Tiffany's Story

"You’ve got to let the story out. Share it with the world—and then move on and live your life."

 

Tiffany Mason was just a teenager when she decided to dedicate her life to figure skating. She left her family and moved hours away to live and train with an elite coach, hoping to one day represent the United States and the Philippines in the Olympics. The training was rigorous, but the other challenges she faced posed a more serious problem. After just a few months her coach's husband began sexually abusing her.

“I was 18. He knew it was the first time away from my parents, and that I was dedicated to skating above all else. He gained my trust, and then he violated it,” remembers Tiffany. The coach’s husband isolated Tiffany from her 

friends, family, and coach, and he repeatedly threatened her not to speak out. “He told me that if I said anything, my skating career would go out the window. Skating was really important to me—and I believed him. So I kept my mouth shut.”

 

Tiffany tried to focus her energy on skating, but the stress of keeping it inside affected her physical and mental health. “I would come home from practice and turn off the lights and sleep until dinner. I felt depressed. I felt terrible.” Eventually she reached out to a friend who lived in New York City, but his reaction was unsupportive. “He told me to ‘just leave.’ He didn’t really get it, and it just pushed me back even further.” When a survivor discloses sexual violence, a supportive reaction can make all the difference, but that doesn’t mean the right words are easy to find. One of the best ways to show support is to tell the survivor, “I believe you.”

A year after leaving home, Tiffany visited her parents for the holidays. They noticed that her weight, mental health, and skating performance had declined, and they decided she would not return to live with her coach. Once the decision was made, she talked to her parents about what happened, but again she was met with disbelief. “They didn’t believe me. They said, ‘If this really happened why didn’t you say anything about it? I can’t believe he would do something like this.’” Tiffany enrolled in a nearby college and explored different ways to manage painful memories from the abuse. She began attending church before school in the morning, and found the routine and connection to her faith comforting. She also turned to a therapist to work through her issues with trust and how to manage specific scenarios that were causing her discomfort. “Whenever I would see an older man on campus talking to a younger woman, I would get really upset. It would take me back to that place. I needed to figure out a way to focus on myself and not let it upset me.”

Today, Tiffany makes a career out of just that: helping others find a path to focus and grow. She is a certified professional coach and owns her own coaching and speaking company where she works with individuals on goal setting, time management, and personal development. She has published two books and has another coming out soon called “The Power of Adversity,” which is a memoir and self-help book for women survivors. “Design the life you want to experience. It’s my motto. Whatever life I want to experience, it’s up to me to create and design a way forward when something calls up a bad memory.”

Even through her success, Tiffany is honest about the ways her experience continues to affect her. “Sometimes I’ll be in an airport and see an older man and younger girl...but now I’m better prepared to handle it.”

Tiffany is married to a loving husband and has an 11-month old son. She loves spending time outside, reading, writing, and learning something new every day. She shares story to let other survivors know they are not alone and to encourage them to come forward. “Find an organization like RAINN that really supports you and encourages you to share your story. You’ve got to let the story out. Share it with the world—and then move on and live your life.”

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