April 25, 2017

Do you feel safe enough to trust? These 4 Keys will change you forever...

This week, we conclude our series with guest blogger Ruby Usman, who teaches some great strategies for feeling safe.


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During the past few months, the idea of safety has been coming up in many ways. I realize more and more that women (especially those who have been abused) don't feel safe at their very core. And this sense of "feeling unsafe" gets worse by things no one else would think twice of.

When we are feeling unsafe, the trust goes out the window. Our lives then become a survival battle to try and keep safety in whatever ways we can. Some of these ways are:
  1. We control ourselves - we keep it in and become self-sufficient (if no one else sees how vulnerable we are then nothing bad will happen to us)
  2. We control others - if we can keep a tap on others then nothing bad will happen
  3. We don't trust ourselves and we don't trust others. After all, trusting means letting go and how can we if we are feeling unsafe?
  4. We avoid living life, taking risks and doing things that we could have dreamt of. What if something goes wrong?
As I am writing about this, I can't help but get connected with that sense of insecurity inside me. In the past, this sense of vulnerability and feeling unsafe was so strong that I became the queen of control. I controlled myself and I controlled others; I kept it all in but nothing helped of course. I was trying to fill this vacuum inside of me and no matter what I did, it kept sucking more and more out of my life.

At the end of it all, I had to confront it; I had to explore and investigate and finally resolve. Since then, I have helped others work with their sense of safety too and have found that the 4 keys described below play a crucial role in regaining that sense of safety.


Key#1 - Recognizing when you are feeling unsafe

The thing with safety is that it doesn't show up as "feeling unsafe" - it always hides behind other forms of emotions like control, anger and anxiety etc. So the first key to recognizing "feeling unsafe" is to be aware of how it shows up for you.

For me personally, the biggest sign for feeling unsafe is that I start acting like a man - meaning I become more masculine, more goal oriented and more rational. With time and practice, I have been able to catch myself when I am behaving in this manner and make different choices (mostly this means staying true to my needs and my femininity).


Key#2: Congratulate yourself

The mere fact that your defense mechanism is working - is amazing!! Yayyyyyyy... Your system (though hyperactive) is active meaning that you can rely on it that it will let you know when any danger presents itself.

Imagine if your defense mechanisms stopped working. You wouldn't know how to defend yourself when the real threat presents itself.

The only issue is that you might not need it and it's getting triggered unnecessarily. Well! that's an easier problem to solve compared to if it didn't get triggered at all, right?


Key#3: Evaluate and Relax with affirmations

Of course, if the situation is dangerous then do whatever you can to remove yourself from that situation.

If that's not the case then, it's critical that we remind ourselves that

* "there is nothing to be afraid of"

* "we are safe"
* "this feeling of unsafety is coming from the past and it's not needed"
It would be a great idea to do a simple meditation or slow deep belly breathing to bring yourself back to feeling ok again. The affirmations above are crucial because your mind needs to realize that it's being hyperactive and hyper vigilant.

With time, your brain will start to re-calibrate when to trigger your defense mechanism and when to stay calm.


Key#4: Find Assurance in love

We are born for love and it's critical to end with love whenever your feeling of unsafety gets triggered. Gary Chapman talks about 5 love languages, which I have found to be very helpful. If you know your love language, you can ask friends or romantic partner to provide that assurance in your love language.

The ending in "love" will help you feel safe again. It will rebuild your trust in yourself and others and with time, you will be able to find that safety and that trust within yourself

Good luck and Blessings

---


Hi, I am Ruby Usman, Founder of Healing Wounds Together – A Platform for Female Adults who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood.

I have lived with abuse for many years of my life. And I have spent many more decades in understanding, recovering and becoming whole again. From my own journey, I have learned valuable lessons not only for myself but for others that were around me and now I have made it my mission to:

* Help the abused take charge of their own healing

* Empower partners of the female survivors

* Help prevent sexual childhood abuse


If this resonates with you, check out my website at www.healingwoundstogether.com, sign up for my blogs and connect with me on these social media sites.

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/rubiversity/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIYk6qCCvWERbGHR9UQgAkg

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+RubyUsman

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ruby_usman

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rubyusman/

April 18, 2017

You can calibrate your body to experience trust...

This week, we continue with guest blogger Ruby Usman, who teaches some great strategies for using the body rather than the brain to trust.


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What happens in our body when we are feeling sad, upset and untrusting?

We are slumped over with our neck; our shoulders are curved forward and the head is looking down; we are holding the tension in our muscles and in our body (as a sign that we may need to protect ourselves and be ready).

Alternatively, when we are feeling relaxed, our chest is broader; our arms are open and our muscles are relaxed.

In my last blog Beginning the Journey of Trust, I talked about calming the mind so that you can start to tune into the "inner voice" that is you. Granted, that this process initially can be difficult if you haven't meditated and this is where some somatic/body work will help you progress very quickly.

The idea is this:

If you know your body state when you are feeling trusting & relaxed versus when you are not, you have the capacity to engage your body in listening to your inner voice.

Why is listening to the body important? I hear you ask.

Our brain and our body work in very different ways. Our brain works on creating a databank of experiences and it accesses these past experiences when evaluating a situation at hand. This becomes dangerous for adults who have been abused because their past experiences are very traumatic.

The body instead works on sensations and physiological states. It doesn't have stories. In my blog First Steps Towards the Healing Journey, I explain more on this.

Something very amazing happens when you focus on the body - the stories start to disappear and what remains are just sensations. In this state of presence, you can literally differentiate between whether you are living from the past or being present.

And I have done this myself. No matter what stories my brain was creating, I was able to be present in my body and that completely changed my experience of the situation at hand.

To do this successfully, the first and foremost step is to calibrate your body. This means knowing what are your unique body postures that you use to embody emotions. Once you know how your body posture is whether you are relaxed and trusting versus when you are not, you can use this information to gauge and make decisions in the moment rather than listening to the story your brain is telling you.

CALIBRATION

when you are NOT trusting
For me, there was an abundance of these situations where I didn't feel safe so it was easy to be in one. It may be the same for you or different. Just make sure that you are "actually" safe and be responsible for your well-being.

Once you are in, start to scan your body from head to toe. Take note of any sensations, numbness, coldness and any other sensations or feelings that are present or not present. You can also place your hands on various parts of your body to get a more accurate idea of these sensations or feelings.

You may need to do it a few times but this is your gauge. You know how your body reacts whether you are not feeling safe or when you are not trusting of yourself, or others.

when you are trusting
What relaxes you?

Is it being with a friend? Perhaps a solo walk? or may be feeling the sunshine on your body? no matter what it is, create that for you.

Once you are in that situation, do the same thing. Scan your body from head to toe. Take note of any sensations, numbness, coldness and any other sensations or feelings that are present or not present.


USING THIS CALIBRATION IN REAL-TIME

As you experience life, you will need your "inner wisdom" from time to time (or pretty much all the time). When this happens, here are the questions that can help you assess what's going on inside of you:

* What is your mind telling you? I think it would really help is listening to all the "what-if" scenarios and past experiences that your brain is referring to. 

* Next, focus your attention on your body sensations. What is your body telling you?

* Take a few belly breaths and continue focusing your attention on your body.
Your body's state will tell you what's present for you in that moment.

And now, you have all the information you need to make up your mind. If your body is giving you more signals of "relaxation" then you may become more aware of how your brain stops you from living your life and vice versa.
What if I NEVER feel safe enough to trust?

If you didn't know this before about you, then Wow! now you know and you can do something about it!!

There is also another great lesson in this discovery - whether people are trustworthy for you or not, has nothing to do with them and has everything to do with what has happened in your past.

This realization can free you and can bring you more into the present. It can enlighten your journey because with awareness, comes the choice. You can now start to choose differently.

In my next week's blog, I will expand further on safety and how that's related to how much trust we put in ourselves and others...


Stay Tuned

Blessings


Read Part 4: Do you feel safe enough to trust?

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Hi, I am Ruby Usman, Founder of Healing Wounds Together – A Platform for Female Adults who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood.






I have lived with abuse for many years of my life. And I have spent many more decades in understanding, recovering and becoming whole again. From my own journey, I have learned valuable lessons not only for myself but for others that were around me and now I have made it my mission to:


* Help the abused take charge of their own healing

* Empower partners of the female survivours

* Help prevent sexual childhood abuse





If this resonates with you, check out my website at www.healingwoundstogether.com, sign up for my blogs and connect with me on these social media sites.






FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/rubiversity/


Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIYk6qCCvWERbGHR9UQgAkg


Google+: https://plus.google.com/+RubyUsman


Twitter: https://twitter.com/ruby_usman


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rubyusman/

April 12, 2017

Beginning the Journey of Trust

This week, we continue with guest blogger Ruby Usman, who shares with us two powerful strategies for listening to your own inner gut feeling and intuition (which is a key component of trust).

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Do you feel like that there are thousands of people living inside your brain talking all the time and there is so much noise that it's hard to know which one of these is actually "you"?

You are not alone...

No one protected us when we were sexually abused in our childhood. We couldn't protect us (because we were children but our mind doesn't realize that. It keeps telling us that we didn't). We carry the sadness and the shame of this in our hearts and over the period of time, we keep telling ourselves that we aren't good enough. We control ourselves and we control others - because we don't have any faith in our abilities.

In my blog Someone betrayed you... This is how life will be if you live from that place, I shared how difficult life can be if we live from that place. But I also realize that when you are in that place, it can seem impossible to get out of there.

Here is the good news. It's not only possible but it's not that hard to start listening to your own inner gut feeling and intuition.

It requires two simple but consistent steps:

* Practice Slow Breathing or Meditation every day for 15 minutes or so
* Celebrate your Successes

Slow Breathing or Meditation

Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to start to calm the mind and the noise that it creates. There are many forms of meditation and slow breathing is just one of them.

Slow breathing has existed in eastern culture for centuries but it is relatively a new concept in the West and it became more popular after Dr. Herbert Benson’s book, The Relaxation Response.

Slow breathing is based on deep belly breathing, which means that your belly expands and contracts as you breathe. 

The basic mechanics of slow breathing generally include the following three steps:

1. Inhaling deeply through the nose for a count of 3-4
2. Holding the breath for a moment, and
3. Exhaling completely through the nose/mouth for a count of 6-8

Why breathe? I hear you say.

The brain stops its fidgeting after the slow breathing. It calms down; the noise inside the brain reduces and it is also used as a great anxiety management tool.

Once the noise stops, it's then possible to start listening to what is really going on inside of you. It's possible to stop the constant obsession of the brain with "what if" scenarios or other forms of thought obsessions.

Celebrating Successes

If you haven't trusted your own instincts for a while and believe that you can't, chances are that your brain is ignoring all the times that you have actually trusted yourself and have made the right call.

Think about it!

You have probably gone out, driven to do errands, or had a chat with someone. All of these required tiny decisions that you made in the moment and you are still here. It has worked out :)

If you bring your attention to these tiny successes and start acknowledging yourself, soon you will be able to acknowledge bigger successes. The more successes you register and acknowledge, the story in your brain "I can't trust myself" will start to crack because there will be actual events nullifying the old belief.

With slow breathing, you will be able to hear yourself more and with celebrating these successes, your brain will start to change and soon the new belief will take its place and the belief "I can't trust" will be the story of the past.

I invite you to try!

Blessings




https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/05/14/breathing-and-your-brain-five-reasons-to-grab-the-controls/#2f30f3602d95



Read Part 3: You can calibrate your body to experience trust...




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Hi, I am Ruby Usman, Founder of Healing Wounds Together – A Platform for Female Adults who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood.

I have lived with abuse for many years of my life. And I have spent many more decades in understanding, recovering and becoming whole again. From my own journey, I have learned valuable lessons not only for myself but for others that were around me and now I have made it my mission to:

Help the abused take charge of their own healing
* Empower partners of the female survivours
* Help prevent sexual childhood abuse

If this resonates with you, check out my website at www.healingwoundstogether.com, sign up for my blogs and connect with me on these social media sites.




April 5, 2017

Someone betrayed you...This is how life will be if you live from that place!

This month, our guest blogger is Ruby Usman, a powerful speaker and advocate for survivors who draws on her own journey healing from abuse to provide guidance and hope for others. This week, she shares with us the impact of living life with a lens that everyone is out to harm us.

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Many times, when people (who don't know me well) hear me laughing, connecting with people, making jokes and be adventurous and then later learn about my traumatic past, are shocked! They say to me "after all this, how can you be so trusting?"

This got me thinking about trust, optimism and our relationship with trust in this life... How do we look at this world? Do we see people from our own projections or do we experience them in the moment? Do we generalize and put people in boxes or do we stay open and explore?

It's impossible that in life everything would go according to plan. People will disappoint us; they will hurt us and we will feel angry or sad from time to time. 

The question is this: will we keep the situation isolated to the person who caused it or will we extrapolate to their gender, race, or any other demographic?

I used to say - "I don't trust men" or "All men are selfish" etc. If you think about it, it's impossible to know if "ALL men" are selfish. For this to be true, I need to experience 4 billion men on this planet, which is plain impossible. Technically and strictly speaking, the people who we experience in our lives are a tiny proportion of the world population so any generalization is most likely not applicable in all cases. But we jump to these conclusions very easily, sometimes after one experience and sometimes after a few.

The brain does something really funny (maybe not so funny) when one says these things to self as absolute facts. Next time, they see any member of that group (in this case a "man"), their brain will interpret it as a threat and cause a fight or flight or freeze response (the intensity of it will vary but nonetheless the response will remain the same). To understand why this occurs, you can read more about brain's handling in my blog The Anatomy of Childhood Sexual Abuse Trauma.

When I was operating from that mode, this is how my life was:

* I was always on guard (ready to fight, flight or freeze)
* My muscles were constantly in an "ON" position
* I was always on the lookout for who would hurt me next
* I didn't get close to people and I didn't allow them to get close to me
* I wasn't vulnerable
It was "guilty until proven innocent" mode for me. Life from that place was hard. I was spending so much energy just being alive. Many of these people were harmless but it didn't matter for me.

With therapy and healing work, my mindset started to change. I started to see the value of "innocent until proven guilty". I learned to recognise that the men that were around me weren't the men who abused me. This was a great realization.

Men who were around me weren't the men who abused me!

I started to relax and started to give men a chance. My adrenaline started to calm down and my fight/flight/freeze response started to improve.
Granted that sensibility and reasonableness is important. If you don't have any reason to doubt then don't. but if you do, then don't keep being in that place. 

The important thing is to start that internal relationship with yourself where your ability to discern improves. Instead of a blanket "I trust all" or "I trust none", you could start to listen to your inner sense rather than being driven from the past.

In my next week's blog, I will share how you can listen to your inner voice in the mayhem of millions of thoughts that circle inside our brain. Stay tuned...


Blessings


Read Part 2: Beginning the Journey of Trust

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Hi, I am Ruby Usman, Founder of Healing Wounds Together – A Platform for Female Adults who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood.

I have lived with abuse for many years of my life. And I have spent many more decades in understanding, recovering and becoming whole again. From my own journey, I have learned valuable lessons not only for myself but for others that were around me and now I have made it my mission to:

Help the abused take charge of their own healing
* Empower partners of the female survivours
* Help prevent sexual childhood abuse

If this resonates with you, check out my website at www.healingwoundstogether.com, sign up for my blogs and connect with me on these social media sites.



March 29, 2017

Restoring Family: Healing for Everyone

This week, we conclude our series with Elizabeth Clemants who shares how the healing circles bring about restoration and healing for all members of the family who have been impacted by abuse. This is a powerful exploration of both what is required to make this possible and a pathway for getting there.

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Hidden Water’s core processes – Healing Circles and Family Systems Circles – are founded on the premise that Child Sexual Abuse is an issue that belongs to the entire family, it is not the burden of just one or two individuals. 

Healing Circles invite self-reflection and support from others who have similar experiences around CSA. In this space participants explore their growth edge around healing – i.e. where do they see the impact of CSA currently playing out in their lives and what has the impact been for others? Though this work alone can have a powerful impact on participants, many of whom find the healing circles helpful and therapeutic, the Healing Circle was designed to prepare participants for a Family Systems Circle. 

The Family Systems Circle is a meeting with family and close friends to discuss the impact of CSA on the family and what needs to be done to heal. This journey from impact to healing must involve accountability – members of the family system must acknowledge the harm they have caused for true healing to occur. The meeting is facilitated by two Hidden Water Circle Keepers who hold the space for the family. The two pre-requisites for participation in the Family Systems Circle are 1) participation in a healing circle and 2) a willingness to travel the path towards healing the family system – which is determined during a one-on-one preparatory conversation with the Circle Keepers.


Hidden Water Circle Keepers understand that not everyone will be equally prepared to do what it takes to heal the family after 12 weeks of a Healing Circle. This is okay. The Family Systems Circle can hold different levels of openness and preparedness in the participants. 

One way this happens is by the Keepers “stacking the deck”, they ensure that the open and prepared participants outnumber the more reluctant participants. If a family has enough people inside of it who are healthy and able to face the abuse head on, then the family can heal. But this is a numbers game; those who can have the appropriate responses need to outweigh those that cannot, both in terms of numbers and credibility within the family system. 

When we have a critical mass of healthy individuals, and enough of the key family members who are willing to sit with us, we form a Family Systems Circle to support a conversation about what needs to be said to bring about healing, and balance. 

The Keepers build a foundation of safety as we go, and ask everyone speak from the place of how the events have impacted them, not what they think others should have done. There is a subtle but important distinction that we make between defensive anger (speaking to the impact someone else has had on you) and offensive anger (speaking about what someone else has done wrong). As we initially build the container, and use a structure for taking turns speaking, which slows the conversation down, each person falls into rhythm with speaking from impact rather than accusation. 

When the safety in the room permits, we move into deeper levels of conversation about the harm that was caused. The possibility for true healing comes when each person speaks to how they have been harmed, and their pain is acknowledged – and felt – by others. 

What develops is wisdom and insight into how the family members have all been impacted in small and large ways by each other’s reactions to the abuse. As this comes to light, the family system begins to form a collective perspective, a common vernacular, and a powerful new way of relating to one another. 

Shifts and repair come spontaneously, genuine apologies make amends as we go and the family moves toward taking responsibility for itself. Victims turn into heroes, and everyone starts to see how they have harmed others in different ways. 

We don’t see past CSA as a problem to be solved, as much as an understanding that needs to be developed, an awareness that calls for heightened vigilance and repair and a healing process that will grow over time. The Family Systems Circle is an opportunity to move from having the abuse weigh on the family for generations to come, to letting the members of the family identify with it less. 

When the abuse can be one of the many experiences someone had with their family, as opposed as the defining experience, we have accomplished something great.      

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Elizabeth is a social worker at heart. She has always been interested in the intersection of social work and the law. To that end, she attend Columbia University School of Social Work where she graduated with an MSW and a Minor in Law. She immediately went to work in the field of conflict resolution and has been practicing ADR since 1997. She has founded three programs in conflict resolution, of which Hidden Water is one, where she serves a Board President. She also founded and runs Small Business Arbitration Center with the aim of offering truly affordable, binding conflict resolution services to small businesses and their clients. Elizabeth is also the principal trainer at Planning Change, whose mission it is educate and empower individuals to affect meaningful change in the conflicts around them. In addition to the programs, Elizabeth works as a mediator, a coach, a shaman and speaks regularly at events and conferences. 

March 22, 2017

The Healing Journey for Abusers & Those Who Didn't Intercede

This week, we continue our series with Elizabeth Clemants who takes on the very hard work of addressing the healing journey for those who have caused harm or who have stood by while abuse was occurring and did nothing. Not easy -- but the more healed each person on this planet is, the better off we all will be!

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In order for a family system to heal from the impact of child sexual abuse, it is important to understand the full extent of the harm that occurred. This means giving voice to both those who were directly harmed (Green circle) as well as those who experienced the toxic reverberations of the abuse (Blue circle). 


Additionally, the full prospect of healing from CSA is best realized by giving space to those who cause harmed – either directly or indirectly – within the family system.

There are two types of harm that we talk about in CSA - the actual physical-sexual harm, and then all the reactions to it afterward, from all the different people involved. Many people who identify as victims of CSA report that a greater harm was the response of another family member upon learning about the abuse. In recognition of this, Hidden Water has two other healing circles: the Purple Circle for those who caused the direct harm of CSA, and the Orange Circle for non-offending parents and care-givers.  

Whether you are the survivor or the perpetrator of harm, there is the same reaction to a shame event (see previous post):  denial, minimizing, justifying, deflection, blaming the victim, engaging in addictions, or shutting down in other ways.  

But for the one who caused harm, the second stage of healing is different: taking responsibility for the impact of your behavior, and feeling remorse

The third stage of healing is making a genuine apology, and making amends, but until the person has taken responsibility for the impact of the behavior and felt remorse for that impact, a genuine apology isn’t possible.  

For this reason, we have the Purple and Orange healing circles.  These healing circles provide a safe environment for those who have caused harm to move through the stages of denial, minimizing, deflecting, blaming, and do the very difficult work of stepping into feeling the impact of ones behavior and feeling remorse.  

These circles are powerful opportunities to look at your own behavior, owning it among people who have also caused that kind of harm, and coming to a place where you can make that acknowledgement to the victim - if that is appropriate.  

In the Purple Circle, participants facing the remorse and pain of having caused such harm is often coupled with the recognition that they have themselves experienced this harm.  The block to owning the impact seems to be an unwillingness to acknowledge their own experience.  When the person can face their own experience of CSA, the pain they caused another seems to fall on them like an avalanche.  From there, they can pick up the pieces and really feel the impact of their behavior.  Some people who have harmed a child will never do this work.  I reserve the word perpetrator for someone who is unwilling, or unable to look at the impact of their behavior.  I have deep compassion for how hard that work truly is - and I also see that until someone does it, they may be in danger of harming another. 

It has always been interesting to me how many survivors of CSA speak to the real pain of the abuse being the way their family responded to them, in particular the non-offending parent.  Somehow we hold a very low standard for the one who harmed us physically, but the non-offending parent is held to a higher standard which requires a great deal of consciousness to respond appropriately.  

Often that non-offending parent stays in relationship to the perpetrator and asks the survivor to move past it so life can go back to “normal”.  This is sometimes that non-offending parent’s child, spouse, sibling or parent - and the non-offending parent struggles to know how to negotiate protecting their child, and not losing the relationship to the perpetrator.  

The work that happens in the Orange Circle is two-fold.  First the non-offending parent needs a chance to feel the impact of their non-action or their attitudes toward the issue.  This is difficult, especially since it is often many years of trying to push it into the background and move on from it that have left the family in this position.  Second, the circle asks the non-offending parent what can be done now to recover from damage done.  Once you see that every day, every comment, all the silence that continues to go on continues to damage the family system.  It is often this non-offending parent leadership that is needed here to heal the system.  


Next week, we will talk about the Family System Circles - which comes after the four healing circles, and why that is the natural evolution of this work.  It is not always possible, but when it is, we start to see the true ability of a family system to heal from Child Sexual Abuse.      


Read Part 4: Restoring Families: Healing for Everyone

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Elizabeth is a social worker at heart. She has always been interested in the intersection of social work and the law. To that end, she attend Columbia University School of Social Work where she graduated with an MSW and a Minor in Law. She immediately went to work in the field of conflict resolution and has been practicing ADR since 1997. She has founded three programs in conflict resolution, of which Hidden Water is one, where she serves a Board President. She also founded and runs Small Business Arbitration Center with the aim of offering truly affordable, binding conflict resolution services to small businesses and their clients. Elizabeth is also the principal trainer at Planning Change, whose mission it is educate and empower individuals to affect meaningful change in the conflicts around them. In addition to the programs, Elizabeth works as a mediator, a coach, a shaman and speaks regularly at events and conferences. 

March 14, 2017

The Path Forward for Survivors & Their Families

This week, we continue our series with Elizabeth Clemants who shares about the importance of survivors reaching a place of acknowledgement and for family members and friends to also be given the support to explore how they have been impacted by the abuse their loved one experienced.

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Last week I provided an overview of the work of Hidden Water, which endeavors to help survivors and their family members heal from the devastating impact of child sexual abuse (CSA). This work is done in two stages, first as an individual in a Healing Circle and then as a group in a Family System Circle. There are four types of healing circles offered, corresponding to four basic “roles” in the family:

(Green)
For those who have been harmed sexually as children

(Purple) For those who have harmed a child within their family system sexually

(Orange) For those who had the responsibility of keeping a child safe from harm, but through inaction or not knowing, were unable to do so,

(Blue) For family members and supporters who were not harmed and did not harm a child sexually.

In the Healing Circles, individuals who identify as belonging in one of these circles come together to support one another in facing the impact of CSA on their lives. Participants explore areas for personal growth and are introduced to a three-stage model of repairing from harm, which is based on the restorative justice theory. This model highlights a path to healing for participants.

This first stage involves maneuvers that cloud the impact of what happened, like Denying (“it didn’t happen”), Minimizing (“It’s not a big deal”), Justifying (“I had a good reason”), Deflection (“Don’t look at me, I’m not the one that…”), and Blaming (“It’s your own fault”). 


These moves are reactions meant to move away from shame -- a powerful and painful emotion that people will go to great lengths to avoid feeling. Being harmed can make us feel like we are less than someone else, maybe even less than human. We are not seen by the other, but projected onto in some way that causes us shame. Similarly, causing harm can be a shameful event.

Too many people who experience CSA don’t leave this first stage. In this space, they devote a lot of energy to suppressing shame. For many, the efficacy of this strategy will diminish and they may develop addictions to help in their effort.

Healing from CSA can only occur if we step into the second phase of healing: acknowledging the impact of the abuse on us, and getting angry about it. People

so often tell me they have forgiven the person that did this, and are “over it”. And yet, it continues to show itself in dysfunctional patterns in relationships and situations, in depression and anxiety, in physical ailments. If you have never let yourself be angry and acknowledged the impact of the abuse - even to yourself, then you have not moved into true forgiveness yet.

Hidden Water is built precisely to give those who have been harmed by CSA an opportunity to find a safe space to explore the actual impact of the abuse over time. It seems that this cannot be done in isolation. In the circles, as we listen and hold space for others to give voice to the impact of the abuse on their lives, we see the many facets of how CSA has seeped into our lives and changed us in unconscious ways. This is true of all the members of a family, not just the ones that were harmed physically - but all the members were harmed in many ways. All need to be given the opportunity to explore how, and give voice to the feelings that come with that.

The BLUE circle is a great example of how this needs to be done by all. We are continuously amazed to see how the harm of CSA reaches everyone in the system with many harm events coming after the abuse has been disclosed. The family and friends who were not directly involved in the harm need an opportunity to express how they have been affected. Once they have, they are more able to hold space, have insight, power and compassion for the other people in the family. Often these are siblings, best friends, uncles, aunts, cousins, family friends, spouses of those that were harmed.

In Hidden Water, we are trying to build an army of healed folks within the family system to lend support to the overall healing and world view in a family. When you have people in the family that are no longer afraid to speak the situation out loud, who can see the harm of silence and denial, who will be vigilantly watching over the next generation for signs of abuse - there is suddenly support for those that were harmed in a way that was lacking before. When someone tries to minimize the abuse, or blame the victim, it is the healed BLUE person that is often right there to correct the false thinking, speak out for safety and health and acknowledge the on-going impact of the abuse.

And in this way, the family system starts to heal.


Read Part 3: The Healing Journey for Abusers & Those Who Didn't Intercede




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Elizabeth is a social worker at heart. She has always been interested in the intersection of social work and the law. To that end, she attend Columbia University School of Social Work where she graduated with an MSW and a Minor in Law. She immediately went to work in the field of conflict resolution and has been practicing ADR since 1997. She has founded three programs in conflict resolution, of which Hidden Water is one, where she serves a Board President. She also founded and runs Small Business Arbitration Center with the aim of offering truly affordable, binding conflict resolution services to small businesses and their clients. Elizabeth is also the principal trainer at Planning Change, whose mission it is educate and empower individuals to affect meaningful change in the conflicts around them. In addition to the programs, Elizabeth works as a mediator, a coach, a shaman and speaks regularly at events and conferences. 

March 8, 2017

A Restorative Justice Response to Child Sexual Abuse

A few month's ago, I had the great pleasure of connecting with Elizabeth Clemants, who has played a huge part in creating Hidden Water NYC, a restorative justice program designed to help individuals heal from the devastating impact of child sexual abuse within a family system. Importantly, they have developed programs for family members, advocates, and abusers. It is a great honor to have her here this month sharing about their programs and perspective on how we can address this epidemic.

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Child sexual abuse is prevalent in our society. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience child sexual abuse in the United States. This alarmingly high number is compounded by the reality that the abuse is not an isolated event – it has a profound lasting impact on the person who was harmed, as well as on family members and future generations. Beyond the family system, child sexual abuse (CSA) is considered an antecedent to crime, drug and alcohol abuse, incarceration, suicide attempts, dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, cutting and other trauma reactions that ultimately have an effect on the greater society.
Hidden Water is a not for profit organization formed in 2015 to help victims and their relatives heal from the devastating impact of child sexual abuse using a restorative justice framework. The Hidden Water model takes the view that CSA produces a constellation of harm that reverberates throughout an impacted family. Everyone is affected, and healing comes from the family members —  not just the one directly harmed.  Hidden Water works with four distinct groups of people harmed by CSA; 1) those who were harmed, 2) those who harmed a child, 3) the non-offending parent(s) or caregivers, and 4) family and friends. 
Healing from CSA, regardless of which category you identify with, involves shifting the response we have to the event — minimizing, denying, blaming, justifying, deflecting or shutting down — and moving through the pain that is being avoided: shame. The avoidance of shame leads to self-denying and self-destructive behaviors, such as the use of addictions of all sorts.  We believe that if people knew how to walk the path to healing their family, they would.  Given the opportunity to courageously take the steps to acknowledge the impact of the abuse on each person, families can heal themselves, and keep the abuse from finding its way to the next generation.
The mistake many families make is to believe that “it happened so long ago” when in fact the events continue to impact a family that has never properly faced it together.  It takes leadership, strength, and a willingness to face the often unspoken pain that surround the events, and all the shame events that have happened since the original abuse. 
In the coming weeks, we will write about the wisdom that comes from the four healing circles mentioned above and the family system that is deeply impacted by them. 
Next week:  Green and Blue:  healing circles for those who have been harmed.
Following week:  Orange and Purple:  healing circle for those who have harmed; directly, or indirectly.
Final week:  Healing the family system through accountability and understanding  


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Elizabeth is a social worker at heart. She has always been interested in the intersection of social work and the law. To that end, she attend Columbia University School of Social Work where she graduated with an MSW and a Minor in Law. She immediately went to work in the field of conflict resolution and has been practicing ADR since 1997. She has founded three programs in conflict resolution, of which Hidden Water is one, where she serves a Board President. She also founded and runs Small Business Arbitration Center with the aim of offering truly affordable, binding conflict resolution services to small businesses and their clients. Elizabeth is also the principal trainer at Planning Change, whose mission it is educate and empower individuals to affect meaningful change in the conflicts around them. In addition to the programs, Elizabeth works as a mediator, a coach, a shaman and speaks regularly at events and conferences. 

February 22, 2017

How Our "Ugly" Can Lead to Love

This week, we conclude our series with Fawn. In this post, she explores how to bring our whole selves into our relationships...no really! It's possible!

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There are moments in life that aren’t that simple. Or readily fixed.

Sometimes all we need is someone who will listen.

“I wish I could just go back,” a friend of mine thought out-loud, thinking of someone she deeply loved many years ago. “I wish I had shown him how much I loved him. He was so wonderful to me but I was young and stupid. Now it’s too late. He’s gone.”

Sorrow. Grief. Regret. No one escapes these feelings.  Myself included.

We imagine that our lives should be… “better,” “with more money,” “successful,” “easier,” “cancer free,” “perfect,” and “(…you fill in the blanks).”

But it isn’t like that right now, is it?

You made a few (or many) decisions that were kind of dumb. (Or, okay, completely dumb.) You went bankrupt. Broke up with a really great guy. Are afraid, angry and very fed-up. You have even managed to lose your car keys yet once again.

Deep down, these words are ringing in your ears, “There is something wrong with me.”

No dearest, there isn’t. You are simply being human, like the rest of us.

When I hear my clients tell me, as they often do, about their grief, disappointment and regret, I truly understand. We feel shame, hopelessness and despair and want to hide. We put on a mask and act like “we are fine.” If we don’t make a change, eventually we end up having no grace for ourselves or any one else.

Ouch. Please, no!


When I find myself ankles deep in failure, I often hear another voice, one that is lovingly poignant.

Fawn, what makes you think that you should be perfect, somehow better than the rest of the human race?

Do you really think that you are somehow immune to suffering and heartbreak?

Who told you that you don’t have permission to fail – and to fail rather gloriously?

Instead, how could what you are experiencing right now be a gift, even in disguise?

Are our lives, warts and all, a gift?

Sure. I think so. My own experience and the stories of my clients have convinced me that every bit of my past, present and future can be a door of possibility, if I receive them as such.

If I choose to bring whatever it is (even all of me!) out from my hiding, if I bring my regret, shame and sorrow into the light, there I can receive healing, hope and, best of all, love. My worst can become gold if I choose to transform my suffering into compassion for those who also bear its burden. What has made me weak can become my strength.

And here’s the cool part. When I come out of hiding, and accept and love those parts of me that I was otherwise ashamed to show, others get to see me. My honesty creates a safe place for others to be honest too. Pretty soon connection is formed. Heart intimacy begins to grow. This is the soil where real love flourishes. No secrets, no hiding, no shame. Just a joyous and dare I say even humorous acceptance of what and who we are. Whew! Relax. We’re going to be OK.

Sometimes, we need help coming into the light. I know I do. I am someone who not only coaches others, I have a coach myself—knowing that if I do the work involved in becoming whole, I can learn to honestly love me. All of me. And you!

There is a Divine Presence, one filled with grace, mercy and light waiting. And wanting to listen to you.


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Happy clients around the world call Fawn “Their relationship guru.”  For single professional women serious about creating an amazing life-long passionate love-affair, Fawn is their go-to expert to discover and claim their feminine power and attract great men who are ready to love, respect, and cherish them. Clients learn to radiate their unique confidence, love, and beauty in a powerful way that makes them irresistible to the men who are the perfect match for them. With confidence and joy — and with her inspired guidance and support — they learn to repel the men who only want to use them, and magnetize and inspire real, quality men into their lives to create real and lasting love for a lifetime.

Fawn spent most of her twenties and thirties with a series of dead-end relationships and broken hearts. When she was almost forty, after one last devastating heart-break, she decided she needed to start taking responsibility for her relationships with men and the pain she was creating. (Either that or become …a nun!) She began working with a coach who ever so gently asked her the questions that opened her eyes and her heart. Within a year, at the age of 40, she married the love of her life and they’re still going strong.

After years of informal coaching and transformational work, Fawn graduated from the prestigious Coaches Training Institute as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.

She is passionate about women finding real passionate love while being true to their authentic unique selves.

Learn more at www.fawngilmorekraut.com.


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