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Blooming Lotus (c) Faith AllenHi, all.

I am still super busy with my job and such, but I do have a holiday break coming, so I decided to participate over at Lori’s Song while I temporarily have a little more time so I can offer support to child abuse survivors over the holidays. Overall, I am doing well. This time of year is always hard for me, but it is less hard than in prior years, and I am celebrating the progress. I hope all of you are doing well.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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I hope you have had a chance to visit the child abuse healing forums at Lori’s Song. The site just launched on Friday, so it will take a while for the forums to get busy as child abuse survivors who are looking to heal join the site. The site has quite a few child abuse healing forums, including a section for learning how to thrive. I like that the forums are set up to meet the needs of those who have moved through the early stages of healing and are transitioning into thriving. Of course, plenty of support is available in the child abuse healing forums for those of you who are in the throes of the early stages of healing.

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Everyone,

I have previously shared that I have been helping launch a charity for child abuse survivors. The site went live today.

I encourage you to check out this exciting new resource for child abuse survivors. It would be a great place to move this community for those of you who would like to stay in regular contact.

Let me know what you think of the site! :0)

~ Faith

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I have shared many times that Isurvive, a message board for child abuse survivors, helped get me through healing from child abuse. I have not been active on the site for several years – pretty much since I started the blog. I only have so many hours in the day to spend online, and the blog took up too much time for me to stay active over there.

While I was still active, I pushed for a separate forum for ritual abuse survivors. I wasn’t really sure where to post memories of being buried alive, etc. Ritual abuse is its own animal and does not really fit into any other category of abuse. The board owner at that time came up with the label of “ritualized abuse” because she wanted to encompass not only cult abuse but also systematic abuse by one abuser … and the Ritualized Abuse forum was born.

I have also shared that I continue to be active with Isurvive behind the scenes. I learned through the grapevine that several members were posting over there (some who also read my blog) but that there wasn’t anyone posting who was farther along in healing. While Isurvive has great directors and moderators, my understanding is that none of them experienced ritual abuse. (My apologies if I am wrong about this.)

So, I have decided to become active again in the Ritualized Abuse forum only. I am hoping to add the perspective of someone farther along in healing so those who are posting there can have hope of surviving the healing process. Also, I want the members to know that at least one person (1) can handle reading about the dark stuff; and (2) has been there (maybe not with the exact form of abuse but in the ballpark). I hope that my experience, both in childhood and in healing, will bring an added level of hope and healing over there.

I am announcing this here in case my active involvement in that forum will make participating in that forum more appealing to any of my readers. It’s tough to open up and talk about ritual abuse in a forum filled with strangers. Perhaps having a friendly face over there will make this easier.

If you do decide to post over there and you also post comments on my blog, please let me know the cross-reference name (unless you prefer to keep this private). That way, I’ll know that the two of you are the same person.

Image credit: Isurvive.org

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Today I am climbing up on my soapbox, so consider yourself warned! I don’t know how much any of you have followed what is going on with online colleges in the news, but as fellow child abuse survivors, you need to know…

I have been working as an online college instructor for one of the well-known online universities since 2008. Online colleges are designed to meet the needs of the non-traditional student. Until I started getting to know my students, I did not realize just how many child abuse survivors are able to earn a college degree because of the existence of online universities like the one where I work. The ability to attend college online has been a real gift to numerous child abuse survivors who would not otherwise be able to go to college.

Of course, people from all walks of life are online students, but the majority is not straight out of high school like you see on most of the traditional college campuses. Numerous students are single parents who are working fulltime in dead-end jobs. Earning a college degree is the ticket out of their current life circumstances. If they had to find childcare and attend a ground campus, they would never be able to earn a college degree. However, by being able to log onto the computer after the children are in bed, they are able to make this huge commitment.

I have been surprised by how many fellow child abuse survivors are enrolled in online colleges. I have heard all sorts of stories because of the personal nature of the course that I facilitate. Once one student shares her story, others share theirs as well. I have had several students who grew up in the foster care system, abused wives who are secretly earning a college degree when the abusive partner is not home, and recovering addicts. More students with a history of child abuse have shared their story than I can count. Many of these students have told me that a “regular” college education would not have been possible for them. They are so grateful for having this option.

Many of the well-known online universities are for-profit, which has caused some people to question the motives of these colleges and the value of their degrees. My online university, as well as others, has made changes to the format of the classes to ensure that only students who are ready to take on the commitment do so and to set them up for success. My online university also offers free confidential counseling over the phone for all students. The counselors are equipped to handle everything from the basic stresses of time management to issues as serious as rape or suicide threats.

I applied for a job as an online college instructor because of the flexible hours. I never dreamed that I would be helping so many child abuse survivors by doing this. Even though my students will never know the details of my own history, I am able to believe in them and help them to have the confidence that they can rise above their childhood traumas. It is a real honor to work with these online students. I hope that these students will continue to have access to Federal financial aid (this has been the topic in the news) because without it, many won’t have access to the tools needed to create a better life for themselves. Watching insecure online students gain confidence in their ability to change the direction of their lives is the most rewarding part of my job.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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You might have noticed that this blog is an Amazon Affiliate that donates all proceeds to Isurvive. (I never see the money. It is direct deposited into the charity’s bank account.) For those of you who are unfamiliar with Isurvive, this blog entry is to make you aware of this wonderful resource and tell you why I care about it so much.

In 2003, I started having flashbacks about mother-daughter sexual abuse. Before that, I had no memory whatsoever of being abused as a child. I remembered some comparatively minor emotional abuse and knew that I had a lot of seemingly unrelated issues (nightmares, eating disorder, panic attacks, phobias, etc.); however, I had no idea at a conscious level that child abuse was the cause.

I had no idea what to do with the flashbacks. I didn’t even know that they were flashbacks. I just “knew” that my mother had sexually abused me, and I was filled with deep shame and a strong desire to kill myself. That is when I found Isurvive.

It had not even occurred to me to look for a message board for child abuse survivors. I thought that I was the only person on the planet (except for my sister) to be abused by my mother, so I feared that nobody would believe me and that I would be committed to a mental institution for “making this up.” I truly believed I was losing my mind!

I was doing Internet research on dissociation and how to heal from child abuse when I stumbled upon Isurvive. At first, I wasn’t sure that I even belonged there. It was a message board for child abuse survivors, and I wasn’t sure if I had really been abused. After all, wouldn’t I always have remembered?

I read some of the posts and saw so much of myself in those messages. I felt like I had found my mother ship! I could relate to these people even though I wasn’t sure that I was really one of them. Then, I built up the courage to post what I had remembered. I was sure that nobody would believe me, but I was wrong! Numerous fellow child abuse survivors believed me, supported me, and told me how to survive it.

Isurvive became my lifeline during my therapy years. I was on the board multiple times a day. At first, all I did was “take” because I had nothing to give. However, over time I started to give back until, after a few years, I was mostly the “old timer” offering support. Isurvive quite literally saved my life on more than one occasion, providing me a place to be “heard” when I wanted to kill myself.

Isurvive has grown since then to offer both a Chat Room and a toll-free number so survivors of child abuse never have to be alone. I have used the Chat Room when I was emotionally free-falling. The moderator took me into a private chat room and talked me through my animal rape flashback. I never used the toll-free number, but many child abuse survivors do. You don’t have to be alone in the middle of the night, over the holidays, or any other time when your life is spinning out of control.

I no longer frequent Isurvive only because I don’t have the time. Between writing this blog and my professional one, working part-time, and being a full-time wife and mom, I simply don’t have the time to hang out there any longer. However, I will be forever grateful to Isurvive, which is why I applied for this blog to be an Amazon affiliate. Isurvive is not an expensive charity to run, but it does need an income stream to pay for the toll-free number, the server fees, etc. Lori Schmitt, the owner and operator of Isurvive, tells me that the funds generated by this blog go a long way toward keeping those services available to Isurvive members.

If you have never visited Isurvive, check it out! There are different forums for different types of abuse, such as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The Ritualized Abuse forum is the place you want to go to discuss Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) issues even if you did not suffer from ritual abuse. There are also forums specifically for male survivors, one for Dependence & Compulsion (to discuss eating disorders, addictions, self-injury, etc.), and even for survivors who abuse others (to help them break the cycle). Isurvive is a safe place to interact with fellow child abuse survivors as you heal together.

Image credit: Isurvive

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I received an email asking me to share the article 10 Signs You are Dealing with a Sociopath. This article definitely sounds like S & L, my most sadistic abusers who brought me into the cult abuse.

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I have been traveling and have not been able to tend to my blog. If you posted a comment that is not appearing yet, this would be why. I will try to catch up in the next couple of days.

Yesterday, we got on the topic of child abuse in my Sunday School class. We read a Bible verse about the Israelites “throwing their sons and daughters on the fire” (child sacrifice), and someone made a comment about this no longer happening today. Of course, I climbed up on my soapbox and talked about the many ways that children are still being sacrificed in our society – through child pornography, turning a blind eye to suspected abuse, etc. I talked about it being everyone’s responsibility to intervene on behalf of children. I then quoted the statistics – that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 to 7 men are sexually abused by age 18. (I didn’t have the statistics for all forms of abuse, but including physical and emotional abuse would obviously increase these numbers.)

One father of two children (ages 13 and 10) was floored by the statistics and quite freaked out. I reassured him about how their best protection was growing up in a loving and safe home, which he is already providing. Then, he asked an interesting question that I would like to explore here – If such a high percentage of the population has been abused, then why don’t child abuse survivors have a stronger public voice? He pointed out that, even if 1/10 of those who had been abused spoke out, it would make for a powerful advocacy group that the rest of society could not ignore.

I don’t have a clear-cut answer to his question, but my first instinct is that the culprit is shame. As long as a person feels shame for being abused, he is much less likely to announce publicly that he has been abused and speak out about what society needs to do to stop the abuse. I think another culprit is that a large percentage of child abuse survivors have not worked through the healing process. Many live their lives pretending like it did not happen and/or using various coping strategies to avoid facing the healing process. Then, they heap on the shame of the coping mechanism, believing that nobody will listen to “an alcoholic,” “a cutter,” “an anorexic,” etc.

This man makes a good point – we have the numbers to change society. If enough of us spoke out about our own histories, we could change public misconceptions such as the widespread misconception that repressed memories mean that the abuse didn’t happen or that all abused children just grow up to abuse others. (Please know that I do not intend this blog entry to be a guilt trip for any child abuse survivor to speak out before he or she is ready to do so. I could not have done it a few years ago, and I know how hard I worked to reach a place where I could.)

I think the other hurdle is public resistance to hearing our stories. Most people can handle hearing about my “mainstream” abuse, but they turn into skeptics if I discuss any of the less talked about abuses, such as ritual abuse or animal rape. “Good” people don’t want to believe that this level of evil and depravity exists in the world. (I only wish I had that luxury!) It takes someone who has worked through the healing process and is very confident in his or her own truths to fight through that resistance. I believe only a very small percentage of child abuse survivors have healed enough from the less talked about types of child abuse to have reached a place that they feel confident enough to take on societal denial like that. I have done it – I still get shaky when facing a roomful of people who don’t want to believe that child abuse can be that twisted.

What are your thoughts on this? There is no question that we have the numbers to change society’s perception of child abuse and fight back, but we are not yet making much of a wave in society at large. Why do you think that is? How can we change this?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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A reader emailed me and asked me to cover the topic of how the world blames the child abuse victims and how the world thinks they know the effects. This is a great topic idea that we need to talk about.

My experience is that, while most people are sympathetic to an abused child, they are mostly ignorant about the aftereffects of child abuse, especially in adulthood. I frequently hear comments such as, “an abused child is just going to grow up to become an abuser himself.” (This is not supported by statistics. Actually, only 1 in 10 abused children have been found to abuse in adulthood, which means that 90% of abused children do not become abusers. See this article.) I have been asked why I did not tell anyone. My response was, “Who would I tell? My own mother was hurting me. Who would I possibly have thought was safe when my own mother wasn’t safe?”

These are comments that I hear from well-meaning, law-abiding, “good” people. These are not abusers or people who in any way condone child abuse. However, society as a whole is woefully uneducated about child abuse and the aftereffects. This is one reason I am so passionate about educating people about child abuse every chance that I get, and I do this a lot at my church. Church people have the collective power to make a difference if they take a stand, but they are not going to do it if they are ignorant to the issues and statistics.

Another big area of societal ignorance is repressed memories. I strongly believe that the big wave of false memory syndrome propaganda in the 1990’s was perpetuated by child abusers, and many members of society still buy into the misconception that, if you did not always retain every memory of abuse from childhood, then it must have been implanted.

Stepping up on the soapbox…

When someone tells me that I must have false memory syndrome, I feel insulted, and I don’t feel this way easily. This assumption about me presumes that I am so weak-minded and weak-willed that I would simply allow another person to embed false memories in my head. I don’t trust many people, and I am a very intelligent person (graduated from a Top Ten graduate school). To tell me that I am so gullible that I would allow another person to implant these memories in my head is incredibly insulting.

Stepping off the soapbox…

Now that I have that off my chest, I will tell you how I respond … My sister and I have recovered numerous memories of the same events, and we have never seen the same therapist. We haven’t even lived in the same state since I started having flashbacks in 2003. So, to implant this many memories with this level of detail in two women living in two different states who do not see the same people regularly sounds like a much greater conspiracy theory than the truth that it happened.

It is well documented that young children (and even many adults) repress traumatic memories. Soldiers frequently return from battle with no memory of seeing their buddies’ body parts blown to bits. I know a five-year-old boy who was in a fatal car crash that took his mother’s life. He has no memory of that event, yet nobody questions that it happened. Everyone gets that the event was so traumatizing that he has repressed the memory. So, why does society at large have so much trouble understanding that a child exposed to repeated traumas would repress those memories?

Bottom line – Society at large does not “get it” about child abuse, and they are never going to “get it” unless we educate them. We need to do all we can to educate society about the epidemic of child abuse and the aftereffects. We need to stop sitting by silently listening to ignorant comments and educate these people. Of course, you need to heal enough to feel strong enough to take this on, but when you are ready, join the fight! If 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5-7 men spoke out about the truth of child abuse, it wouldn’t take that long to educate the world.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my About Faith Allen page, a reader posted the following comment:

hi, just discovered your site- congratulations on your integration- we have a daughter who has been suffering for over 17 years, many treatments, many drs., many hospitalizations- not much progress- currently in crisis- looking for help again- who and what helped you? would you mind sharing this info? we would go anywhere just to find person/persons/hospitals. etc. who could be of help
thanks!

The most important element in healing is choosing to heal. Until a person decides that he or she is willing to do anything to heal, you can invest in all the resources in the world, and it is not going to make much of a difference. Choosing to heal is hard work. You have to relive painful memories, and you have to accept that these horrible things happened to me. Until a person reaches this place, resources are going to be of limited value.

If your daughter is sick to death of being in this awful place and is ready to begin the hard work of healing, I have several resources for her:

Books

The two “must reads” for a survivor of severe child abuse are Safe Passage to Healing (book about healing from ritual abuse and understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder -DID) and the Survivor to Thriver Manual (walks you through the healing process in a non-triggering way). Another great resource is The Courage to Heal.

Online Resources

Isurvive is a message board for survivors of all forms of child abuse. The Survivors of Ritualized Abuse forum is for those who suffered the most severe forms of trauma. It is also the place to talk about DID-related issues. The Sidran Institute is another great resource, offering lots of helpful articles on healing from severe child abuse.

Therapy

It is crucial that your daughter work with a qualified therapist with experience in working with survivors of severe child abuse. In my experience, the therapist does not have to be a DID specialist as long as he “gets” what alters parts are and their function. Healing from DID is too difficult to do alone. I strongly advise working closely with an educated therapist.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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