Archive for Child Sexual Abuse

Sex with your Healthcare Professional??!!

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Did you know that there is a new Minister’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients in Ontario?

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health has named this new task force to hear from patients who have been abused in sexualized relationships with registered healthcare practitioners – but the timeline is short. Marilou McPhedran, who chaired two previous task forces, is also leading this new one, with Registered Nurse Sheila Macdonald. Patients who wish to report in confidence to the Task Force, or to present at a public hearing (if they prefer), can make an appointment by email to: SATaskForce@ontario.ca OR by calling 1-844-821-6151.

Read the Terms of Reference of the new Minister’s Task Force.

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Sex with your healthcare provider is always “abuse.” It’s never okay. Most patients idealize their healthcare provider, which means the power is in the hands of the one they’re looking to for help. Abuse can result from this imbalance of power.

It’s also a characteristic of people who have been abused in childhood to feel sexual contact is inevitable. To avoid being victimized, they attempt to take charge by sexualizing the relationship. Many victims hope the affair with their healthcare provider will become a monogamous love affair. Once survivors realized how many others were coming forward to tell of sex with healthcare providers to the previous task forces, they felt free to tell their story, being able to choose to speak in public or in private.

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As for healthcare professionals, they need to be aware of this dynamic and not confuse the idealization that happens professionally with what happens in their personal lives. It will be a good day for survivors when healthcare professionals are trained to understand this sexualization of the clinical relationship as a sign of previous trauma and pull back from indulging their personal sexual needs with those who have come to them for help.

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If you’ve been sexually abused by a healthcare provider, I encourage you to connect with the new Minister’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients, which is hearing from patients of all healthcare professionals covered under the Regulated Health Professions Act of Ontario.

 Michele Landsberg, known for her work on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse throughout the years, will interview a selected number of those who wish to tell their story of experiences since 2000. The interviews will be conducted in April. There’s no need to have made a previous report to the authorities. All sessions with Michele are confidential. This is your opportunity to 1) tell your story and 2) help the task force make a solid case about the harm being done by healthcare professionals who cross the boundary with their patients, and what the Government of Ontario needs to do about it.

If you would be willing to tell your story, contact Michele by email only. Her email is mlandsbergsatf@gmail.com. In the subject line, put “Another Patient for the Task Force.” It’s important that you follow these instructions exactly.

Guest Post: Somatic Sensations, Symbolic Imagery & Somatic Releases

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When we’ve been traumatized by child abuse, we generally feel we’re the only person in the whole world to experience strange emotions and physical symptoms. I’m grateful to guest blogger, Cathy, for sharing her own somatic results of trauma.

Over the course of my 17 year journey in recovering from childhood trauma, I have come to understand that past trauma can manifest as physical sensations in the body (‘somatics’). Throughout my healing journey, I have regularly experienced physical sensations in my body and symbolic imagery in my mind’s eye. I now believe that these symbolic images are ‘messages’ from my subconscious mind (‘my depths’) to my conscious mind (‘my surface’) which help me to understand, comprehend, process and ultimately, to work through an aspect of my original trauma or a particular stage of my healing. My understanding is that these symbolic images in my mind’s eye are a bit similar to what happens during Focusing (www.focusing.org), where we’re able to get in touch with our own ‘felt sense’ or our innate, inner wisdom within our bodies.

Below is a summary of the somatic sensations and symbolic imagery that go with my own sense of the emotional pain and tension that I’ve experienced within my body over the years:

  • A strong sense that there is a fist-sized boil in my heart area that needs to be lanced.
  • Fantasising about using a large diameter drill to drill into the fist-sized boil in my heart area, releasing a huge spurt of pus that flies across the room, immediately releasing and freeing up the massive build-up of pressure, discomfort and pain in my heart area.
  • Fantasising about lying on a table in an operating theatre in a hospital and having a surgeon cut open the area around my heart to surgically remove my emotional pain. My EMDR/trauma therapist told me that some of her clients had actually had body parts surgically removed due to a “persistent pain” in this area only to find that their “persistent [emotional] pain” returned to another area of their body post-surgery.
  • Fantasising about a zip running down the centre of my chest that I can unzip to release a flock of doves out of my chest, allowing them to fly away freely off into the sky.
  • Feeling as though I have a volcano inside my torso that is about to erupt.
  • Seeing another adult me sitting within me, in the pit of my stomach, naked, in the snow, shivering, defenceless, cold, alone, isolated and desperately wanting to get out.
  • Watching another me bending down to look into the shards of a broken mirror shattered all over the floor and seeing my fractured self reflected back at me from the many, many shards and fragments of broken mirror spread across the floor.
  • Experiencing my own sense of internal fragmentation as: can you imagine that you’re staying at my house, you have a bag of belongings with you and your belongings are spread out all over my house, with at least one of your belongings in each room of my home? Then I say to you, “we have to leave in 30 seconds” and in response you experience a sense of panic as you attempt to collect all of your belongings from their sprawled out places all over my house in an instant. This is how I often feel, I need to ‘collect’ all of the different parts of myself to literally ‘bring or pull myself together’ before I get out of bed, begin a task or step out of my front door.

Over the course of my 17 years of therapy, particularly over the last 5 years as I’ve discovered and increasingly explored different body-centred healing modalities, such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), FasterEFT, reiki, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Network Chiropractics (www.reorganizational.org), I’ve progressively experienced more and more somatic releases (ie. expressing, ‘surfacing’ and releasing of my inner pain from within, out through my body). Here is a summary of the full range of somatic releases that I’ve experienced over the last five years of the emotional pain, terror and tension resulting from my childhood trauma that I have carried within my body/being/organism since the original trauma occurred:

  • Burping – burps that come from deep within me, they almost have an old, musty book smell or quality to them, suggesting to me that they come from my past (not the present moment), sometimes my ‘trauma release burps’ demand my full attention, I have to drop everything, brace and prepare myself in order to allow them to surface.
  • Sneezing – excessively loud and powerful sneezing, often demanding that my whole body gets involved in my sneeze. Did you know that our current tradition of saying “bless you” after someone sneezes originated from an ancient idea that we are releasing bad spirits when we sneeze? This makes perfect sense to me!
  • Coughing – excessive, lung wrenching coughing for sustained periods occasionally during Network Chiropractic sessions, like a chain smoker, even though I’m not a smoker
  • Stiffness in my jaw and aching and soreness in my face, particularly around my temples and behind my eyebrows
  • Excessive stomach grumbling, gurgling and tingling
  • Spontaneous full body shaking, jerking and tremouring (as per Traumatic Release Exercises, TRE, bercelifoundation.org)
  • Contractions or tightening in one area of my body such as my heart area, almost like labour contractions, suggesting to me that something substantial wants to be ‘birthed’, or released from deep within
  • Giggling and laughing
  • Crying and sobbing
  • Screaming
  • Yawning and sighing
  • Farting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • More frequent urination.

My Network Chiropractor informed me that the body’s capacity to suddenly and rapidly expel substances from our bodies is a primal fright or flight instinct, designed to ‘free up’ the body, to literally ‘lighten our body’s load’ in response to a life threatening event (or even an event that is ‘only’ perceived to be life threatening, consider a vulnerable, defenceless small child’s take on this!!), to allow our mind/body to focus it’s attention and energy exclusively on preparing for freeze or flight, similar to a pilot in a hot air balloon who decides to throw heavy objects overboard in the event of an unexpected descent.

Our mind-body system is endlessly fascinating to me. Through my somatic experiences, symbolic imagery and somatic releases, I’ve come to understand and know that our mind and body are intricately and completely linked.

Peter Levine has developed a healing technique called Somatic Experiencing (www.somaticexperiencing.com), he is also the author of a book called Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, a fascinating book about the phenomena of somatic experience.

Nothing Changes Unless Change Happens in the Body

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Recently I got an email from a woman who’d been in talk therapy for 14 years, trying to deal with her traumatic childhood. Only recently, she began to make real progress in her healing. Why? Because she found a body worker skilled in releasing the trauma stored in the body. She wondered what I thought.

Here’s what I told her:

  • I learned from Dr. Eugene Gendlin (originator of Focusing) that nothing changes unless change happens in the body.
  • Talk therapy involves the left brain and will take you only so far.
  • Trauma lives in the right brain and requires therapy that changes the brain (which, after all, is part of the body.)
  • There are many different, effective treatments for trauma. It’s a matter of which one is available to you and which appeals to you.

Personally, I recommend that everyone learn to Focus and integrate Focusing with whatever other modality he/she prefers.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about my views of what makes a good therapeutic match.

Forgiveness: It’s a Process

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You read a lot about forgiveness these days. Some experts advise us to let go of anger and hurt. I understand forgiveness differently. In my opinion, you can’t will yourself to forgive. Forgiveness is a process.

Two Roman Catholic priests who teach Focusing, Peter Campbell and Ed MacMohan, call this premature attempt to forgive process skipping. You can’t grunt up a change in how your body carries a situation, they say.

That’s certainly my own experience with forgiving my parents. I knew enough to listen to and be compassionate with my rage for my mother, the non-offending parent who failed to protect me. My only regret is that I hadn’t reached a place of forgiveness before she died. In recent years, I feel only love and caring for her. That happened on its own. I didn’t have the power to make it happen.

Gradually, I just noticed I was feeling differently about the adults who betrayed my childhood innocence.

These days I tend to remember the good acts of my father and his father, my grandfather. They weren’t just perpetrators. They were both much more. My father is still the man who patiently taught me to drive a car, and so much else. My grandfather is still the old man who waited for me to walk with him to the public library each week. Those are good memories.

Forgiveness, then, is something that just happens as long as we allow all our feelings the space they need. Suppressed feelings spring up somewhere else in our lives, harming our bodies and interfering with our relationships.

What’s your experience?

I welcome your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Sorry to Upset You, But…

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We need everyone to face the fact that one in four females and one in six males is sexually abused in childhood. Otherwise caring, responsible people often say to me, “Oh, I don’t want to hear about that. It upsets me.” Well, I’m sorry, but child victims in your neighbourhood need you to be aware of this national epidemic.

If you don’t want to be involved in preventing child sexual abuse, you are on the side of the perpetrator. Yes, that’s true. All the perpetrator asks of you is that you look the other way.

Child victims need you to notice and get involved. They need you to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. They need you to be courageous enough to phone your local child protection services.

  • Prepare yourself. Have the number of your child protection services handy.
  • Educate yourself about this crime against our children.
  • Believe the statistics. They’re conservative estimates.
  • Don’t let your denial put more children in danger.