When I left home for the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego, I felt unsure about the whole enterprise. There’d been a mix up about ordering books. My workshop had been paired with a report on sexual abuse and the military. And the book signing was scheduled for two days before I spoke.
But you just never know, and I was meeting a dear old friend, Connie Valentine, who is an amazing activist for protective parents.
It turned out to be a fabulous experience.
One thing I hadn’t anticipated was what it would be like to be with a thousand people who get it about trauma and healing. (There were a few offender apologist types hanging at the edges, but almost everyone was there to learn and to share knowledge and insight.)
At the poster session, I talked with a youth counselor about the kids he is working with, teenage survivors who are supporting each other as they heal. I met activists and educators from Taiwan and Jamaica. And two women who are also writing about how children’s literature addresses the “hard stuff.” They haven’t yet tackled child sexual abuse, but want to. We traded resources and I hope to hear from them.
Some highlights for me were Beyond Abuse, a session put on by three thriving survivors; meeting and talking with David Clohssey, co-founder of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), who gave an dynamite address; an excellent session on working across cultural differences on issues of interpersonal violence; and the presentation of her research on sexual abuse and military vets, by Dr. Shamala Karuvannur, my co-presenter.
like a glove
As the convener Linda Brown must have known, our talks fit together beautifully.
Shyamala presented a problem–a serious one, that many young people in the VA hospital who are suffering from PTSD are survivors of sexual abuse either in childhood or the military, frequently both. Often the offenders were above them in rank, and if they reported, the survivors were discharged from the military and the offenders retained, receiving at best a slap on the wrist. Sound like a familiar dynamic?
I presented solutions, both personal and communitywide, from the lived experiences of survivors young and old.
She talked about how hard it was to report within a system that didn’t support victims. I talked about the stigmas and stereotypes that keep us silent and how we can break free of them. She spoke of ruined lives, I showed pictures and stories of people who moved beyond PTSD to Post Traumatic Growth. She graphed the numbers, I provided handouts with resources.
The room was packed and the discussion was lively, spilling out into the corridor and on to email after the conference.
One story that I had chosen to go into depth on was Sheena’s and I was glad I had loaded photos of Auntie Jane and the community. Because Hollow Water is an example of a community that has really turned on this issue. I could present to this group of people, many concerned about ingrained systems and prejudices, that one group of people had found a way to bring sexual abuse out in the open, make perpetrators responsible for their actions, and kept balance and continuity, honoring both tradition and victim’s rights.
home, but not for long
It was good to be home, but I’m heading out again soon. If you are in the Bay Area, it would be great to see you at either of these events:
Thursday, Oct. 11, 1-5 pm
Cesarâ€™s Hall, 1885 Mission Street, 3rd Floor,
3 CEUs for MFTs and LCSWs
to reserve a spot call Melba Smith, 415-355-2535
Saturday, October 13th, 1-3 p.m.
Berkeley Public Library
2090 Kittredge Street
(at Shattuck in downtown Berkeley)
3rd floor Community Meeting Room
Arturo from the book will be joining me at both of these events and presenting his story live.