Heather Stephens

I met Christine earlier this summer at Northeast Bird Camp and later again at Bruce Camp in Flagstaff. At Bruce Camp, we were driving out to Hart Prairie to do a run through the aspens and started sharing stories in the van. By the time we reached the trail, Christine had everyone in tears. As a detective who specializes in victim crimes, sexual assault, and crimes against children, she has seen A LOT throughout her life and she shared just one small piece of it with us. We stepped onto the trail that day carrying the burden of her story with us, and shook it out on a five mile run. Knowing Christine had more to tell, we asked her to share her story with us. Hear more from Christine on the power of running as an outlet and key to survival. 



Survivor...we are all survivors. Survivors of life and the challenges we have faced. We each have our own path that has shaped the person we are today. Sometimes it’s our choices that shape the path but sometimes it’s the choices of others that shape the path for us.  I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. The abuse happened during a good portion of my childhood and for reasons I’ll never understand, I never told anyone. This choice to keep a secret, whether I even knew that I had a different choice, shaped my life for years, too many years.  It took me a long time to learn how to be a survivor and not a victim. 

What most people don’t know or understand is that the secrets and the abuse have lasting effects on my daily life. I learned at an early age to smile and act happy and everyone will believe that everything is ok. This worked for me and no one ever asked questions. So in the dark I struggled with my self-esteem, body image and fluctuating weight, and feeling safe. But even more important than those, I struggled with trusting anyone, knowing to how to love and build relationships.   

Growing up I did well in school and played sports. I went to college and played sports. I always wanted to feel a part of something, that way I never had to be alone. My college years were the darkest for me. I was struggling to understand the things that happened and why I never told anyone. Why did I choose to keep this secret to myself? I didn’t know right away but I quickly figured out that something bad was happening to me. There were a handful of adults that I thought about telling through the years but I could never actually get the courage to say the words out loud. As I struggled through the four years of college, I kept focusing on one thing.  I needed to find a way to help end the cycle. I thought if I could be that person for just one other person, it would somehow give me the justice that I needed.  


So I became a police officer. I am currently a detective who specializes in special victim crimes; sexual assaults, crimes against children, and high-risk domestic violence.  For the past 15 years I have dedicated myself to helping victims, and most importantly victims of sexual assaults. I have been that person for hundreds of victims. I teach other police officers and fire fighters how to work with victims and investigate sexual assaults, in the hopes of making the process easier for the victims and encourage others to come forward. Through my work and volunteering I began to heal. 


This photo is from 2010 I when I helped catch a serial bank robber. My partner and I saw him rob the bank, got in a car chase with him and then apprehended him. In the car at the time of the bank robbery, car chase and arrest was his young daughter. The stolen money was found in her car seat. This picture is me in plain clothes holding his young daughter on the side of the road just after he was taken into custody. 

Eight years ago I began running. I never enjoyed running and the only time I ever ran was when it was required for the sport I was playing. In September of 2008 I registered for a 5K race because the cause was very important to me. I went to the race thinking this is going to be a piece of cake, how hard can it be?  Well I struggled through the 3.1 miles and was determine to improve. I stayed with the running and slowly began to improve but it began my next phase of healing.  


I finally found a healthier outlet for the frustrations of life. Running changed my life.  With the help of running and an amazing therapist, I learned how to love myself. I became more confident and as a great bonus, lost some unwanted weight.  I developed friendships and fell in love. As the years and miles went by the wounds healed. I shared my past on a long run with one of my running partners and it was a relief but the best part was that it did not change anything after. I shared my story a few more times while running and support has been endless. Since 2012 I have run three marathons, eighteen half marathons and too many count 5Ks. I have never won a race or even placed in my age group but I am winning every time I cross the finish line, I’m taking my life back.       

Through the years I have learned to always be kind because you never know what people are dealing with, to help others because there is always someone struggling a little more than you, and find something that feeds your passion.

- Christine Hornby

October 05, 2016 — jbarnard

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