Wendy Stefanko

Wendy Stefanko

My name is Wendy Stefanko. I am the author of the chapter titled Innocence Lost.  I grew up and still live the Eastern United States.   I have three sons who have grown into amazing men.  Like most of the girls I grew up with I got married right after I graduated from high school.  I spent the next fifteen years mostly as a stay at home Mom trying to keep up with three active boys and helping my husband run his business.

Those were good years, happy years, and I would not give up being a mostly stay at home Mom for anything.  I treasure every moment I spent raising my kids.  My husband and I both spent much of our spare time coaching and running elementary athletic programs. It was during the countless afternoons and evenings I spent sitting on bleachers in remote ball fields and small cramped gymnasiums that I first began to believe that I could do more with my life. It was not that being a Mom wasn’t and still isn’t the best job in the world, but they were growing into young men and I knew that it wouldn’t be long until they would be driving themselves to practice.

I made a lot of friends over those years and many of the other Moms were like me, they didn’t have the chance to go to college either.  But I was inspired by my friends that had, they were nurses, teachers, and executives and I just felt like I needed to be more.  I had one friend in particular that kept telling me I could go to college, she told me until I started to believe it myself.  So the day I put my youngest son on the bus for kindergarten I started college.

My days started at four o’clock in the morning.  My husband put our kids on the bus and I got them off when I got home from school.  My husband was my biggest supporter and I could never have done it without him.  I began by taking undergraduate courses at a nearby State University and after two semesters I transferred to a branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh which is known worldwide as a leader in medical research and education. I was honored to have been accepted  into their Reparatory Therapy program.

I loved everything about going to college and my chosen major, but I also discovered I loved to write. As an undergraduate I had a couple great college writing professors and I learned that writing could be fun.  My Respiratory courses were writing intensive and I wouldn’t say it was fun but and I turned out a series of 4.0 papers over the next couple years and became the recipient of the annual Pennsylvania Society of Respiratory Care Literary Award.  My submission was published in their quarterly publication.

As I began my career my focus changed and there wasn’t much time for writing.  The next fifteen years were a blur of balancing long shifts, football games, and high school proms.  In what seemed like the blink of an eye I had two kids in college and one to soon follow.  Meanwhile I took the courses necessary to prepare for board eligibility in sleep medicine and my schedule became even more hectic and demanding.

After several years of working an even more demanding schedule my health started to decline.  I had no energy, I fell asleep at the drop of a hat, and I was in rapidly increasing pain. Despite working in a hospital finding the reasons for my declining health was a long and difficult process.  I was also fighting a legal battle when my doctor’s requests for ADA accommodation’s that I not work night shifts was denied by administration.

In an ironic twist of fate I was diagnosed with sleep disorders.  I have narcolepsy and severe restless leg syndrome which had begun to manifest when I was still a child.  I was told I probably had MS.  While these are all known auto-immune disorders it was a real blow to be hit with so many.  Thankfully the diagnosis for MS was not confirmed but I have rheumatoid arthritis which affects my tissues more than my joints.  I also have developed a rare form of retinopathy and I am now legally blind.  Although I have significant peripheral vision loss my central vision allows me to function and enjoy the gift of sight.

I have not been able to work as a Respiratory Therapist for over five years.  We moved back to the town I grew up in and I have developed other interests in collecting and selling art and antiques and in preserving antiquities.  I also started writing again.  At first I began writing unconsciously about the pain of my career loss and the other losses and tragedies that we all face in our lives.  But my writing quickly opened the floodgates to the abuses I had suffered not only as a child but even more recently at the hands of an unscrupulous therapist.

Subsequently in my recovery of my abuse in therapy I re-lived the trauma of my childhood abuse. My former therapist had used hypnosis without my permission and I began having vivid flashbacks and recalling sensations and details that I had kept buried for decades.  Thank goodness I had found a therapist who I could trust and for many months we worked through my recovering the memories of my childhood sexual abuse as if it had just occurred.

Since then I have read extensively on the effects of childhood abuse.  As I wrote in my chapter for this book victims rarely tell anyone they were or are being abused.  If they do it is usually not until well into adulthood. There is also a high incidence of repeated or recurrent abuse throughout the victim’s lives.  They become the perfect target for abusers and spend their lives dealing with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that can occur even years after the abuse occurred.

Childhood sexual abuse and its lifelong effects do not just destroy the life of the victims, if the abuse becomes known the entire family becomes victimized.  They not only have to deal with the pain and sorrow they feel for the abused child but they face the stigma and shame associated with it.   Sadly the abuser is often a family member and often he or she was abused themselves as a child. Child abuse or abuse of any kind  is a behavior that is frequently passed down from generation to generation   I have read about  or spoken to too many victims that are living their lives in pain and under the shadow of guilt and shame for something no child should endure. Our children are our greatest treasures and deserve to be treated with love and respect and to be cared for. They are gifts from God and our hope for a better world.

My hope is that by telling my story others that have been abused will realize they are not alone.  There is help available and it is never too late to start your road to healing and recovery.  If you know of or are an abuser there is help available.  In spite of the possibly serious  legal and  even criminal consequence’s  it is the responsibility of anyone who commits,  knows of, or even suspects there is or has been childhood  abuse of any kind to report it.  By not speaking out the abuse will continue and a child will continue have their life taken away.  That is what childhood abuse of any kind does it, destroys their lives.

Only when people are willing to face these ugly truths and become involved will things change. Change has to come one child at a time.  As long as the subject of childhood sexual abuse or any abuse remains taboo in our society we are protecting the abusers.  We are giving them cover and allowing them to hide in plain sight.  We can no longer allow the safety and wellbeing of even one more child to be sacrificed because of fear of stigma and shame.  It is time to reach out to the victims and their families in support and compassion.

My mission is to educate families about childhood sexual abuse and all childhood abuse. No child should ever be touched, hit, held against their will, made to do something that makes them uncomfortable, be bullied, or threatened verbally or covertly in any way.  Talk to your children openly no matter how uncomfortable it is; it just might be the most important conversation you ever have with them.

I am currently working on several more soon to be announced Anthology project with other bestselling authors.  I am also working on the first of several books I have planned telling my complete story as the story I tell here is only the beginning of my story. As is common with childhood abuse I was the victim of recurrent and separate abusers throughout my life including being covertly hypnotized and abused by a therapist.

My story reveals the extent that pedophiles and psychopaths are willing to go to and eventually risk in order to satisfy their need to abuse.  It is a tale too twisted to be fiction. My realization of the abuse by my therapist began as a series of flashbacks which plunged me into a dark and painful journey. It was only after what I consider divine intervention, months of therapy, deep soul searching, and ultimately self-realization, that I found my path to healing and recovery. I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.

In addition to my ongoing book projects I am perusing public speaking opportunities including radio as a forum to reach my audiences.  In my spare time I like I enjoy spending time in nature,  I find it allows me to contemplate the meaning and purpose of my life and connect to my higher sense of  self.

I often find myself walking in the mountains with my Jack Russell Puppers  and I love taking pictures.  I find that my limited visual fields give me a unique perspective which is reflected in my photography.  I plan to incorporate my pictures into my upcoming website to promote my books, support advocacy for abuse victims, and encourage healing and self-discovery.   I am also planning to enter a Master’s Social Work Program focusing in Family Therapy and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders.

You can listen to my first radio appearance by going to: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sunketempletrust/2014/07/15/the-two-spirits-connection-with-the-sacred-tree-of-life-wendy-stefanko

I can be reached at wendy.stefanko@gmail.com

And my Facebook Page and website should be available soon.