Sunday, April 22, 2018

In the #MeToo and #MeTooRising Era, Why Speaking Out is Essential for Survivors of Sexual Assault


It seems there's always a news story covering the topic of sexual assault, rape, or rape culture. Crimes involving sexual assault are far too commonplace. Sexual assault happens in the workplace, on college campuses, in every industry from the Olympics to Hollywood, the music industry to the publishing industry, and, yes, among school aged children. As a country, we are appalled and horrified by the Sanduskys and the Nassars who prey on victims who initially trust them in positions of power above them, and later testify as survivors of sexual assault. And yet, these stories come and go, and sexual assault, rape, and child sexual abuse all continue to happen at an alarming rate.

Silence and shame largely empower the abuser to maintain their position of power over victims; thus, speaking out and handing shame back to the abuser are essential tasks survivors need to utilize early on in recovery in order to begin the healing process. Other key resources necessary for survivor recovery include: being heard and not blamed for being a survivor, having healthy boundaries, and gaining education about grooming and gaslighting among other key terms specific to survivors of sexual assault. I highly recommend a great, free resource on YouTube: subscribing to Trauma Recovery University for over 200 hours of free videos you can watch at your own pace and educate yourself on recovery as a sexual assault survivor:




Unfortunately, I know this all too well, because it happened to me, too. Which is one of the reasons I wrote my #OwnVoices young adult novel, The Packing House (read the first 3 chapters here), as a fictionalized version of my own survivor story, and am writing the sequel, Unpacking the Past, to complete the duology. It's why I have joined the Bristlecone Project, as a Male Survivor (see www.bristleconeproject.org). It's why I have joined the ranks of Survivor Knights, an organization that incorporates the arts as a pathway of recovery among the survivor community (see https://www.facebook.com/SurvivorKnights/).



It's also why I joined the project, Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out, an anthology of 25 sexual assault survivors speaking out. I am also working on another survivor's anthology I've recently been invited to join, and will eventually develop a curriculum for survivors to use as a map to their own recovery. I myself have been walking out my recovery for the past 40 years, as my sexual assault occurred when I was four years old.

Clicking the link below the book cover above will take you to the Amazon Page. Click here to see my previous blog post on Things We Haven't Said being available, and the full list of sites from which you can purchase the anthology.

Here are a few highlights of the response so far regarding Things We Haven't Said:

Here's the link to our Kirkus Starred Review

Here's the link to an article featured on Publisher's Weekly

Here's the link to an interview featured on School Library Journal

Here's the link to an interview on Foreword Reviews

Here's the link to the 5 Star Review of TWHS on Foreword Reviews

Here's the YouTube link of our book panel presentation at The Strand Bookstore in NYC featuring our anthologist's editor: Erin Moulton, and fellow survivors: Barbara McClean, Maya Demri, myself, and Jane Cochrane. We had an amazing crowd and great questions.



Saturday, February 24, 2018

THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID is now available!

If you've been following the publication journey of THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID, an anthology of 25 survivors of Sexual Assault, you probably know this has been a long 2 years. However, the end has come: Things We Haven't Said has been published as of March 13, 2018 and will be available everywhere books are sold.

One thing especially important for books such as these, which may otherwise be missed by some readers, is to post your honest reviews as soon as possible on as many sites as possible. Your review may help other readers find books they might otherwise miss out on. Thank you very much for your support!

As you follow the links below, please note the website stores where reviews are lacking, and share your review there so other readers can find books you recommend they read. Again, thank you very much for this critical support.

Amazon especially promotes books with 50 or more reviews. Early word can help us reach more readers and help more survivors. Remember, proceeds are being donated to www.rainn.org and to the Voices and Faces project, at www.voicesandfaces.org



Here's a listing of those sites who currently list THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID for pre-order:

1. Amazon:



2. Barnes & Noble:




3: Book Depository:




4: Books-A-Million:





5: Indiebound:



6: GoodReads:


Please note that the majority of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to:


The contributors have donated their time, their talents, and their poems, stories, and essays to speak up and speak out on the issue of sexual assault. In light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, survivors have stepped out and choose to remain no longer silent about sexual abuse, sexual trauma, rape, incest, and sexual assault. By remaining silent, power remains with the abuser. By speaking out, survivors regain their voice, and begin to heal. Each of us who have contributed, myself included, have experienced healing as a result of speaking out. It is our hope that readers will also find hope and healing from their own Sexual Violence experiences.

For many survivors, it's hard enough to face the truth that sexual assault has even occurred, let alone, speak up about it. Unfortunately, many are ill-equipped to handle such trauma and the very real aftermath from which survivors suffer daily across years and decades. Obviously, there is a huge need for such a resource as this one, detailing from fellow survivors themselves the ways we have learned to heal and move forward in our treatment and recovery. Many families, even those with the best of intentions to support and help survivors heal, have no idea what to say or how to even begin the healing process. Thus, a book like THINGS WE HAVEN'T SAID, provides such a resource for teens and adults to slowly process their experiences and co-journey with other survivors who have made progress toward healing on their recovery journey.

Please consider purchasing a copy for yourself, your loved one, your children, the people you love, and for your community crisis center, your local women's shelter, your local churches, and your local libraries. We appreciate each and every one of you, and welcome you to share the word so others know there is hope, there is a resource, and when you purchase this book, know that you are making a difference, and the majority of your purchase will be donated to www.RAINN.org and www.voicesandfaces.org


Thank you!







Friday, September 29, 2017

Book Review: THE LAST TO LET GO by Amber Smith

The Last to Let GoThe Last to Let Go by Amber Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is such a careful and articulate unraveling, by the time you are fully entangled within the pages, you won't mind tugging at the next page like a loose thread until you reach the end, a kind of letting go. Beautifully written, painful, powerful. A jagged, glittering trail of bruises and tears. Must read. Dani and Brooke are my favorite characters, followed closely by Caroline.

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Friday, September 8, 2017

What If REcovery Is Not What You Need To Survive? The Role of DIScovery and UNcovering in Trauma and Abuse Healing

*****Trigger Warning*****

What if recovery is the wrong word, the wrong approach, the wrong lens to view the treatment and healing process? This question brought me to at least attempt to process this thought all the way through and blog about it so you have the opportunity to join the conversation, which I hope you'll do in the comment section below. Let's begin.

First, let's start with the question, what is recovery anyway?

The definition gives us a few inroads and insights to begin from, but it doesn't really get at what recovery is, or hopes, or attempts to be for a person in the treatment and healing process. The first definition, "a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength," implies that there is a right state of health or wellness, and there is a wrong state. This sounds very much like a victim of abuse must choose whether they are on one side or the other. Thus, a person who is in "recovery," carries with himself or herself a stigma that they are not well, and further, that they are in fact in a wrong state of wellness. Victim blaming, anyone? Ouch. That one stings a bit.

The second definition, "the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost," suggests that a trauma that has occurred has somehow robbed the victim of his or her innocence, and he or she should strive to "get back," what is rightfully his or hers to own. The heart or intent of this sentiment is at first a nice thought: surely, every child has a right to retain his or her innocence, right?

We have a right to be a child when we are children, and not be thrust into the very adult world of child sexual abuse, where our childhoods are essentially robbed from us, right? Every survivor of child sexual abuse knows this just isn't true. We know what that horror feels like every day that follows from the moment our sexual abuse first began. But the truth is: the world isn't a safe place where children retain their right to be innocent and free from the weight of being thrust forward into adulthood. We don't all chase butterflies, or toss copious amounts of glitter on things, or frolic with unicorns. So the idea of regaining something I never had seems ludicrous to me. I never had that fantasy or fairytale childhood. It didn't exist for me. Instead, I found myself forced to make the very adult choice to take the bullet and comply with my abuser's sexual demands in order to spare my siblings from this horror, not realizing the world isn't fair, and my abuser had no intention of holding up his end of the bargain. I cannot regain what I never had. Sure, I was robbed. So for me, that happened when I was only four years old. As I approach my own treatment and healing from child sexual abuse, I am no longer certain recovery is the right approach. Another way to state this is recovery may not be the right word.




Recovery has been described as many things. It can be a road, a pathway, a journey. It might also be a reset button, a reboot, a do-over, a new beginning. All of these "definitions," give insight and perspective on what recovery could be, but in many ways, it falls short. For the survivor of trauma, recovery just doesn't add up to the promise of giving us back what was stolen from us. It doesn't even come close.




So where does that leave us? It's such a common feeling for a survivor to not fit in with "normal" people. We are outsiders. We don't belong. We are the quintessential square peg trying to fit into a round hole. We just don't. Fit, that is.

For a survivor of child sexual abuse, recovery just isn't a good fit. For us, we need something that meets our unique healing and treatment needs. This led me to the following thought:

What if REcovery was more like DIScovery and UNcovering our TRUE SELVES?

Give that a minute to soak in. Feeling okay? Are you ready to move forward? It might take a few moments for you to fully absorb what I'm saying here. Let me try another way: I'm going to break each of these down a bit further to help clarify:

REcovery is supposed to equal getting back what was taken from you. This seems legitimate as long as you had something prior to your abuse that was taken, apart from your right to live an abuse-free life, that you can "RE," or RE-COVER, or get back.

What if you could, instead, DIScover, or not focus on getting something that was lost or stolen back in the first place? What if, instead, you could choose to do what YOU want to do with the cover. For me, "cover" represents the aspect of abuse that is hidden or covered up.

When you work to regain yourself, you pull the covers off, and reveal the secret. This step can be very triggering, and should not be attempted without the help and support necessary to fully go through this process. If you are considering this step, don't do it alone. Make sure you are ready, and you have professional support with a licensed professional, preferably one who is trauma-informed, and can attend to your unique therapeutic needs.

Before I can get to the final step in the "cover" process, I need to veer off from the main topic for a bit. You see, our abuser took all his or her responsibility for the abuse they inflicted on us, and placed the blame entirely on our shoulders. We tried to resist this, but over time, they wore us down. Eventually, we succumbed to their repeated statements (gas lighting) and treatment. They told us we were nothing, we were worthless, it was our fault. Then, they treated us as if we were nothing, as if we were worthless, and as if it was actually our fault.

To truly understand the process that took me from REcovery to DIScovery to UNcovering the TRUE SELF, check out "The Lying Triad and it's Dark Guard," by Bobbi L. Parish, MA on YouTube:





This brings me to the UNcover part: that the true task is to 1: Uncover the secret of the abuse, rip the cover off of the secret, and expose it for what it is. By taking the lie off of ourselves, we reveal what has been hidden all along: the lie our abuser gave to us, (that you are broken, deserving of your abuse, and essentially the Lying Triad and the Dark Guard Bobbi was talking about,) in order to avoid facing any consequences for abusing us, is finally given back to our abuser, and our TRUE SELF is seen for the first time. 2: The second task is to seek to fully know and embrace the TRUE SELF and allow the TRUE SELF to regain his or her power back.

If we as survivors are ever to regain anything, it is the truth of our TRUE SELVES. And this very important part of our healing journey can only be achieved if we move from REcovery to DIScovery and eventually arrive at UNcovering what has been hidden by our abuse: our TRUE SELVES.

If you've read this entire blog post, from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my toes and the top of my head, I thank you. I appreciate you hearing me out. You may not agree with anything I've said here. You might agree with some parts of it, or all of it. I invite you to join the conversation. Sound off in the comments below and let me know what this brought up for you, how you connect or disconnect from this concept about the recovery process. Healing from trauma and abuse have unique aspects that are not the same as other treatment and healing processes.

It is my hope that this can be the beginning of a conversation about those needs for true recovery and healing to happen in the survivor community. If you have an idea for a blog post in response to this one, I hope you'll post a link in the comments below and I look forward to reading your reactions, comments, and posts.

I will close with a checklist for recovery, "Guiding Principles of Recovery":





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: Release, by Patrick Ness

ReleaseRelease by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found the voice of RELEASE, by Patrick Ness, immediately captivating while the story centered on Adam, but found myself at first a bit confused with the secondary storyline, although I quickly understood these two seemingly separate storylines would eventually entwine and cross paths with one another. This structure frames the story well, loosely based on, and giving literary nods to FOREVER by Judy Blume, and MRS. DALLOWAY, by Virginia Woolf. Of course, more contemporary YA works such as THE SERPENT KING, by Jeff Zentner, also come to mind among the triune circle of friends: Ness's Adam, Linus, and Angela characters.
At the heart of Release is Adam Thorn, a young man on the brink of transition between boyhood and manhood. But equally important is the internal journey he takes to identify and embrace, as fully as he knows how, his true self. Adam's true self might be as easy to discover for him as buying a single rose, unsure of his intended recipient. But as Adam wrestles with the facets that make up himself, those which are "good" or "acceptable" to the world, or to his overbearing religiously rigid family, and the other parts of himself, which seem to be "bad" or "unacceptable," parts he has kept from the public eye for fear of the consequences which have imprisoned him much of his life.
The entire story takes place within the confines of one day, and is complicated by a variety of surprises, both alarming and lovely, threats painful and stifling, and the question of how both story threads will inevitably meet. What makes this a pleasure to read, though, is the journey, the discovery, and the risk of living one's truth. Bravo to Ness and to Adam. May we all learn to risk everything for the right reasons, rather than the wrong ones. Highly, Highly recommended.


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: They Both Die At the End, by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the EndThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This scything, searing read tore at me from the first page, and for me, hit all the high notes in character, plot, pacing, voice, and surprises and touches that thrum long after swiping left on blast to the very last page. Silvera is at his best in his third YA novel, having read and loved both of his first books as well. I'm not ashamed to be a hardcore fanboy. He's definitely on my list of auto-read authors.
I loved the nuanced way Silvera wove life after life together in the primarily dual POV structure, with layers of other characters that may surprise you time and again. Each beat is pointed, deliberate, and a testament to the life of each of his characters, the way dancers leave it all on the floor of the club when they dance among their tribe.
My takeaway is clear: what if we lived our lives to the fullest, as if today were our last? What if we dared to be our authentic self, holding nothing back, regretting nothing, yet if we had regrets, finding the best way to make it right? How true. What a risk. And what an important message. The fact that I know Adam pours his own heart and soul out here on every page, making himself vulnerable for his readers, and did all the hard work to take us there, makes it even more a brave, glorious song, perhaps sung a bit off key, but real, authentic, and chock full of humanity.
I loved the many tender moments I found myself choked up, teary-eyed, not giving a shit that others might laugh at me since I might as well be at Make-A-Moment; after all, I'm just reading a book, right?
Mateo and Rufus leapt off the page, soared on the back pegs of a bike rushing full boar into their final day. What a day. What a life. What a powerful read. I'm still reeling from the aftermath. Damnit, Silvera: you made me mad cry. I will find you, and I will punch you. Looking forward to your next book, and the next.
P.S. The traveler game is my new fave. Love all the social media treats, too.


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