The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Trigger Points to Present Fathering as a Survivor Interview Series

Our intention with the upcoming Fathering as a Survivor interview series is to give male survivors the opportunity to explore the effects childhood abuse has on them now as parents. We want to help fathers educate our society on what their particular triggers and struggles are, as they work to break the cycle of abuse.

When we set out to raise awareness on the challenges abuse survivors face as  parents, we absolutely intended to address the point of view of mothers and fathers. Hearing from fathers has proven to be much more difficult than we imagined. It has made us even more determined to extend the opportunity for father-survivors to be heard.

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Photo Courtesy of http://www.oprah.com: 200 brave survivors stand with pictures of their younger selves, working to lift the veil of shame.

Because of the few brave fathers who have written for us, we know that male survivors transitioning into and experiencing fatherhood have their own unique challenges and triggers. We want to help bring these challenges to the surface, so that male survivors who want to become fathers, or already are fathers can have the information and support necessary to address this particular part of their healing. We want to offer a platform to speak from that offers safety, support and the option of anonymity.

So what are we looking for and what you need to know…

  • It is absolutely acceptable to remain anonymous. Please make this decision very clear us so that we can respect your choice.
  • This series will be an interview format that will run through out the month of June, in honor of Father’s day.
  • Each participant will be answering the same questions, but will be free to elaborate on the questions as you understand them. Every question will need to be answered in order for your submission to be considered.
  • While we cannot accept every submission, we will work hard to allow every voice to be heard.
  • We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity.
  • We will be monitoring comments to ensure a non-threatening, safe environment.
  • The deadline for submissions is May 15, 2016.
  • Please copy and paste the questions (see below) in to the body of an email or word document. Please send finalized submissions to Triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com, with submission for interview series in the subject line.
  • If you do not wish to remain anonymous, please include a brief (3-5 lines) bio with your submission. Please include a head shot and any other images that you would like to add, if you are comfortable doing so.
  • Although we regretfully cannot offer financial compensation at this time, we will be offering a free PDF copy of the Trigger Points Anthology to those whose submissions are included in the series.

Here are the questions we are looking for responses to…

  1. Before becoming a father, did you look forward to becoming a parent?
  2. How did you feel when you first learned you were going to be a father? Did you have any specific fears and/or joys?
  3. Were there any triggers that came up for you while your partner was pregnant?
  4. What has surprised you most about parenthood?
  5. What acts of parenting have led you to be triggered? Examples could be disciplining, bathing, showing affection/touching, etc. Have you learned anything from these triggers about your own fears, or the parts of you that still need healing?
  6. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your child(ren)?
  7. What would you tell another survivor father who is expecting their first child?

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns you may have. This can be done either with a post/message on the Trigger Points Facebook page or via email at triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com.


trigger points cover

The Trigger Points Anthology is now available for Kindle and paperback. Click the link to get your copy today!!

Trigger Points Anthology paperback

Trigger Points Anthology for Kindle

Become a member of the supportive Trigger Points community on Facebook and Twitter to connect with other parenting survivors.

 

Survivors Empowering Survivors

The Freeze Response: How a Warrior Handles the Trauma of Sexual Assault

Amy Oestreicher B&W 2006Many survivors “know” that being sexually assaulted was not their fault. Now, I’m one of them. But the question I’ve worked to answer after a decade of healing and processing what happened to me is, “Well, then why didn’t I do something?”

I had heard this dozens and dozens of times — in my own head and with students who have opened up to me during my programs. Many victims of abuse, molestation and domestic violence often feel a guilt that they are not deserving of. For months after my voice teacher molested me, I beat myself up thinking, “Why did I do that?” wondering, “What was I thinking?” I assumed something must be wrong with me.

It also took me a very long time to accept that a mentor and father figure in my life had violated our trusting relationship. I kept replaying the events that had occurred in my mind, telling myself, I must have done something wrong — why else would he have done this? I felt like I must have instigated it. I blamed myself, convinced that no one could take advantage of me if I had not invited it.

I couldn’t shake off this shame I felt no matter how hard I tried. In fact, the more I tried to block my memories, the more anxious and confused I became. I became a space cadet — hardly feeling at all. It was how I protected myself from feeling the loss, betrayal and shame. My numbness started to alarm my friends and family, to whom I insisted that nothing was wrong at all. I kept this secret hidden inside, burning in my gut, hidden from those I loved.

Shocked, upset and overwhelmed, I began living in three worlds — part of me functioning normally in school, keeping up my grades, and telling people I was “fine”; part of me replaying traumatic memories in my head, beating myself up for not saying no, for not running away, for not fighting back; and part of me in a numb, apathetic space of disconnect — a place I created in my head as a survival instinct.

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When I turned 18, I finally spilled everything to my mother. I was so afraid of what she might say or if she would judge my actions. I was embarrassed to say words like “sex” and “molestor” and “rape” out loud, let alone with my mother. My mother was as shocked as I was, but provided me with the one solid anchor that I needed. She told me it was not my fault. No matter what I told her I had done, what he had done, what details I could remember, or what I confided in her, she reassured me with the kind of certainty only a mother can — it was not my fault.

Reaching out to someone I knew loved me unconditionally calmed my anxiety. Telling someone what had happened made my dark secret come to light. I became open to viewing my abuse in a different way. I was willing to take some of the responsibility off of myself. My mother and I started reading about trauma.

I learned that in the face of trauma, you can have three responses: You can fight, flee or freeze. I could have immediately fought back against my abuser, yelling No or defying him in some way. I could have just ran in the other direction as fast as I could. But I was so shocked by everything that happened that I froze. Like a deer in the headlights, I couldn’t come to terms with the idea that a man that I trusted as my mentor could turn into such a monster in the blink of an eye. I mentally left the situation, disassociated from my body, and became a passive bystander to a trauma that my body was directly involved in.

I learned that the physical sensations of guilt register in the same way that shame and helplessness do in your body. When a person feels helpless in a situation, the body automatically pairs that sensation with guilt. When you undergo any kind of trauma, it causes a disturbance in your energy flow. Suddenly, you are unable to feel those emotions that once came so naturally.

My body stopped breathing the same way it used to — a big knot of tension evolved in my chest and remained there like a cocoon. My thoughts became rigid and too scared to wander into past memories. I put myself in to a daze with four safe walls around me that protected me from being consciously present in the abuse That daze stayed with me with or without him. I lived in a world separate from everyone else.

Reaching out not only gave me the blessing of compassion from others, it also informed me of what I had really experienced. I realized my numb response to my assault, my nervous energy, sweating fits and anxiety attacks were not something to be ashamed of, but rather, a proud and victorious survival strategy.

In a wonderful book, Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine writes:

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Suddenly, I felt understood. I understood that I protected myself in a traumatic situation by becoming numb to my emotions. Now, when I work with survivors, I help them realize that their reactions to trauma and assault are natural human reactions to be applauded. The real work comes from taking that nervous energy, which was formerly an essential trauma survival skill, and turning it into productive healing energy — energy that once redirected, can build a new, beautiful world for the survivor.

As a proud, once-frozen survivor, I finally see my world in color again. I could finally find the courage to feel the sensations of being alive. Now, the work was up to me. I told myself it wasn’t my fault, until I believed it. And once I felt these words resonate in my body, in my soul — I was liberated. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had every right to reclaim my life, my aliveness, move on and experience the world in all of its radiant colors once again.

The biggest gift I can give to survivors I work with in my program now, is the gift of a world in color — alive with melancholy blues, angry reds, uncertain grays, but also one of ecstatic oranges, bright yellows, and deep rich purples. Once we let ourselves feel the bad, we make room for the good.

I was sexually abused. It was not my fault. In a traumatizing situation, I froze, while others might have fled or fought back. But with time and with confiding in those I trust, I have thawed and faced what I’ve tried to forget. And with nothing to hide, nothing to regret or redo, and everything to look forward to in the future, I’ve allowed myself to move on, claiming my voice, speaking my truth. As survivors, the most wonderful part of healing is moving from a helpless situation into a world of our own design.

So what is shame? Shame is energy. As we turn that energy into energy that is rightfully ours, the energy of survival, pride and life, we become forces to be reckoned with.

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Isn’t she fantastic!! Amy has two upcoming performances of her one woman show Gutless & Grateful, a one-woman musical autobiography of her life, taking her audience on a journey of hope, resilience and gratitude.  An inspiring story of survival and determination, Gutless & Grateful is appropriate for audiences of all ages.  You can check her out at: Boston College 2/29/16 and New York 3/11/16. Click here to learn more.

Bio:

Amy Oestreicher is a  PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright.  As a survivor and “thriver” of nearly 30 surgeries, a coma, sexual abuse, organ failure and a decade of medical trauma, Amy has been challenged with moments of extreme difficulty.  But as an artistnewlywedactress, 28-year old college student and overall lover of life, Amy eagerly shares the lessons learned from trauma and has brought out the stories that unite us all through her writingmixed media artperformance  and inspirational speaking.

Follow me on Twitter InstagramEtsy and Facebook! Join the #LoveMyDetour Campaign.

 

Survivors Empowering Survivors

Know Tiny Secrets

The topic of how we talk to our children about body safety is often discussed within the survivor community. Some may believe that the task is somewhat easier for us because unfortunately, we have first hand experience and know exactly what our kids need protecting from. That isn’t necessarily the case. A conversation about body safety has the potential to be incredibly trigger for a survivor, and also open the door for our inquisitive children to ask questions about our own childhoods. Latasha Fleming shares with us today as part of the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series, the story of how she created a book that can ease the uneasiness of this must-have conversation with our children. She lets us in on the challenges she faced, both emotionally and logistically. Know Tiny Secrets is a beautiful accomplishment that not only will help educate and empower our children, but can be a valuable tool for helping parents approach this difficult and potentially triggering topic.


image1My daughter was about 2 years old when I began teaching her about body safety and her private parts. Paranoid and overprotective, I looked at everyone as a potential threat to my daughter’s innocence. I knew early on that I would talk to my daughter about everything and allow her to ask all the questions that I often had as a child, which always went unanswered. I wanted to build a trust with my daughter that no one could break, not even a luring, sneaky, child predator.

I realized that if bank robbers can get away with robbing a bank, and murderers can get away with murder, usually committing the crime again; that meant rapist/abusers/molesters are just as (or more) likely to get away with their crimes, and DO IT AGAIN!

I felt this immediate rush of insane bravery and boldness.

Despite my self-doubt, I knew there had to be more that I could do to prevent children from going through what I went through. From having a support system, to bridging the gap between the “sexual abuse prevention” talk and parents, I wanted to give children all over the world a voice and empower them to speak their truths.

latasha pic
Click to add Know Tiny Secrets to your personal library.

From my childhood poetry, to my fictional stories that I created, I knew I had to write a children’s book. I started jotting down sentences of how I wanted my book to sound. I did not have a title for months because the obvious title that came to me was already used in another book. I kept taking notes, and researching books. Months later after a meeting with my close friend, the title hit me and I knew it was perfect: Know Tiny Secrets.

KNOW the secrets of abuse, so there will be NO secrets.

I immediately began to draw a logo that had a key which represents having the key to your future, surrounded by love. I knew I had to include all children in the book, because abuse has no color, face or social status.

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I wanted to be certain to include special needs children, as they are abused at a much higher rate, and are many times overlooked when it comes to abuse.

Empowering children with the knowledge to keep their bodies safe and private is the most valuable part of parenting. You can never start too early, and if you don’t teach your kids about sexual abuse, the abuser will.

Know Tiny Secrets was no easy book to release and it came with many tears, fears, and trials. I cried a lot during each phase of developing the book. At times it was shedding tears of joy, and other times it was tears of uncertainty. The fear of uncertainty lurked in my mind and I would play out drama that didn’t exist. I questioned if I was qualified to write, and I shared my thoughts with a close friend, who regularly assured me that I was already trained and hired.

I was dropped from by first illustrator after months of working together and sharing ideas and life. I felt like shit and immediately my childhood feelings of rejection and questions of worthiness resurfaced.

I gave myself the ultimate pep talk and quickly dried my face and decided to survive the storm. That same day, I searched and found my now illustrator via the same website. Reluctant to inquire about her work because she was awesome and over my budget; it’s safe to say I took a leap of faith and it worked out despite my initial doubt. Every other month, I felt like we were so close to finishing and wrapping up the artwork and final drafts, but boy was I wrong.

latasha pic1234

Self-publishing allowed creative control but also assured there would be no certain control of time and people. My illustrator captured my vision very well, but it was tough sending countless emails to someone hundreds of miles away; especially since I’m a visual person who likes to see and communicate in person.

We did not always agree, in fact at the very end my illustrator tried to remove her name from my book for the better interest of other well-known clients. I felt rejected once again, and I also knew there was no way I could take credit for illustrations and ideas that I alone didn’t create.

The truth boiled down to writing a book that deals with social issues, which many people hate to talk about and some may not want to be associated with. I had to stand strong and remind myself and my illustrator of the truths of the creation of the book and our history. Thankfully everything worked out and I’m very grateful for her dedication and talent.

What would life be without a test?

From start to completion and release, the book took about 3 years total. To this day it still seems unreal; I have to sit and really look back on everything with gratitude that I was able to endure my life, just to be a voice to help save others.

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I’m now a child sexual abuse advocate and I have a business Know Tiny Secrets LLC, dedicated to helping empower kids. I travel to youth serving organizations, homes, and communities to read my book, and speak to groups of children about sexual abuse prevention/awareness.

Life, love and forgiveness give me hope each day. What we all can be certain of is that healing is possible, and loving yourself doesn’t have to be a chore that goes undone. Healing takes time; it’s a continuous process that you learn to re-train your thoughts and behaviors one experience at a time.

It’s my dream that our innocent babies will know the secrets of abuse, so there will be no secrets to keep.

Bio:

Latasha Fleming is a child sexual abuse advocate, mother of a seven year old daughter and lives in North Carolina. A survivor of sexual abuse, Latasha understands the fear and reluctance that keeps kids from reporting abuse to grown ups they trust. As a parent, she makes sure her daughter knows she can tell her anything silly or serious, especially when it comes to her body. Aside from being mom, Latasha enjoys self help books, sweets, quiet time, long chats and a good laugh.

www.knowtinysecrets.com

https://www.facebook.com/knowtinysecrets/

knowtinysecrets@gmail.com

Buy the Book!!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1518736629

 

 

 

 

Survivors Empowering Survivors

Just Breathing, I Was Enough.

Have you ever read something so simply powerful, that you find yourself holding your breath? That’s what happened to me as I read today’s #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors submission. Anika shares with us a breakthrough in her recovery that truly inspired me to stop chasing that elusive dream to be “better than.” Thank you, Anika…for reminding me that I. Am. Enough. ~Dawn


I was in my early 20s before I could not only hold onto the childhood abuse memories that had always floated around the periphery of my memory, but truly know them. Not just fear an awareness of them, but know them. And, being me, I started reading.

I read The Courage to Heal. I read The Survivor’s Guide to Sex. It turned my world upside down. I remember standing in a little neighbourhood bookstore in shock; I didn’t have dozens of strange issues that didn’t make sense. I had very normal post-traumatic stress.

This changed everything — every way that I had been raised to think about myself. Like many families with scary secrets to hide, my family centered their attention on a scapegoat, me. The one who would be the most likely to speak out. If I was always already dismissed and dismissible, they had less to fear. 

urlI kept reading. I read narratives by Becky Lane, Dorothy Alison, and Anna Camelleri. So many who were queer and as fierce as I aspired to be. I pondered their observations that often survivors were either the really good kids or the really bad kids growing up. We either were able to put on a nice face to cope with life outside of abuse, or we acted out to demonstrate that something was wrong!

Growing up I had been the black sheep of my family–too big, too loud, too many feelings. Often immobilized by the gravity of trauma while growing up, I was unable to do as well in school as I would have liked, or pursue change as I wished. Once on my own, I was determined not to let this stop me or define me. I spoke out. I spoke out against the abuses I’d faced along with the familial and dominant cultural norms that enable them. I spoke out and lost my family. But dammit, I was fierce. 

I was an abuse healing superstar.

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Very fierce. All the time.
I didn’t just read books; I joined a 3 stage abuse recovery group. I helped to lead a 4th stage. I went to therapy. After so many years slightly dissociative, I got massages to find a way back into my body. I hosted massage evenings to make a space for others to be able to feel comfortable in their own skin. I journaled, I went to workshops, I led workshops. I wrote a children’s book about a girl who travels in time to tell her younger self that her body was never bad, that this was not her fault.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this was bad. It was freeing. I could finally live the extent of who I was, without my family’s narrative about how messed up I was holding me back. I wasn’t messed up, I was a freaking badass healer who had been through messed up things, but was ready to take on the world!

The actions weren’t a problem, but the internal narrative was exhausting:

“I am doing so well because I’m separate from the people who hurt me.”

“I am doing so well because the abuse does not define me.”

“I am doing so well because I am bigger than my past.” 

It all rested on something–that I am doing well. So what about when I’m not? 

It wasn’t till 10 years later that I began to build some nuance into this narrative. I was living on my own for the first time and discovering what my rhythms were when there was no one else to be influenced by, annoyed with, or self-conscious around.

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Supported child’s pose…I’ve got nothing to prove!

I made a commitment to myself to do yoga from home every morning for a month. There was no goal to reach, the goal was just to have a practice. It was just me so there was no one I could accidentally compare myself to.

I was mid-sun salutation on the second week and it hit me: I don’t have to be “doing well.” I had needed to end unhealthy relationships and I did. Whether I did better or worse than they thought I would didn’t make my decision to separate from my family any more or less valid. The goal was always already accomplished — I was out of relationships that were toxic for me. 

I finished this practice, mulling over this truth–I had nothing to prove. If I was having a hard time and needed help, it didn’t mean anything other than that. If I was soaring and taking on the world, I still had nothing to prove. I was just as worthwhile, sitting alone in yana mudra in my apartment as I was putting on a symposium.

Just breathing. I was enough.

Survivour work is incredibly difficult. It takes being such a tough warrior to even face the truth of your own experience. All the workbooks, therapy, journaling, and support groups are courageous acts of self-love and society-changing bravery. They help to shift the cultures of silence that make the climate so ripe for childhood abuse.

If you are doing this work, in any capacity, I’m sending you my undying respect. I am also sending my wish that you have moments in which you can experience yourself as enough, with nothing you need to prove.

Your body as it is right now, well or struggling with illness, is doing amazing work to heal and to protect you. 

You are always already enough. 

Bio:

Anika Tilland-Stafford is a chronic Lyme disease healing badass yogi whose blog you can follow at: https://chronicyogiblog.wordpress.com/. She is also an academic and children’s author with a PhD from the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia. She works as a Director of Lifelong Learning at the Unitarian Fellowship in Bellingham, Washington where she lives with her wonderful wife and two odd cats. 

Survivors Empowering Survivors

We Just Have To Be Asked.

Liz Mullinar’s story captures the very essence of the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors series. She walked away from a prominent career to put in motion a plan to use her traumatic experiences, and the knowledge gained because of it, to help fellow survivors heal. The result is the Heal for Life foundation, which is providing compassionate, empathic and scientifically backed approaches to help survivors get to the root of their traumas, and move forward in their healing journey.


liz-mullinarAfter years of struggling and feeling no one understood us survivors, I determined that the only way to create change was to start our own organization. So, I announced at a particularly irritating health professionals meeting that I would start our own organization which would truly present the survivors view of what we need in order to heal and if anyone wanted to join me, to phone me.

Wonderfully, a few people did and we started Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse(ASCA), and opened survivors groups throughout Australia. Within two years, we had 55 groups running despite a complete lack of funds!!

However, the more we met, the more we began to see the need for more than the validation and support being offered in the groups. We needed a safe place where we could go and unburden our pain. A place where we could heal without judgment; a place where we could feel safe enough to release our fear and be able to move on in our lives, freed from the burden of our child abuse.

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In 1997, my husband and I sold our home and business (Liz Mullinar casting) and built Mayumarri; a safe place for survivors of abuse.

My original concept was that we would charge nothing and anyone could come for as long as they liked. That idea evolved because of a wonderful counselor, Margaret Williams, who devised and implemented a 5 day program. At first we charged nothing to attend, but we found the less people paid the less likely they were to turn up (still the same today), so sadly we started charging $50 for the week.

The program has gone from strength to strength and has now been running for 16 years. Over 6,500 people of all ages have been helped on their healing journey.

I know now both anecdotally and through our independent research that everyone can heal from mental illness and the symptoms we suffer from as a result of our abuse, by releasing the emotions connected with our  childhood trauma.

Everything we do here is informed by our own innate knowledge of what we need as survivors of child abuse to do in order to heal and consistently backed up by the latest neuroscience.

In our model we have 5 steps.

  1. Recall the traumatic moment in time via the right hemisphere of the brain (visualizations, music creative work.)
  2. Feel, and with physical effort release the emotions that were not safe to feel at the time. Encourage the ‘Inner Child’ to talk, and prompt them to stay in her/his emotions.
  3. Verbalize the feeling and whatever needs to be said about what happened.
  4. Re-empower the child.
  5. Nurture the child

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Our program is run almost entirely by volunteers, people who have healed through the program and want to help others to do the same. Our facilitators are paid. These are mainly people who came first to Heal For Life with no purpose in life; however, after discovering that they could heal and how amazing that is, they have become such passionate advocates. Some have gone on to train as therapists, psychologists or other related professions and have returned to heal For Life to help others, giving them hope and assurance that they can heal.

Our office and property are also run by survivors of child abuse, usually people who want to stay for a longer period to heal and help.

We also run camps for kids from 8 years upwards. These are immensely rewarding and worthwhile to change their lives around while they are still so young.

Heal For Life succeeds because it is run by survivors of abuse and we know what we need to do and create in order to feel safe. We know only a non authoritarian, non hierarchical structure works. We know all of us innately know what we need to do in order to heal; we just have to be asked. We know we all can heal. We know no one is beyond help, and that life is a choice. We can choose to heal or we can stay stuck in victimhood.

We now have centres run by volunteers in the Philippines and England and hopefully one day people from other countries will choose to join us.

Come and join us wherever in the world you live, and help us to change the way survivors are healed and help us to create more happiness and hope in this world which we believe can be found by healing from our childhood abuse.

Click to watch Liz’s TEDx: Treating the Core Problem to Childhood Trauma

 

http://www.healforlife.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/Heal-For-Life-Foundation

Bio

LIZ MULLINAR is a survivor of incest, satanic ritual abuse and sexual abuse. She is the founder of Heal For Life Healing Centres for survivors of child abuse & trauma. She co-founded and subsequently ran the first national charity for people who had suffered childhood trauma – Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA).

Liz conceptualized the book “Breaking the Silence” and co-edited it. She also wrote an autobiography with her brother, “The Liz Mullinar Story”. Both published by Hodder Headline.

In 1997 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the community, and in 2000 she was awarded the inaugural Australian Humanitarian of the Year award. She was also honoured on “This is your life” in 2001 and in 2003 received a centenary medal. In 2006 she was a finalist in the Charity CEO of the year award. 2009 she was honoured with an achievement award on Australia day as well as being named as New South Wales volunteer of the year. She was a finalist for Australian of the year in 2010.

Liz is now very involved in helping Indigenous people use the model in remote communities & in training heath professionals in Trauma Informed Care so that what she has learned over the last 17 years can help far more people than the actual guests on programs.

Click here to become a guardian angel and  help  someone heal from their childhood trauma.Liz Mullinar AM, BTh, M. Couns  | CEO & Founder |  380 Coney Creek Lane Quorrobolong   NSW  2325 |  PO Box 361 Cessnock NSW 2325 Australia  | (+61 2 49986003  |  Fax +61 2 49986041;mobile: 0409714372