Five months ago, I shared my story publicly for the first time at the Paint the Town Pink fundraising event for my local Florence Crittenton agency. Back then I had no idea how much of a difference something as simple as sharing my experience could make. I was recently given the opportunity to testify at a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. The Committee on Oversight and Reform convened this hearing on Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Childhood Trauma and heard from survivors such as myself.

This was an amazing opportunity for me to spread awareness about intergenerational trauma. The women in my family have suffered abuse for decades and remained silent, until now. I completed my testimony with the help of my support team at National Crittenton. Capturing my painful memories and putting them into words on paper was not an easy task, but my Crittenton team, along with my husband Jason, did an absolutely wonderful job in providing emotional support, editing my testimony, and helping me practice reading it.

Jason and I flew into D.C. and spent our first day there exploring the city that is our nation’s capital. It was surreal to be standing in the same places where some of the most memorable moments in American history had happened, where leaders before me had come to speak up for what they believed in and bring change to the world as they knew it. I was so excited to testify the next day. I felt that I really had a chance to make a difference, to tell my story to the world, and to be known as someone who wanted to help create a culture of caring and healing.

On the day of the hearing, my team and I arrived at the Rayburn office building early. The hearing began and Congressman Cummings opened with a statement I’ll never forget, “It’s not your fault”. Until that moment, I didn’t realize how little I’ve actually been told that. Each witness testified, sharing their stories of trauma and journeys of healing. The second panel was a panel of experts and I listened to them answer the committees questions and learned that, based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, half the children in the United States have an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score of one or more. Half. Half of an entire generation will have endured trauma and it is up to us to try to prevent and treat this trauma. I looked around the room at the women and men who were there, advocating, supporting, educating and fighting for those children. In that moment, I knew my passion was to be their voice.

The hearing lasted three hours, and at the end I was able to meet U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Ms. Pressley held mine and my husbands hands as she thanked me for sharing my story and then thanked Jason for his role in my life. That was so important to me, that she recognized the person who helped me begin healing and has been there every step of the way. She shared how she had endured her own trauma as a child and that this subject was important to her because of that. I was in tears at this point, to have such a powerful and inspiring person be able to relate and understand your pain, it made me feel as though the only thing stopping me my whole life was me. If she can overcome trauma and become the incredible leader she is today, so can I. It was really a dream come true. As I write this a week later, I still can’t believe it happened.

Since returning from D.C. I have noticed something has changed within me. I am empowered, I have a voice and I plan to use it every chance I get. This was the first hearing on trauma but it certainly won’t be the last.

You can watch a video of the full hearing here.