A couple of months ago, I was asked to contribute to a new training on child sexual abuse prevention by being interview for a training video, to help adults understand why prevention is important and to also share some hope from my own healing journey. This video was made to further spread awareness about the work of Restore Hope, an Oregon based nonprofit that is dedicated to keeping children and teens safe from sexual abuse and helping survivors heal through education, prevention training, and survivor support. (You can learn more about Restore Hope here.)
As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I found my voice as a child sexual abuse prevention educator 10 years into my healing journey, when I realized if I had been given the tools to ask for help, that chances are I would not have suffered as long as I did. I thought that it was hard to speak about this topic because I was a survivor and it carried so much shame for me. But when I saw professionals in my training, highly educated people sitting in a circle being invited to talk about how to prevent CSA and demonstrating the same discomfort that I had felt to talk openly with strangers about it, I knew it wasn’t just me and it wasn’t just survivors. Everyone was uncomfortable openly discussing it. It was seeing this that brought me further resolve and understanding of why this kind of training was needed.
This is why I was honored to be asked to talk more about CSA and the impact of multi-generational abuse for the video of this new training program. And I was especially proud of this interview because my oldest daughter, Elisa, was interviewed as well and asked to share her experience of being raised by a mom that is a survivor and how we worked through some of our hard times. Earlier this year, she decided to become a child sexual abuse prevention educator as well, because she understands the importance of learning how to talk about abuse in our families and how it can strengthen our connection with each other.
If you are a parent or caregiver looking for online training on how to start to talk to the adults around you about how to keep kids safe, I encourage you to visit Darkness to Light’s website. You can take the Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children Training online from the comfort of your home, which I highly recommend all parents take to further support the change you may want to make in how your family communicates about preventing child sexual abuse and staying safe as a family.
If you are curious to learn more about the impact of trauma, please visit the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) page about the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study. You can learn more about definitions, statistics, and finding the study had on the longterm consequences of childhood trauma and neglect. In short, the higher a person scored on the ACE questionnaire, the higher the risk they have for health problems later in life. Learning about this study was a turning point for my personal healing. I had minimized the impact and told myself that since it happened when I was a child and it was such a long time ago, that there was no need to talk about it, to revisit old trauma. Learning about the ACE’s helped me understand the impact of the toxic stress on my body and how unresolved trauma would get in the way of my ability to parent my own children. Not because I was a bad person, but because of a lack of inner resources to support myself during challenging times. The good news is that I was able to relearn.
I was able to shift my own beliefs about healing when I understood the impact of trauma on my body, understanding that I was not broken. Instead, my body was stuck in fear and my mind was stuck constantly seeing worst-case scenarios that kept me reliving my past and playing it out over and over in all my relationships. The devastating impact of trauma is that survivors end up living in a body that is dysregulated, that did not learn how to connect, calm, and trust, because we did not get supported through those important stages of development in childhood or supported when we were abused to heal the hurt we then often turned onto ourselves.
We now know that the body can heal. We can change our mind and our habits. Much of the work of healing takes place in safe relationships with other people, with a friend, therapist, coach, partner, parent, caregiver, or other peers. Part of healing is finding safe places to practice a new way to be, exploring the act of sharing the truth, setting boundaries, being honest about our thoughts and feelings. I always recommend groups because of the support it provides, the community we need when healing, When you find a group of people that are also navigating this change, you heal faster. When you hear other people share their struggles with the same challenges, it not only gives you hope but it rewires your brain and helps you to embody new experiences of how people care, and that there is hope and healing possible for you too. You too can make the shift of living out of your hurt, into living from your heart!
You can also find the video on YouTube here. Feel free to share if you want to spread this message of hope and healing within families to others!
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