Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor Launches Memoir
Updated: 4 days ago
Last night was Kelly Humphries' triumphant and moving launch of her memoir, "Unscathed Beauty: Her darkness fight was her brightest light", at City Hope Church, Holmview. A long time in the making, this book was borne of Kelly’s resilience and unwavering faith. Kelly is a survivor of secret childhood sexual abuse by a family paedophile. Her abuse journey (and recovery) was not only the catalyst for, and theme of, her memoir, it was also the catalyst for her to discover and follow her calling. This blog was to be a spotlight on Kelly, and it is, but it has evolved also into a reflection on my role and calling as an editor – and the impact working with Kelly's words has had on my life.
First, I must say that the #UnscathedBeauty book launch was the BEST book launch I have ever been to! This wonderful community event was creatively structured with excellent live music, emotive and artsy power points and videos, and readings by family members. Kel spoke, of course, and there was an informative Q&A Panel Session with experts on child abuse. An auction of gorgeous abstract art was run for Bravehearts, which raised $650! A great MC job was performed by Nikki from Radio 96.5.
What an amazing evening! It was a big audience and we were all taken on a journey as we were drawn into the very real story of Kelly's life. Kelly is not just a survivor, but a thriver, a light to all those who have suffered in a similar way. ~Peter Stuart, Author
I was moved to tears often during the evening. Tears for all children who have undergone, and are currently experiencing, abuse. Tears for Kel and her mum June who both suffered at the hands of familial paedophiles. But also tears of absolute gratitude and awe at the journey Kelly went on in crafting and publishing this book, and for my fortune in walking with her through editing and publishing consulting.
A WORD ARTIST
The way in which the evening was planned, and hearing and seeing Kelly’s words in poem and prose, reminded me of Kel’s artistic nature. When it comes to her writing, Kelly Humphries is a word artist. She has painted her story, her life, with words that express her deepest emotions and heart. And she vividly paints a picture of what goes on externally with abuse but also internally. It is illuminating.
While in some ways the book will read like a tale being told by an expressive storyteller, believe me, it is not a fiction story. Kelly’s creative way of writing is her vehicle of delivery and also her way to deal with the scenes of her life that she is painting. Being separate from it and yet a part of it.
Some abuse scenes might be painful to read; they were for me to edit. But the truth must be told. Don’t we watch this stuff all the time on TV and the news. In movies? But this time it’s someone close! She’s my client. My friend. She’s the author of the book you will read. She’s one of our Queensland police officers. One of our community advocates. She’s one of us. Little Kelly is us. And I saw much of me in her too. Little Kelly could be a child that you know or come to know.
Unless society stands up to expose such abuse and put in place protections – and punishments – it will continue. And there are many children, and adults, now needing healing and restoring. Kelly’s hope is to help more people, one at a time.
The memoir is not all doom and gloom. It is a story of restoration. Kelly also includes her poems written throughout her life, one of her ways to process what was happening. And scenes from her story are of the joy of country living in the Australian bush, cow dung and all.
WRITE, REVEAL AND HEAL
Writing and editing a memoir can be revealing and healing – for writer, editor and eventually the reader. Kelly had to pull on all her resources including her community and faith to get through.
She writes in the prologue,
“At times I struggled with the words writing this memoir, hurting with the recollection of those moments, those feelings and asking myself the questions I never dared to ask before. I fortunately had the tools, my family, friends and partner, along with my faith and an amazing editor who helped me move through this writing journey.”
Editing this book had its challenges due to the topic as I have my own stories of sexual and spiritual abuse, and I also felt Kelly’s pain. We both cried through the process. Sometimes I was gentle with her during the edits, and sometimes strong, to get her to go deeper and express more. In the acknowledgements, she writes of me,
“I have sworn at you so many times! You just didn’t hear me while I raged at my screen through this editing process. ‘Go deeper,’ you say…Ugh!’”
Yes, I told her to dig deep and to be more explicit. "Tell the story. Explain how you were feeling. Say what happened. You’re shedding a light on sexual abuse; let us see it so we can recognise it and avoid it or prevent it." And she did, and she did it well. When Kel goes in, she goes all in!
But she does go on to say, “Thank you for pushing me and helping through this healing journey. Thank you for your hard work, your incredible words, and guidance and friendship. Thanks for your patience and prayers and, more than any of those things, your incredible insight.”
A GUIDING HAND CONNECTS
Kelly knew the creative urge within her to write her story was a ‘calling’ – a nudge from the universe, or God, as part of the greater plan for her life. To harness the scars and lessons from her traumatic experiences as transformational tools of truth and love to help others. Lumps of coal turned to diamonds that shine a light into this world. After all, isn’t Jesus the champion of turning tragedy into triumph? Isn’t that the story of so many humans leaving their mark on this world?
All along her writing and publishing journey, Kelly has been guided to the people, resources, strength, and insights she needed to craft and publish this book and create a platform for her work as an advocate for childhood sexual abuse. We first met at a publishing event about 4 years ago at InHouse Publishing. I had been asked to speak on the topic of writing and editing for spiritual authors. I was all geared up to speak on that topic (even knowing not all audience members would be spiritually minded – so I was sweating a bit at looking like a woo woo whacko!).
However, something prompted me within to stop.
" Ah... I’m meant to talk about spiritual writing and editing for spiritual authors, but I am suddenly feeling I have to talk about memoirs!”
And I had to be vulnerable and open.
I spoke on the writing and editing process for memoir writers, the emotional and healing journey that can occur, and the importance of the editor being emotionally supportive. I recalled my editing the rape scene of a 5-year-old, and became understandably a little emotional. I encouraged writers to keep moving forward.
After my talk a number of people approached me. One was quite teary, telling me that she too had been abused at 5 years old and that my talk had encouraged her to write her story. I went all tingly, moved at the synchronicity of the moment. I hugged her. And then there was Kelly. She shared that her memoir was nearing completion, and it also detailed her story of childhood sexual abuse. We then both knew that there was a reason for me suddenly being guided to change the topic of my talk.
I remembered all this at Kelly’s book launch when she told the story herself, of how when I had been speaking, she and her ever-supportive partner Sarah had looked at each other and knew they had found Kelly’s editor. Hence, my tears last night at that synchronicity, reminding me once again of my calling to do this work and a little of my unworthiness. You see, I often feel unqualified and unworthy – despite doing it for 10 years and working on around 50 publications. I struggle with the old ‘imposter syndrome’ like many others.
I haven’t always been an editor. This career sort of landed in my lap at a time when I was flat to the ground, spent physically and emotionally. Post-‘cult-like’ experience with religion, post-domestic violence, post-divorce and very ill. I felt I had nothing to offer. I was nothing. But in that story, which I won’t bore you with now, I finally found editing – or it found me. It has been a life changer, a lifesaver and a way for me to be of service. Something I can do from home, where I can separate myself a little from the world and only let in what I am meant to and can deal with. And I am still doing something of use. I’ve had my own experiences that confirmed that this is part of The Plan for my life.
While I feel quite at home editing, love it actually, it has its challenges because it is very mental work, and because I am a sensitive empath with some human health limitations. Being an empath is a two-edged sword! It can create vulnerability, which is a gift sometimes, and it can seem like a weight at other times. I often seem to ‘absorb’ people and their words, emotions and energy, which may be why most authors – those I really connect with – feel I get their voice and I am really connecting with them. (Though I would say that wasn’t the case for the first books I worked on. I was still growing.) This absorption trait also means I have had to learn the hard way what sort of friends and clients and words to relate with. It also means I can be wiped out in intense environments (and without wisdom in the past and protection in place, I’ve been misled too).
The intuitiveness side of being an empath means I naturally listen to my gut feelings and emotional responses to the words (wearing both the hat of an editor and a reader). I naturally ‘listen’ into whether the words are conveying clearly what the writer wants to say, if it’s revealing some inconsistency or confusion in them that could be inadvertently conveyed (which they might need to address within themselves), if something feels ‘off’ (e.g. if there is plagiarism or someone else has done the writing, or I will pick up if the author wrote a particular aspect years before and it is now not reflecting the person they are now). I also sense the possible impact on readers. I find the process works better if I pray for guidance and clarity before I work and ask to be an instrument of good - and don't doubt myself. Plus I must take good self care.
I often am amazed at how it seems almost like the words were written just for me. I don’t know how many times I cried when I finally started reading someone’s writing as it is really speaking to me. Often things are happening in my own life that make the words quite relevant to me, which in turn, and importantly, gives me insights into the topic to help the editing process. I feel blessed to read them first before others.
Sometimes when there is a delay in starting on a book, or completing the edits in a certain time frame (because of something to do with either me or the author), we usually reflect later that somehow the timing turned out perfectly – for both of us.
We aren't in charge as much as we think!
Kelly’s faith has inspired me. She is a Christian, but not the in-your-face sort who expects others to follow the same path. But she crafted gently her faith into her memoir because that is her reality. To tell her story truthfully, it had to be included, and rightly so. As a child she cried out, often silently and in tears, to Jesus and God. She could have given up believing in a Heavenly Father’s goodness as she was defiled by somebody so trusted in the family. She could have given up on trusting anyone let alone an invisible God of goodness. But she didn't. Her faith was her life jacket.
Kel’s ability to keep hanging onto (sometimes a thread) of belief in a God of goodness despite the cave of darkness she was in touched me deeply when editing her book. And it helped me renew my own ability to hang onto that thread and to begin again my own dialogue with Jesus and God, a conversation I struggled with for a long time due to my past struggles in an organised religion and abuse. Now that thread has been woven into a stronger rope of security within me whilst I still retain my eclectic approach to spirituality. It's an anchor. And for that, too, Kel, I thank you.
Thank you, Kelly, for being understanding of my needs too and my journey as a human. Thank you for bringing your story and words to the world. You are a walking example of hope and bravery and humanness. I’m excited to see the impact you will have. I’m sure God is going to be bringing more and more people to assist you on this journey. I also thank you for your trust in me and for enabling this experience that is encouraging me to keep on going making a difference where I can. Keep on shining your bright light!
Wow! congratulations Kelly and Wendy 💜Your beautiful words have left me speechless yet wrapped in deep compassion for Kelly's amazing courage and overwhelming gratitude once again to Wendy for her Mastery in holding the loving space for our stories to be "birthed" ! ~Robyn Collins, Author🙏