October 25, 2016

Reclaiming His Voice

This week, in James's final post, he shares about how his personal healing journey expanded into a global filmic odyssey, attempting to illustrate that child sex abuse is a local problem everywhere on the planet.


From the moment I made a 33-year overdue police report in 2011, self-documenting my recovery has been an integral part of healing. The process of self-witnessing has been more than a powerful balm. It has become a place to focus my energy and talent and frankly, a great way to reinvent myself.

Making Picking Trauma’s Pocket has been a great reason to invite myself into places I’m not sure I would have gone otherwise. To date, I have filmed across Canada, the US, Guyana, Bolivia (twice) and Taiwan. January will see me in Ghana and by the end of 2017, visits to Australia plus Europe will complete the picture. 

In addition to a multitude of child sex abuse survivors, many experts have also generously given their time for interviews. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the best selling Body Keeps the Score, Richard Tedeschi, who coined the term Post Traumatic Growth and Richard Schwartz, originator of Internal Family Systems therapy are representative of the scope of the film in science, spirit, academia and therapy. Picking Trauma’s Pocket begins where most other films on child sex abuse end: healing. 

Part of the lingering harm I experienced from sexual trauma in childhood left me with a powerful shut down reflex. Every time I had an inspired thought, or took action to express my creativity, especially through music, it would be immediately be followed by a harsh counter action/thought: STOP! I know now that the reason for it is because one part of me is trying to protect myself. That the root of it exists because as a child I was further harmed for defending myself against injustice. 

And as I grew up, it was only further complicated by hyper-vigilance (*easily mistaken for ADD/ADHD). Between the two, there have been many occasions where crossing the room to get a pen resulted in a trip around the block.  Difficulty following through on my intentions became a hallmark of my lived experience. I eventually formed the opinion that I was a flawed person. 

In 2012, I met Arthur Lockhart, founder of the Gatehouse (see blog episode 1) and a short film, Illuminating Silence was born. 

It features many courageous people, some for the first time, sharing stories of hardship and recovery. Struck by the similarity between my experiences of struggle and all of the people in the film, I began to wonder about the scope and scale of the problem of child sex abuse.

Finally recognizing that my profound life challenges were resultant from crimes committed against my most vulnerable child self, I began talking openly pretty much everywhere I went. One woman I worked with mentioned that she knew of a similar agency to the Gatehouse, but in Guyana. Lockhart’s first reaction on learning this was to set up a meeting and include another woman from Ghana. 

That meeting concluded with the formation of the Gatehouse Network International, to connect organizations around the planet that support child sex abuse survivors. The only logical next step was to forward relationships the best way I know how. In person. 

The reasons why sexual trauma is so difficult to verbalize are complex. Yes, it does take courage and yes, shame is a barrier, but there is also science, validated by brain scan technology, to support the very real obstacles. This is why the names of so many organizations working with survivors have Voice in their name: because, to reclaim Voice is not simply evidence of healing. It is an act of emancipation. In my opinion, the burden of living with child sex abuse is like combining the struggles of Hellen Keller with Nelson Mandela.

I’ve read that trauma is like Medusa in that taking it on directly is unwise (Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger). Trauma is a treacherous thief and liar. It leaves survivors with unanswerable questions, such as “why did this happen to me?” and vicious untruths such as, “it was my fault”. To slay it requires indirect approaches. And that is why it has been especially rewarding to pursue imagery from my surroundings that are representative of both my struggles and my release. 

definition: a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.

In making Picking Trauma’s Pocket, a child-like wonder about the world has engulfed me. Ever looking more closely, I am lucky to live in an age where the tools available match my passion. Using a range of lenses from consumer level macro close-ups all the way to sophisticated near microscopic, I have captured scenes of frost melting, the life cycle of baby spiders leaving the nest, an adult
spider battling to devour a beetle, baby squirrels born into captivity, escaping through a one way trap door. I have filmed the stars passing through the night sky. And one of the most memorable moments was shortly after reading Levine’s book about somatic healing. A bird flew into my window and lay stunned. I filmed it for a full hour as it went through all of the stages of trauma recovery and then flew away. 

My journey of recovery has been an expansive one of looking both deeply inwards and as far outwards as I can, all at the same time. I still suffer. But the gifts I’ve worked so hard to polish are worth the effort.

Voice is more than words. For me it includes my work in filmmaking. In the making of my next project, Picking Trauma’s Pocket, 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 until November 10, 2016. 

Go here to support this amazing project: https://igg.me/at/ptpthefilm

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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