Through this blog I hope to showcase inspiring stories of remarkable women—ordinary women doing extraordinary things.  This story moved me beyond words. I had originally reached out to Kendra as the force behind my recent Trailfest experience. Her dedication and commitment to the sport of running, coupled with a successful career and an amazing family, was something I wanted to write about.

We talked about the idea of living a badassery life and when I asked her if she was living hers she responded with a resounding yes! However, several days later she sent me an email that rocked my world.

“I have been thinking a lot about your question: ‘Are you living a badassery life’ and of course I quickly answered yes. I do feel like I am, but not because of running, but because I am a survivor; an overcomer.”

Kendra opened up about sexual abuse she experienced as a young child. Her family was your average American family—a close knit, loving family who got together on Sundays, vacationed together and celebrated every holiday together. What her family wasn’t was a dark, secretive, seductive family. Well, everyone except her uncle. He did the unthinkable. He began seducing Kendra when she was just 9-years-old. He tricked her, lied to her, groomed her, manipulated her and abused her until she was 17. He single-handedly stripped her of her childhood.

It wasn’t until Kendra was in college that her family learned about her childhood trauma. Her uncle had convinced her all those years that it would destroy their family if she told anyone. Her life was spiraling down a direction she needed to correct. Kendra’s behavior was destructive, anger overwhelmed her and she experienced thoughts of suicide. Something had to change. He had stolen her childhood, but she wanted to prove to herself that he couldn’t steal her future. Kendra reached a point in her life that she wanted to move from being a victim—something she despised, to being a survivor.

One of Kendra’s mantras is: “You have to walk through it to get to the other side or everything you want is on the other side of fear.” She believes that to be true in her life—the one thing that holds her back is fear. Fear of failure, fear of acceptance, fear of being the center of attention, fear of the unknown. During her abuse, she suffered the most extreme fear. She was afraid to talk. She didn’t understand why someone didn’t protect her. She felt shame and guilt. All of which led to walls that she put up to protect herself. She compartmentalized her life and placed her trauma in a compartment she thought she could ignore.

As she started to walk through the pain and travel the journey of healing, Kendra discovered that the walls had to come down. She is wired to be in relationships and fellowship. She says she finds a great deal of joy and happiness being surrounded by amazing women. The sharing of ideas, support and positive energy that she gains from others drives her to be the best she can be. “As I walk out the other side, the fact is that I am better and able to accomplish anything I put my mind to as long as I realize I am not alone.”

Kendra started counseling in her 30s and began to forgive God in her 40s. Now, in her early 50s, she openly shares her story in hopes it may help others. (I was shocked to learn that 1 in every 4 girls is  sexually abused—and most often by someone they trust: a family member, member of the church, a coach, teacher, etc.) Kendra serves on the board of the Indiana Center for Prevention of Youth Abuse & Suicide. She is passionate about raising awareness of the issue and supports education and prevention programs.

When I circled back to our shared passion for running, she shared that running was a big part of her healing. It’s a part of her holistic goal of being healthy—physically, mentally and emotionally.

“I’m in the best place that I’ve ever been,” Kendra shared. “I’ve learned to address it, accept it and not hide behind it. I’m just trying to be the best version of myself. There’s still work to be done, but I will continue to push myself to be the best that I can be.”

I’ve always thought of Kendra as being pretty remarkable. She is the most caring and loving friend; she’s an amazing mom and wife; she’s smart, strategic and successful in her career and yes, she kicks butt in every race she runs. Her abuse doesn’t define her, but it has shaped her into being one bad ass woman!

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