I have practiced as a psychologist for over 20 years. In this work, I evaluated patients who experienced trauma, often sexual trauma. I have borne witness to countless painful secrets, countless stories of suffering.  I have helped my patients. I have helped those who treated them understand.

To look at me, to know me as a professional, to know me as a friend, you would never know I harbored my own secret.  I hid my suffering very well.  But this is the truth that tormented me: I was sexually abused by my father beginning when I was about 6 years old and ending when I was 16 years old.

I first spoke about the abuse in a psychotherapy when I was in my 30's. Until then, even my husband, the person I love most in the world, did not know. It was a helpful therapy and I thought I healed as much as I could.  However, over the years the feelings of shame, guilt, responsibility and filth continued to torment me.  A series of intrusive images and memories tormented me, as well.

Beginning in about 2009 I began my journey as a photographer and artist.  It is only now, as I look back, it is clear to me that I have been unconsciously processing aspects of the trauma in my work.  As I realize this now, I am amazed that I did not see it before.  My art and my healing have been deeply linked.

I believe my artistic journey prepared me for some of the most powerful healing work I have experienced:  The portrait project that my dear friend and photographer, Gary Kaplan, embarked upon in 2014. This is the work profiled in the Gallery "Making the Unspeakable Visible" in the collection "Using Photography for Healing."  Because of this work, at age 56, I finally came to understand, truly, deeply, that the abuse was not my fault. I finally spoke about my history publicly.

After years of hiding and silence, I am feeling that I am ready to speak. I wish to speak. I must speak. Sexual trauma lives in the darkness, behind closed doors. Unless it, and its effects are brought into the light, we cannot truly understand how to assist survivors and engage in effective prevention.

In 2014 I participated in the Powerful Voices Project. This is an extraordinary project, co-created by Becky Fine, a wonderful woman who has processed her own trauma in her academic life as well as her artistic life.  I was so honored when my video, The Story of Stephanie Hamilton-Oravetz was launched.

It can be seen at the Powerful Voices Project site:  www.PowerfulVoicesProject.com