Gifts

We are all precious gifts to the world.  Together we learn and we teach. 

“While it may be tempting to focus on how awful it is to be abused, it’s important to not lose sight of the reality that survivors are full human beings with many gifts and talents to offer the world. Some of the most sensitive, intuitive, deep, profound, creative, and hopeful people I’ve known are incest/child sexual abuse survivors. They were able to be that way by not losing touch with their humanity–their soulfulness–in the face of others’ inhumanity. We can all learn a great deal from survivors.” Kali Munro, M.Ed.

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Voice Lost

shhhhhh…hushhhhhh…quiet now!
don’t say a word
no sound to escape
no noise to come from you

I silence you
not with my hands
not with my mouth
but with your shame and fear

Fear….
that dance of cold shadows
imagined and unimagined horrors
is that which takes
your voice.

Are we there yet?

 

I think it’s a safe bet to say that pretty much any child who has ever been cooped up in a car on a road trip has asked the question – “Are we there yet?”  with the question posed as a heavy sigh or a droning whine.

Today I am that child.  Today I want to know if I am there yet.  And today, I am answering myself in frustration and saying  ‘No’.  No.  I am not ‘there’.  Yes. I am frustrated and whining.

Where is this ‘there‘ that I want to be?  Simple really.  I want to be completely recovered from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.  I want to be ‘normal’.  I don’t want to have the ugly stuff come back and haunt me when I least expect it.  I don’t want to have panic attacks, major depressive disorder, struggle to feel like I ‘belong’, feel ‘less than‘, be afraid of the dark, fear the dentist and have a whole whack of issues that are related to what happened to me at the hands of a sexual predator.  I am tired of ‘recovering’……I want to be RECOVERED!!

Do children who had their innocence taken when they were 5 ever fully recover?  I like to think I have grown in strides and that I am a better person than I was even a year ago.  I like to think that there will come a day when I will be fully at peace and will feel completely whole.  I HAVE to believe that the times when I feel I am thriving are a sure sign that I am going to be okay.  Okay forever and always and not just for a short time before I slide back a step…or two.

So tell me.   Are we there yet?  And if not …..well you know the next question….’How much longer?’

 

Torment

It was coming
It was bound to come
The ugliness seeking me out
It’s coldness surrounding me
My body so tired
Each limb heavy
Unable to move and yet
My heart is racing.
Out of control
my insides shake
Shiver

I can not stop the fear
I resist the giving in
I push away the memory
It will not let me go this time
The hurt needs out
It ricochets inside of me
Bouncing from gut to brain to heart to lung
This pain, this sorrow

Extreme
It wants to pull me under
It demands my attention
“LET ME GO”
I scream in anger
Release me from the torment
Or at least let me cry
Let me succumb to the sad
Let the tears fall

Sobs bursting forth
Propelled by the force
Of my anger
My pain
My disbelief that such a thing
Such evil
can exist within
such beauty

Why…

Why do people commit suicide?

I wish there was an easy answer and a way to stop it from happening.  I’ve lost 3 family members to suicide and one of them was my step-mother.  Today marks the 24th year since her passing at the age of 49.

I had the opportunity to talk to my step mom after her first attempt to take her life.  I had the opportunity to ask the why and to talk openly and honestly with her about the darkness that she could not escape.  Over the course many days, she shared some of her angst with me.  She talked about the feelings of shame, the depression that never seemed to leave, the disconnection from herself and feelings of unworthiness.   The pain was deep.  The pain was more than she could bear.  She told me that she had been sexually abused as a child.

One of the reasons I started Voice Found was to honour my step-mother.  I wish I could have helped her.  I did not know how.  I only knew that I could relate to most of what she said to me because, unbeknownst to her, I too was sexually abused as a child.

I can’t answer all the why’s but I can answer some of them.  Sometimes the pain is just too much to bear.  Sometimes the darkness just consumes us.  Sometimes there is just not the right help at the right time.  I will do all I can to help survivors and to prevent children from being sexually abused.  That is all I can do.

 

 

Recovery Bill of Rights

I came across this a few years ago when I first embarked on my healing journey.  I was terrified, feeling desperately alone and felt I had no right to anything beyond my shame.  When I first read it, I was doubtful that I had the right to ANY of this and yet I kept reading…and reading…and reading.  It took some time but eventually I came to believe that yes, I do have rights.  I still revisit these (after all – slipping into old behaviors and ways of thinking are pretty hard-wired) and they serve as great reminders.   I hope you find this as helpful as I have.

A Recovery Bill of Rights
for Trauma Survivors

As a Matter of Personal AUTHORITY, You Have the Right . . .

* to manage your life according to your own values and judgment.
* to direct your recovery, answerable to no one for your goals, effort, or progress.
* to gather information to make intelligent decisions about your recovery.
* to seek help from a variety of sources, unhindered by demands for exclusivity.
* to decline help from anyone without having to justify the decision.
* to have faith in your powers of self restoration — and to seek allies who share it.
* to trust allies in healing as much as any adult can trust another, but no more.
* to be afraid and to avoid what frightens you.
* to decide for yourself whether, when, and where to confront your fear.
* to learn by experimenting, that is, to make mistakes.

For the Preservation of Personal BOUNDARIES, You Have the Right . . .

* to be touched only with your permission, and only in ways that are comfortable.
* to choose to speak or remain silent, about any topic or at any moment.
* to choose to accept or decline feedback, suggestions, or interpretations.
* to ask for help in healing, without having to accept help with work, play, or love.
* to challenge any crossing of your boundaries.
* to take appropriate action to end any trespass that does not cease when challenged.

In the Sphere of Personal COMMUNICATION, You Have the Right . . .

* to ask for explanation of communications you do not understand.
* to express a contrary view when you do understand and you disagree.
* to acknowledge your feelings, without having to justify them as assertions of fact or actions affecting others.
* to ask for changes when your needs are not being met.
* to speak of your experience, with respect for your doubts and uncertainties.
* to resolve doubt without deferring to the views or wishes of anyone.

Specific to the DOMAIN of Psychotherapy, You Have the Right . . .

* to hire a therapist or counselor as coach, not boss, of your recovery.
* to receive expert and faithful assistance in healing from your therapist.
* to be assured that your therapist will refuse to engage in any other relationship with you — business, social, or sexual — for life.
* to be secure against revelation of anything you have disclosed to your therapist, unless a court of law commands it.
* to have your therapist’s undivided loyalty in relation to any and all perpetrators, abusers, or oppressors.
* to receive informative answers to questions about your condition, your hopes for recovery, the goals and methods of treatment, the therapist’s qualifications.
* to have a strong interest by your therapist in your safety, with a readiness to use all legal means to neutralize an imminent threat to your life or someone else’s.
* to have your therapist’s commitment to you not depend on your “good behaviour,” unless criminal activity or ongoing threats to safety are involved.
* to know reliably the times of sessions and of your therapist’s availability, including, if you so desire, a commitment to work together for a set term.
* to telephone your therapist between regular scheduled sessions, in urgent need, and have the call returned within a reasonable time.
* to be taught skills that lessen risk of trauma:
(a) containment (reliable temporal/spatial boundaries for recovery work);
(b) systematic relaxation;
(c) control of attention and imagery (through trance or other techniques).
* to reasonable physical comfort during sessions.

Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse – 8 Stages of Recovery

For anyone who has gone through a grieving process or worked the 12 step program – you know how important it is to really go through each stage.  As much as you want to ‘fast-forward’ or do the bare minimum, it really does not help you in the long run.  At least that’s been my experience.  If you don’t really deal with things but pay them a kind of ‘lip-service’ – well – they come back and manifest themselves in different ways.

I thought it was time to revisit the stages of recovery from childhood sexual abuse.  Why?  Because as much as I have moved forward and am doing quite well…I decided that ‘mostly’, ‘kind-of’ and ‘okay’ was just not acceptable to me anymore.  I demand, desire, deserve :

FANTASTIC.  AWESOME.  WONDERFUL.  AMAZING.  JOYFUL.  WHOLE.  HAPPY.

And you do too!

So take a look at the stages below and contemplate your journey.  Where are you?  Is there a place you have tried to fast-forward?  Are you getting the help you need and deserve?

Denial – It is not unusual for people to be trapped in this stage for many years after the physical nature of the abuse has ended. Many survivors develop addictive or compulsive behaviours while attempting to mask the feelings and emotions connected to child sexual abuse.

Confused awareness – At this stage, people begin to recognize the connection between their past trauma and present concerns. This new awareness may introduce feelings of anxiety, panic and fear.

Reaching out – Survivors can be in a situation in which the perils of silence become more painful than the risk involved in speaking out. Receiving individual counselling and/or joining support groups may play a role in the healing process.

Anger – After they reach out and become more aware of the impacts of the abuse, survivors often deal with intensified anger. This anger is an expected, natural part of the healing process. Thoughts of disclosure and confrontations may dominate this stage. Anger may be channelled towards anyone who excused or protected the abuser, anyone who did not believe their disclosure of the abuse, and anyone they feel should have been concerned but never took steps to help.

Depression – At this stage, adult survivors may recall the negative messages or criticisms that they received from their abuser as a child. If these seem valid to the adult survivor, they may cause him or her to become depressed when faced with and unable to make positive changes. If symptoms and triggers of their depression are identified and an appropriate support team is found, the chances of their being overwhelmed with feelings of despair may be minimized.

Clarity of feelings and emotions – For adult survivors of child sexual abuse, a key component to healing is to express and share their feelings. This can be achieved by survivors’ learning to acknowledge and identify a wide variety of feelings and emotions, as well as finding ways to release them without hurting themselves or others. A good support team can be extremely valuable at this time.

Regrouping – This phase involves many positive changes in survivors’ attitudes and feelings. In this stage, they develop a new sense of trust in others but, most importantly, they start to trust themselves. This phase includes learning from the past, examining the present, and planning for the future. Many survivors have suggested that this stage represents a transition from merely existing to actively living.

Moving on– This stage includes a shift in focus from the negative experiences of the past to positive plans for the future. Painful feelings and emotions do not dominate memories from the past. Positive coping skills developed in earlier stages are enhanced and assist survivors in moving on with their lives. Several coping skills that can help survivors to move on include learning to love and accept themselves, recognizing and celebrating personal growth, creating a healthy support team, grieving current losses as they occur, learning to deal with stress effectively, and recognizing when it is time to let go of painful feelings connected to the past.

The information in the 8 stages section is adapted from Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, a publication prepared by Thomas R. Wilen for the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. This publication is copyright © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2002.

Help PREVENT Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) is an epidemic that affects every community.

Fact: 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

Fact:  Over 90% of the time perpetrators are known and trusted by the victim.

Fact:  Silence allows abusers to continue their abuse of children.

Fact:  Suicide, Teen pregnancy, Addiction, Depression. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  are some of the effects of CSA.

Fact:  Raising awareness and educating adults on how to recognize, respond and react to childhood sexual abuse is an effective way to PREVENT it from happening in the first place.

Voice Found offers a prevention program called ‘Stewards of Children’   .

Invest three hours and $40.00 and learn how you can prevent another child from being sexually abused.

Currently planning workshops in the Ottawa area for January and February.  Outside of Ottawa?  Arrangements can be made by contacting Cynthia@voicefound.ca.

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I can do this. I must do this.

I can still remember exactly how it felt.  The ache.  The intense loneliness.  The pain.   The fear.  The silent scream to the world that went unanswered.

Today the triggers were too intense, too frequent, too real.   Today  I was 5 years old again.  Over and over with barely room to recover.  A relentless, seemingly never ending, series of memories.  They ran the gamut of short body memories to long, intense emotional journeys.

I found myself back on the playground.  Standing at the edge of the yard watching all the other children play while I stood alone.  Sad.  Hurting.  Confused.  There was one teacher who noticed.  She would sometimes come and put her arm around me and ask why I did not want to play with the other children.  I don’t know what I told her, but she accepted it.  I wonder if she knew.  I wonder if she suspected the reason for my alienation.  I wonder if she knew the man who was abusing me.

Work was an effort of Herculean  proportions.  I don’t know how I made it through without collapsing into a bucket of tears- but I did:)  My work day was filled with meetings and writing and planning and more meetings.  I made it through without letting on that I was in a state of near panic all day.   I solved problems, took care of my staff, made decisions and kept all the balls in the air.  If there was an award to be given for best actress in the role of a competent manager – I would surely be the recipient today.

It is very unusual for me to be experiencing this.  I thought the worst was behind me but there is a corner of a memory coming back.  I know there is something else I am not allowing myself to see.  It’s been haunting me lately but I am really too afraid to shine a light on it.  I don’t feel strong enough to face it just yet.

I know I will have to face it and allow it and move through it.  Damn.  It sucks.  But I know the reward is great.   I deserve the happiness and freedom and light that comes from facing the worst of the worst head on.

I can do this!

 

 

 

Prevention IS possible – Stewards of Children Workshops

**workshops being planned for the Ottawa area starting January 2012**

Voice Found is committed to speaking out about childhood sexual abuse.  As such we have chosen to inspire others to take responsibility as a community  and  help PREVENT childhood sexual abuse.

We partner with Darkness to Light to offer the Stewards of Children program.   The program is delivered as an interactive 2.5 – 3.0 hour workshop and provides the tools, knowledge and resources  needed to help stop child sexual abuse.  This is an issue that effects everyone in the community, not just the abused child.  The social and economic impact is significant and unlike cancer or childhood diabetes, it is preventableYou can proactively DO something.

The cost to attend a Stewards of Children session is $40 per person and includes:

  • An interactive workbook for each participant containing the full program curriculum.
  • An accompanying 1 ¼ hour DVD integrating segments of sexual abuse survivors relating their stories of violation and healing, with segments from the author of the curriculum and from professionals who interface daily with the problem of sexual abuse.
  • An opportunity for discussion about important issues in sexual abuse prevention and the relevance of these issues within organizations that serve children and adolescents.

After training participants will:

  • Understand the facts of child sexual abuse including incidence rates and effects on individuals and society.
  • Understand how child sexual abuse happens.
  • Understand that adults are responsible for the protection of children.
  • Understand the importance of screening staff and volunteers who work with children and adolescents.
  • Understand the importance of a well conceived one-adult/one-child policy.
  • Have resources to react responsibly to incidents of child sexual abuse.
  • Understand the proactive role youth-serving organizations need to take to better protect children and educate their communities about child sexual abuse.

CALL TO ACTION:  PLAN TO TAKE TRAINING

  1. Take the Stewards of Children training and use the information you learn to better protect the children in your life.
  2. Invite your coworkers, friends, family, and other adults that you know are responsible for the care of children to attend a stewards training.
  3. Ask us to teach the Stewards of Children program to the staff and volunteers in your organization, corporation, youth serving agency, or small group of friends.

Interested in a workshop?  Send a note to info@voicefound.ca and let us know.

IT’S TIME TO TALK!  IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION!  PREVENTION IS POSSIBLE!