by Rachel Johnson
NOTE FROM ALLIE: Hey Girls! We’re so excited to feature our dear friend Nicole Bromley for our newest “WM Spotlight.” Nicole and I first got connected 5 years ago when I invited her to speak at our SCU Chapter’s annual spring event. Since then myself and our team have been absolutely smitten with her. Though we’re separated by dozens of states and thousands of miles she is a true kindred spirit and our paths still get to cross during speaking engagements. She’s goofy and fun, strong and courageous and is changing countless lives by breaking the silence on an all too prevalent issue. Nicole’s story is featured in our new book—(which comes out in May!)—Wonderfully Made: Becoming Who You Are In Christ. She’s also one of our featured wmVoices. You can follow Nicole on Twitter, Facebook, and website.
Nicole Bromley seemed as though she had it all. She lived with her beautiful family in a sweet community and she was the star of her school – in academics, athletics, and social settings. No one ever would have known that she was being sexually abused – until, that is, Nicole confronted her greatest fear and shared her story with her loved ones. By breaking the cycle of silence, Nicole was able to move towards the path of healing. Now she is the founder of OneVOICE Enterprises, and she travels the country speaking to people about the power of sharing their stories, no matter how dark they may be. Read more to learn about Nicole and her incredible work.
Q: Nicole, you are the founder and director of OneVOICE Enterprises. Can you give us an overview of the organization?
OneVOICE is an organization committed to raising awareness of sexual abuse, rape, trafficking, and other related issues. As a foundation, we have created an international platform for sexual abuse prevention. We ask real life speakers to share their real life stories, all of which carry messages of hope and healing. This is the proverbial icebreaker that allows for dialogue and discussion of sensitive topics. We help point students towards healthy lifestyle and relationship choices. OneVOICE offers support resources to individuals, schools, universities, churches, and other organizations.
Q: You are also a motivational speaker and an author – you wear so many hats! You use your personal story to raise awareness of your cause and to empower others. Can you share some of your life story with us here?
I grew up in a small town. Many who knew me may have considered me the “perfect girl” from the “perfect family.” I came from a happy Christian home and was often referred to as the poster child of our small community: a straight-A student, captain of three sports, homecoming queen, student council president. My life seemed ideal. But what others saw on the outside—my super-achiever persona and the big smile I wore to school every day—was masking a lot of hurt and confusion going on inside. For nearly a decade of my childhood I carried the silent pain and secret of childhood sexual abuse and I was afraid to tell.
My step-father silenced me in so many ways, telling me that was he was doing was normal and that he was teaching me. He also said no one would believe me if I told and if anyone did find out about “our little secret,” I would never see my mom again. I believed it was my responsibility to keep our family together; in order to protect my mom, I had to do whatever my step-dad wanted. I felt as if I had no choice. I was scared and confused, and I felt trapped. So I forced myself to believe that it wasn’t that big of a deal and that it was better if I suffered through the abuse and remained silent.
I was 14 years old when I finally broke the silence to my mom that I had been sexually abused by my step-father throughout my childhood. A week later he committed suicide. No matter how complicated my life got after I told my secret, I knew that it had been the right thing to do. I look back on my healing journey and truly believe the first step to healing is in breaking the silence. Telling someone about what had happened to me released me from my past so that I could embrace the future. The more times I told my story, the more it helped free me from the pain and shame. Finding the courage to tell others what had happened put me on a journey to healing and a relationship with Jesus where I discovered the freedom I’d been longing for. And that is where my mission stems from: I want others to begin their healing journeys and discover the same thing.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse find it very difficult to talk about what they’ve been through. They often tell me that they remember nights when they held their breath in fear that an abuser might be near and hear them if they spoke. What they want more than anything is to be free to breathe deeply—to fill their empty places inside with life-giving air—but they never feel safe enough to do that, so they keep silent.
In Hush, I described the four major steps of moving from silence to healing after childhood sexual abuse: breaking the silence, realizing it was not your fault, forgiveness, and making a Difference. Since the release of Hush, many have courageously responded to my call to break the silence, find their VOICE and begin healing from childhood sexual abuse.
Breathe goes beyond Hush, for the simple fact is that healing is a lifelong journey and relationships are a huge part of recovery. Even after we’ve taken those four steps through Hush, there’s more healing to do. We must let stale air out and fresh air in. When we do, we enter a new stage of healing that enables us to thrive in all our relationships.
Breathe is a book for survivors who are ready to work on their relationships. But it is also for those who are committed to walking alongside them on their healing journey. Compassionate people like these make up what I call a survivor’s “circle of inspiration.” Because they care, they inspire us—they literally breathe new life into us by allowing us to exhale the old and inhale the new. A circle of inspiration is a safe space where we can quit holding our breath, a place where we can exhale the false identity, isolation, and addictions that prevent us from walking down the path towards healing. Together, they make up our breathing space, where we can become all that God intended us to be.
As survivors of sexual abuse, we desperately need such a circle. It’s our habitat for healing, a place of mutual speaking and listening, of learning and teaching, of supporting and being supported, of giving and receiving unconditional love. It’s a place where we can finally be free to breathe.
Stay tuned for part two tomorrow! Until then, how does this first part of Nicole’s story inspire you?