December 17, 2019

Healing the Dreams of a Broken Heart: The Ruby Slippers, Healing The Dark Dreams of A Heart

Hello, this is Pastor Deborah of Agape Love, Love Is Here. 

Come and hear the end of a 3 part series of Healing The Dreams of Broken Heart.  Learn how a Broken and Wounded Heart flies away over the Rainbow to find a peaceful land, but discovers that all the Fear and Brokenness of a Heart is taken into the Land of Oz. Learn how Agape Love through Ruby Slippers brings healing to the Dark Dreams of a Broken Heart.





Love Pastor Deborah
Agape Love, Love Is Here
www.agapeloveishere.org
Email: pastordeborah@agapeloveishere.org

December 13, 2019

Let's talk about the power of our stress response system...


Time needed: 8 minutes

Hear how having to face resetting the water heater 
totally activated my nervous system!

Watch Now!


December 10, 2019

Healing the Dreams of a Broken Heart: The Three Companions

Hello, this is Pastor Deborah of Agape Love, Love Is Here. 


Continue on with Dorothy and Toto as they travel the Yellow Brick Road to The City of Oz to find the Wizard who may be able to get them back home to Kansas and out of this strange land called Oz.  Learn about the Companions that are given to The Broken and Wounded Heart even in the Dark Dreams of The Heart. Learn what Agape Love Provides even there, for the Forever Person to find it's way home.




Love Pastor Deborah
Agape Love, Love Is Here
www.agapeloveishere.org
Email: pastordeborah@agapeloveishere.org

December 1, 2019

Healing The Dreams of A Broken Heart: The Yellow Brick Road

Hello, this is Pastor Deborah of Agape Love, Love Is Here. I am honored to be a guest blogger for Rachel.

These blogs are a complete series of how a Broken Heart’s Dreams are healed and melt like lemon drops. The inspiration for the blogs and to show the hidden spiritual revelations in a movie, The Wizard of Oz, 1939 starring Judy Garland and the classic song, Over The Rainbow.



Love Pastor Deborah
Agape Love, Love Is Here
www.agapeloveishere.org
Email: pastordeborah@agapeloveishere.org

November 27, 2019

One of my biggest dreams is finally coming true!

In 2007, I sat in a room with two other women who had bravely signed up for my very first Beyond Surviving group! Back then, the program wasn't anything like it is today of course, as it was just a little baby of an idea and I was still unsure of whether or not what I had to offer would make any difference for these women.

As I witnessed them share about the trauma they had experienced, willingly take the guidance and tools I was offering, and day after day transform their lives, I remember the flutter in my belly as I realized, "Sh**! This works for other people, too!"

In a flash, I saw myself in a room full of women who were talking, healing, connecting, laughing, crying, and being freed from the trauma they had experienced.

Fast forward three years, I was wrapping up my work with a client who burst out, "When is there going to be a Beyond Surviving retreat?!" It took me right back to that vision in 2007, and I said, "I don't know, but it's definitely on my mind and something I want to do someday."

Year after year, I continued to foster this dream, imagining it, holding space for it, recognizing my fears about doing it, waiting for the right partner and timing...

Now, here we are, 2020 right around the corner, and my dream is finally coming true!
This coming February, I will be partnering with my friend, Ashley Easter, to present the Emerge: Unleash Your Empowered Self Retreat.

This retreat is open to all women, and is focused on unleashing your empowered self whether or not you’ve experienced abuse. What a great opportunity for you and the women in your circle to receive empowering coaching from experienced coaches, practical tools you can take home with you to better your life, and much-needed self-care and sisterhood time.

During this 3-day women's only weekend, you will be empowered to:
  • Understand the body/brain stress response system and how activation interferes with your capacity to be connected and present with yourself and others
  • Learn to unlock your inner guidance system - your intuition - so you can follow your path to freedom and success
  • Develop a deep capacity to feel all of your feelings so you are not constantly flooded and overwhelmed
  • Reclaim your empowered self so you emerge with a clear vision of the good enough, strong enough, wise enough, beautiful enough phenomenal woman you are
And that’s not all! You’ll also experience:
  • Beautiful luxury meeting spaces
  • Beach access, excursion, and relaxation and self-care time
  • Sisterhood Happy Hour (on us!)
  • Subversive art and craft self-expression session
  • Sound healing
  • Guided meditations and grounding skills
  • And more!

We are calling in 15 aligned women to join us for this powerful experience 
(5 of those spots are already taken!)
Early Bird Registration
Closes January 23rd


Learn More & Register Here
It's been 13 years in the making, but I count that as divine timing since I was born on December 13th!

For me, this is one of the biggest moments when living Beyond Surviving feels really real and meaningful and powerful. Dreams can be illusive. It can be hard to hold onto them in the face of setbacks. And yet, with some grit and determination and optimism and patience, we can arrive exactly where we've always hoped to be.

I truly hope you will consider this opportunity as a way to invest in yourself and your healing so you to can take further steps to making your own vision for your life a reality.

To dreams coming true,
P.S. For the men....It is definitely my intention to create a retreat for you all too! For now, I hope that you will consider sharing this with the women in your life who you would love to empower!



Download this masterclass on Achieving Your Dreams: 3 Mistakes Survivors of Sexual Abuse Must Avoid.


Read about the 7 things to keep in mind while pursuing your dreams.

What dreams are you ready to see realized? 




BOOK OF THE MONTH
Based on a true story of 1 of the 1,000+ victims of the unprecedented Pennsylvania sexual abuse exposed in the recent Grand Jury Report, which exposes systemic abuse over more than two decades across six of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses. This award-winning book explores the devastating effects of abuse in one man’s life in an effort to help readers begin to count the cost to the victims as well as generations of loved ones impacted by this scandal.

Denial received an endorsement from Jay Exum, a former Assistant United States Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, who prosecuted child sex abuses cases for more than a decade: "Denial is the story of how sexual abuse plays out over the course of a life. It does so honestly, without either soft-selling things that are dark and difficult or exploiting extremely emotional content for cheap sympathy.”




UPCOMING EVENTS



Early Bird Registration Closes January 23rd

Learn More & Register Here





December: Grief
As survivors of childhood abuse, all of us have suffered multiple losses that need to be worked through for us to recover.
Learn More & Register Here



November 25, 2019

Riding the Tidal Waves of Trauma

In this final piece, our guest blogger this month shares some powerful tips for riding the waves of feelings that arise on a healing journey.

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When I remember parts of my childhood trauma, it has a crispness and clarity to the colours, sounds and smells like it all happened yesterday.  Emotionally it comes in waves.  Sometimes the waves are small and I can keep surfing.  Other times, they are tidal waves that threaten to crash for weeks on end but usually, these days, just dissipate into a calm normal. 

At 46, I’ve learned what these waves are and I've learned how to treat them.  I see them, I remember, I ramp up the self-care and most importantly, I accept that they are a part of who I am.


There are 3 key ingredients to my transition from recovery to recovered:

1.   Self-care Routine – this must be number one on the daily for me.  If I take my vitamins and minerals, exercise, sleep enough, eat right, don’t drink too much, listen to inspirational material, spend time with my hobbies (singing, painting, gardening [oh geez  I sound exciting ! hahaha]) I believe I minimise the intensity and frequency of uncomfortable triggering by at LEAST 50%, more like 80% I’d say.

2.   Boundaries – that’s boundaries with myself and for other people.  I make sure I spend a certain amount of time on my studies, with my daughter (if she lets me – she’s a teenager now), because it is a definable way that I can tick a box saying “you’re doing OK”. Boundaries for other people is more or less for me knowing when and how to say “no” or “how about this?” and letting them own their reaction for my choices, and congratulating myself for making a choice based on my needs and wants (which are still inherently considerate of others) and being proud that I can even know what I want.

3.   Lastly, a big one.  Bigger than forgiveness, bigger than anything.  Letting go of the idea that I could ever be the person I might have been without the abuse. 

My abuse started as a tiny baby.  There was no “unabused version” of me to draw from.  In that way it could have made it easier for me to let go of something that was never really there.  I did examine myself and looks at my potential and drive, intelligence and creativity and be angry about how much I COULD have done with that had I not been in bed under the covers, or hiding out.

Realising that the way I was built was special, changed me.  I had a bunch of tools, kinks, gifts and impediments unique to me.  The unrelenting neurological pathways and the addiction to cortisol, the heightened emotions, no stable short or long term memory, talented and productive one minute, nowhere to be found the next, the desire for nothing but intense conversations, saying I love you too much, my passion for the painful truth; make me an interesting, but not easy person to be around. 

How was I going to turn this pile of rusty spare parts and diamonds into a masterpiece?

I have been consciously working on myself as a project since I was 19.  With no real identified goal that I could picture, I fumbled along experimenting with religion, drugs, schools of psychology, jobs – all searching for what made me feel real.  I didn’t think of it in terms of being authentic but that was exactly the feeling I was looking for.  I found glimpses and I followed them, but it never lasted.  I went around and around in circles for a long time too.  I tried on anger, pity, fear, sadness, disgust but they just seemed to attract all the things I was trying to avoid. Eventually I studied my relationships because they taught me what parts of me needed healing.

The biggest challenge, and this is probably the same for everyone, has been my role as a Mother.  Experiencing what it is to love a child so unimaginably deeply and grappling with how anyone could ever let harm befall them.  I’ve also had to tussle and brawl with myself in those all too frequent moments of realisation of when I see my own mother in my words and actions.  Perpetuating a cycle was never an option for me and my love for my daughter has been the catalyst for my most difficult changes. Learning to forgive myself quickly is good.  Trusting my instincts.  Getting up when I don’t want to and choosing kindness over anger.  These changes have all been really, really hard.  My worst nightmare was that she would hate me, but she doesn’t.  Now, I am pretty sure I’ve done a good job.  She is healthy in every way, self-aware, sets boundaries and she’s ready for the world. She only really needs me to love her, to be authentic, to be a reliable soft place and make sure there is food in the fridge and this I can do.

I’m now in a relationship that I hope sticks.  He’s kind, smart, funny and gentle and he seems to love me just the way I am.  He’s the first person I’ve told about having CPTSD and I am sure that his acceptance helped me find purpose in all that pain.

Finding that purpose helped me to take another step back from my own experience as an observer.  Now when I have flashbacks, or nightmares, or I just feel scared for no logical reason, I wonder “How can I use this experience to help others with CPTSD”.  So now, I write blogs, and in January 2020 I’m launching a podcast, YouTube channel and Facebook page dedicated to providing information to people with CPTSD, creating a community with ideas on treatments and hopefully pathways for healing.

Rachel Grant was the first person I found when I started googling CPTSD.  She gave me this opportunity to take a brave leap that I hadn’t taken for a while.  It has taken me 4 or 5 months to complete this blog and I have had tears in my eyes the whole time.  It hasn’t been easy.  I want to thank Rachel.  Her openness, understanding and acceptance of that first email I sent reaching out; and then her support and encouragement, not only in this blog but as a guest on my podcast. 

Every time you cry or scream or be silent - own it and give yourself a high five for being brave.  When it doesn’t feel brave, hug yourself for allowing yourself to go deep and be vulnerable (which is also brave by the way)

The bits, gadgets, screws and gizmos, joy, pain, anger and grief that make up who you are can be pulled together and shaped into whatever you like.    Just keep on building.  And you are definitely not alone.

November 18, 2019

My Doctor Abused Me...and I Couldn't Do Anything About It

This week, our guest blogger continues her story, exploring how trauma she experienced at the hands of medical professionals, a powerful moment of healing, and the turning point when she finally got that she deserved to heal.

Contains graphic imagery

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Between the ages of 15 and 28 I dissociated a lot.  I also depersonalised and derealised but had no idea what was going on.  I wonder sometimes, especially after watching United States of Tara, whether I have D.I.D.  I had clearly defined personalities that appeared like a second skin depending on my situation.  Some of these personalities or facades, I was completely conscious and aware of the fact I was wearing this “skin” and observed it like watching an actor in a play.  With other personalities, I lost time, sometimes huge chunks, like months, but I always put it down to a poor memory, which I definitely have.  For example, I can’t remember anything bar two or three moments from my high school years.  It’s almost as bad for the better part of my 20s.

One thing I do remember, is when I was 19, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer that rapidly moved to Stage 3.  The cancer was all over my uterus and cervix. The Doctor that took my pap smear abused me, rubbing my clitoris, labia minora and majora and fingered me in a sexual way.  It would not surprise someone who has been abused before that I did not realise at first, my mind was on the horrible freezing cold metal speculum still inserted and that he eventually wound up way too wide.  I never said anything to him or anyone else about this.  Why would I? At this stage, I had consciously accepted that there was something about me that made people do things and it was therefore my fault that they did them.  If at all possible, I should give it away, before they could take it, though this was not the case with the doctor.  I thought you were safe with doctors.



Between the ages of 19-23, I was in and out of hospital.  I had several colposcopies, biopsies, a treatment where they used a hot metal rod like a soldering iron to burn away the bad cells, drugs and I think chemoradiotherapy.  It is all a big blur really except for one vivid memory.  To set this up, I had met my oncologist at the hospital for an update.  At this point no treatment was working and some even seemed to accelerate it so they started talking about doing a hysterectomy.  I didn’t really care.  At that time, children were the last thing I wanted.  Being a mother conjured up nightmare images for me and there was nothing about it that appealed.  I stayed in the hospital that night and had an extremely bizarre experience which I will try to explain.

I laid in bed watching TV then my vision slightly changed almost like the lights were turned up a lot brighter.  From inside of me, my stomach and lungs I could feel a vibration like I had swallowed a ringing mobile phone.  It wasn’t unpleasant and slowly over an hour or two it got slightly stronger but covered my entire body.  I lay on the bed feeling this way for what can only be described as “forever and one second at the same time”. The only change in this stage was a burst of intensity in the light and the vibration at one point but I don’t know how long it went for at all.  It was after this burst that I finally went to sleep.  

The next morning, I had another colposcopy so they could determine when I should get booked in for the hysterectomy.  Instead, they discovered, using a tiny camera projected on a TV screen, that the cancerous area had dramatically reduced, like by a third.  I was left in the examination room for an hour while they checked back on previous records to verify the change.  It was real.  No one knew why.  They told me to come back in a week, it had halved again and within 6 weeks it was completely gone.

At this time, I did not remember that weird vibration experience, or link it with the disappearance of the cancer until many years later.  I have my own opinion about what happened there, and no one else has a better explanation, so one day I might write about that in more detail, and more openness.  

I do know that the experience of having a wholly toxic reproductive system (as a result, at least in part, for its malicious and devastating treatment) and its inexplicable, freakish and possibly theurgic transformation into one that could create life had a deep subconscious effect on me.  I had been getting counselling since I was 18 to help me heal my past.  I’d had CBT, ACT, scream therapy, laughter therapy, kinesiology, past life regression, shiatsu, acupuncture.  I worked as a corporate bitch in I.T.,  was a professional musician (something I equally loved and hated but didn’t know why), and did a Diploma in Energetic and Spiritual Healing where I studied religions from all over the world and their medical and healing modalities.  

I absorbed information, ticked boxes and more importantly I think, I created a list of questions a mile long.  At that stage, I did have something of a framework that I built from slices of everything I had currently learned.  It was super complicated and beyond my ability to verbalise, but I felt it and I Knew it and it gave me a path to walk along. I had most of the pieces Geppetto would have needed to create a realistic marionette.  My strings were pulled by everything I had learned, including the trauma, but now I held a big, fat, shiny pair of scissors.  It became my project to self-actualise.  And the best thing about that was, it did not feel like a selfish act.



Read Part 4: Riding the Tidal Waves of Trauma

November 12, 2019

The Abruptness of Traumatic Bullying

In this next installment, our guest blogger this week speaks to the shifts in her life that led to loss and then bullying and how these abrupt experiences set her on a self-destructive path that also masqueraded as control. She also explores briefly the impact of trauma on identity.

Contains graphic imagery

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Mum and Dad got divorced when I was 9.  They told us kids on one of the best days we’d ever had.  Nan and Pop (who I loved) were visiting, and we went all together as a family to a park and had a picnic.  It was so much fun.  When we got home, they sat us down at the dining room table and Dad told us, “Your mother and I have decided to separate”. 

I BURST out laughing then tried to hide it which made me giggle more. (I used to do this weird uncontrollable laughter at the most inappropriate times thing.  I grew out of it when I was in my late 20s).  My mother didn’t look at me disapprovingly, so I knew that whatever was happening was bigger than any of us. I didn’t cry about the divorce until I was 19. 

For a year or so, Mum planned to move us somewhere else and in the meantime, I was busy with surviving my neighbourhood, playing softball, avoiding abduction, singing at a school thing at Sydney Opera House and spending every second weekend with my brother at his new job at a Dog and Cat Kennel.  

He promised to pay me $5 a weekend for “Poo Patrol” for 30+ dogs morning and night which he never did.  He humiliated me constantly and I couldn’t get enough.  This is also a time, the only time, I can barely think about, let alone talk about.  I’ve spoken the words once to a therapist, just to tick that box, otherwise that part of my life is a memory, forever securely wrapped in chains and clear cellophane.

Two years later, we (Mum, me (11), my sister (7) and brother (16)) moved to the country.  I was excited about it. I started a new school, I made some friends, got really good grades and participated in sport and musical theatre. Year 7 and 8 at high school was the most stable and happy I’d ever felt.  

Without notice, on the second day of Year 9, Mum changed my school to one closer to home.  I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends as it was well before the days of the internet.  It was an abrupt halt to those friendships, and I never saw most of them again.  

Anyway, my NEW school was in a town that was primarily populated by one family and relatives thereof, and from the moment I stepped inside the school grounds I was bullied to the point of a suicide attempt.  I remember sitting in the quadrangle alone while “fellow” students picked up small rocks and egged each other on to throw them at me, one stone every 5 seconds or so for the whole lunch hour.  They weren’t big, or even really hurt that much, though I suspect the cortisol and adrenaline had my nervous system occupied with deeper tasks than measuring the pain inflicted by gravel at 40kms an hour.  I sat still, like it wasn’t happening except I was postured to protect my eyes and I never said a word.  It stopped when the bell rang, and I’d get up and go to class. No one ever did anything to stop it.  



Another thing I remember was when a group of girls came up to me, super friendly and asked me if I wanted to come and share some junk food in the English Room.  I said yes, but was confused and hopeful, and I followed them there.  I sat up on one of the school desks, trepidatious but smiling in a friendly way then BAM a red-hot poker hits my face, BAM another and another.  They took turns slapping me, punching me or whacking my face and body with hands and a rolled-up magazine.  I did not see this coming and I was too shocked to defend myself.  I was at least a foot taller and certainly more athletic than any of them.  This was a real breakdown point for me.  

When it was over, I went upstairs to a teacher’s room.  My English teacher was in there and I told her what happened.  She let me stay in the room for the rest of lunch.  I called her 20 years later to thank her and she remains one of the most significant saviours in my life.  But after that, I gave in and gave up.  I thought, if you can’t beat them, join them.  So, I started to drink, smoke pot and have sex because they told me too.  I was mincemeat in a plastic shopping bag, but as a teenager seeking social interaction, at least I wasn’t alone anymore.

I started a journal and used to write in it every night.  It is the only thing that stopped me from really taking the suicide plunge.  I left my journal by accident out on the kitchen table one night and true to form, not respecting my privacy, my mother read it.  The next day she said, “I read your journal last night”.  I was scared of her reaction to my illegal, unsafe and unseemly behaviour but all she said was “I can’t believe after everything I do for you that you have the gall to complain that I ask you to make me a coffee”.  I told her it wasn’t the coffee, but that it feels like that is all she ever says to me.  This was, predictably, followed by an ear-splitting rant about my inadequacies and her “hard-done-bys”.  

I must take a moment here to mention that there were a couple of times my Mum went out of her way to protect me.

As a mother, I came to understand that every second of every day was about protecting and preparing your child.  As a sole parent, I understood how hard it must have been with 3 kids to try to cover all the bases, especially with her level of self-awareness and paradigm.  

This time, at this school, was the worst period of my life.  I was seriously lost, completely depressed and everyone around me, including my family as usual, were gunning to stifle any sign of happiness I could muster.  I was rewarded for isolating.  And it was at this time I started self-harming, I made one 75% attempt at suicide and I also started secretly acting out in ways I don’t want to discuss.

After losing my virginity to a lovely boy when I was almost 15, I went nuts!  It’s textbook promiscuity, and self-medication.  I would go out on a Friday and Saturday night and get as drunk as possible and have sex with whoever.  I started smoking pot too, a lot of it, I dabbled in Amyl Nitrite and was pretty sure a few joints I smoked were laced with something or another, but I didn’t care.  

I’d thankfully changed to another school at this point and if I was having sex, I felt in control.   After a few years the rush of conquering another man grew dull, I started to feel shame, disgust.  I was called a slut and a druggo, but they also liked me, thought I was funny, and happily let me flit in and out of their cliques.  I believe these brief and cyclical connections were some of the first I had to build an identity upon, not having an untraumatized identity to start with.


Read Part 3: My Doctor Abused Me...and I Couldn't Do Anything About It

November 4, 2019

It Takes a Village...to Traumatize a Child

One of the most important and rewarding things I get to do in my work is to support survivors in reclaiming their voice and sharing their story. To do so in a big way (e.g. via this blog) is a big step. So the writer of this month's series has powerfully chosen to remain anonymous. I hope you will find hope, healing, and much more by witnessing her story.


Contains graphic imagery

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I remember being very lonely in my crib; and hungry.  I have vivid memories of standing up in my cot screaming, singing & yelling.  Clamour and chaos were survival for me.  My racket would remind my mother I was there, but it also incensed her.  

Sometimes she would respond with food, sometimes violence but her visits were reliably accompanied by a cacophony of garbled and discordant shrieking.  It was language even though it hurt, and I would cry for a moment but soon be back up on my feet, howling at the moon, possibly begging for more.  If I stayed down, I would sleep for many hours.  Too many for a toddler.  But I needed it.  I look back now and I know that my mother had depression, anxiety and probably some kind of trauma response herself.  My relentless defiance was something my mother coveted.  She loathed my connection to light, beauty, joy, the stars and she, unconsciously, did everything she could to break me.  

Between 0-3, loving attention was intermittent and conditional.  Her fierce anger, vitriol, contempt and maliciousness toward me was the soil in which my heart and personality grew.  It made me crazy; and it made me indestructible.  I’m glad she started to leave me alone after that.

My environment was corrupt.  I lived across the road from a large nature reserve about 600m wide by 1600m long.  It was just bush with large telegraph towers planted through it.  According to urban legend, Tommy Twohead and McGoofus McGhan lived there and they we not very nice to children.  On the opposite side, was a large creek which was where criminals dumped cars, dead animals and sometimes, dead bodies.  I saw my first dead body down there.  It was tied to a telegraph pole and had its head blown off. No one ever talked to me about this so I thought it wasn’t something I shouldn’t talk about.  

Every second house in my neighbourhood was doing something illegal and every other house was often their neighbours’ victim.  Many times, I came home to a  neighbour raiding our fridge or stealing our stuff and telling me “Don’t tell or I’ll KILL YOU!”.  One time when I was 6, they grabbed one of my budgies out of the cage and wrung its neck in front of me, just to make a point.  This same neighbour dragged me inside his house from the street walking home from school one day.  He had my undies around my knees when another neighbour burst in and rescued me.  A very lucky day.

Another example of my friendly neighbourhood is, on the night of a local football presentation the wrong person won “Best and Fairest”.  A “hit” was put on them and drugged to the eyeballs, the hitmen ended up storming into the wrong house, the one I was staying in.  At 7, I was already far too adept at far too many things.  Within seconds I had my friend under the nearest bed, covering her mouth to stifle her screams because unfortunately, she caught sight of her innocent father being stabbed over and over and again.  I held her mouth so hard it made her pass out.  I thought I had killed her, but my mind was focused on remembering the description of the two men who entered the house.  Their hair, t-shirt, shoes and even the make, model and licence plate of their car.  

My friend woke up and screamed, attracting one of the hitmen into our room.  His shoe was not 2 inches from my nose.  All he had to do was bend down and we would have both been dead.  I really believe he knew we were there and had decided that 2 little girls were not a significant threat, so he’d leave us alone.  Lucky again. They left and I ran out to see “Ba” (my friend’s father’s nickname).  I could see he was still breathing but he was in a pool of his own blood.  I grabbed sheets and blankets out of the cupboard and covered and tucked him in, then called an ambulance, then the police.  

Waiting for them to arrive the hitmen came back. As soon as I saw the car out the front I ran to the back door and let the two enormous Alsatians out which thankfully, was enough to deter them from entering again.  I don’t know why they came back.  It took the ambulance 30 minutes to arrive and the police 2 and a bit hours. They didn’t take my testimonial seriously because I was a kid and they left me and my friend in the house alone so we went to bed.  It was close to 3am at this point.  When I got home the next morning, I told Mum about it and all I remember is her SCREAMING at me, her face in mine “HOW COULD YOU?” and other words I didn’t understand and it was never spoken of again.



My big brother loved me.  He would hold me and touch my nose and poke my chubby cheeks.  He was gentle and sweet and everything I did made him laugh. But when I started to stand and walk things changed between us.  I became a pet.  A source of entertainment.  The older I got the less he saw me as a feeling human I think.  He used me as a guinea pig for horrible things like forcing me to put my nose in dog poo, he made me taste an ash tray and take down my pants and let the neighbour’s boy touch his willy on my bald mons pubis. He held the latter over me for more than 10 years.  “Kylie, do this or I’ll tell Mum about ……etcetc.”

It got worse.  He would come into my room as I slept and wake me by biting down on my neck because he knew I was scared of vampires.  His brays and cachinnations were payment for my pain and fear.  I thought the sun shone from his arse.  He could tell me the sky was red and I would look up and say “Absolutely”.  My brother grew up in the same house as I did but instead of being the receptacle for my mother’s anger, he was her surrogate husband because my Dad was rarely around.  I think something happened to my brother when he was about 11 because he seemed to lose what little empathy he had. 

He started to come into my room at night, it happened most nights.  He would lie next to me and hold me, he would move around a lot and tell me everything is ok.  He would get on top of me and make me get on top of him.  I always had clothes on. I am so grateful for that.  And it took many years to think about these things and admit to myself that sometimes, it felt good.  This all happened under my mother’s nose, at least 4 nights a week for about 6 years until he moved out of home.  It broke my heart when he left.

My Dad was a truck driver, a musician and an alcoholic and was very rarely home.  Upon his arrival he would have a bag of chocolates and we would watch TV and eat them together, my sister, my brother and I and joke about how Dad’s big beer belly was our favourite pillow.  My mother would be sitting at the dining room table seething. My Dad was as apparently clueless as my Mum when it came to my protection.  He left me in the paws of some very sleazy and corrupt individuals in some very squalid and disreputable environments.  

A time that I can talk about is when I was about 8.  I was accompanying my father to a rehearsal.  Dad got so drunk he couldn’t walk.  I remember watching him crawl and fall toward the bathroom to use the toilet or perhaps to throw up. The moment he was out of the room, Dad’s bandmate came over to me, pulled down my pants and performed oral sex on me.  He talked to me and gave me compliments the whole way through it.  I remember that I felt completely helpless and that it tickled. Maybe it was only 5 minutes, maybe it was 15 but when we could hear Dad approach, he stopped, pulled up my pants, looked and pointed at me and mouthed “Don’t you say anything” with a menacing face.  

By the time I saw Dad, it was like I had completely forgotten it even happened. Then Dad said it was time to go and he made me drive an automatic Kingswood from Blackheath to St. Mary's.  I think this is where I really started to split. 5% of me was having a great time, 5% was trying to keep Dad quiet and the rest of me was in a heightened state of panic and terror and my hands, which had gripped a steering wheel without respite (for an hour and twenty three minutes according to Google Maps), were sore.  That wasn’t the only time Dad left me in the hands of predators.  I’ve never figured out whether he did it on purpose or not.


Read Part 2: The Abruptness of Traumatic Bullying

October 29, 2019

3 Types of Empathy Important to Healing and Social Change

This week, Sherna Alexander Benjamin concludes her series by sharing about the three types of empathy, what gets in the way of our having a world that is free from domestic violence and abuse, and practical things we can do to turn empathy to action.

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“Empathy represents the foundation skill for all the social competencies important for work.” – Daniel Goleman 

For generations people have been demonstrating the skillful ability to be empathetic. Right now, someone is putting empathy into action because they understand that we are all connected. Yet in the home of those enduring domestic violence, empathy is very low. Perpetrators of domestic violence most usually lack the ability to empathize and this detachment makes them void of feeling guilty within. Victims in turn do not learn empathy skills and they are at risk for internal instability. 

When it comes to a national disaster or upon hearing about someone’s traumatic experience, empathy is often a first response. It crosses borders of countries, dissolves racism among sectors, removes gender inequalities within communities, unites social groups, and positively impacts lives. Yet, many in society still yearn for empathy to be put into action. 

Those deeply involved with meeting social needs often want to throw their hands in the air and exclaim, "How can people not feel what others feel?", "Why are they not acting to bring relief to the suffering?", "Obviously! Good people are leaving this earth.", "They just need to be encouraged to put themselves into another person’s shoes."; as we say, they need to "feel what others feel."

But really, is it that simple to feel what another feels? Putting empathy into action is a skill. For some people empathy comes naturally, it is a gift; however, we can all learn to empathize and do it well for the enhancement and sustainability of lives and nations. People who have gone through a traumatic experience suffer from extreme loss, pain, and separation, along with the psychological, physical, and spiritual debilitating consequences. They do not need pity; they require empathy in action.

When we possess and put into action all three forms of empathy, the outcomes will positively benefit those affected and those providing empathy. 

Empathy is not only understanding another person’s feelings; it is also acting on that knowledge. The three forms of empathy should cohesively work together:

1. “Cognitive Empathy” – is the ability to know how the affected person feels and what they are thinking. Cognitive empathy on its own can cause one to become detached, cold, and show indifference rather than caring as the person tries to understand another person’s situation without internalizing his or her own emotions. 

2. “Emotional Empathy” – is the ability to physically feel what others feel. When we see emotions expressed, mirror neurons are fired off in our brain, which creates an echo of that state inside our own minds. Emotional empathy alone can lead to the inability to manage our own emotions, cause psychological exhaustion and many times paralyze us so that we are unable to act.

3. “Compassionate Empathy” – is the ability not only to understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but to move into action and help, which will bring some sort of relief, comfort, or confidence that things will get better. Compassion empathy alone can lead to persons feeling guilty or looking negatively upon themselves if they are unable to assist the person in the predicament.

Domestic violence undermines a person’s fundamental human right. Various acts of domestic violence are committed every second across the globe. We can no longer associate domestic violence to being a woman’s only societal issue. Research does shows that women and girls are at a greater risk of being victims. However, men and boys are also victims of this cruelty. Likewise, men as well as women perpetrate this crime. Domestic violence cuts across all racial, religious, political and academic lines. It touches all social groups in society and no country is left unscathed.

Various challenges present themselves as many work toward a world free of domestic violence. Such challenges are, but not limited to: 

• Many people see domestic violence as a ‘private’ family matter because the word ‘domestic’ is used and so they take a hands-off approach, thinking, “It’s not my business what goes on behind closed doors.” They become passive bystanders to acts of violence, although “wherever and whenever the human rights of one are violated the human rights of all are in jeopardy.” – Sherna Alexander Benjamin

• The lack of empathy towards the plight of victims, which leads many in society to blame the victim. They try to understand if the situation is as bad as is being stated: “Why is the victim silent, remaining in or returning to such a volatile environment?” 

• Domestic violence is an accepted social norm and a common experience in some societies.

• The lack of prevention education across all borders and illiteracy on the direct and indirect financial, psychological, and physical cost to society. Financial cost run into billions of dollars annually. Psychological cost is seen by the presence of various mental health disorders. And the physical cost is seen by the scars, disfigurement and death. But the cost of silence cannot be quantified. 

As nations grapple with the horrible effects of domestic violence, there is a crucial need for empathy in action. Empathy for the girl child, enduring the pains and humiliation of genital mutilation. Empathy for the woman being beaten, psychologically traumatized and sexually assaulted. Empathy for the boy, who is being neglected, physically abused and sexually assaulted. Empathy for the man, who is being sexually violated as an act of psychological warfare. And empathy for millions of women and girls across the globe whose first sexual encounter will be a forced one.

Empathy in action should come from all sectors from policymakers to law enforcers, from politicians to religious leaders, from educators to students, from communities to individual families and from families to you and me. 



Therefore, a few things need to be done:

• We need to accept that domestic violence is present; it is real and it kills.

• We need to listen attentively and honestly to what is being said, by those who advocate for victims, by those who speak from experience and by those who are silent.

• We need to have open conversations which will bring about a change of social norms, disseminate information, spread awareness and empathize with victims of this atrociously blatant but subtle crime.

• We should give non-judgmental feedback during and after conversations, and position ourselves as allies.

• We should facilitate environments for victims to feel safe to use their authentic voice, reclaim their lives, and break their silence without fear, intimidation or society’s backlash.

• Relentlessly we must act, putting empathy into action and making sure that such actions are motivated by all three forms of empathy consistently.

Empathy in action is our responsibility. The more you cultivate it the more natural it becomes. The more we see human rights violations the more we should think about our freedom and act to free others who are imprisoned. The more we look to pass blame is the more guilty we become. And the more we see domestic violence as ‘private’ is the more we approve the death sentence of millions. 

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes, we must interfere when human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.” – Elie Wiesel


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Sherna Alexander Benjamin is on a journey of Spiritual Renewal. She is a Writing Enthusiast, World Pulse Ambassador, Advocate and University student pursuing a course of study in Social Work and Research to restore human dignity, tell stories, drive social impact, and change Public Policies and Laws. She Champions for Justice Systems (within the family, community and society), Women and Girls Advancement and Education, Mainstreaming of Conflict Transformation and Peace building and the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.



Connect with Sherna: https://twitter.com/shernaalexander


"We educate women because it is smart. We educate women because it changes the world." - Drew Fuast

October 22, 2019

Reclaim Power = Change The World

This week, Sherna Alexander Benjamin speaks broadly about the importance of each of us claiming our power so that we can impact the social institutions that would otherwise continue to marginalize so many, including survivors of trauma.

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Global citizens move around in environments of power every day. Decisions are made every second from places and spaces of power and such decisions affect individual lives in the present and future. However, many of us are afraid of the word “Power”, we fear to speak about it, we shun from claiming it and we correlate it to something that is evil or something which destroys power holders, power seekers and power framers.

The thought of power often sends a destabilizing crippling effect which incapacitates many into a narcoleptic passivity state. This passivity enables the concentration of power, it allows power holders to justify the use of power and it gives the sense that power is static and infinite in its present operation and manifestation.

I was illiterate about power and the use of it. I did not understand it as I was never educated about it, and this illiteracy brought with it certain fears and fears encouraged apathy and disengagement in my civic duties and placed me on virtually non-existent ends of the individual, political, social, academic and economic social spectrums. 

I feared to own power because as a Caribbean woman I was socialized to believe that power was scary and it belonged to a certain group of people, a certain class in society, and a certain race. 

I believed and accepted that power was corrupt, it was bad and it was destructive. I felt uncomfortable to participate in conversations about power and would use my illiteracy and fears to criticize something I was not knowledgeable about nor its uses and I was ashamed to acknowledge this. The fears of others compounded my own inner fears and I self-subjugated as a citizen in my personal, community and professional life.

How could I acknowledge what I did not know, ironically I criticized what I did not know. Illiteracy kills development and growth and sadly many power holders feed the illiteracy of the masses and are energized by it. This fear of power crippled me in every area of my life, I used my powerlessness to justify my illiteracy as I accused to be excused.

While travelling and sitting at the feet of transformative and emancipatory educators I began to understand power and how powerful it can be in the hands, minds and hearts of literate actively engaged citizens. 

I began a personal process of de-institutionalizing my own ladders of oppression, demystifying the social construction of power which shaped and molded my attitudes and behaviors as a result of the power of social norms and the institutions which they feed into. I began redefining what it means to be a Caribbean Woman and Citizen of African descent whose parents came from two different Caribbean Islands, with two different contexts and each having a different understanding of power.

I began the process of understanding the power of citizenship not from the linear ideology of place and country of birth as this linear view have opened the doors for exclusion, permission and creates multiple negative consequences for humankind.  I began living citizenship from that place of being “a pro-social, problem-solving contributor in a self-governing community. As civics is the art of citizenship.” – Eric Liu of Citizen University. 

This definition of citizenship initiated the process of evolving citizenship in my life.



The time is now when every citizen ought to become literate about the transformational and explosive effect of civic power. Literacy about power ignites active citizenship. We must replace the thought that power is a zero-sum game with the innovative, imaginative civic idea of together (Self-US Now).  

For years citizens have been operating from the place of power is zero-sum which is when one person, group, political party, institution or community gains power then another or the other loses power.

This ideology which has become an accepted social norm continues to dis-empower citizens, erode civic engagement and enable citizen’s passivity and or willful illiteracy.  

When citizens begin to look at power as a positive sum power entity which begins by looking at the ‘whole’. When we include voices who are left out and marginalized...

When we increase citizens understanding of ‘Together Self-US Now’... 

When voice and agency and civic power are embraced and included, then communities and societies will be strengthened, become adaptable, and powerful. 

Inclusion always changes the roles and sources of power. And Inclusion always breeds social development and endless possibilities because it always inspires success.

Citizens have an obligation to understand that power must be claimed and exercise from a place of literacy. To claim power one must understand it. We all have a right to claim civic power. And we must not ask for permission to claim nor exercise it, as the present power holders who have concentrated power would use power to justify why power over should remain with them and those they appoint.

What also happens when power is concentrated? It opens the flood gate of narratives which are created to justify the power concentration, the holders of it and its manifestations. And over time due process of democracy is covertly taken over by a coup and held captive. This concentration of power establishes systems of social, economic and political inequalities. It widens the economic gaps and classifies and categorizes citizens. ‘We and Them’, ‘Rich and Poor’, ‘Upper, middle, low and no class’, ‘educated and uneducated’.

There exist way too many powerful people holding and using power who are illiterate about it. And this illiteracy begins the abuse of power.  It is imperative that citizens understand the role of citizenship, become literate of what it is and how it functions, and understand how to claim and exercise their civic power. According to Eric Liu, learning to read and write power changes the power game, it changes the power justification narratives and its changes the equation.

This is why I no longer fear to name and own power and Speak TRUTH to Power.



Read Part 4: 3 Types of Empathy Important to Healing and Social Change

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Sherna Alexander Benjamin is on a journey of Spiritual Renewal. She is a Writing Enthusiast, World Pulse Ambassador, Advocate and University student pursuing a course of study in Social Work and Research to restore human dignity, tell stories, drive social impact, and change Public Policies and Laws. She Champions for Justice Systems (within the family, community and society), Women and Girls Advancement and Education, Mainstreaming of Conflict Transformation and Peace building and the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.



Connect with Sherna: https://twitter.com/shernaalexander

"We educate women because it is smart. We educate women because it changes the world." - Drew Fuast

October 15, 2019

I Hated My Abuser...

This week, Sherna Alexander Benjamin raises her voice, refuses to be silenced, and shares with us why, in the face of all of the many reasons to hate, she comes back to hope.

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Thomas Paine once said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” For many the day of trouble seems to never end. In some cases intensifying with each passing week, and at times, the path which chose some of us by force seems to overwhelm us causing us to shout, “Oh Violence! Thou has conquered!”

In such times, something unseen, something mystical pushes me through the darkness to hold on, and pushes me to continue telling my story and the stories of others.

Throughout history most pioneers get the beatings and settlers the rewards. If this is true, many victims of violence who advocate for change become pioneers and walk into a different level of abuse and victimization by a society which often lacks understanding, empathy, compassion, creating systems to hold onto toxic traditional norms, and draws the strings to the purses of change and resources tightly.

Sometimes I think to myself, if this is the price to have a society which is free from violence against women and girls, then I would rather not have peace. 

This may seem to be a harsh statement, however many victims who lived in the midst of violence have been conditioned to know nothing else. Because violence and chaos touched our lives, we sometimes feel strangely at peace, but also insanely uncomfortable and cry out for help. 

Yet hope in a better tomorrow propels us to work towards stripping ourselves from finding any comfort in chaos.

When I reflect upon the emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual violence which I endured as a child, I see how it set me on a self-destructive path. 

Yet, I chose to be an influencer. I’d rather use the debris of my life to make positive impacts and touch lives. I’d rather work toward the prevention of violence against women and girls, men and boys and I’d rather feel the sting of a society than remain neutral.

The assumptions, attitudes and behaviours which enable environments of violence to undermine the health and well-being of children ought to be changed to promote healthy environments of peaceful coexistence, safety and security.

Children should never be used as sexual objects to pacify the perverted appetites of individuals whose uncontrolled toxic passions are governed by lustful desires of power to control, hurt, and perpetuate violence.

At times, I’d rather forget my pain, forget that childhood abuse touched my life and marred it. I’d rather forget and just live. I’d rather forget the problems I endured, the depression which took over at times causing feelings of fear and anxiety moving me to be a loner, self-isolating even within the crowd.

I’d rather forget the inability to trust completely, the depletion of authentic love and the self-harm which, at times, led to suicide ideations and failed attempts. I would rather forget the seductive pull of being torn between hating the abuse and my abusers, and the teenage biological yearning for sexual exploration. 

Still, I despised it all, and often washed my skin so hard that it blistered after those filthy touches. I’d rather forget the facades I had to create to survive the next day, the next touch, and to face society and the shame that moved me to make up stories of grandeur and the lies to protect the abusers while wishing they were caught or dead to prevent society from labeling me incomplete, flawed, or citing me as the cause of the abuse. 



Slowly I begun to hate my abusers, the world and life. I was ashamed of my body, and creeping thoughts of hate against those who stood on the side-lines and did nothing enveloped my mind. 

I held the passion of hate for a society that told me, “Girls should be seen and not heard,” and a growing despise against, yet a yearning for, the very touch of a man. Yet I hope for a better tomorrow so I push to survive.

While my life is continually one of transition, embracing my narratives, one of growth and acceptance, I cannot and will not allow society to say to me, “Hush!” Because women and girls voices should be seen and heard!

I will not allow society to say, “Break your silence, but we do not want to hear,” and I will not be re-traumatized and re-victimized by those who believe victims of violence make too much noise, require too much support, and ought to continue to keep family secrets. Many tried and are still trying to silence my voice. Yet I hope in a better tomorrow keeps me speaking.

For victims of violence and abuse pain passes the comprehension of the mind and stings like a craved demoniac, leaving lingering pangs that sometimes only the darkness of night or solitude eases. Sometimes the faces and voices that we see and hear add more pain to the sorrows of our hearts.

Because abuse is pervasive, because women and girls are still oppressed because of the resiliency of patriarchy, because children are violated and human beings are sold as pieces of merchandise to the highest bidder for the sexual gratification of unwise and foolish individuals, because power holders, influencers, law makers and governments refuse to see the issue of child abuse and domestic violence as national issues, and because women and girls are slowly becoming endangered, I will not keep silent. I will advocate, collaborate and work towards a better world because I hope.

I will take the frequent reputation attacks but not own them, I will acknowledge the feelings of shame but not live in them, and I will notice the ridicule and use the power of stories to create empowering opportunities using my voice, pen and the Internet to burst those self-created bubbles. 

Violence against any human being must never be enabled, it must never rear its ugly head in our present and future lives. According to Elie Wiesel, we must never forget! If we forget, we too shall be forgotten. We must never rob the present and the future of our collective memory, and we must never cheapen or make banal our experiences with violence. We must forever remember those who died, for we are their memory, our hearts their museum, and our voices their justice. We must forge ahead.

I hold onto those moments of hope in the midst of darkness: when the voices of men rise to support women and girls being agents of change, the increasing number of women who are breaking their silence, the empowerment of victims, new laws that have been passed, and the power of the Internet to facilitate and sustain change. Hope in a better tomorrow looks promising and each of us must get involved to make it a reality.


Read Part 3: Reclaim Power = Change The World

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Sherna Alexander Benjamin is on a journey of Spiritual Renewal. She is a Writing Enthusiast, World Pulse Ambassador, Advocate and University student pursuing a course of study in Social Work and Research to restore human dignity, tell stories, drive social impact, and change Public Policies and Laws. She Champions for Justice Systems (within the family, community and society), Women and Girls Advancement and Education, Mainstreaming of Conflict Transformation and Peace building and the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.


Connect with Sherna: https://twitter.com/shernaalexander

"We educate women because it is smart. We educate women because it changes the world." - Drew Fuast

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