A Return to Your Genuine Self
Rachel Grant Coaching

September 20, 2016

The Intellectual Consequences of Growing Up an Abused…and Thinking …Catholic

This week, we conclude our series with Charles Sutherland, who takes a bold look at how religion became a space of confusion and inconsistencies when set against his experiences of abuse. 

One note here for believers in a higher spiritual power, I want to welcome you to read Charles's reflections here as a perspective on how faith and religion can become distorted when used by abusers as a way to manipulate rather than an indictment of religion on the whole.

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As soon as the next academic year arrived, I left our household (which I never called ‘home’) to go far away, to a Jesuit college in Denver to where I received a small scholarship.  My father did not give me any financial assistance, and I dropped out after the first year to earn money. 

A year later, because it was less expensive, I went to Europe, to the University of Vienna in Austria for two years.  Subsequently, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Philosophy in the U.S., and then pursued graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and studied some French at the Institute de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer in France.  Since then I have been to 67 countries, for one reason or another, have been an international businessman, a newspaper executive, and a writer.

The traditional ‘growth pattern’ of an abused child is often a life of criminality.  Unlike many abused children, I was fortunate to have strong Scotch-Irish DNA, and a stubborn and tenacious disposition. I also ‘escaped’ into the excitement of reading, and thinking about new ideas. 

To summarize the mental development in growing up as a physically and mentally abused boy, I will quote below from my book Reflections of a Boy… Growing Up in Nebraska in the 1950s with an Irish Catholic Father.

“Today such physical and psychological abuse inflicted upon a child by a father would be criminal.  In those days it was regarded as ‘strict’ religious discipline, which was generally accepted, or even approved and applauded.  The constant quote, falsely attributed to the Bible, was, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’  Actually the Biblical quote of Proverbs 13:24 is worse: ‘Whoever spares the rod hates their children…’

In our current era, religious intolerance and fanaticism are rising again in one of history’s cycles.  Having religion physically forced upon me from an early age compelled me to dwell upon it.  Doing so provided insights and empathy into religious persecution throughout history, of which I have written elsewhere.  If someone can beat their own child for asking questions about religious doctrines, it is easy to see how believers of all faiths can promote Crusades, Inquisitions, Biblical ‘cleansing’ of other ethnic groups, wars,  and Jihads against other people, whether family, neighbors, or strangers, who do not share their religious beliefs… or illusions.  Since by their nature all religions regard themselves as ‘exclusive’ in some manner or another, to subscribe to any religion inexorably leads to being intolerant on some level.

I was instructed to seek refuge from my painful life in God and religion.  Yet, my constant questioning revealed that any refuge I sought was just a mirage, like the mirages we saw on the long Nebraska highways on hot summer days.  When we came closer to the image, it evaporated into a mist.  I was punished for asking simple and basic questions, the kind which should be easily answered – but which went unanswered or were avoided, because like other ‘believers’ my father was afraid to even think about them.  We were taught in school not to think or ask questions, with the Christian admonition, ‘The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’

Growing up in the farm lands of Nebraska created common sense.  When crops were dry, we didn’t pray for rain.  We irrigated them.  If someone needed help, we didn’t pray for them.  We helped them.  When action was required, we acted.  According to my emerging perspective, prayer was for the lazy, the ignorant, or the delusional.  Religious ‘mysteries’ were neurotic non-sense, meant to deceive and control the uneducated.  

Through observation, I learned to disregard apologies, which I came to see as insincere acts of self-indulgence.  I saw my father and others apologize to God
and receive ‘forgiveness’ in their weekly visits to Confession, with no improvement in their conduct.  Accordingly, I also learned to have no patience for those who practice ‘forgiveness,’ whether religious people or lenient judges.  I also routinely watched self-righteous ‘believers’ enjoy the self-gratifying religious feeling of dispensing ‘forgiveness,’ rather than having the courage to hold people responsible for their actions.  Forgiveness exonerates bad behavior, inevitably leading to worse offenses in the future.  When people are not held accountable for their conduct, anarchy ultimately prevails. 

Finally, on the crucible of painful childhood curiosity, I developed a complete and visceral intolerance for dishonesty of any kind, no matter what the personal pain or consequence.  Regardless of how intelligent, stupid, rich, or poor someone may be, they can at least be honest.  Personal relationships are built on the foundation of truth, and a stable society requires honesty to prevent the fabric of civilization from tearing apart.  Honesty is a natural impulse in a child, until a religious education suppresses and distorts it.  The religious fables, to which I was continuously subjected and compelled to recite, inhibited my ability to think honestly at an early age.  These false fables of fantasy and fear are society’s most ubiquitous and pernicious disquisitions of deceit, inflicted daily upon the ignorant and vulnerable, particularly upon children.  Given the difficulties we encounter in our everyday human lives, it is morally reprehensible for self-righteous people to add imaginary fears and woes to real ones, through a litany of useful lies.

Finally, the psychology that there are divine friends in the sky who may grant us our wishes through prayer teaches children not to be self-reliable.  It delays the reality of life, that the cosmos is indifferent to our desires.  Often we don’t even achieve our objectives by working for them, let alone by praying for them.

The ancient wisdom says, ‘It’s better to light a little candle, than to curse the darkness.’  Hopefully, these honest and candid memories, many amusing, others painful, provide some flicker of light to whoever might read them – of whatever religion.  Every religious faith flounders on its own historic falsehoods, and then, in a final act of despair, the creeds’ followers eventually seek the light of reason, however dim or bright.  The sooner, the better, for all of us…

In any event, my dear maternal Aunt Marie always told me, ‘Hang in there, sweetheart.  Always remember, the first one hundred years are the hardest’.”



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Charles Sutherland was educated at schools and universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a student and international businessman for over 40 years, he has lived, studied, worked in, or traveled to over 60 countries. He has sat on numerous Boards of Directors and has launched a wide variety of business ventures and philanthropic organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe (including the former Soviet Union), Asia, and the Middle East. He has also been Director of Development of The Washington Times, and author of numerous articles and several books, including Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism; Character for Champions; Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia (co-author); Clash of the Gods (co-author); The Poison Planters, and GMO Food Poison Handbook. He has two sons and lives in the Washington, DC area.

September 13, 2016

Learning How to Think: A Gateway to Freedom

This week, we continue our series with Charles Sutherland. In this post, he shares about his high school years and how learning to question everything became a gateway to freedom.

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As the time approached to go to high school, my mother and her sisters wanted me to attend Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, which was a strong academic Catholic school run by the Jesuit priests.  My father and our parish priest were against it, saying that once the Jesuits taught me how to think I would “lose my faith.”  They wanted me to go to a regular Catholic school across town run by Catholic nuns. My father also said that the tuition at the Jesuit school was nearly five times as the other school, and he would not pay it.  

However, when I tested, I received a small scholarship.  In addition, one of my aunts, on my mother’s side, was the Mother Superior of a large group of Catholic nuns in the Mid-West, and she wanted me to go to the Jesuit school.  With her Catholic connections, she even arranged to get me free books for my entire set of courses!  

Since my father and the parish priest knew I was ‘already thinking too much’, they gave up, and resigned themselves to the fact that I might “lose my faith” and go to hell.  So they relented, but my father refused to provide me any financial support or pay any of the tuition, or even the bus fare to get to school.  So, I got a job, and then another job, and another job, all the way through high school.

On my first day of high school, the Jesuit principal assembled all of the freshmen and told us, “With your cooperation as students wanting to learn, we intend to help you become thinking men – but not just to think, and do nothing.  We intend to make you ‘Contemplatives in Action’ so that you use your mind for something, and are always acting… and thinking.”  Then he said, “Look around at those sitting next to you. Before this is over, one out of the three of you won’t make it here.”  Everyone got nervous.

When he concluded, he said, “One thing you will need to survive around here is a good sense of humor.  Humor is one of the earmarks of intelligence. And, of course, without humor life is boring.  It also enables us to observe stupidity without anger.  The older you get, the more stupidity you will encounter.  So make sure you have fun while learning.”  Then he added, “Even God has a sense of humor.  If you don’t think so, just look around again at your fellow students.”  Everyone laughed.

With that, at the age of 13, we embarked upon four years of classical studies, Latin and Greek, history and literature.  Then, because the Soviets put a satellite in orbit, study intensified.  The Americans wanted to get ahead of the Soviets, the Catholics wanted to have better schools than the public schools, and the Jesuits wanted to have the best academics of all.  So we were the academic ‘victims’ – now with extended school hours, learning advanced mathematics and calculus.  That was in addition to our extra-curricular activities, clubs, and sports.

The principal focus was on thinking, and challenging every thought, idea, and even every religious belief we were supposed to have.  It was clear that the Jesuit priests did not believe everything the Church was teaching. One religion teacher said, “God is truth. Just pursue the truth, and let the Vatican have its own approach to things.”



There was also strong discipline, and no tolerance for bad behavior. All students had to carry ‘Demerit Cards’ with them, and would receive a demerit for doing anything wrong.  Once five demerits were obtained, the student would have to stay after school and do an assignment in literature or math, which sometimes took several hours.  The priests would simply call the parents and tell them the student would not be ready to leave school until 6 or 7 o’clock.  Parents knew that if they ever objected to the discipline, the student was expelled from the school.  And, in those days, parents knew that teachers imposed morality, not permissiveness.

Throughout my high school days my father would not allow me to date girls, or even use his car.  His physical discipline declined as I grew larger and more willing to confront him.  Then he stopped when my cousin, a boxer in the Air Force, was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha … and intervened. My father did not want to get into a fight with my older cousin.  My cousin also allowed me the use of his car, and became my friend and role model.

Because we were Catholics at an all boys prep school, and regarded as the ‘brainy boys’ in Nebraska, other schools wanted to beat us in debate tournaments and in sports.  However, our academic training enabled us to win many State contests in debate and public speaking, and our sports teams regularly won the State Championships.  We even played against Gale Sayers, who later became a football Hall of Fame legend (That famous high school game with Gale Sayers brought nearly 15,000 people to the stands, and was a tie.) Sayers also became famous for the wonderful movie Brian’s Song.  Many of our students later became important figures in America.

With the Jesuits there was no question ‘off limit’ on any subject, as long as we asked the question politely, and engaged in follow-up analysis to make sure we were actually interested in learning and not ‘just being cute or confrontational.’  As a consequence, we developed a pattern of questioning everything, and analyzing whatever was told to us… by anyone… and being polite in arguments.  Ultimately, as my father and the parish priest predicted, that caused me to abandon many of my religious beliefs – many of which I had already abandoned anyway.

The entire atmosphere was intellectual honesty. The excitement of learning and thinking made me ignore the pain of personal abuse in our household. Jesuit priests became our friends, to whom we could confide anything and discuss anything. The entire experience was a feeling of intellectual and emotional liberation.  And, many of us maintained those friendships for decades, until our former Jesuit mentors and friends passed away.

During the philosophical discussions we learned to challenge our most cherished beliefs, and to discard many of them.  An intellectual pattern was set, to experience the joy of learning something new, rather than fearing the loss of traditional religious beliefs. We regarded ourselves as part of ‘American Exceptionalism’ and we enjoyed knowing that there were many renowned Jesuit-trained people throughout history, some applauded and others despised. Our class cartoon was a montage of Voltaire in Paris writing anti-clerical diatribes, a priest in Central America with a Latin textbook in one hand and a rifle in another, and Fidel Castro in the Escambray Mountains of Cuba. The caption on the cartoon was, “Jesuit educated men are active everywhere!”

When my high school days were over, I knew I had been trained and educated better than most students ever could be.  It was then that I became the first in my family to ever go to college.  Of course, my father did not approve, and wanted me to go to work for the Union Pacific Railroad where he worked and was a major labor leader.  The Union Pacific was an important company in Omaha, the town of its headquarters.  However, I knew this was just a way for him to try to control me again … and another frustrating attempt to keep me Catholic.  

So, I left town for college, with a small scholarship to a Jesuit college in Denver, and not enough money to even complete the first year.  But, I knew I had the education, and the stubborn Scotch-Irish determination to succeed at whatever I tried.  Like my desire to go to a Jesuit high school, it was the beginning of another adventure against the odds.

An analysis of what this all meant, and the result of this intellectual fermentation, will be in the next post!


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Charles Sutherland was educated at schools and universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a student and international businessman for over 40 years, he has lived, studied, worked in, or traveled to over 60 countries. He has sat on numerous Boards of Directors and has launched a wide variety of business ventures and philanthropic organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe (including the former Soviet Union), Asia, and the Middle East. He has also been Director of Development of The Washington Times, and author of numerous articles and several books, including Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism; Character for Champions; Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia (co-author); Clash of the Gods (co-author); The Poison Planters, and GMO Food Poison Handbook. He has two sons and lives in the Washington, DC area.

September 6, 2016

Memories of an Abusive Catholic Childhood


This week, I am very pleased to introduce you to Charles Sutherland. Charles and I connected on Facebook and I knew I wanted to share his story with you. An author, a businessman, and a survivor of abuse. I hope you will learn much from his series this month!

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This is a narrative of a physically and mentally abused child, and is drawn from my recent book. Abuse is an occurrence which still happens regularly on our planet. Hopefully, this will provide some insights to people today.

In my case, my very first childhood memory is when I was three or four years old. I was sitting on the floor of our kitchen in Omaha, Nebraska, and my father was shouting at my mother.

When I asked him why he was shouting at her, and I said, “That’s not nice,” he grabbed me, starting shouting at me, and then spanked me hard on the butt.  Then he shoved me into the little room in the back of the house.

When he grabbed me, I was afraid and I knew it was going to hurt.  So he must have spanked me hard before.  I just don’t remember.  (I should mention that since I was very young, I never called him ‘dad.’ Later I referred to him as my male parent.)

One of my next memories is when I tried to burn the house down, by taking my father’s cigarette matches and setting the curtain on fire.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was taking care of us because my mother was in a sanitarium for what in those days they called ‘a nervous breakdown.’  She was there because my father always hurt her and she became sick.

As the curtain was burning, my grandmother came into the room, pulled down the curtains, and threw them outside.  Then she got a pan of water and put out the fire.  When she came back into the house, she took the matches away from me.  

My grandmother asked me why I had set the fire, and I told her it was the only way I knew how to kill myself so that I would not be beaten again.  With my mother gone, there was no one there at night to tell him to stop hitting me.

She told me I had done a very bad thing, and she would have to call my father and tell him because he would see the burned curtains anyway when he got home.  So she called him where he worked. He told her he would come right away.  So, I was scared again.

When he came home, the first thing he did was slap me.  Then he took off his belt, pulled down my pants, and began hitting me on the butt.  I cried, without making any noise, because I couldn’t help it; but I didn’t want him to see me cry.  So, as soon as he stopped, I wiped my eyes and went outside.

He hit me for years, throughout my childhood.  When he hit me, he would often say he is doing it because I was a “bad boy” and that if I stayed that way I would go to hell forever.  I didn’t think I was bad, and I didn’t even know what hell was, but it could not be worse than home.

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I began school when I was only four years old.  That’s because my sister, Charline, was a year older and began first grade.  So my mother asked the priest if I could start at the same time.  That way she would not have to take care of me.  The priest asked me some questions to see if I was smart, and then he agreed.

Oh, I should mention that the reason my sister Charline spells her name that way, and not ‘Charlene,’ is because my father’s nickname is ‘Charlie.’  After she was born he didn’t want any more children; so he named her after himself.  My parents later told me that I was an ‘accident’ because Jesus wanted them to have children.

At school one of the first things we learned is that Lucifer was always watching us, and if we were not good we could go to hell and burn there forever.  When I asked the “sisters” who were teaching us how they knew that, they said the Church says so.  When I asked them how the Church knows, they said that Jesus told the Church.  When I asked them when Jesus told the Church, they said he told them before he died for us.

Of course, I had to ask them why Jesus died for us, and they told me because two people called Adam and Eve sinned.  When I asked them when they lived, they did not know… but it was a long time ago.  When I asked how Adam and Eve sinned, they said a snake called ‘Lucifer’ tempted them by telling them that if they ate the apple from the tree of knowledge, they could be like God.  So they ate the apple.  I could not imagine why anyone would believe a snake in the first place, because we always see snakes and run away from them. Anyway, I didn’t even believe the story.  

When I asked if it was a green apple or a red apple, since we have both kinds in Nebraska, they didn’t know.  When I asked them why it was sinful to eat an apple to become smart instead of studying, they did not know how to answer.  So, I asked them if it was sinful to study, and to get knowledge.  They said I asked too many questions, but I would understand when I grew up.

Since I could go to hell forever because of two people, I thought they should at least know when Adam and Eve lived, what kind of apple it was, and why it was wrong to get knowledge.  Because they didn’t know, that was my first doubt about religion.  From then on, I questioned everything they told me.  By the time I was in eighth grade, I didn’t believe any of it.

My father beat me and told me I had to believe.  He also made the whole family kneel and say the rosary every day, and made us go to confession every week. Because I was a good boy I didn’t think I was sinful, so I made up sins to confess. I would add the sin of lying, since I had just done it!  That was just to be safe… in case.  My sister Charline always took confession seriously, but I thought it was nonsense. After high school she became a Catholic nun, although she eventually left the convent.  Because my father tried to beat goodness into me, I developed an animosity toward his Catholic religion.  But, I was never able to tell anyone that until I was in high school.       

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Today the abuse inflicted upon me would be criminal.  In those days it was regarded as ‘strict religious upbringing.’ The constant quote was, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”  Actually, Proverbs 13:24 is even worse.  It says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children…”

Having religion forced upon me compelled me to think about these ideas, and ultimately to study philosophy and religion in college, both in the U.S. and Europe (before switching to Economics).  The study of philosophy, particularly logic and epistemology (the study of knowledge and sources of knowledge), sharpened my mind for all aspects of life.

This background also taught me the value of justice, as opposed to tyrannical authority.  It also taught me that asking for forgiveness was a self-indulgent exercise.  I had watched people ask God for forgiveness every Saturday night at Confession, in preparation for Sunday Mass.  But the next week, they committed the same sins— particularly my father.  So, to me, people should be held accountable for their behavior, not forgiven.

As I said, by the time I left Catholic grammar schools, I no longer believed any of these stories.  Then I went to a Jesuit Catholic high school.  It was a whole new awakening – but one you would not expect.  That comes next… 


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Charles Sutherland was educated at schools and universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a student and international businessman for over 40 years, he has lived, studied, worked in, or traveled to over 60 countries. He has sat on numerous Boards of Directors and has launched a wide variety of business ventures and philanthropic organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe (including the former Soviet Union), Asia, and the Middle East. He has also been Director of Development of The Washington Times, and author of numerous articles and several books, including Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism; Character for Champions; Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia (co-author); Clash of the Gods (co-author); The Poison Planters, and GMO Food Poison Handbook. He has two sons and lives in the Washington, DC area.

August 30, 2016

Escaping the Hands of the Abuser - Part 5

Today, we conclude our series with Ivonne Meeuwsen. She explores the new concept of "post-traumatic growth" and shares with us how she found freedom from the past.

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There's no such thing as Post Traumatic Growth

Every so often a new term hits the block. Post Traumatic Growth is such a term. The idea is that having experienced trauma helps people build strength of character. I say this is at best a bunch of bullcrap and at worst a snow job, trying to make the perpetrators look good. Let me explain.

Why Post Traumatic Growth is hogwash

'What doesn't kill us makes us stronger' is one of those sayings that seems to underpin the idea of Post Traumatic Growth. On the surface it feels true enough. After all, pressure creates diamonds from coal doesn't it? It's a nice idea to think something good might come out of all this trauma. But what is the sobering truth about the trauma of child sexual abuse?

1. Child sexual abuse does kill

People who have been abused as a child are 12 times as likely to take their own life before the age of 30. Twelve times as likely! Child sexual abuse kills those who are unable to cope with the stress and rigours of surviving. Let's face it, many of us aren't survivors at all. 

2. Child sexual abuse doesn't make you stronger

People who have been sexually abused as a child tend to have a high score on the ACE-index. The ACE scores the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences someone has as a predictor of trouble later on in life. What does it mean to have a high score? It means you're more likely to suffer from a number of physical and psychological disorders, including (but not limited to) heart failure,  depression, diabetes, COPD, and alcoholism/dependency issues. 

3. Childhood sexual abuse stunts the growth of the individual

The stress response of flight, fight or freeze is activated and since the child has neither the option to fight the perpetrator (usually an authority figure) nor to flee from the agressor, the only option left open is to freeze. If this happens once and the child is well cared for, the child's resilience is usually enough to bounce back from a traumatic experience. Most childhood sexual abuse is not a one time only occurrence. Repeated, chronic trauma makes the freeze-reaction semi-permanent and stunts the growth of the individual.

BUT! Trauma can be turned around

Healing is possible, even though conventional wisdom tells us otherwise. There is evidence that even major trauma can heal completely in young children. In a long running study among abused and neglected orphans in Romania, it turns out that children who were placed in loving homes for the rest of their childhood were, upon reaching adulthood, indistinguishable from children growing up in loving homes. Healing is possible and from my personal experience, I can tell you that it's also possible for adults who still carry the burden of their childhood miseries. Life can become about living, instead of mere survival.


Post traumatic growth spurt?

Trauma can be overcome and when people who have been sexually abused go on their healing journey, there appears to be a growth spurt. A period of accelerated growth occurs, when you discover your true self in the process of healing from the past. Freed from the constraints of the past, the freeze finally over, the individual often grows into their own strength at top speed. All the effort that has gone into keeping yourself suppressed is finally freed up to create what you want out of life. In many of my clients, I have seen a tremendous growth spurt happen, comparable to puberty and a midlife crisis wrapped into one!

We should call it "Post-Healing Growth" instead!

This growth spurt is not the result of the traumatic experiences, which is why I take issue with the term 'Post Traumatic Growth'. It is rather the effect of healing from your trauma that allows you to grow (rapidly) into the person you can become. 

My personal experience of post-healing growth

After healing, I still have a difficult time finding my way in the world. I don't have a lot of experience with determining what I want, what I like, who I want to be in the world. I feel like I am at a dead end. I have just moved into a new apartment and sit on the bare concrete wondering what color I want to paint the walls, and I can't do it. I can't make a choice. Overcome with the fear of making a mistake, I sit there for almost six weeks. Then a good friend breaks my deadlock. When for the umpteenth time I utter, desperately: 'I can't make a choice! I don't know what I like and what I don't like', she tells me something that has become my life motto: 'Ivonne, just choose a color for the walls. We'll paint it and if you don't like it, we can always paint over it!' 

Free at last, free at last

We paint my walls in different shades of purple, which they are to this day. It is my first experience of freedom of choice. Deep within I know that I am free to paint the walls any color I want. Without fear of doing it wrong, without fear of being judged on it. Without my biggest fear of being stuck with the choices I make. After that I make experimentation a way of life. My way of tackling new things. It opens up so many doors. I find out the kinds of things I like and the kinds of things I'm good at in rapid progression. Not everything I try works out as well for me as the purple on my walls, but that's not a big deal. When something doesn't work, I try something else. One way or another I make it work for me. I reframe any failed experiment as a learning experience, and I have learned so much in the past 10 years. 

I love my life and the way I live it. I've become me in ways I never dreamed possible. I'm free from the past, free at last.



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Ivonne Meeuwsen is author of several books on child sexual abuse. Ivonne is a survivor herself of sexual abuse from the tender age of 12 until she was 19. In her book, I Thrive. Healing from Child Sexual Abuse, she relates her story, not just about the abuse, but about dealing with the long term effects of child sexual abuse. The book gives clear insight into all the major issues resulting from child sexual abuse: social anxiety, fear, dissociation, depression and more. She tells the story from the inside out, so people who have not been abused can gain insight and understanding, whereas people who have been there will find themselves saying, "Yes, that's how it was." 
Ivonne studied social work and coaching and has a thriving practice as an online coach, specializing in child sexual abuse. In addition, she organises symposia, trains and supervises therapists on healing from child sexual abuse.

August 24, 2016

Escaping the Hands of the Abuser - Part 4

Today, we continue our series with Ivonne Meeuwsen. Get a first hand look at how life unfolded for Ivonne once she made up her mind to heal and thrive instead of just survive.

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Post healing life struggles

After healing from my childhood of sexual abuse, I find myself out of therapy, happy to be me and happy to be alive. I have made it! So much for the good news. Because after taking stock of my life such as it is at this point, it isn't much to shout about. 

Unemployed

I am unemployed as I haven't been able to keep any job for longer than 2 years. Whenever I stayed that long, I parted with my employer with a bit of a row or a series of misunderstandings. I am never simply laid off: I always run into trouble with an 'authority figure'. It isn't difficult to connect the dots, dealing with someone in authority is a trigger in and of itself. But knowing that after years of therapy doesn't mean I get any of my old jobs back. Plus of course, I now have a spotty resumé, with large gaps in it during the time when therapy was too intense to combine with an odd job.

Education interrupted

As far as schooling goes: I was studying to be a teacher when I was 19 and hurriedly left for the USA. Needless to say, I didn't finish college. When I got back from the USA, I started studying psychology. That's when my depression hit, I started my healing journey and I started therapy which turned out to be a 10 year effort. Of course I didn't quite finish that psychology major. I'm pretty well educated in healing from child sexual abuse, but other than that I've not finished a thing.

No money

I'm unemployed which in any country means that money is in short supply. I'm not good at holding down a job, especially since that chip on my shoulder when it comes to authority figures is still there. Being unemployed in my country means you get a second chance. I enter a programme and finish my college level education so I can call myself an official social worker. After that, I also get a degree in coaching and things are looking up. I work with youngsters as a social worker. Many of the kids I work with have been sexually abused.

Yet another work related conflict

I'm working with teenagers who almost all of them have been sexually abused and the institute I'm working at doesn't have a programme pertaining to sexuality or abuse. I'm first surprised, then pro-active, creating programmes like 'the boyfriendtest' and a game called 'difficult words about sexuality'. Working with the youngsters comes naturally to me and my programmes are quite succesful in helping these kids turn their lives around. My bosses aren't as pleased as you might expect. 

I talk about sex too much?

Say what? I work with teenagers, many of whom have experienced sexual abuse and I'm not supposed to talk about sexuality with them? What the …? I'm seriously flabbergasted, and I even take them to court over firing me. The judge is with me: They have to pay me a healthy sum of money for firing me unjustly. 

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more

The old Bob Dylan classic goes through my head. I've had it. I'm done working within the establishment. I'm done abiding by anybody elses rules. I draw a line in the sand and stand my ground. I'm ready to take on the world. I start my own coaching practice and that's what I still do to this day. Over the years, I specialize more and more in everything pertaining to childhood sexual abuse. I never looked back.

Life can be a dream

I still have difficult times, to be sure. Life is not a fairytale and it's not meant to be 'happily ever after'. But I do better now I don't have to work within a system that doesn't go to the heart of the problem. I know a lot about childhood sexual abuse, both from personal experience and from my coaching practice. This is
the period of time in which I write my first book: I Thrive! Healing from Child Sexual Abuse. It takes me a few more years to find the courage to actually go to print with the book, but when I do it's an instant hit. Therapists and survivors alike have told me how much it has helped them understand what it is they are dealing with. 

I thrive!

My book comes out on my 49th birthday, 26th of February 2013. It's hard to believe that it's only been three and a half years since then… so much has happened. I've given sold out lectures about sexual abuse, my book has become mandatory reading for social workers, I've written 3 more books, all on topics related to child sexual abuse. I've become an expert on the topic and I offer masterclasses for therapists as well as organizing symposia, training sessions, and I offer supervision for therapists struggling with childhood sexual abuse. I thrive.

My mission


My mission is to promote healing. To let people know that healing is possible. You don't have a life sentence just because you've been sexually abused as a child. Yes, healing can be a long and arduous road. Healing takes time and often takes more than one therapy. But it can be done. Life can become about living, rather than just mere survival. Childhood sexual abuse can be overcome and it's worth the effort. YOU are worth the effort. 

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Ivonne Meeuwsen is author of several books on child sexual abuse. Ivonne is a survivor herself of sexual abuse from the tender age of 12 until she was 19. In her book, I Thrive. Healing from Child Sexual Abuse, she relates her story, not just about the abuse, but about dealing with the long term effects of child sexual abuse. The book gives clear insight into all the major issues resulting from child sexual abuse: social anxiety, fear, dissociation, depression and more. She tells the story from the inside out, so people who have not been abused can gain insight and understanding, whereas people who have been there will find themselves saying, "Yes, that's how it was." 
Ivonne studied social work and coaching and has a thriving practice as an online coach, specializing in child sexual abuse. In addition, she organises symposia, trains and supervises therapists on healing from child sexual abuse.



Resources, personal stories, communication techniques, and strategies for survivors of sexual abuse who are ready to break free from the past and return to their genuine self.



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