Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Stop Childhood Sex Abuse

Although it’s too late for me to benefit from the Child Victims Act, I’m adding my voice to the chorus calling for the reform of state laws that shield criminals who sexually assault children from legal action by their victims.

I was in grade school when my father first crawled into my bed. 4th grade classIn this fourth grade class picture taken during the time that my father was sexually abusing me, I’m second in from the left in the first row of chairs. Like many trauma survivors with PTSD, I initially repressed the memories, and only began to recover them at the age of 23. By then it was already two years too late for me to take any legal action against my father, despite the fact that he had admitted – on tape and in front of two therapists – that my debilitating flashbacks were of actual incidents that he remembered too.

Childhood sexual abuse survivors deserve their day in court. The statistics are staggering: 1 in 10 children will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18, and the vast majority of those will be victimized by people they know and trust. Most people don’t realize that sexual abuse of children is far more prevalent than adult rape. In fact, nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) happen to children under 18. Their are 19 of us in this photo, so chances are good that one of my classmates seen here would also  endure childhood sexual assault, if they hadn’t already.

It is time for all of us to face up to this scourge that has remained hidden for too long. New York has one of the shortest windows in the country for pursuing sexual-abuse complaints through the courts. Our laws should protect children, not their abusers.

Today I reject the idea that because this subject is repulsive and makes people uncomfortable, I shouldn’t talk about it. That belief, like the current New York state law, only enables child molesters to lurk safely in the shadows, to intimidate their child victims into secrecy and silence, until it is too late for justice. In 1991, my lawsuit against my father was dismissed because of the statute now in question. The laws have changed minimally since then, but they are still woefully in favor of protecting criminals.

After briefly agreeing in 1990 to attend joint therapy and contribute to my psychotherapy bills, my father abruptly changed his mind, withdrew his admission, and shunned me. That’s when I decided to sue him, and I soon learned that the laws were stacked against me and protected him. This is not a new issue. In 1992, I submitted testimony to the Senate and Assembly Codes Committee Regarding the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Offenses Committed against Children:

“The process of repression and recovery of memories for child sexual abuse victims like myself is extremely painful and debilitating. To say that it turns your world upside-down is an understatement. As you start to realize the truth about yourself and your family, you also realize that part of your childhood was stolen from you; that you never learned fundamental things about being a human being, such as what it means to love someone, to trust someone, to be nurtured or to nurture. You realize that you have been horribly confused about the meaning of sex and love for your entire life. And you wonder if you will ever be whole again…”

Once I knew the truth about my childhood, I came to understand that my silence as a child had protected my abuser and not me, and that the secret had festered and grown inside me like a cancer. Finally, I was ready to put the blame and the shame where it belonged, but the statute of limitations blocked my chances of ever even having my day in court, much less seeing justice done. If children are to be protected from the horror of sexual abuse, we must be willing to face and talk about the difficult truth and we must pass the Child Victims Act, sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) and State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), which would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in cases of childhood sexual abuse and open a one-year window for suits to be brought in old cases.

One month from today the current legislative session ends. According to the Daily News, which has been heroically and relentlessly covering this important issue since March, as of last week, the issue was not even on the legislative agenda. Time is running out to bring attention and support to the proposed law. Please help by adding your voice. Tell Governor Coumo, Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan that our laws should support child victims, not the criminals who sexually assault them. Support the Child Victims Act now.

 

Write to Heal Your PTSD from Sexual Abuse

Sat down at my computer over an hour ago, just to quickly check email, and fell into a digital wormhole that spun me around and spit me back out, more inspired than ever to share my story of healing from sexual abuse. Here are just a few of the amazing, writers, sites, workshops and campaigns that are fueling my resolve to blend my writing and healing work:

Heal Write Now

Say it, Survivor

#facesofPTSD

Laura Davis

Arwen Faulkner

And this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. So grateful to learn that I have such a beautiful chorus of strong voices to add mine too!

Mash-Ups that Heal

 

It thrillssubatomic-collision- me when things I love collide like atomic particles smashing into each other to create new sub-atomic particles. Science and spirituality. Fitness training and energy medicine. Writing and health. Today I stumbled onto this quote from Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, who graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and trained in family medicine, psychiatry, and clinical psychology. He’s a presenter at the Narrative Medicine (another mash-up that intrigues me) workshop that I’m thinking about attending this summer.

“In the view of conventional medicine, disease is found within organs. Autopsies with microscopic confirmation are the ultimate form of diagnosis. When we look for disease, we look for structural and enzymatic changes within individual organs. Aboriginal elders tell me that what we are seeking is only the footprint of the disease. Looking as we do, we only find the tracks and traces of disease, which, they say, is long gone by the time a person dies. Look for the disease within the relationships, they say. That is where it is found. The rest is consequences and effects of the disease. This leads us to a consideration of the logic behind spiritual healing, for it addresses what lies between people, or between people and spirits, or people and earth energies.”

While studying Eden Energy Medicine I learned that first the energy systems of the body become disorganized, then physical symptoms show up. Mehl-Madrona’s words give me a deeper perspective of that concept. Healing relationships — with our self, others, and the world ­— heals our bodies too.

Conquering the Fear of Success

flying trapeze picFor me, and maybe for you too, setting and working toward goals is the easy part. Actually achieving them is the scary, hard part. Manifesting our dreams brings Change with a capital C. And Change, even good Change, can be terrifying. I know, because as I write this, I’m in a wrestling match with anxiety, over finally accomplishing a dream I’ve had since early childhood. I’ve written a book.

For almost four years now, I’ve been working on a memoir. At this very moment, as I type the words, “it’s done”, my insides quake. Yes, there is obvious joy and pride in accomplishing my goal, of course. But now I must also face a host of unknowns: Will I be judged for the truths I reveal? How will these revelations affect my relationships with family, friends and clients? Will anyone even notice or care enough to read this thing that I’ve poured countless hours of heart-wrenching work into? Will I find a publisher? And that’s just for starters. But my wiser self knows the simple answer to all these questions:

It’s none of my business.

When I’m still and quiet enough to listen to my inner teacher, I know that my only job in this life is to pursue my deepest passions and thereby to become the most authentic version of myself possible. The effort is my responsibility. The outcome is not. And so, I hand it all over to the Universe, or whatever you want to call that entity that is a greater power than ourselves. In the language of 12-step programs, I Let Go. Let God.

Here’s what that looks like for me today: Breath work, affirmations, energy work, prayer, yoga, and journaling. These are the primary methods of self-care that help me face, accept, deal with and finally release, all my negative thoughts and inner resistance about reaching my goals, a.k.a, my Fear of Success.

How about you? Could you be harboring some hidden angst about achieving what you think you want? How would your life change if you did succeed? Are you truly ready, willing and able to handle that change? How do you root out and clear those surreptitious, negative beliefs that disrupt your energies and keep your dreams from becoming reality? Share your answers in the comments below, so we can support each other.

If you’d like to learn more about how I incorporate some of these self-care techniques into my work with my private fitness and energy work clients, click here. And if you’d like to read an excerpt and learn more about my recently completed memoir, Wasteland Reclaimed, click here.

The Universe Listens

1351880853_money-tree-2

True, funny, amazing story: All last week I worked on applications for summer writing programs. Sent the last one out Friday, feeling pretty optimistic, but Saturday I started to get a bit antsy. All kinds of fear- and lack- based thoughts were running through my mind: “Oh, no. What if I get into one of these programs? They’re all so expensive! [They are all $3000-$4000]. Where will I get the money from? What will I have to give up in order to make this happen?”

Then Sunday, I got sick of myself. I know negative thoughts and worries like this can sabotage our dreams, so I took a deep breath and sent up a little prayer to the Universe. “If this is meant to be for me, please send me a sign – help me know that I don’t need to worry about the money.” Then I cleared this statement from Louise Hay: “I now receive my good from expected and unexpected sources.” (Clearing statements is a technique I use regularly on myself and with many of my clients. It combines energy work with positive belief statements.)

Monday, my husband Steven and I got a letter from Chase. They have some unclaimed funds that belong to us, left over from our mortgage pay-off when we sold our house three years ago. Over $4000 is due to us and we will be receiving a check shortly! And then, as if to top off this flashy show of the law of attraction in action, that same day I also received a lovely, thoughtful, unexpected gift from my sister and a surprise came in the mail from my dear friend, the artist, Elizabeth CassidyThe Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction, by Chellie Campbell.You simply can’t make this stuff up!

You think maybe the big U heard my little request? Did I shift my energy and remove unconscious blocks to abundance by clearing that statement? For me, the answer is clear. Change your thoughts, change your life. Keep your energetic channels flowing and free of old, negative thought patterns and wonderful miracles, big and small, happen all around you. I’m bursting with gratitude today for the elegance and grandeur of this amazing life. I hope you feel it too.

Healing is a Spiral Staircase

spiral staircase

Recently, I had a long, heart to heart talk with a dear friend I’ve known since college. As close friends always do, we have many similarities and we know each other well. My friend and I were talking about a certain set of life challenges she’s been facing lately, and suddenly I saw with clarity, a pattern among them. Since I’m always pulling for her personal growth as much as I know she’s always pulling for mine, I decided to share my insight with her as gently and honestly as possible.

“It seems to me like the common denominator here, the root of all these problems, is that you’re allowing everyone else’s needs to take priority over your own,” I said. These are the kinds of wisdom nuggets I believe we need our true besties to shine a light on for us, to nudge us along our healing paths.

“I know!” she exclaimed. I was relieved that she had made the same connection, and didn’t seem to find my unsolicited opinion out of line. “And, I’m so frustrated,” she continued. “This has been my big issue my whole life and I thought I dealt with it years ago. But here it is again.”

I knew she was right. This had been a familiar theme not only for her, but also for me and many of the loving, nurturing, compassionate women I count as my friends. Some of us were raised in families whose particular brand of dysfunctions led us to adapt by being overly “good”, helpful and accommodating to others. Yes, it is possible to be too kind to others, when it ends up meaning you’re unkind to yourself.

Some of us grew up with the mistaken belief that we needed to “earn” love and approval. Somehow we missed the memo that we all inherently deserve love because we exist, that just being ourselves is enough. So we became over-compassionate caretakers for everyone around us while sublimating our own needs and desires in a misguided attempt to guarantee ourselves the love, security and approval we all crave. While this imbalanced approach to relationships helped us survive and cope as children, as adults it leads to exhaustion, resentment, confusion and unhealthy relatonships.

“I’ve worked so hard and gotten so much better at acknowledging and expressing my own needs, and at finding ways to meet them,” my friend continued. “So why is this coming up again now?” Her frustration and despair was palpable and I could relate.

Sometimes all our attempts at self-transformation can feel like an unending loop, coming back around to the same issues over and over. Just when we’re starting to feel like we’re making progress, that same old self-destructive pattern shows up again. So I decided to share with my friend an analogy that my therapist gave me many years ago, which gave me clarity and eased my frustration.

Personal growth doesn’t happen in a linear progression. It’s more like climbing a spiral staircase. You start at the bottom where you see a certain view of the space around you. Think of this view as your perspective on your world. With work, you take some steps up and notice that you’ve achieved a higher level of functioning. The view from here is different. You see the world from a new angle, and your new success motivates you to take some more steps, moving you toward more growth and another new perspective. This pattern repeats until, before long, you find yourself seemingly at the place where you began. “Damn, I’ve been here before! How did I get back here?,” you wonder. At first glance it seems you are seeing the world from the same exact angle as where you started. You don’t realize that although it’s a very similar view, you ‘re actually seeing that view from a slightly higher level now. Your view from this new height is wider and you can see a bit farther. You’ve made it once around that spiral staircase. The same issue is back, but now it’s time to deal with it on a more comprehensive level. It’s not exactly the same after all.

I love this metaphor because it teaches us that we can make a choice to leave the endless loop of surviving and step up instead on to the spiral staircase of healing. As we climb, we may encounter those same old issues, but at each new turn we see them with a fresh, new, better perspective. And the more we examine the view and our place in it, the more we come to a place called thriving.

CHILD ABUSE OR CONFRONTING ABUSE – WHAT’S THE REAL TABOO?

A NEW SELF WRITTEN

I do work hard. Yes I do. Really. But in the middle of an important meeting, I found myself considering what we really mean when we talk about a taboo. It is broadly defined as a “system of prohibitions connected with things considered holy or unclean”. I’m no social anthropologist or sociologist, but it seems clear to me that even when we collectively uphold something as a taboo, it’s not actually a prohibition; it simply stops us talking about it.

Child sex abuse is a taboo; within the confines of trusted structures – such as family or school or religion – even more so. This is quite right. Yet although we operate this “system of prohibitions” it doesn’t translate into action from us, as a society, to prevent it in the first place. This is because where abuse is concerned the actual taboo is talking about it, acknowledging and confronting…

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