Meet Gena, the founder of Thriver on a quest to be a voice for sexual & domestic violence survivor

“When I was 27 years old, I joined a Martial Arts school and started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to learn self defence, increase my sense of independence and to challenge myself and learn something new. It was important for me to keep myself safe. But as I later found out, I was far from safe. The guy teaching it was the biggest threat.

The owner and head coach preyed on me and within 6 months of starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I was dating and being groomed by him. We were together less than two years but within this short period of time, it quickly went to extreme measures of domestic, sexual and narcissistic abuse. He convinced me to be in a BDSM relationship where I signed a “slut contract” not done by a lawyer and had many clauses in it. I was on 100mg of anti-depressants going in and out of this relationship and I ended up being suicidal near the end of it and really struggled with my mental health. I needed something to numb me to help me survive the daily torture from him getting strange men to rape and abuse me among many other traumatising things he got me to do. This relationship was all about coercive control and playing out the fantasy he had in his head. He was addicted to sex and I was his personal sex toy.

I’m so glad I found the strength to finally leave him. It was difficult, but not as difficult as the aftermath and PTSD and trauma it left on me afterwards. The trauma bond was difficult to get through but I fought hard to come home to myself and I’m so glad I did. My Clinical psychologist says with all of the love, patience and inner work I did on myself - I quite literally changed the plasticity of my brain.

It’s been three and a half years since I’ve left and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m in a beautiful, safe, supportive and healthy relationship with a beautiful man and more importantly, I have the best relationship, self love and respect for myself. I’m now studying Counselling (majoring in Abuse) and in an 8 month lockdown here in Melbourne this year, I’ve created an initiative called ‘The Thriver Project’ specifically dedicated and advocating for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

I’m here to kick the door down and change the narrative when it comes to domestic and sexual violence and I’m committed to creating change. In order to create change, we need to start having the uncomfortable and awkward conversations. We need to break the social stigma and ensure that survivors no longer feel that speaking their truth is humiliating, shameful, wrong, and disgusting.

I am not a Life coach – I believe that we are all experts in our own lives. I’m simply here to show survivors that there is a beautiful life on the other side of victimhood and living in survival mode. I want to inspire them to be the best versions of themselves because life doesn’t have to end after domestic or sexual violence. We can still have a beautiful life where we feel worthy, we are fulfilled and we are thriving!”

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