12/14/2006 05:45 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

This is Not the Life I Ordered

My name is Michealene Cristini Risley. I met Arianna recently when we both were speaking at the Pacific Business Women's Conference in Sacramento. I loved listening to her speak, she was poignant and funny. I have also read her book on Fearlessness. Being fearless is tough. I know. I have to exercise that muscle every time I get in front of audience and tell my personal story.

My personal story is one of sexual abuse by family members. It is a subject that no one wants to talk about, and certainly not speak about. I have a book that I co-authored with three other women called This Is Not the Life I Ordered. The book comes out in the spring of 2007. In our book, I talk about my personal experiences with sexual abuse and how much it affected who I was, and who I became. It caused a great deal of pain for me. I also learned some incredible lessons. I wouldn't give up what happened to me, because it gave me great gifts.

In January, I am planning to go back and visit with family to talk through and let them read the book before it is published. I am not looking forward to it. I know that I have to do it. I love and care about them enough to do this, but it is very difficult for me to drum up enough courage to go. That fearlessness doesn't come lightly sometimes.

I speak at many places about sexual abuse and my goal is to help reach victims who may have not been as lucky as me. And I have been lucky. See, what I finally came to understand was that the sexual abuse that I experienced, did not define who I was. We cannot heal individually until we realize that the sexual abuse has nothing to do with us, we didn't cause it. Until we understand that as a society, and stop keeping abuse a dirty little secret, we won't be able to stop creating victims.

I am not talking about the child molesters that the world knows about. The ones like Richard Allen Davis who kidnapped Polly Klass. Those types of crimes are less that 5% of sexual abuse victims. It is our fathers and our brothers or an unsuspected uncle or neighbor.

There is so much fear and shame involved in telling the truth about one's experience with abuse. Yet, in many ways it helps you heal. I don't want to cause pain to my family members, but I know that my visit is going to cause pain for all of us. Anger is going to play a part in that visit as well. How could I tell our story in so public of a way? How could I shame our family like this? I can understand those feelings, and yet this issue is far bigger than my personal story. I am going to call my family and set up a trip to see them in January. I will keep you posted!