’m so proud of you! Way to go girl! It is not easy, but there is so much support and appreciation out there for people “coming out”, probably because so many people have suffered through abuse themselves. It amazes me that we keep hush hush about it. Time to change that! You have my 100% support!

Comments are closed.