Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Personal Essay by S.R. Cyr with Book Review of Nothing But My Voice by Donna Buiso

I wanted someone who had actually experienced what this book talks about to review this book.  Ms. Cyr was happy to do so and I thank her for taking the time.
S. R. Cyr has been a social justice as well as a child safety advocate since the birth of her first child in 1996.  
Ms. Cyr’s volunteer work as an advocate led her to obtain her BA in ‘Women and Gender Studies’ in 2013. Ms. Cyr’s ten-year plus experience – in and out of family court - has re-directed her advocacy toward promoting community education on the effects of childhood trauma and has inspired her to become an active proponent of ‘trauma sensitize’ learning environments as well as medial environments.
Are You Brave Enough To Listen? by S. R. Cyr
I belong to a tribe of warriors that no one from outside that tribe will ever talk about. I know their names – and they know mine - but we’ve never met face- to-face.
This tribe I speak of consists of female warriors. However, my tribe are not just female warriors, but, female warriors denied “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Our kinship validates our existence as we walk invisible amongst you.
You may wonder what brought us strangers together. Why would hundreds -possibly thousands of women - band together  and support each other?
Here is my answer: we are united in the fact that through no fault of our own, we have been left with nothing but our voice. We have been left childless, financially disabled, heart-broken, hopeless, shell-shocked, numb, disabled with PTSD, and alone. We speak but no one hears us. We cry but no one wipes out tears. We scream but our screams go unheard. We go through the motions of life but we feel as if we are in quicksand.
Some well-intentioned people attempt to comfort us with assurance that everything will be just fine, but, it never is.
Imagine being deprived of an active role in the nurturing, loving, and fostering of a young child into young adulthood? Assuring us all will be ‘fine’ is a cue that you are not truly listening.
How can one mourn the death of a relationship that people insist has opportunity to be?? If I could ask the well-meaning people one thing, it would be this: please, stop telling me that my children will “come back.” Because truth-be-told, there is a good chance they may not.
And, even if they did, they will not be the children I once knew: trauma has a way of changing people for life.
Let me introduce you to the newest member of my tribe; her name is Donna Buiso. She – like me-  through several years of family court procedures – was stripped of all parental rights.
I purchased Ms. Busio’s memoir hoping to find the answer to the question that every mother deprived of time spent with children wants to know: do the children ever come back? Do the children deprived of their biological mother ever come to really know their mother??
If you want to find out that answer, I highly recommend purchasing Donna’s book.
As so poignantly written within the forward of Donna Buiso’s book, Nothing But MyVoice, “This is a book that requires action. Action to change and rectify a system that allows the continued unconscionable abuse of mothers. These injustices must be corrected for the sake of all emotionally abused mothers, their emotionally abused children, and for the welfare of society at large {David P. Hayes, Ph.D.}.”
Donna Busio’s depiction of her life with an emotionally abusive ex-husband can be triggering for anyone who has lived this kind of hell.
Psychological warfare is the only way to describe what it is like to co-parent with an abusive ex-partner. Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public often forget that emotional, verbal, financial, and judicial abuse fall within the spectrum of domestic abuse.
Imagine being court ordered to stand back and watch your own child suffer at the hands of a person who uses verbal, emotional and psychological tactics to get their adults needs met? Adults who choose to file for sole custody and refuse to allow your child to be with you: imagine?
I bought Ms. Busio’s book because I was also stripped of parental rights, decision making power, and a visitation schedule. I was court ordered to sit back and watch as my teens were raised in a home environment that – in my opinion- lacked supervision, compassion, and authentic love.
I had to endure phone calls, emails, and text messages from my teenage daughter asking me, “where is dad taking me?”
I later found out that one of her father’s tactics for controlling her behavior was to threaten her with being “dropped off somewhere” because he could no longer “handle her.” When she begged and pleaded to live with me- her mother that raised her the first12 years of her life-  her dad would respond, “anywhere but with your mother.”
Even today, as I re-count these events, I go numb. Admittedly, as I read Donna Buiso’s depiction of her own children’s torture, I was triggered.
I cannot fathom how a human – especially an adult- could be so cruel toward a child.
How can any human – parent or probate judge- deny a child their biological mother?
Donna ends her book with the words, “My voice is my strength. It’s all I have left. I will continue to use it, not just for myself but for the children and for all of the mothers who find themselves fighting to protect their family in court.”   
Ms. Buiso has spoken. And so has hundreds and thousands of other mothers throughout the US as we warriors write incessantly to our local and national political leaders as well as to major network television studios.
We warriors have been left with nothing but our voices. For decades now, we have proven to be beyond brave for articulating our pain.

What remains to be seen is this: Are you brave enough to listen?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reading Recommendations = February 22, 2016

I have an idea for a blog post running around in my brain but also dealing with heavy brain fog due to to a flu bug that took over my life for a week.  So here are some things to read while you wait.  AND take care of yourself.  Remember, if you get sick and go to work, you infect others and you end up being sick even longer.

Looking through the lens of trauma in a number of settings:  http://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/2016/02/20/looking-through-lens-trauma/79126968/

If you are looking for a response for those folks who feel that TANF recipients should be drug tested in order to received benefits, this does a great job of breaking it down:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2016/02/19/3747139/states-drug-testing-welfare-recipients/

A guide for talking to people about their experiences and the effects of trauma (includes video of advocate talking to survivor):  http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/grow-your-trauma-informed-mind-help-them-go-for-the-gold

A view of addiction as a response to childhood suffering:  https://www.thefix.com/gabor-mat%C3%A9-addiction-holocaust-disease-trauma-recovery?page=all

An interesting piece on how survivors use lying as a way to survive and some strategies to move on from this survival skill:  http://www.susankingsleysmith.com/telling-lies-as-a-way-to-survive/

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is an investigative journalist who likes to embed himself in a situation to delve into the intricacies of a situation or experience.  In Missoula, Mr. Krakauer goes to Missoula, Montana to investigate the many systems and personalities that become involved when a rape allegation is made on a college campus.  I have heard interviews with Mr. Krakauer and he has stated that Missoula is not atypical.  He did not pick Missoula because it was different but because it was so similar to other college towns across the nation.
Jon does not leave any stone unturned in telling the stories of rape allegations in this college town that treats its football players as celebrities and heroes, granting the players a sense of entitlement that extends to the women who attend the college.  Mr. Krakauer interviews victims and family members and has access to interviews with the alleged rapists.  He also delves into the criminal justice system and campus investigative process and delineates how the allegations are handled differently in each setting. He is also explicitly describes the judicial process and how defense attorneys and prosecutors are often so concerned with winning that the victims and perpetrators often become pawns in the process, leaving victims to experience more trauma during and after the plea and/or trial process.
Jon Krakauer researched the impact of trauma on victims and is able to incorporate the work of Judith Herman, a clinical professor at Harvard and author of Trauma and Recovery, an important work on interpersonal violence and the trauma that occurs.  David Lisak, an expert on serial rapists and college sexual assault, is an expert witness for one of the trials in Missoula and Mr. Krakauer pulls from his research and expert testimony in order to describe the intricacies of understanding sexual assault.

Jon Krakauer’s greatest message in this book is that the refusal to hold perpetrators accountable is their greatest weapon and the justice systems’ greatest failure. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reading Recommendations and Resources - Week of January 11, 2016

A lot of information came out this past week.  There should be something below for everyone including advocates, educators, and survivors.

Three information sheets from the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network for working with children and families affected by trauma.

Children with Traumatic Separation:


Sharing Power to Engage Children and Families:


Sharing Power - A Tool for Reflection


An article on traumatic brain injury and domestic violence:

An Education Writers' Association article  on how trauma affects a students ability to engage in the classroom.  If you read through the article you will find a link to a powerpoint that has some additional information.  I like this because of how it also discuss trauma's intersection with race and poverty.

Here is an article on boundaries that could be used in a support group:

An excellent article from the Joyful Heart Foundation on managing vicarious trauma and being kind to one's self.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reading Recommendations Week of January 4, 2016

I have been lax in writing posts lately, but have been pondering how to send out all the information that comes across my desk from various resources.  There are many great articles that could be used to augment volunteer training and just provide general information on various topics regarding trauma, trauma responsive services, children and trauma, and working with survivors of intimate partner violence.  I have decided to start doing a weekly/bi-weekly digest that provides links to these various articles for you to browse through and pick and choose what you feel would be appropriate for you and your needs.  I hope this is useful for you.

This week's harvest is:

  A reminder that the period after the holidays is difficult for many people:  http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/4937489-181/suicides-peak-during-holidays-not

The importance of art for at-risk children:


The problems with memory and sexual trauma:

An excellent training for any educators you may know:

A powerful story on the dangers of assuming a rape report is false:

Some self care ideas:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Egg and I - Boundaries

As many of you know, I love to use analogies when I am talking about the various effects of exposure to trauma.  These analogies will pop up at odd times throughout my day when I am not thinking about my work and when I am occupied with something that doesn’t require a lot of thought.  This is just another example of how allowing your mind to rest can help it be more creative.
The other day I was peeling hard boiled eggs for salad and I started thinking about boundaries.  Sometimes I take the egg and lightly tap it against the counter and a small break will occur where I can start peeling away the shell.  Other times I may be in a bit of a mood and I strike it harder against the side of the sink, resulting in a larger break in the shell and the pieces falling off faster.  If the egg is fresh it may be more difficult to peel but there may be more damage to the egg white as pieces of it come off with the shell.
When the egg shell is removed from the egg, the egg becomes vulnerable and we are able to do anything we want with it.  
When a child’s boundaries are broken much care needs to be taken to ensure that the crack does not result in larger pieces of the boundary being removed.  Protective factors such as family support, education, and encouragement of developmentally appropriate physically and emotionally healthy activities can help keep further exposure from happening, increasing the resilience of the child and limiting future vulnerability. 
Many adults with whom we work have had a lot of damage to their boundaries.  I have worked with women who have had so many personal attacks against them starting at an early age that they have forgotten or have never known that that they can have boundaries.  They have been exposed for so long without protection that they no longer believe that boundaries exist for them. For some of them, the idea of personal boundaries may be an alien concept or they may be fearful of setting boundaries because when they do so someone comes along and tries to break their shell again.
We don’t know what has happened to someone when we first meet them.  We don’t know if their shell was removed all at once, in large chunks, or they just have a few cracks.  However, we find out soon enough that they struggle with maintaining boundaries and they may need our support.  We can help them find the resources and strength they need to further protect themselves.  This includes modeling appropriate boundaries and respecting their boundaries.
Unlike the eggs I use for salad, with the appropriate support and building up of community and protective factors, someone who has had their boundaries damaged can rebuild their life. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Boundaries and the Art of Compassionate Detachment

As I work with advocates I often find that many of them struggle with maintaining healthy boundaries with the survivors with whom they work on a daily basis.  It is so hard to listen to the stories of abuse and see the effects of trauma without ending up giving a little bit more of ourselves until we are eventually drained and feeling our own loss of hope.  There is also a tendency, at times, to enter into special relationships with people with whom we feel a connection.  This may feel like friendship to someone who hasn't many friends or like parenting to someone who feels the need to connect with a motherly figure. It feels good in the short term, but can eventually lead to hurt feelings and a break in the relationship.

We talk about establishing healthy boundaries in our world.  Sometimes this can feel like we are cutting ourselves off from people in order to preserve the advocate/survivor relationship.  However, we can also lend ourselves to the idea of "compassionate detachment."  This allows us to still be caring but we separate ourselves from the outcome of the relationship.  We remember that the person's growth is a process to which we are caring witnesses.  We witness their emerging  power rather than impose our own will and desires.  We also are compassionate with our selves by letting go of the outcome.

Here are a few good articles I found on compassionate detachment that I hope you will find helpful.