NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- For decades, all they've wanted to do is forget about their very dark and painful pasts. But local women are sharing their stories of childhood sexual abuse, hoping to heal other victims.

"Before, I was a sexually abused person -- that's who I was -- and everything else just seemed to be defined by that," explained abuse survivor Lynda Arkwright.

Recovering from a broken bone takes a matter of weeks.

A broken heart, maybe a matter of months.

But a broken soul -- the wound may never fully close.

That's how the women in a local support group describe the uphill battle they face every day, haunted by their memories of being sexually abused as children.

"I was having some episodes in my life that were triggers to things that had happened when I was abused," described survivor "Bean" Ledger.

"I knew my whole life I had been abused. I remember, I was there but I just kind of buried it and just didn't think about it," said survivor Mary Oglesby.

But like for so many, one day she was forced to deal with her pain.

"One morning at 4:30 in the morning I just went into a huge panic attack," said Oglesby.

"At one point I was so depressed and things were starting to come out in my life that I ended up in the hospital because I wanted to say that was it. No more," said survivor Dar Bessler.

That breaking point is what lead them here to SOAR Ministries, Survivors of Abuse Restored.

"That's what was on my heart to have a place where women can meet together and talk about what had happened in their life as children," said SOAR founder Leslie Thomas.

Thomas founded the support group 14 years ago.

"It's an epidemic if you really think about it. One out of three girls and one out of five boys are sexually abused before the reach the age of 18," explained Cathy Summers, a survivor and licensed therapist in New Albany.

She helps women work through a 12-week course a few nights a week. They talk, cry and deal with a multitude of repressed emotions.

"You don't really have an opportunity in your daily life with your friends and your family in your routine to get angry and get mad and get sad and feel all the feelings you need to feel to work through this stuff," said Arkwright.

"Even though it's kind of hard bringing these emotions bubbling up again what is it you find therapeutic about getting together with other women who have been through the same thing," WDRB's Lindsay Allen asked the survivors.

"You don't feel alone, it's like oh, you felt that too," said Thomas. 

"That's the main thing we have to do is let's get it out of the closet let's talk about it and deal with it," said Summers.

"And now I'm in my 60s so here I am working on this. It's okay. I'm a free person that's the best thing about it," said Bessler.

"If I hadn't found out about SOAR and gotten into a support group I really don't know where I would be," said Ledger.  

"A piece of my life and it never totally goes away I can't erase it. It's there but I can function better because it's not who I am it's what happened to me," said Arkwright.  

"Come, come and you deserve it. You're worthy of it and we want you we want to meet you," said Thomas.

Leslie Thomas is WDRB's Hidden Hero for February; she received a check for $500 from Becker Law Office.

To nominate a Hidden Hero, click here.

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