Always a Voice
Empowering Survivors of Abuse & Trauma
The thoughts and articles within this forum relate to a myriad of issues surrounding abuse--of many kinds. If you comment on anything that is written, you will be given respect and understanding--no matter what you have been through.
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~ Always a Voice
I am Proud
|Posted on 30 August, 2017 at 10:30||comments ()|
~By Danielle S.
I was recently asked how I was doing. I wanted to answer more than, “good.” I thought long and hard. How am I doing? Here’s my conclusion.
I am proud. I am proud to be a survivor. I am proud to be a voice. I am proud of myself.
I was raised to be ashamed of myself. I was told that I didn’t matter. I didn’t count. I was to live my life the way I was raised to, and not for myself. If I disagreed with anything I was taught, I was simply wrong. I was abused, brainwashed, and broken into being a different person than I really was. I didn’t have a say in who I was, who I wanted to be, who I eventually would become. I didn’t have a voice, and so I had no defense against him and his abuse.
Then, one day, I found out one simple truth. What he was doing is illegal.
To be completely honest with you, even when I found out it was illegal, I only spoke up for my other family members I knew he was hurting. I wouldn’t have spoken up just for myself, because that’s how I was taught to think of and feel about myself. I meant nothing, so it didn’t matter. But I loved my family, and it ached me every time I had to “play” detective and undo some damage they didn’t even know about at the time. But it was no game. It was real, it was real abuse, real crime, and until I knew it was illegal, there was nothing I could do. KNOWIING gave me POWER. I couldn’t do anything until I knew there was something I could do. I tried to do something about it a couple times, but I never succeeded and it became his word against mine or I was told “Jesus said to forgive…”.
That was a long intro, but my point is, I was hopeless as long as I DIDN’T KNOW. And if I didn’t know, there is someone else out there who doesn’t know. Someone is stuck in an abusive relationship with no hope or way of getting out. My heart goes out to them, but I can do more than be sympathetic with them. As horrible as what happened to me is, here’s my real main point. I am proud to have gone through all that I did, so I can use my voice, so I can tell others about the face that its more than wrong, ITS ILLEGAL, and there IS something that can be done about it. There is hope, there is something you can do about it, if you go to the right people.
Anyone can sympathize, but only those who have gone through something can truly understand the parts that are so hard to understand. The deepest parts that make us feel ashamed and alone. And this is why I am proud of what I’ve been through. I could be ashamed, I could hide my story, pretend it never happened, and never tell anyone... or I could speak up, tell my story, and potentially help someone. It’s my choice.
I don’t have to tell anyone anything. It’s my life, and my story. But I want to help someone. I want other abuse victims and survivors to know that when I tell them that I’m here for them and that I understand, I really am and really do understand. I know exactly how shameful, scary, and unsettling it can be. But I also know what it’s like to rise above the shame.
So many times, I start telling someone my story and they tell me, “You don’t have to talk about it,” and I say, “I know, but I want to. I’m proud of my story! I want to help others!” It’s not always easy, but helping others just like me is so rewarding. The feedback from people I’ve inspired is so inspiring for myself. I speak out for others, and for myself. I was taught by my authorities that pride is a “bad thing” and that we shouldn’t say things like, “I’m so proud of you!” But here’s the Google’s definition of the word pride:
1. Pride: feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one's own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.
Let me assure you, it’s okay to be proud of yourself and the things you’ve been through, and what you are accomplishing. So how am I? I am proud of who I am, what happened to me, and what I can do to help others who need it. Stay proud of yourself!
Part IV- The Art of Active Healing: Empowerment
|Posted on 27 August, 2017 at 22:20||comments ()|
In the month of August, we have been focusing on tapping into the truth we already have inside us. As we allow ourselves to go all out in what I call a “full-thrive”, we capture the vision to walk in strength, peace, power and joy—during our healing process and within the boiling pot of imperfection and pain.
During this four-part series, we have touched on Denial and how this normal reaction served to protect our bodies from damage, allowing us time to safely process. We moved on to Persepective and how our sense of wellness is tied largely to the way we feel or think about a circumstance or situation. Last week we looked at Purpose—how we actively bridge the gap between our past and our future. All three of these—Denial, Perspective and Purpose—are progressive aspects within our healing process.
Every one of us are living with befores and afters. We are living in the present, yet daily we must deal with the fallout of what was before. Sometimes we forget that each day is an after—a sequel that hasn’t happened yet. Our healing journeys—our todays—are not hopelessly fused to the traumas we experienced in the past. Each new day is a separate entity. As a fellow survivor of abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety and disillusionment, I speak out boldly on this subject, and only do so with compassion and understanding.
This week we are approaching the idea of Empowerment as it pertains to our past abuse and our ongoing healing. For today, rather than thinking of healing in a passive sense, I want us to look at the idea of healing as an active, hands-on, cooperative and powerful ART.
“Empowerment” is just a fancy word for harnessing the power we already have. This is where the idea of Art comes in—again. Merriam Webster defines “art” this way:
Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation; the conscious use of creative imagination;
Something that is created to express important ideas or feelings; The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power;
There is strength in facing your own pain and asking hard questions…and being willing to do the work to find the answers. There is power in honesty, straightforwardness and telling it like it is—first to yourself. The long-quoted verse says it so perfectly, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). The word “shall”, in the original Greek, is progressive. It’s literally saying “Continue to know, to learn, to grasp, to embrace TRUTH…and this truth—that which you are grabbing hold of—shall set you free.”
The decision to embrace the truth of your worth is powerful—and totally crucial to your wellness. Even just the desire to want to—that may be all you have to give right now. If that’s all you have, take it and run! Grab hold of it! The turning point in my life came at an incredibly low point. There were no trumpets or bolts of lightning. In reality, it was a quiet time of true agony. But in that lowest of moments, I came to truly accept the truth. The truth that I was created beautiful and worthwhile. I am unique. I am worth fighting for. I have so much to share with the world. I was born on March 30th because that was my special day. I was given specific—special—tools to use in my life to create a masterpiece. My masterpiece!
Viewing healing as an art takes all the passivity away—all the feelings of being out of control—and allows us to mentally see ourselves holding our own paintbrush. To see our own worth.
Mental images (such as this) are so important for survivors of child sexual abuse/trauma! When we purposely fill our minds with positive images, we are actively counteracting the bad memories that are chaining us to the wall. These negative memories are holding us captive—and it’s time to change that!!
My life-canvas (and yours) is comprised of many colors and tones and shades. I choose to firmly hold my paintbrush and daily make a conscious decision to envision the beautiful person I see inside my soul. This isn’t about conjuring up power. This isn’t about acting or pretending. This is about accepting myself and allowing myself to be who I was created to be.
I want to make sure we fully grasp this. I purposely used the word “accept” here (please go back and read the last paragraph again) because we already know the truth. We already have incredible ability and strength within us! We really have no idea how much we are capable of! How much we already know! We have no idea just how impactful our lives are—and can be!!
Do you see how true “power” has nothing to do with those people who hurt you? They have no power over you. You’ve allowed them to hurt you long enough. It is time to rise up out of the debris of debilitation and begin to breathe again.
Let’s face it. This debris surrounding us isn’t exactly pretty! As we begin to rise up out of our trauma and pain, we are often bombarded by the reality of our “fallout”. This in and of itself can be enough to slap us right back down into it again. This is where ART comes in to play. Each day, each moment, we have the same choice. Sometimes our past hurts more than others. Sometimes bad memories surface and crowd in—but this does not change our worth. It does not alter who we are. And today—again and again—we have the choice to choose truth.
Choosing truth is just that. It is a decision to be right where you are. Sometimes truth means you need to stop and take a deep breath and say, “ouch, this hurts.” Never ever put yourself down for your feelings!!! They are real. Consciously make the decision to affirm your feelings. Then, after allowing yourself to hurt (or be angry or whatever feeling you are dealing with), make a decision to believe in who you are.
I found the strength to breathe deeply and allow myself to live again. That’s what I had been missing! It was the absense of truly LIVING. I had been existing, just hoping to make it through another day. As I was able to actually embrace my own worth—as my Creator intended—I began to see my past differently. I began to see many wonderful and useable tools hiding within my “debris pile”! I realized over time that the fire had only refined my tools—not destroyed them!!
As I began to rise in strength, much like the phoenix, I was able to see my inner beauty and purpose. And without even realizing it, I was now living out the essense of empowerment. I was actively creating my after.
You are not the pain of your past. You are not broken. You are not the actual debris. The debris and brokenness may be all around you, but YOU are the artist. You are here for a reason.
“The pearl is the oyster's autobiography." Federico Fellini
Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. Truly the most important decision you will ever make is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—choosing life and worth—and this begins from the realization that you are here for a reason—and that you matter. What will flow from this is EMPOWERMENT.
Part III- The Art of Active Healing: Purpose
|Posted on 16 August, 2017 at 14:55||comments ()|
During the month of August, we are focusing on learning how to tap into the truth we already have inside us and go all out in what I call a “full-thrive”. We will discuss what it means to walk in strength, peace, power and joy—during our healing process and within the boiling pot of imperfection and pain.
We’ve spent the last two weeks discussing the art of active healing. We touched on Denial and how this normal reaction serves to protect our bodies from damage—allowing us time to safely process. We then moved on to focus on Persepective, keeping in mind that so much of our wellbeing comes from how we feel or think about a circumstance or situation. Both of these—Denial and Perspective—provide physical aspects to our healing.
Just as other bodily symptoms/reactions are present with any illness or condition, in the same way our bodies answer our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with symptoms, reactions and responses. We can google “Diabetes” and read how to actively take charge of the management and treatment of this disease. We can readily learn how diet and exercise can prevent Type 2 diabetes from progressing and developing into Type 1—or worse. Through research, we now know that applying a holistic approach to managing diseases/illnesses can help create a much more successful outcome.
In our culture, we really aren’t taught to take an active role in the care of our mental, spiritual and emotional health. We are taught from childhood to supress and hide our adverse experiences—and the normal symptoms associated with our trauma—as if exhibiting our trauma somehow translates out to some innate weakness in our lives!!
Oftentimes we find ourselves years down the road of life before we finally come to the realization that we acutally matter. That our feelings matter. That our physical wellbeing is connected to our emotional health—or lack thereof! And this is the time to decide how we are going to move forward into an active partnership—bridging our physical self and our emotional/mental/spiritual self!
It is during this season of awakening—the season of shedding the skin of our Denial—that we often experience our greatest onset of symptoms and “issues”. With proper perspective, we can make a choice to view this season in our lives as productive and necessary. We are literally taking back the ground that was taken from us—and it is time!
Accepting—realizing—that our symptoms (and reactions) have been normal responses to our trauma is the most important healing step we may have ever taken! This realization may be accompanied by a feeling of liberation and freedom—or you may find yourself incredibly emotional and sad. Sad for all that has been lost.
It is imperative that we grasp the idea of “rehab” and what that means/looks like. Let's imagine this scenario: an Olympian runner loses both his legs and is not expected to walk again, let alone run. But more than anything he wants to run again, so he decides to go for it with all his heart. He puts the huge, nearly impenetrable goal of competing again in the forefront of his mind, and now he eats, sleeps and breathes his goals—his purpose. He begins to measure everything he eats. He writes out his goals. He hires a specialized trainer. He puts pictures of runners all over his house--on his fridge, above his toilet, in his car. He sits in bed at night and reads running magazines. He lifts weights. But more importantly he plans and anticipates his SUCCESS.
Successful rehab and treatment is always accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". We must choose to surround ourselves with strength and wholeness—to hunker down and do whatever is necessary to be well and happy. The first step in that direction is giving yourself permission to be happy. Especially for survivors of child sexual abuse, it's easy to believe we are not worthy to be truly happy. Guilt holds us back. Our memories chain us to the wall of indecisiveness. Growth seems to elude us, mostly because of our fear of change, our fear of responsibility and our fear of success. And strangely, sometimes it's just more comfortable to stay anchored to our excuses, fear and/or indecision.
During my awakening stage, I found it very helpful to write in a journal. I bought a new notebook that was small enough to easily carry with me in my purse. I actively wrote out my thoughts, plans and goals, lists of changes I wanted to make, verses, quotes and poems, letters to God (sometimes angry, sometimes full of hope and faith) and my exercise and diet goals. This is a practice I continue to embrace to this day.
On a practical level, here are a few “on purpose” steps you can take to help achieve mental balance and happiness:
• Join a positive support group
• Seek a therapist you feel comfortable with
• Remove negative friends/family members from your sphere of influence • Go through your list of TV shows—break free from any that are trashy or negative.
• Make a list of movies/books that bring back the happy “child” in you. Go on a quest to watch/read each one you can get your hands on!
• Begin an exercise regimen—including time for quiet walks and peaceful deep breathing!
• Commit to healthy eating—and throw in some great ambience whenever possible! Candles, a gorgeous view…and every now and then, enjoy a perfect dessert with someone you love!
• With the help of your doctor, decide to take active inventory—and active control—of your medications.
• Take steps to gain control over any addictions or dependencies you may have acquired. You deserve to be whole and well.
• Get up earlier—or go to bed earlier.
• Reclaim your faith!
• Hug your loved ones!
• Give forgiveness a chance. At this point, you are only hurting yourself by allowing “them” to retain their hold on you. You deserve happiness—and they don’t have any right to control you! Not anymore, and not ever again!
• Rejoice in your freedom!
• Look yourself in the eye—in the mirror—and be proud of who you are. Promise yourself that you will begin to care more deeply for your health. Make a choice to celebrate the things about yourself that you can’t change.
• Remove negative talk from your vocabulary. Speak the words you would say to your own child. Words of hope. Words of empowerment and confidence that they can "be whoever they want to be" or "achieve whatever they put their mind to".
• Reach out to others! Find a community outreach program or activity that interests you and get involved. You have no idea how much of a blessing you could be to someone else! Your past experiences will be a huge source of blessing and encouragement to those you meet!
Viewing your healing as purposeful rehab can be very empowering. And that is exactly what this is. REHAB. You can’t go back and undo what happened to you. There is no magic to completely erase the painful memories or the fall-out of your abuse. So viewing your healing as rehab—learning to successfully readjust your life and re-route your thought processes—is crucial to your wellness.
Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. The most important “next step” you can ever take is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—and this begins from the realization that you are still here for a reason—and that you matter.
Part II- The Art of Active Healing: Perspective
|Posted on 16 August, 2017 at 14:50||comments ()|
During the month of August, we are focusing on learning how to tap into the truth we already have inside us and go all out in what I call a “full-thrive”. We will continue to discuss what it means to walk in strength, peace, power and joy—during our healing process and within the boiling pot of imperfection and pain.
It’s so easy to get imprisoned in the quagmire of what was—of all that happened! Of what we didn’t do. Of what we know we should’ve done. But there is good news!
Anytime we are seeking growth in any area, there are always things we can do to cultivate our goals. It is so important to focus on practical ways we can nurture healing. Remember that every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". And it requires us to change our perspective. But we have to want to.
What is your identity? Is it your pain/trauma? Has being a "victim" crowded out the YOU you were meant to be?
There are many situations in life that are out of our realm and control. Many things are not in our jurisdictions/job descriptions or responsibilities. For example, you can’t make it stop raining. If your home has already been repossessed, any amount of “changing your perspective” is not going to bring it back to you. It is not our decision to make. These unchangeables of life fall outside the box of what we can do.
There are countless unwanted scenarios/memories in each of our lives that we simply cannot change. And most of those hard situations are the cause of our depression and stagnation.
I firmly believe we must live ON PURPOSE. Growth requires planning, plotting and cultivation. Once again: every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". WHY? Because the mere fact that we need a "change" implies that there is already something else that exists...that needs to be re-done, re-worked, eradicated, uprooted, re-born, revitalized...
TODAY'S QUESTION(S): What is it you TRULY want? Do you want to be an overcomer? What is the alternative? Remaining a victim is a choice all survivors have. It is easy to become comfortable with our tag of “victim” and merely survive on the pity of others. Or worse, we can become dependent on the resulting turmoil and unhappiness of our pasts—without even knowing it.
This week as you are pondering your past and struggling to make sense of it all, I invite you to let go. Release the terrible pressure of trying to figure it all out. You are here now—and you are here for a reason! I encourage you to accept the fact that your trauma/abuse was not your choosing. It was not remotely your fault.
As you continue to park here on these thoughts, I encourage you to resist the temptation to blame, fix, tweak or manipulate anything in your mind. That even includes the “fall-out years”, following your abuse/trauma. This “letting go” is nothing more than just breathing in—deeply—and embracing YOU. Your whole self—with the pain. Not inspite of it. Because of it!
Currently I am Mrs. District of Columbia US Continental 2017. When I donned my sash and crown, this did not magically turn me into a queen. Who I am—ME—was not intrinsically altered at that moment. The sash and crown were placed on me. They did not change or define who I already was or who I truly am. In the same way that my sash and crown did not/does not make me a queen, the pain and abuse that was placed on me did not/does not alter who I am. Who I was born to be.
There is a future aspect to this thought. My title as Mrs. District of Columbia does not alter who I was or who I am, but it will alter what I am able to accomplish with my life from here forward. I can choose to use this title as a megaphone to implement change—to be a louder voice to STOP THE SILENCE and perpetuation of sexual abuse and trauma. But that is entirely up to me. In the same way, I can choose to use the abuse/pain I have experienced as tools of change. Because of my life experiences, I possess empathy, compassion and understanding. There is beauty and power in taking back the ground that has been stolen from us!
This is the essense of empowerment!
“Perspective makes all the difference. It’s not what you look at; it’s what you see… Remember that the sun never actually sets; it's our perspective that makes it appear to. Our sunset is another’s sunrise. It's all perspective. How would your life be different if you applied this truth to the things that cause you stress? Letting go isn’t about erasing the past; it’s about looking at the same event and seeing something different. Activate this power in your life! Take the pain and poison of the past and allow it to nourish a new found wisdom. Remember, you can't change the past, but you can change the labels you place on events. Perspective - it’s not what you look at; it’s what you see.” ~ Steve Maraboli
Last week I touched briefly on ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how they affect our health. Here is an excerpt from last week’s discussion:
“As it pertains to our past abuse, it is truly imperative that we address and embrace our trauma as we would any other major illness, disease or injury. If you were diagnosed with diabetes today, you would be wise to take your diagnosis seriously if you want to live a healthy and happy life. You might be encouraged to make necessary dietary changes or begin an exercise program. You might even join a support group—especially if you were struggling to accept your diagnosis.
Emotional, sexual and/or spiritual abuse are life-altering experiences. These Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are no less traumatic or impactful to our physical bodies than other more physical forms of trauma—such as diabetes and other health-related issues.”
In keeping with the fact that childhood traumas are relevant to our ongoing health, I want to take a moment to stress a very important element. It is of utmost importance for you to have strong, positive mentors in place who can and will assist you. If you haven’t already, I urge you to find a trusted counselor/therapist who can help guide you as you change your perspective and grow in realization and awakening. Seeking help is not weak—it is wise!
It is our natural instinct to love and protect ourselves. The existence of these amazing survival apps within our bodies is the very reason we are struggling to conquer—to erupt—and rise above our painful childhoods or our years of “disconnect”!
Giving yourself permission to change your perspective is one of the most powerful decisions you will ever make. Healing is a process—a journey—and YOU are at the helm of your own progress!
Part I- The Art of Active Healing: Denial
|Posted on 16 August, 2017 at 14:35||comments ()|
The Art of Active Healing Part I: Denial
During these next four weeks, we will focus on learning how to tap into the truth we already have inside us and go all out in what I call a “full-thrive”. We will discuss what it means to walk in strength, peace, power and joy—during our healing process and within the boiling pot of imperfection and pain.
When life hands you a plate you didn’t order, even the basic ins and outs of life can become a battle just to keep your head above water. Perhaps you can’t even remember what trust and zest is—it’s been so long since you've possessed either one—or worse, you can’t remember life before the abuse/trauma!
Perhaps your abuse happened decades ago—and yet your heaviness lingers and you’ve noticed you’re getting more traumatized about your past than ever before. Especially after years of numbness, or even decades of intentionally avoiding your memories—or perhaps you only recently remembered what happened to you! Questions are now bombarding you. Why can’t I turn the corner? Why are the bad memories and nightmares getting worse? With each survivor—no matter what our story is—there comes a time, a season, of awakening and realization. Our pain becomes almost tangible. Angry questions like What planet was I on? Why did I allow him to hurt me for so long? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? boil to the surface, demanding answers.
Inspite of this horrific upheaval, something wonderful is happening to you! Your body/soul has decided you are now strong enough to confront your pain! This awakening hurts beyond words! And no wonder—when our eyes have been accustomed to the dark, the sun’s brightness hurts! It makes us squint and want to run the other way! So what is going on? Our bodies have been in protection mode—and as we awaken to the truth of our abuse, we become present. We become aware. And increasingly we begin to feel the reality of what we experienced in our past. We are no longer in shock—which, by the way, is a life-saver when our bodies undergo major trauma.
Much like our body going into shock to preserve us after a physical trauma, our souls put up protection and padding against certain unraveling. We have given this a name. We have called it Denial.
I want to camp here for a while and pull apart the word and the idea of denial. The word denial has been floating around a lot lately. So has the word empowerment. But like other buzz words, we often fail to hear and/or truly acknowledge their meaning or how they apply to us. There were many years of my life that I couldn’t see I was drowning in denial (case in point!), and the word empowerment scared and confused me because I was living the complete polar opposite. We must not take this lightly.
Funny thing when we are wrapped in the blanket of denial, there is a pseudo sense of peace. It isn’t a peaceful kind of peace, but rather a lack of engagement, a lack of being able to be truly present. Certain areas of our hearts are roped off and we must maintain a pseudo existence. We want to be normal. Interestingly when we look closer, denial itself is one of the stages of shock. And when we look even closer, we realize that these stages are actually normal.
I have come to understand denial, and to even respect it. Abuse is too horrific to gaze directly into its face, so our bodies lovingly protect us. We often turn to unrealistic thoughts or escape mechanisms in an attempt to maintain our footing. Denial creates a massive disconnect between our bodies and our souls—which is good for a time. But it isn’t healthy to stay there! This disconnect can only continue for so long until our bodies and our souls cry out, “enough is enough!” We are intricate and priceless creations—and we can only handle denial/neglect for so long. We can put off eating for a time, but our bodies will eventually rise up and demand care. Much in the same way, as survivors, one day we may begin to revisit our long-ago pain. We may begin to experience the trauma as if it happened yesterday. And we hear—if we are willing to listen—our souls demanding to be heard. Asking us to rise up. Care for me! Notice me! Stand up for me! Celebrate the beauty of me—the real me! And with this awakening comes the opening of old wounds.
We have begun our exodus out of denial! We are now being given the choice to come up higher. To allow ourselves to learn to feel again and truly thrive.
Today I want to invite you to step back and view what is happening to you from a different perspective! The mere fact that you are able to finally look at, to see, to comprehend your situation—what really happened to you…even if you still can’t come to grips with it—is a healthy sign! You are healing. Your denial stage was part of your healing too. In the case of long-term emotional, physical or sexual abuse, denial is a way of life.
You are not alone. Your denial was a preservation tool! I encourage you today to be kind to yourself and accept that. Your very soul was protecting YOU. There is life past your abuse. There is life past your stage of shock and denial!! You can find your footing again and be who you were truly created to be! And that person—that person you were born to be—is still here. That You is fighting for you and standing up for you.
I invite you to view your life and your pain from a different perspective! There is no possible way to get from back there (your past abuse/trauma) to the life you deserve and want to live—not without first stepping out of the numbness of denial. And there is no way around the fact that it is going to be hard. It hurts to feel! But you can do this! “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
As it pertains to our past abuse, it is truly imperative that we address and embrace our trauma as we would any other major illness, disease or injury. If you were diagnosed with diabetes today, you would be wise to take your diagnosis seriously if you want to live a healthy and happy life. You might be encouraged to make necessary dietary changes or begin an exercise program. You might even join a support group—especially if you were struggling to accept your diagnosis.
Emotional, sexual and/or spiritual abuse are life-altering experiences. These Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are no less traumatic or impactful to our physical bodies than other more physical forms of trauma—such as diabetes and other health-related issues.
Next week we will discuss, in greater detail, the issues of ACES and how we can learn to take an active role in our own path toward wholeness. Until then, know you are not alone. You are priceless and unique. And it’s OK to feel the unsettling of realization and awareness. In fact it is the beginning—the birth—of finding your voice!
QUICK THOUGHTS on Cultivation
|Posted on 21 June, 2017 at 16:30||comments ()|
Anytime we are seeking growth in any area, there are always things we can do to cultivate our goals. It is so important to focus on practical ways we can nurture healing. *Remember that every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". So for today, start with this thought:
What is your identity? Is it your pain/trauma? Has being a "victim" crowded out the YOU you were meant to be? ~jill
|Posted on 21 June, 2017 at 16:20||comments ()|
As we focus on GROWTH this week, I firmly believe we must live ON PURPOSE. Growth requires planning, plotting and cultivation. *Remember: every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". WHY? Because the mere fact that we need a "change" implies that there is already something else that exists...that needs to be re-done, re-worked, eradicated, uprooted, re-born, revitalized...
TODAY'S QUESTION(S): What is it you TRULY want? Do you want to be an overcomer? What does that look like to you? ~Jill
PLANNING for Success
|Posted on 21 June, 2017 at 16:15||comments ()|
As we talk about GROWTH (as it pertains to HEALING this week), it's IMPERATIVE to grasp the idea of "REHAB" and what that means/looks like. Let's imagine this scenario: an Olympian runner lost both his legs and was never expected to walk again, let alone RUN. Ohhhhhhh, but he sooooo wants to run again, so he decides to go for it with all his heart. He puts the huge, nearly impenetrable goal of competing in the next Olympics in the forefront of his mind, and now he literally EATS, SLEEPS and BREATHES his goals. He measures everything he puts in his body. He cuts out pictures of runners and puts them all over his house--on his fridge, above his toilet, in his car. He sits in bed and reads running magazines. He lifts weights. But more importantly he PLANS and ANTICIPATES his SUCCESS.
*FOR US: Remember, successful rehabilitation is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". OUR VIEWPOINTS and PERSPECTIVES matter so much. We must surround ourselves with STRENGTH and WHOLENESS and do what is necessary to be well. Today, grab ahold of the beautiful "little" things in your life. Hold tightly to what you HAVE accomplished! Cry out for strength when you run dry! You are GOD'S CHILD.
TODAY'S QUESTION(S): What is holding you back? Is it tangible obstacles, or is it deep-seated "strongholds" in your heart/mind? Is OVERCOMING possible?
Permission to be Happy
|Posted on 21 June, 2017 at 16:15||comments ()|
Sometimes it's easy to believe we are not worthy to be truly happy. Growth can seem to elude us...because of our fear of change, our fear of responsibility and our fear of success. And strangely, sometimes it's just more comfortable to stay anchored to our excuses or indecision.
Today, MAKE A CHANGE for good. Tell yourself the words you would say to your own child. Words of HOPE. Words of empowerment and confidence that they can "be whoever they want to be" or "achieve whatever they put their mind to" etc.,
WITH PURPOSE, give yourself permission to BELIEVE again. And if no one else is saying those words to you, then please accept those words from the One who sees BEAUTY when He looks at you. �� Remember that old quote, "God don't make no junk"? Well, He "don't"! LOL
You can do this! I invite you to walk in HOPE today. ~jill
(I'm smiling at this picture of my sweet granddaughter, Layla here. She is literally the embodiment of EXACTLY what I am trying to convey in this post!! I LOVE it!)
|Posted on 21 June, 2017 at 16:10||comments ()|
An Overview, by Dr. Pamela Pine
"Exploring DARVO [Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender] aids in understanding how perpetrators are able to enforce victims’ silence through the mechanism of self-blame." Important information coming from researcher Jennifer Freyd!
"Dear Colleagues [writes Jennifer to Pamela Pine and others on June 1, 2017],
I usually wait until we have the final print version of a new publication before making an announcement but in this case the material is so timely that I want you to know the “Version of Record” of this paper is published on-line and it is Open Access too. Please spread the word to those you think who would be interested. The only difference between this version and the final version will be the addition of specific volume, issue, and page numbers.
Harsey, S., Zurbriggen, E., & Freyd, J.J. (in press). Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, & Trauma. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777
Published OPEN ACCESS online: 01 June 2017
Perpetrators of violence often use a strategy of Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender (DARVO) to confuse and silence their victims. Although some previous research has examined the individual elements of DARVO, this is the first study to directly examine DARVO as a unitary concept and to investigate how it relates to feelings of self-blame among victims. Subsequently, 138 undergraduate students were asked to report on a time they confronted an individual over a wrong-doing. DARVO was assessed with a new measure constructed for this study. Analyses revealed that: (1) DARVO was commonly used by individuals who were confronted; (2) women were more likely to be exposed to DARVO than men during confrontations; (3) the three components of DARVO were positively correlated, supporting the theoretical construction of DARVO; and (4) higher levels of exposure to DARVO during a confrontation were associated with increased perceptions of self-blame among the confronters. These results provide evidence for the existence of DARVO as a perpetrator strategy and establish a relationship between DARVO exposure and feelings of self-blame. Exploring DARVO aids in understanding how perpetrators are able to enforce victims’ silence through the mechanism of self-blame.
For other current papers available on-line in either final form or accepted form see:
For more on DARVO see
|Posted on 20 June, 2017 at 19:10||comments ()|
Heart to Heart about our Sons...
|Posted on 20 June, 2017 at 19:00||comments ()|
~by Rachelle Spencer
This last week my son asked if he could cook breakfast for me and his sister. He took on the entire task and wouldn't let me do anything ... he served both of us before he sat down to eat. I was overjoyed and my heart was so full of love for this little four year old. I kept thinking about the affect that our culture has on men and boys ... to tell them to be strong, to not feel, to be tough etc etc etc. Patriarchy is taught and drilled into our culture ... telling our sons and daughters where they belong in society
My son confided in me one day that a care giver mocked his tears at school and said they should put him in a diaper because he was being a cry baby. I watched as this sweet boy attempted to hold back his tears from the pain that memory brought up. My mama bear heart lit up on fire when I heard this, but I know that correcting one person will not change the culture that my son and daughter will grow up in. We all have to challenge these ideas!!!
I become more and more feminist all of the time, but feminism can not just be about equality for women. Our sons must be allowed to feel so that we can raise them to understand and channel their feelings. We cannot squash them and expect them to grow emotionally mature. Strength doesn't lie in not feeling and manliness is not ignoring emotions
My son is so loving and tender hearted. He is a servant and more willing to help me around the house than his sister is. He is an artist and creator. He loves to have his finger nails painted just like his sister does and I see no problem with it. But he also has a darker side that many people think is him "being a boy." He gets very angry and is harmful and destructive at times. I not only want my son to be able to cry and know his own sadness but I also want him to know what is behind his anger and to give him lifelong tools to channel these overpowering emotions. "Boys will be boys" is not a phrase you will hear in our home, but rather "Let's sit down and talk ... what are you feeling right now?"
Won't you help me change our culture so that both our sons AND our daughters benefit from it? #boyswillbeboys #boymom #feminism #allthefeels #endpatriarchy
|Posted on 20 June, 2017 at 18:55||comments ()|
by Jennene Obremski
We abuse our poor bodies with danger. Substances, self harm, anything to numb your pain but guess what sister? Feeling your pain completely, doesn't kill you. You won't explode or implode or burn to ashes. You'll be free. It's okay to feel your pain day by day, mourn the loss of your childhood and move on to healing times. Be kind to your body. Feel. Cry. Rage. Laugh out loud. Dance. Dream. Hope. Love. Just feel completely. Be free. Live free, my sisters and brothers.
Sense of Humor!!
|Posted on 20 June, 2017 at 18:50||comments ()|
~by Jillian Short
The most overlooked key to healing and wellness is: A SENSE OF HUMOR!
I love the Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical, "CINDERELLA"...especially the song "IMPOSSIBLE"! As we press forward as SURVIVORS, with strong, BEAUTIFUL goals ahead of us, take a moment and enjoy these light-hearted (but timelessly TRUE) lyrics:
IMPOSSIBLE! for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage,
IMPOSSIBLE, for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage,
And four white mice will never be four white horses!
Such Fol-de-rol and fiddle-dee-dee, of course is IMPOSSIBLE!
But the world is full of zanies and fools,
Who don't believe in sensible rules,
And won't believe what "sensible" people say,
And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes,
IMPOSSIBLE things are happening everyday!
GO FOR IT, MY DEARS! Choose to Thrive! IT IS POSSIBLE! Be kind to yourself! Choose to laugh again! Choose to dance and feel the sunshine on your face! You are God's Masterpiece...and He isn't finished with you yet!
|Posted on 30 January, 2017 at 19:15||comments ()|
As a very young child, I was subjected to sexual abuse until I was seven years old. When I was twelve, my parents and I went to Micronesia as missionaries with Evangelism Missions Inc. I loved it! I learned the language, embraced the culture, and eventually became interpreter for our mission church. My abuse became a distant memory—buried and unaddressed.
Years later, still deep in the clutches of my church affiliation, I married a man who became physically abusive—with the church’s backing—under the doctrine of “Biblical Patriarchy”. Then the unthinkable happened. I discovered my children were being sexually abused. My world crashed around me.
I wish I could say I was strong and tenacious. I wasn’t. The knowledge of my children’s abuse filled me with such pain I could barely function. Guilt engulfed me. How could this have happened? I’d been abused myself—Shouldn’t I have been able to recognize the signs? This trauma triggered my own unresolved past, resulting in PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. The lack of support from friends—especially within the church—astounded me. We were told to forgive and honor our abuser. They strictly instructed us to be silent, even telling us not to press charges, stating that “speaking out about our abuse gave the church—and thus, Jesus Christ—a bad name”. Consequently, our abuser only served an 18-month sentence. Following his release, he was brought back into church leadership.
After navigating some very dark times, and then through some amazing intensive therapy, I finally gained freedom from the chains of my past, left my toxic mindset/beliefs—and my marriage—and began the slow, upward path toward what I now refer to as "active healing". I was amazed to learn more about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and Domestic Violence and its effects on us as adults. I surrounded myself with life-changing resources—and positive support.
Today I am a court-certified translator/interpreter, co-owner of a real estate investment company, and the founder of Always a Voice®, a local and online support group for survivors of child abuse and Domestic Violence (DV). I am a focused ambassador and spokesperson for Stop the Silence®. It is a further blessing to be on the Board of Directors of CAP® (Center for Abused Persons, Charles County MD), as well as the Advisory Board for Dreamcatchers®. (See links below.) Currently I am pursuing my MA in Counseling/Biblical Theology and daily strive to use my experiences to offer hope and encouragement to other survivors.
I am happily remarried and my family is thriving—more than I would have thought possible! My children (all ten of them) have gone on to use their own voices through music, dance, art, education—and above all, kindness and individuality. My husband, Ray, and I are blessed with six grandchildren so far!
I have authored three books and am an avid speaker in Maryland, the DMV/DC Metro Area, and abroad. In conjunction with my advocacy work, I am honored to hold the current title of Mrs. Maryland Globe Classic (formerly Mrs. District of Columbia US Continental, and Mrs. Southern Maryland America)—my platform being Domestic Violence Awareness and Healthy Body Image.
My passion and goal is to empower those who have no voice—or those just finding their voices—and to raise awareness on how to better recognize signs of abuse and how to combat precise issues/problems relating to the “fall out” of trauma.
I am committed to use my voice (through media, newspaper, and radio), on a global level, to stop the silence and perpetuation of abuse and trauma “one person, one dream, one step, one leap at a time.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is my hope that I can partner together with YOU in this beautiful journey of Active Healing! Hope is Contagious!
Always a Voice® Ambassador
"Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God--for I have come to praise Him yet again, my salvation and my deliverer." ~Psalm 43:5
National Suicide Prevention
**It's Ok Not To Be Ok**
|Posted on 21 September, 2016 at 0:10||comments ()|
~By Danielle S.
(Danielle is a 17 year old survivor of abuse. She recently came forward with the devastating truth of her situation. These past months have been difficult, but she is actively persuing healing and growth in her life--and writing about it! She is meeting hardship head-on. I am so blessed to have the privelege of sharing her writings with you all! ~jill)
EVERYONE has their opinion of what I should've done. Some voice it louder than others. Some people ask me, "Why did you wait so long?" "Why didn't you just confront him about it?" One girl even told me, "Your story has holes in it". "Well, if he was MY dad..." "Your situation wasn't half as bad as many others..." "You should be over this by now..." "You need to just forget the past." Agh!!!!!!
It frustrates me to think that after all I've already been through, people are critiquing the situation and trying to tell me what I should've done, should do, should think, and should feel! People's opinions are poisonous when expressed in a judgmental way. It's not wrong to have an opinion. But when you don't know all the details and try to come across like you know all the answers, it can have many affects, none of which are good. It can be crippling, hurting, depressing, self-esteem destroying, and crushing.
If an abuse victim opens up to you at all, in any way, respect that. A lot of times, all we want is just someone to listen, believe, and have compassion for us. Now, that makes it sound like we're feeling sorry for ourselves, doesn't it? Well guess what! That's probably what we're doing... and it's OK! After all we've been through we have the right to lean on others for strength and support while we can't strengthen and support ourselves. A lot of times when someone makes a judgmental remark, they just don't have a clue of what you're going through. That doesn't give them the liberty to blast away though.
I still don't know how to handle these opinions... sadly, I don't have a manual with all the answers. But if I talk it out with someone I know will listen, encourage, and support me no matter what, it helps me to realize that the judgmental opinionator doesn't have any ground for what they're saying. Even opinions from other survivors of something similar aren't necessarily the best for your case. You have to remember that every situation is different. There is no 'one size fits all.' And for all you getting judgment from anyone, just remember: they DON'T KNOW what they would do. Even if they think they know, how could they? They know the facts, but not the feels. They understand the logic, not the confusion. They assume the anger, they don't reason through the twisted emotions.
Moving on to another aspect of this: Even if they were right and even if they understood everything, what's done is done. You can't change the past. What good is it to bash someone for not doing it the "right way" if there's no chance to go back and redo it? Just support, sympathise, and encourage for the future. Sometimes I can remind myself that the person is just trying to help and they're lost in going about doing that. Other times I've had to say, "You know what? I don't need this." Yes, I've had to break off friendships with certain individuals because of their extremely vocal opinions. I just came to the conclusion that it was causing me more stress and heartache than support and help. You'll have to be the one to make that decision- who to put up with and who's just not worth it. They're just placing another smothering decision on you that wouldn't be there if people would just treat each other like they should.
And lastly, now that we see first-hand how hurtful being overbearing and opinionated can be, maybe we can learn to hold back our opinions for the proper time and place, and only speak encouraging words, as we truly understand the struggle of poisonous opinions.
|Posted on 16 September, 2016 at 8:45||comments ()|
~By Teddy M.
On this day, 15 years after the terrorist attacks on September 11, I face an almost overwhelming weight of thoughts, memories and emotions. As a firefighter at the time I remember the horror of watching the World Trade Center towers collapse, and being familiar with firefighting tactics, I knew there were hundreds of firefighters still in those buildings. As it turned out there were 343, and I still feel that pain.
As a military member at that time, sitting in the command room of my military unit we watched the news reports that morning. With the growing realization that the events we were watching were a result of an attack by enemies of my country, I felt a profound sense of failure; a shared failure to protect my citizens from attack by “all enemies foreign and domestic” as I’d sworn to do. I still feel that failure. As I flew on a military aircraft that night transporting rescue teams to New York I remember feeling that I was a small part of an effort to rectify that failure. When I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan I remember feeling that I was attempting a small amount of atonement for that failure.
This time of year is a time of triggers for me. Everywhere I turn are reminders of the horrors I witnessed, and the damage, the death and the horrors I helped to create; I am reminded of the people. I am reminded of the men and women I watched return home in boxes. I am reminded of people like my friend Ricky who, unable to cope with their overwhelming emotions, decided to end their lives.
Most of the time the techniques I’ve learned to stay ahead of my symptoms, to stay ahead of the depression, work pretty well. But this time of year is a time of triggers for me and I know that although I will get through it, I also know this is a time of nightmares and sleepless nights.
HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH
|Posted on 5 September, 2016 at 1:05||comments ()|
Category: Blog Spot for Teens
~By Danielle S., (17 yr. old Writer and Survivor of Abuse)
As a victim of sexual abuse, I had a major piece of my privacy taken from me. What I considered the closest, most intimate part of me was stolen by the selfish decisions of another. And if that wasn't enough, it got worse. Once I spoke up, my privacy was unveiled for everyone to see. How shameful! I wasn't a 'normal' person anymore.
Everywhere I went, my problem went with me. The crime, case, and details followed me around to church, school, family reunions, even out in town. I couldn't help but feel like everyone in the world seemed to know all about my problems. I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything that involved leaving the house. I wanted to stay far away from everyone and everything that would have any questions, opinions, judgments, or even sympathy for me. I thought I would never feel comfortable with how others saw me ever again. I felt wherever I went my situation became the main focus. I felt when I walked into a room there was a projector on my head illuminating the words "SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM" and that everyone saw it and had to give their input. Even the pastor at the church I attend preached sermons about how to respond to the situation! How would I handle this for the rest of my life?! I had no idea.
Does any of this sound familiar? I have good news for you! Nothing lasts forever! Yes, your situation may seem like the center of attention for a few months after the initial release of information, but "this too shall pass!" Yes, people who know you are going to, when they see you, be reminded of your situation... for awhile. However, if someone's everyday life is not directly affected by something, chances are, its not always their main focus.
Always remember: You are still a NORMAL person! What happened to you can't define you, unless you let it. You don't have to be ashamed! You can live a life as full as you would've without any changes. Even more, you can be proud that you are succeeding and that you have the opportunity to help someone else who may be in a similar situation.
Hold your head high and be the person you were made to be!
|Posted on 3 September, 2016 at 13:50||comments ()|
~Written by Jillian Short
JUST FOR STARTERS
|Posted on 1 September, 2016 at 16:25||comments ()|
Category: Blog Spot for Teens
~By Danielle S. (17 yr. old writer and survivor of abuse)
I was shielded from understanding just how wrong sexual abuse is. I knew it went against how I was taught, but had no idea just how wrong it was. Illegal? It never crossed my mind. Even though I didn't know what "he" was doing to me was against the law, I knew it wasn't right. Eventually I spoke up about it.
Listen. If you are being sexually abused, don't be afraid to speak up! Tell someone. For all you who have spoken up -You're a hero! My hat goes off to you! You are awesome and I honor you for the choice you made. You did the right thing! Don't ever doubt that! And yes, I know there are moments of doubt. I still struggle with those and probably always will. But I have to remember I didn't do this! "He" did this by his choice of actions! And you can remember that too. None of this is your fault. You are helping fix a messed up situation that someone else created.
You can do it! I am behind you, as are countless others!