Monday, April 7, 2014

Misconceptions About Child Sexual Abuse

In recognition of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month I’ve decided to shed some light on two common misconceptions and offer suggestions on how YOU can make a difference in the life of a child.
Misconception #1
“If my child were being sexually abused they would tell me.”
Most parents feel they have a close relationship with their child and if anything is going wrong in the child’s life they would be the first to know. In most cases that is probably correct. Unfortunately, in the case of sexual abuse, there are other factors that prevent children from turning to their parent for help. Some of the factors are:
  • 90% of child sexual abusers are someone the child knows and trusts. Children fear a parent would never believe this family member, friend, clergy, teacher, trusted adult, would harm them.
  • Abusers bribe children with money, gifts, alcohol, to keep their “game” a secret.
  • Abusers threaten children saying they will harm a family member, telling would cause the family to break apart, or by convincing the child that they would be severely punished if their parent knew.
  • Abusers place guilt on the child telling them it is their fault or that they deserve to be treated this way.
  • Abusers groom children. This means that the abuse does not happen right away. They draw the child in by making them feel special—“You are my favorite…” “I bought this just for you,” “I can’t wait until we can spend more time together,” etc. The physical contact may begin with gentle hugs, stroking, or other physical acts that feel good to the child. It is only after they have gained the child’s trust that the playful grooming turns to sexual abuse.
So how does a parent prevent this from happening?
Talk about sexual abuse with your children and have a family plan.
That’s right, I said talk to your child about sexual abuse. We teach our children about fire safety, stranger danger, drugs and alcohol and peer pressure, so why not teach them what to do if someone the family knows and trusts is making them uncomfortable? There are many programs out there to help parents know what to say and how to say it. My favorite is Stop It Now! On their website,!  you will find free information on how to develop a family plan. Remember, abusers groom their innocent victims. If you’ve discussed sexual abuse with your children they are very likely to tell before the grooming actually turns to physical harm.
Misconception #2
Unless I have concrete evidence I can’t accuse someone of sexually abusing a child.
If a child’s behavior changes in a concerning way, if an adult’s “attention” to one particular child makes you uncomfortable, if you’ve been told something or heard a conversation that caused you to suspect abuse, it is important that you explore further and report your suspicions.
The most important thing to remember is that you are reporting suspected abuse. It is up to the professionals to determine if the abuse has actually occurred. Most situations do not need evidence to report, but it is best if there is a symptom, behavior, or conversation that you can identify when making a report.
The two options for reporting are The Department of Children & Families, DCF, or your local police department. Generally you would call DCF if the suspected offender is in a caretaking role: parent, babysitter, relative, teacher or childcare provider, and the police if the suspected offender is in a non-caretaking role: family friend, neighbor or acquaintance. However, if you are more comfortable with one over the other it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you make the call!
There are some professions in which workers are mandated reporters. For the rest of us I say we deem ourselves mandated reporters! If we suspect a child is in danger it is our responsibility to protect that child.
If you do suspect abuse and are uncertain or afraid, do NOT let that stop you. Let your first call be to the Stop It Now! confidential helpline at 1.888.773.8368. They will answer your questions and advise you on what steps you should take.
I hope this shed some light on child sexual abuse, that you will take the necessary steps to prevention, and that you will share this information with others.
You can make a difference! Please do! Roberta

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sweep Away Self-Doubt; Let in Self-Fullfillment!

I'm still stuck on the theme of new beginnings. In my last post, Spring: A Day for New Beginnings, I suggested we spring clean our lives, ridding ourselves of the "should haves" that bog us down. I offered ideas of things we could do, or think about, that would give us a fresh start.

Today I'm inspired to take this thought a bit farther. This morning I tweeted a quote by Golda Meir:

...Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

What possibilities do you see within yourself? A new career, degree, invention, or talent are a few examples of the dreams people push aside, using work, family commitments, finances, and life in general as an excuse.  I believe the real reason we don't pursue new levels of achievement is because we don't trust our capabilities.

Self-doubt is a crippler, preventing us from even trying to move forward. If you are still "spring cleaning" your life I want you to sweep away that self-doubt. Believe that you can achieve whatever you desire. Begin with small steps, fanning the tiny inner sparks. Think about a goal and plan the  stages that would get you on your way. It may take months, years, or a lifetime, but if you believe in yourself those tiny sparks will someday burst into flames of achievement.

The first part of Meir's quote is:

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Even if you never fully achieve that goal, the process of trusting in yourself and fanning that spark will create a feeling of fulfillment. You will know you lived your life actively pursuing your dreams instead of making excuses for sweeping them under the carpet.

Wouldn't you rather look back on your life knowing you tried rather than doubting your ability? And it is very likely that you will achieve your goal.

Today I'm thinking, with pride, of two young people who both faced adversity, experienced self-doubt, and yet continued to fan their sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

Give it a try. Trust yourself. You can do it, I know! Roberta

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring: A Day for New Beginnings

Today is the first day of spring, a day for new beginnings. As a season, it is a time of beautiful changes in nature: warmer weather, trees and flowers beginning to bud and birds returning from their winter dwellings, (that includes snowbirds like me.) Many people begin the process of cleaning up their yards and gardens in preparation for planting.  If you were born before 1960 you may even attack your house from top to bottom for spring cleaning.

How about "spring cleaning" your life? At the end of the day, the things you say "I should have done," become like dust in your closet, bogging you down. I woke up this morning thinking about what I would like to clean out of my life and what new beginning that would create.  It could be something as small as calling a friend you've neglected lately or as big as making a final decision on where you want to reside. Here are a few of the ideas that popped into my head as I was contemplating this post.

Things you can do:
  • take a walk each day
  • read for thirty minutes every day
  • turn off electronic devices for a period of time
  • reach out to someone whom you know needs a friend
  • make a daily list  of three things you want to accomplish
Things to think about:
  • allow yourself to have fun
  • appreciate the little things in your life that make you happy
  • stop being hard on yourself
  • look at the glass as half full, not half empty
  • be more accepting of others less like yourself
These are just ten ideas that came with little thought. You can come up with many, I am sure, that would be meaningful in your life, and would create a new beginning. Thinking about it makes me feel like I'm taking in a breath of fresh air and breathing out a bit of  old "dust."

Let go of the "should have" thoughts and give yourself a fresh start. Choose something that will make you feel the newness of spring. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face and lighten your step. Write and tell me what you chose and I promise to respond by sharing my own "new beginning."

Happy Spring, Happy New Beginning! Roberta

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sharing Your Journey

I'm reading an excellent book right now, Praying for Strangers by River Jordan. It is the true story of a woman who's two sons were going off to war. As a means of coping with her own fears she made a New Year's resolution to pray for a complete stranger every day of the year. The book follows her journey of choosing that stranger each day, telling how it touched their life, and how the connections she made with other people changed her life forever.

The back cover reads:

What if there was something you could do--something simple, yet so powerful--that could positively influence others and change your life in the process? Critically acclaimed author River Jordan discovered that very thing...
While reading Jordan's book I also had to do a read through of my book, Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse as a final, pre-publication edit. The combination of the two books got me thinking about the connections I've made since breaking the silence of my abuse. In the book I devote a section to Sharing Your Journey. I talk about the "gifts" I received, the courage it brought to others, and the bonds I created all by sharing my story of abuse.
When I first started telling people that I was writing a book for survivors of sexual abuse because that was my life's story, it was scary. The more times I did it, the more I witnessed the powerful impact it had on others and on me, and the easier it became. Now I often find myself looking for ways to fit it into a conversation when speaking to someone new. Even if the person doesn't respond initially, I know in my heart that somewhere, someday, with a friend, family member or in their own life, either my story or my courage to tell it will have a positive influence. I just know it!
We don't have to do "big" things and we don't have to be celebrities, philanthropists, or Mother Teresa to make a difference in other's lives. I believe we all have something to share that can make a difference. Did you survive a medical condition, grieve the loss of a loved one, face a personal trauma, experience an emotional awakening, recover from financial devastation, face infertility, adopt a child, support a loved one through a crisis? The list is endless, we all have had an experience that has changed our life. Now let it change another's.
River Jordan took her greatest fear, that she would lose a son to war, and turned it into a gift for strangers and in turn for herself.  I hope you read her book, Praying for Strangers. I openly discuss my journey from victim to survivor, person to person and soon with the publication of Say it Out Loud, and my life is enriched by the experience. Don't be afraid to share your story. Yes, I know, it's scary at first, but once you realize the benefit to others you will gain courage to continue sharing.
 What if there was something you could do--something simple, yet so powerful--that could positively influence others and change your life in the process?

Do it! It's worth it. I know because I am blessed with the connections I've made by doing my "something simple." Roberta

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Joy in the Midst of Sadness

The holiday season is here. Everywhere you turn there are decorations, beautiful lights, Christmas music, and poinsettias. The scent of pine, cinnamon, and freshly baked cookies fill the air. It’s the one time of year that people greet strangers saying “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” It’s a time to feel joyful, and many of us do.

But what about those who are grieving a loss, facing a serious illness, suffering from any circumstance that causes emotional pain? The reminders of the season cause even greater pain. I’ve been asked the question How do I find joy when my heart is breaking?

When I was depressed, and particularly sad at Christmas, my therapist would remind me that Christmas is one day out of the year. If you can just get through it, it will pass. At the time her words were helpful. I went through the motions making Christmas special for my family, secretly looking ahead when the focus on the holidays would be behind me.

I have a new thought for those who struggle through the holidays. The circumstances causing your emotional pain are real and will not go away because the holidays are here. When the New Year comes you will probably be dealing with the same circumstances. Instead of having the decorations, lights, music, and scents of the season be a reminder of your pain, could they provide you with a small beacon of light? Can you look at them as a sign of hope for the future? Can you allow them to bring you a glimpse of joy?

Part of the answer has to do with giving yourself permission to feel joy. It’s okay to feel joy or happiness in the midst of sadness. I understand that it isn’t easy. My therapist had to remind me of that thought many times in the six years we worked together. I used to think I was minimizing my abuse if I felt a moment of happiness, but what resulted was renewed strength to continue on my healing journey.

 It’s like turning an itchy sweater inside-out. Instead of letting the holiday cause you greater pain; turn your thoughts around and allow it to bring you a moment of comfort. It’s worth a try. If your emotional pain is amplified by the evidence of the holiday season, turn that feeling inside out; let the joy around you be the joy within you. Give yourself permission and perhaps from that joy you too will receive renewed strength.

“May all beings learn how to nourish themselves with joy each day. Thich Nhat Hanh

Nourish yourself with joy and hope this holiday season.
Best wishes to all, Roberta


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Editors, Writing Coaches and Annie

Today is Annie day. It's become my favorite day of the week. Every Wednesday at 12:30 I have a phone conference with Annie, an editor and writing coach. Each week we discuss a 5,000 word portion of my book: Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse. She comments and makes suggestions on content, and corrects those annoying little grammar and punctuation errors most authors make. During the following week I work on her suggestions while she edits the next 5,000 words, and on we go.

I connected with Annie through She Writes Press, who will be publishing my book. Our initial phone call was to determine if  we were a good match. First of all, in my mind, who wouldn't like someone named Annie? The main character in one of my favorite musicals, my son's first "girlfriend" at age six, and a name that just sounds friendly.

Since I would be working closely with this person, dissecting my book, there had to be more of a connection than just a name, and there was. Annie immediately understood my reason for writing. I didn't live my life waiting for the day to become a published author nor did I major in journalism, writing, or even English. My greatest writing accomplishment before this book was writing hundreds of educational evaluations.  I wrote Say It Out Loud, exposing every fiber of my being, to show--not tell--others that they can heal from sexual abuse or any tragedy. It is a book of hope, inspiration, and usable tools to navigate the healing journey. In our first conversation after reading the full manuscript Annie paused to say, "I'm sorry you had to go through this." She was the first person in the publishing industry to take a moment to make that comment.

In addition to being sensitive to my story she has the ability to identify where the reader may want more detailed information and stretches me to provide that detail. And at times it is a stretch. The sections where Annie asks for more are usually sections that I skimmed over for a reason. They were just too darn painful to write. Fortunately Annie's style is to suggest, not demand, which allows me the decision to delve as deep, or shallow, as I wish. Each time I search my journals for a passage, or reflect on an emotion or memory of abuse, I'm  jolted back a bit, but knowing it may help the reader, and seeing the depth it adds to my writing is my inspiration.

So, I look forward to 12:30 today when I hear about my work for the coming week. I know that together, Annie and I, are going to make Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse, the best book it can be.

And to Annie, the guru of grammar and punctuation, if you read this post please don't edit! I tried to stick in as many commas as I could. ;)

Hope you all have an "Annie" kind of day! Roberta

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Living in the Present

My son posted this quote on Facebook a few weeks ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. How often do we spend time thinking about the past or worrying about the future? We may be physically present and even able to contribute to conversations and be productive, but our presence is clouded by that internal lens that is looking back or forward.

When others talk to me about their fear of the future I often tell them, as I’ve been told, we are only guaranteed of today, of this moment. Don’t waste precious time worrying about something that hasn’t happened.

By staying focused on the past or the future we miss the joy that surrounds us in the present. You are not experiencing life. You are reliving or projecting feelings.

For survivors of any type of trauma this quote holds even greater meaning. An innate response to abuse is to take your mind elsewhere, away from the act that is happening. It is a way to survive. If you have done that repeatedly, mentally removed yourself from an experience, living somewhere other than the present becomes a way of existence. it may not be obvious to others, but you are not fully present in your life. A part of the healing process is to learn how to stay in the present. With time you learn to trust that it is not only a safe place to be, you begin to enjoy life in a way you've never known.

Staying in the present may take a conscious effort. I advocate using visualization as a strategy. Think of Da Vinci’s quote:

In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed
And the first of that which comes; so with present time.

Visualize a cool, gentle flowing river. Now visualize placing one finger in that water. Tell yourself this is where I need to be right now, in the present.

We are only guaranteed of today, this moment. Don’t compromise the joy in your life because you can’t stay in the present. Work at it. Stick your finger in that water. Do it as often as you need to. It works, I know.  Roberta