October 4, 2016

Heal Myself – Help the World

James Buffin is no joke! He's an advocate, father, survivor, and director. When I learned about his upcoming documentary film, Picking Trauma’s Pocket, I knew immediately that I wanted to bring James on as a guest blogger to share more about his journey and this amazing project. In today's post, he shares what led him to take on creating a film about sexual abuse.

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All through adulthood I’ve tenaciously sought professional help. Alcohol. Relationships. Anxiety. Depression. Under-productivity. Alienation. Trust. Financial struggles. Anger. Overwhelmed by these problems, I would leave the helpers offices no better off and sometimes, much worse. Despite well-known professional studies linking childhood sexual abuse to all of the symptoms I was living with, until recently none of them asked if that was part of my history. My sustained efforts to get the help I needed only resulted in reinforcing the imposed belief that I was a flawed person, destined to work around problems too big to resolve. I was blindly living with the full impact of trauma from sexual abuse three decades prior and time was not healing it.

Sexual trauma is incredibly difficult to articulate. One of the best descriptions I’ve heard is that your spirit goes into hiding. It did more than harm me in the present. As a child it scarred my future by leaving me unable to fully advocate for myself about the things that were most important to me because underneath it all I had no sense of belonging. All of this resulting from a malicious attack by a sexual predator masquerading as my caregiver on a rural overnight trip.  

One of the most painful parts is career. On the outside I appeared to have an enviable life. Rubbing shoulders with movie stars. Travel. Time off between gigs. But on the inside I was forever churning with shame at not having reached a coveted goal…to make a living creating my own films. Despite a university degree in filmmaking, hundreds of connections who would certainly help me and decades of professional experience, I had the inner experience of being voiceless. What I am talking about is not entitlement. It is the impact of criminal actions that stole my innocence 39 years ago and to this day affect my ability to follow through on my most personal goals.

Make no mistake. This is not a sob story.

Uneducated and unaware of the link to my prolific suffering, I did not break the silence until my son’s teacher was arrested on child pornography charges in 2011. Outraged at the school administration’s elevation of their self-preservation above the needs of the students, a raw nerve was touched in me. In a hot, overcrowded sweaty gymnasium filled with anxious angry parents, my own experience was validated for the first time. I finally experienced what the appropriate response is to my own abuse. The most proactive thing I could do while I waited three months for police to confirm that my son’s image was not in the teacher’s collection of 40,000 files, was make the long overdue police report about my own abuse in the 1970’s. Just in case something had happened and my son was not able to disclose. He’s ok. Nothing happened. But for me everything changed. And that’s when I began filming Picking Trauma’s Pocket.

For five years, I’ve been self-documenting my attempts to articulate what the experience is of living with an invisible injury that rendered me churned up and fragmented on the inside yet calm and together on the outside. On this journey, I have interviewed hundreds of empowered survivors of child sex abuse in Canada, the United States, Guyana, Bolivia and Taiwan. Whether it’s Bolivian lawyer Brisa D’Angulo with one child in her arms and another in tow, best selling author and prolific neuroscientist Bessel van der Kolk in his office, or yoga practitioner Sat Dharam Kaur, the stories reinforce each other and yet highlight the ugly truth that there is no magic bullet solution. This film is my global odyssey to gather up stories from the corners of the planet and show at the same time how big the problem is and the beautiful diversity of our collective struggles to create a better world.   

Picking Trauma’s Pocket is courageously inspirational evidence that healing is possible. And for a world where on average one in five people are sexually abused in childhood, yet go on to adulthood without proper support, Picking Trauma’s Pocket is vitally important because many people are suffering in silence. Right now. That many of over a billion people around the planet who have been sexually abused in childhood should feel alone is deeply ironic. Sexual trauma is real. It is an invisible plague. It isn’t going away on its own. And it is scared of the light inside each and every survivor.

Voice is more than words. For me it includes my work in filmmaking. In the making of this film I give birth to my own voice. This journey is about nothing less than emancipation. And I want you to be my witness.


You can help complete Picking Trauma’s Pocket, the documentary by contributing to our crowd funding campaign between October 6th and November 10, 2016. 

Go here to support this amazing project starting October 6th: https://igg.me/at/ptpthefilm

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James Buffin is a filmmaker with over 26 years experience, working on movies, tv shows, commercials, music videos and documentaries shooting across North America, South America, Asia and the South Pacific. The theme of his current work is disaster/recovery, both environmental and personal. Current projects include a feature length documentary about becoming an aware survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Having taught for many years with organizations like Planet In Focus, LIFT Toronto and Workman Arts, he recently expanded his company, Veritus Pictures, to include video workshops in Toronto’s East End.

Picking Trauma’s Pocket 

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