Anne Reeder Heck was enjoying a morning bicycle ride in northern Virginia when she was stopped by a man asking for directions. She was violently beaten and raped at the mere age of 26. Heck is tenacious in her pursuit to heal the pain permeating her body after the rape, and she devotes herself to a healing quest that opens her to the transformative power of intention, intuition and trust. Her prayers for strength are synchronistically answered with a DNA match and identification of her rapist 14 years after the crime.
In her book A Fierce Belief in Miracles, Heck writes with heart, hope and honesty, making it a must-read for women all around the world.
The inspirational author has taken the time to share her story and her words of advice and reassurance with SHEmazing.
Speaking of what pushed her to share her story, she explained, “I spent years browsing libraries and later the Internet to find a true story of someone who had navigated their way to wholeness after rape—a story that could give me hope in what sometimes seemed a hopeless search. I wanted to read about those who’d been broken open and had come to discover their inner strength, their authentic voice and an understanding that our traumas are a precious part of our life experience. My book tells that story. What’s more, I consider my story nothing short of miraculous, and one that needs to be shared.”
“The hardest part of writing my story was becoming re-traumatized. After years of healing work, I felt I was grounded enough to not allow the rehash of my story to affect me, but through reading and re-reading for the editing process, I experienced old patterns of PTSD and needed to make self-care a priority. Writing took a back seat for a while as I worked through some lingering pieces. Though there were challenges in my writing process, these were also opportunities to grow. This book called me to write it; I wasn’t going to give up.”
Opening up about sexual abuse and rape is never easy for a victim, especially when there are people who fail to believe you. Heck shared: “The most challenging part of the process for me was advocating strongly on my behalf with law enforcement and others to ensure everything possible was done to identify the man who raped me, including working with media and eliciting the help of a neighboring county’s detective force.
“Having volunteered as a victim’s advocate at our local rape crisis center for over twenty years, I’ve witnessed varied reactions to reporting an assault. It can be a hard decision at a very emotional time and one that’s important for a woman to decide for herself. In facing this choice, consider what you want for yourself and for the larger community. If you choose to work with law enforcement, establish a network of friends or advocates to support you. If you choose not to pursue it, be compassionate with yourself about that decision and open yourself to healing opportunities available to you.
For women who are not ready to come forward, she said: “Trust yourself. Be gentle and do what’s calling your heart, not what’s expected of you or orchestrated from outside of you. Get quiet and inquire within, then move that direction.”
Heck hopes women will learn about the power of an open heart and loving intention by reading her story. She said love is one of the strongest tools we can use. "Miracles occur naturally as an expression of love. Believing in miracles is, for me, a belief in love. Holding this view has enabled me to stay curious instead of staying stuck, to look for and find the gifts when none are readily apparent.
“There are many beautiful and transformative moments on my healing journey. Nearly all of them boil down to witnessing the power of an open heart and a loving intention.”
So many of us know women, whether they’re co-workers, best friends or a cousin, who have experienced sexual abuse. Being there for them is a major priority, but sometimes we can feel lost and unsure about how to comfort them. Heck advised, “Love is an action. The care and concern of friends shown through a phone call or a visit is invaluable. Believing in the ability of someone else to heal, holding this truth with conviction, and expressing it to a survivor of sexual violence creates a safe container for that person to care and advocate for themselves.”
Heck’s focus in life is to help others who are seeking to realize, to overcome, to heal. This comes in the form of women’s circles, mentoring, and healing.
You can read all about Anne Reeder Heck’s story in her memoir A Fierce Belief in Miracles: My Journey from Rape to Healing and Wholeness. Pre-order your copy here.
A Fierce Belief In Miracles is published by She Writes Press.