17th annual March for Violence-Free Communities!

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For the previous 16 years, we have gathered at the gazebo in downtown Farmington, then marched to the Speak Out at the Old South Church. This year, on Wednesday, April 29th, at 5:30 PM, we will be beginning and ending at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF)! Participants will gather outside of the Student Center on South Street, and the Speak Out will take place in the North Dining Hall inside of the Student Center.

If desired, all participants will have the opportunity to speak out and share their thoughts and feelings on the issues surrounding all forms of violence.

There is a new coalition at UMF called the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC). This Coalition is composed of students, faculty, and staff, and their mission is to promote a safe campus by reducing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Those involved with CVPC are excited to help plan, and bring the March to their school.

Light refreshments will be served.

Keynote speaker: TBA

Non-consensual pornography increasingly an issue that must be addressed, via the SunJournal:

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(Article 3 of 4 for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

In this world, our private information is less private than ever. With the click of a button, private images can be posted for millions of people to see. In an era of digital communication, Maine’s sexual assault support centers are seeing that non-consensual pornography is increasingly an issue for the clients we serve.

A bill before the Maine Legislature — LD 679 —  would criminalize non-consensual pornography, commonly known as revenge porn. The bill, which has dozens of co-sponsors, would make the intentional distribution of explicit material without permission illegal if the subject is identifiable. The bill would make such distribution a Class D crime, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

To some, that may seem like a small price for offenders who have sought to ruin the lives of their victims.

It is difficult to quantify the impact of non-consensual pornography. However, we know that victims of this behavior face significant and specific harm, including harm to relationships with friends, family, and co-workers; and harm to future educational and professional prospects.

Sexual assault advocates across the state work with victims of revenge porn each year. After her name and intimate photos of her were posted on several websites by an ex-boyfriend, one Maine victim has moved out of the community where she has lived all of her life, is in the process of changing her name, has developed severe anxiety and agoraphobia, feels humiliated and ashamed, and has told the advocate she is working with, “I will never be in a relationship ever again.”

Unfortunately for some victims, the impact does not end there. Due to the public nature of non-consensual pornography, victims often receive threats of additional sexual violence, stalking and harassment. This is especially significant, given that a recent study of victims demonstrates that, along with distributed images, 59 percent had their full name posted, 26 percent had their email address posted, 16 percent had their physical home address posted, and 14 percent had their work address posted.

Sometimes, in addition to the images, further information is shared, including the names of siblings and parents, bank account information, passwords and links to social media accounts.

In another Maine case, the link to the website where a victim’s photos were posted (without her consent) was sent to organizations where she was applying for internships — all from her email account, which had been hacked.

People who choose to take photos of themselves often do so with the understanding and firm belief that the photos will never be shared outside of their consensual relationship. Sometimes, those relationships change and the photos are then distributed, or a threat to distribute them is made. In other circumstances, the photos are taken under duress or via coercion.

And yet, victims are often blamed for an offender’s actions. Instead of asking, “What would make someone do that to someone else?” victims are generally asked, “Why did you send him that photo in the first place? What were you thinking?”

However, blaming the victim means we refuse to hold the real party responsible — the offender. Just like other forms of sexual violence, preventing revenge porn includes holding offenders accountable. Criminalizing revenge porn will help mitigate its consequences.

With all types of sexual activity, consent must be free, willing and ongoing. The same standard must be applied with regard to the disclosure of private images. The law recognizes that a customer’s consent to giving his credit card to a waiter to run a tab is not consent for that waiter to use the information on a personal shopping spree.

Permitting someone use of information in one context does not — and should not — mean consent in other contexts.

Cara Courchesne, a Lewiston native, is the communications director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Commercial Sex Industry Flourishes in the U.S., by Keri Myrick, via The SunJournal:

(Article 2 of 4 during April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

When you hear the phrase “commercial sexual exploitation of children,” what do you think?

You may think that sex trafficking only happens overseas to young girls. Actually, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking occur every day in the United States. Its victims are male, female and transgender youths living in cities and small towns across America. The average age of introduction into the commercial sex trade industry is 12 years old.

Do you think these children who are commercially sexually exploited or trafficked for sex are recognized as victims of crime and abuse?

Actually, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking is child abuse. However, children and adolescent victims are often arrested for prostitution, detained or incarcerated and subject to permanent records as offenders in most of the United States.

Do you think that people who buy sex with minors or engage in the act of sex with minors are caught and punished for these crimes?

Actually, despite laws in every state that allow prosecution of these individuals, and despite the hard work of law enforcement and prosecutors in many jurisdictions, a majority of those who have sexually exploited children and adolescents have mostly escaped accountability.

What exactly is commercial sexual exploitation of children (or CSEC)?

Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs when individuals buy, trade or sell sexual acts with a child. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act.

Children who are involved in the commercial sex industry are victims of severe forms of “trafficking in persons,” which is sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion and in which the person has not attained 18 years of age.

In short, CSEC is a form of violence against children.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children can involve street prostitution, escort services, pornography, stripping, private parties, gang-based prostitution, Internet-based exploitation and interfamilial pimping.

Given this information, you may now be asking yourself how a child becomes a victim of CSEC?

Children and adolescents are often targeted. Predators will quite often seek out vulnerable victims, such as runaways or children experiencing problems at home. Predators know that those children have emotional and physical needs that are not being met at home, so they step in and meet those needs.

Predators are not always strangers, they may also be a parent or family member.

Children and adolescents are often tricked. Predators will spend a great deal of time and money to gain their victims’ trust and loyalty. Quite often the predator will “groom” the child, buying them gifts, providing them a place to stay, plying them with affection and “love.”

On occasion these predators will also provide drugs and alcohol to the child in order to get the child addicted. They then use this addiction to further control the child and get them to do whatever is needed to feed their addiction.

Children and adolescents are often traumatized. Predators will use control (threats and violence) to manipulate their victims. They will often use love as a manipulating factor, having the child believe that it is the predator who truly loves and cares for them and that if they were to leave, no one else would want them.

Targeting, tricking and traumatizing children and adolescents makes them feel powerless and trapped. Many of these victims have no one to turn to for help and support, so they become further bonded to their abuser(s).

Sadly, most victims of CSEC also have a prior history of sexual violence victimization. Youths who live in shelters or on the streets may also engage or be coerced into trading sex for food, shelter, other basic needs or drugs.

Finally, you may ask yourself how to spot the signs of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

There are many “red flags” or signs to look for, such as visible signs of abuse: changes in physical appearance; unexplained absences from home, school or residence; multiple cell phones or pagers; involvement with a male who is older and controlling; a history of multiple sexually transmitted infections; unexplained tattoos; interest in pornography or sex trades; loss of interest in age-appropriate activities; drug use and/or addiction and disconnection from family or other caregivers.

Anyone having concerns about a child or adolescent regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children may contact DHHS Child Protection: 1-800-452-1999; the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: www.cybertipline.com; or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-373-7888.

Keri Myrick is coordinator and forensic interviewer at the Androscoggin Children’s Advocacy Center.

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Local Events Coming up, via The Daily Bulldog:

**Please Note: Since this article has been published, some changes have been made to the movie/discussion nights. The showing of “The Mask You Live In” on April 17th has been canceled due to scheduling conflicts, and will be show instead of “Misrepresentation” on April 22nd, at 5:30 PM in Thomas Auditorium at UMF**

National Sexual Assault Awareness Month happens across the country, every year, to educate the public and raise awareness around issues of sexual violence. These efforts can include informational presentations, community events, and social media campaigns, to name a few. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the sexual assault awareness movement began in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the end of the 1990s that the entire month of April was designated to the cause.

For April 2015, the slogan for SAAM in Maine is: “Consent looks different to each of us. All you have to do is ask.” Consent does look different to each of us, because we all communicate and express ourselves in different ways. For some people that expression may be verbal, and for others it may be non-verbal. It is important to know how to ask for consent, and to know how to respond when someone gives or does not give consent. Consent is the essential component in any sexual interaction, and if it is not freely given, it is assault. This is why good communication is a key aspect of healthy sexuality.
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Healthy sexuality is having the knowledge, and a sense of empowerment to express one’s sexuality. This knowledge and empowerment not only contributes positively to one’s self-esteem, but also to their relationships with others.

Both consent and healthy sexuality contribute to sexual violence prevention, and they also support sexual assault survivors. Healthy sexuality supports survivors by acknowledging that their body is their own, that they control their sexuality, and that they have the right to expect their sexual partners to be respectful of their boundaries.

The more we talk about healthy ways to engage with one another, the closer we get to a culture that is free of sexual violence.

• Each year, 13,000 Mainers will experience sexual violence
• Approximately 7.7 percent of Maine high school students report that they have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse
• A recent study found that nearly one in five adult Maine residents reports that they have been the victim of rape or attempted rape during their lifetime (Source: www.mecasa.org)

At Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS), we work towards preventing and eliminating sexual violence in Franklin, Androscoggin, and Oxford counties. Please join us at our upcoming events that are free, and open to the public in Franklin County.

On the following Wednesdays in April, we will be having movie and discussion nights at the University of Maine at Farmington: “The Mask You Live In” on April 15, and “Misrepresentation” on April 22. All films will be shown at 7 p.m. in Lincoln Auditorium, which is located in the Roberts Learning Center building.

On Wednesday, April 29 we will be holding the 17th annual March for Violence-Free Communities. Participants will gather outside of the UMF Student Center on South Street at 5:30 p.m. The march will be followed by a Speak Out that will take place in the North Dining Hall, which is located inside of the UMF Student Center. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information about Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) or our services, please visit our website at www.sapars.org or call us at 778-9522. The statewide, toll free, 24-hour sexual assault crisis and support helpline is 1-800-871-7741.

– Submitted by FCDV Task Force Member Agency: Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services

The Franklin County Domestic Violence Task Force is a coalition of agencies and concerned citizens with a mission to lead and empower local people to end domestic violence. For more information about the FCDVTF, please contact Kelley Glidden at (207)795-6744 or email kglidden@safevoices.org.

5K FUNdraiser!

Please join us for our 3rd annual Teal Ribbon Run/Walk 5K in South Paris, ME on Saturday, April 25th!

Registration begins at 9:00 AM. Walkers who are not being timed begin at 9:45 AM. Runners and timed walkers begin at 10 AM.

Location: 1 E Main St., South Paris (Same Building as Ocean Breeze- 44 E Main on GPS)

Cost = $20, kids 12 years and younger = FREE!

You can register and pay online at: http://5k.sapars.org/, or mail registrations and payments to:

Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services
PO Box 6
Auburn, Maine 04212

Please make checks payable to SAPARS

For more information, please call Lauren Dembski at (207) 743-9777 ext. 5

 

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An Effective College Response to Sexual Assault Provides Additional Recourse for Survivors, by Marty McIntyre, via The SunJournal: 

[Article 1 of 4 during April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month]

For the past few years, increased attention has focused on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The statistics are horrifying. The federal government has established new regulations to guide colleges in effectively preventing and responding to sexual assault.

One frequently debated issue is whether colleges should have their own judicial proceedings regarding sexual assault, or whether sexual assaults should only be adjudicated through the criminal justice system.

As an advocate for survivors of sexual violence, I believe that having a campus reporting option available to students is important and serves as a strong addition to the option of a criminal justice report.

Not all adults who are sexually assaulted report the crime to the police. While there are many reasons for not reporting, for college students the decision may be more complex. If they live elsewhere, reporting the crime ties them to a criminal justice process in the college community that may take a year or more to resolve and could require them to return for some proceedings during times that they might not otherwise be on campus. And, during the time they are on campus, the survivor could be in proximity to the person who assaulted them, possibly running into them regularly in the course of their daily campus life.

Colleges obviously cannot do a criminal adjudication on sexual assault or any other behavior that is against the law. That is the purview of our criminal justice system. It is the responsibility of colleges, however, to determine if a student has violated the school’s established code of conduct.

In the case of an alleged sexual assault, the college would determine if the accused student violated the code of conduct which prohibits sexual assault. If the determination is yes, the college can impose sanctions on that student, including expulsion from the college. Because of the seriousness of the charge and the possible penalties, colleges have an obligation to implement systems that are informed, objective and fair to all involved.

Colleges have come a long way in the strategies employed to investigate these assaults. Many colleges used to have a student conduct board made up of various combinations of faculty, staff and students. Colleges typically provided training to those boards to understand and evaluate the different issues they might see during the year, but these boards were often made up of people who had familiarity or relationships with the accuser or the accused (potentially causing bias) and/or who were not fully prepared to evaluate the complex issues they would review.

Many colleges have now changed their approach when addressing charges of sexual assault. Many employ an independent investigator who has special training in assessing these cases and who has no bias toward the case. The investigators present their findings and their recommendations to some sort of hearing board within the college. While accusers and the accused would be interviewed by the investigator, they may not ever have to testify before the hearing board. This process has ensured more effective, specialized assessment, less chance for bias, and less trauma for the people involved.

The benefit for sexual assault victims can be enormous.

First, they can choose to report the crime to the police AND report the assault through the campus system, giving them twice the options of a sexual assault survivor living in the community.

When a sexual assault survivor reports the assault through their college, they can often arrange for accommodations such as being excused from classes for a period of time or measures taken to ensure the safety and protection of the survivor. The campus response process generally happens more quickly than the criminal justice process, giving the survivor a more timely resolution. And, if the accused is found to have violated the student conduct code and is expelled from the college due to the seriousness of the violation, the sexual assault survivor is able to proceed with their college career without fear of that person influencing their experience.

Our local colleges welcome our college advocate onto their campuses to provide support and guidance to sexual assault survivors. The advocate can help sexual assault survivors to understand the options they have for reporting the assault to law enforcement and on their campus, and provide support for them through either or both of those processes.

Sexual assault is a horrendous experience wherever it happens. An effective college response system should not take the place of a criminal justice adjudication, but provide another, additional recourse for survivors.

Marty McIntyre is executive director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Responses Services, serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

5 ways to protect your children and teens from sexual abuse, via The Bangor Daily News: Maine Focus:

In the wake of a recent suicide of a local teacher following an investigation of sexual exploitation of a minor (as reported by the BDN), the community of Bangor is reeling. As details unfold, parents and concerned adults have many questions about how to keep the children and teens in their lives safe from harm.

While there is no panacea to protecting children and teens, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

  • Technology plays a role, but it’s not the reason. Use of technology is ever changing, and we are pretty consistently connected through the devices we carry around in our work bags, purses and backpacks. It is easy to blame increased use of technology for crimes against children and teens, but it’s important to remember that sex crimes are not a new phenomenon. We know that perpetrators seek out those who are vulnerable: children, older adults, and people with disabilities are a few populations more likely to be sexually abused. Perpetrators are often people we know and respect in a community, which feels like an additional layer of betrayal. But while technology may play a role in easier access to children and teens, it is not the reason sex crimes are perpetrated: Perpetrators are the reason sex crimes are perpetrated.
  • Children and teens are going to use technology. Children and teens are going to access new technologies and in many cases access them faster and with more tech knowledge than adults in their lives. It’s important to educate yourself about the technology the children in your life use and talk to them about the role it plays in their lives. The more involved in your child’s tech world you are, the better chance you have of knowing when something may be wrong.
  • Be the type of adult children and teens in your life can talk to. Having honest conversations about what’s going on with your child or teen may be difficult, especially when a teen may seem closed off and not interested in a friendly chat. But continuing to mention that you are available should they need you, asking about their day and who they hung out with, talking with them about their feelings about anything from their difficult math test to anxiety about an upcoming lacrosse game will help demonstrate that you care and you’re there. That connection may be just what they need open up when something is bothering them or if they’re in an unsafe situation.
  • Sex talk isn’t easy, but it’s important. We have to acknowledge that we live in a culture where sex is hard to talk about. But the clearer we are about the importance of boundaries (both a teen or child’s own boundaries and the boundaries of others), communication and consent, the less likely a child or teen is to feel ashamed about needing to talk about an uncomfortable or hurtful situation. Organizations like Maine Family Planning have great age-appropriate resources for parents to talk with their kids about sex and can help you navigate the difficulty of such conversations.
  • Support people who come forward. With more media attention to this issue, more victims may come forward. It’s important to support people who have experienced sexual violence. The more we actively support people who have experienced sexual violence, the safer our communities will be for everyone.

For some, the coverage of what’s happening in our community may be especially difficult. Agencies like Rape Response Services andother sexual assault support centers in Maine are available if you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse or assault, if you have questions, or if you just want to talk about how the events of the last week have affected you.

Our community will face difficult conversations in the coming days, weeks, and months, but we have the resources and ability to respond with awareness and compassion.

If you or someone you know would like to talk to a sexual assault support advocate, please call         1-800-871-7741 [Maine only].

5 Things to Consider After a Recent Sexual Assault, via Everyday Feminism:

(Trigger Warning: This article contains discussion of sexual violence.)

There’s no right or wrong way to respond to a sexual assault.

The way you respond is influenced by a number of social and individual forces, all of which are reasonable and appropriate.

But sometimes when someone experiences a sexual assault, it’s hard to decide what to do next. It can be difficult to know which move is the right one for you, which step feels like the right step to take.

Sometimes people feel disorganized or confused, making it hard to prioritize a list of needs and steps forward.

So, in order to help in that regard, here are five things to keep in mind as you navigate the future after a sexual assault.

1. Safety

Safety is key.

Healing cannot take place – and the trauma that you experienced cannot truly end – without feeling a sense of physical safety.

If you have been sexually assaulted recently, one of the most important initial considerations is your own physical safety.

Are you in a position where an assault is likely occur again? Of course, it’s not up to you to prevent your own assault – that is only the responsibility of the perpetrator. The relieving and critical peace of mind that comes along with a diminished risk is within your power, though!

For example, if the person who hurt you is a live-in partner, is there a friend or family member who would let you crash with them for a bit? Or if the perpetrator has a key to your apartment, is there a way for you to change the locks?

Safety should never be the responsibility of a survivor. We should live in a world where sexual violence does not exist and where everyone is safe because people who want to commit crimes have learned other ways to control those urges.

But unfortunately, we don’t.

I would never, ever suggest that someone change their behavior to prevent their own experience of violence – because that simply isn’t possible. But I do believe that it’s important for someone to take whichever steps they think are necessary in order to help them feel as safe as humanly possible.

That feeling of safety – of being out of immediate danger, of experiencing a sense of autonomous security – is key to healing from sexual assault.

2. Support

The reality is that healing from sexual violence must take place within the context of healing and emotionally safe relationships – whether platonic, familial, or romantic.

Holding the secret of survivorship doesn’t work. It’s lonely, it’s isolating, and it can even feel like your head is a toxic space, rather than the safe and loving mental space that we all deserve to inhabit.

The act of relating to another human can, in itself, be curative. The act of verbalizing the nature of the trauma to someone who you trust can be amazingly relieving. And the act of being heard, respected, and validated is nothing short of therapeutic.

Depending on your circumstances, there may be a person in your life with whom you can safely share the truth of your experience of sexual assault. This person may be a best friend, a partner, a community member, or someone in your family.

The choice of who (or if!) to tell is completely yours.

As you’re deciding who might be a trusted and safe person, here are some factors to keep in mind:

Will they judge you? Will they know, unequivocally, that it was not your fault? Will they know not to question any part of your experience?

Will they be able and willing to respect your privacy? Are they a trustworthy person who will respect your wishes around who (and under which circumstances) you would like to know about your assault?

Will they be willing and able to respect your autonomy? You have a lot of choices that you will be making in the upcoming days, weeks, and months after your assault. Many of these choices relate to reporting, seeking medical care, and talking to professionals. Will this person respect that your decisions are yours and yours alone? Will they honor whatever you choose?

Will they be on your side 100%? To choose neutrality is to choose the perpetrator – and that shit just can’t happen.

Remember that the decision to share your truth with another person is just that – your decision.But if it feels safe to do so, it might just be healing.

3. Self-Care

You have survived something awful. You experienced a trauma that no one should ever have to experience. And you came out alive.

That is remarkable. You, dear human, are remarkable.

You deserve to take care of yourself in the best way you know how. You deserve to nurse all of the battle wounds you incurred during your assault.

There are parts of you that are going to feel confused and fearful and sad. You may also feel anger or joy or fraudulence or numbness – or a million different combinations of a million different emotions.

Every single emotion and every single combination of emotions is completely and totally normal. You are normal.

You deserve to treat yourself kindly in the midst of the complex emotional experience that you may be having right now.

What does self-care look like for you?

Does it mean a day at the spa, a yoga class, a night out or in with a friend? Does it mean cooking a nutritious dinner or ordering a pizza? Does self-care mean creating a ritual that allows you space to breathe? Or does it mean a one-time special treat for yourself?

Whatever self-care means to you, now is the time to practice it. You are going through a lot right now, and you deserve kindness from yourself.

4. Choices

After being sexually assaulted, you have a number of choices to make related to the types of services you would like to access.

You have the option of reporting the assault to the police, pursuing a court case, and/or seeking medical attention or undergoing a forensic exam for evidence collection. You also have the option of reaching out to an advocate or therapist for emotional support.

These choices are deeply personal and each individual will make a different decision based on any number of factors.

Issues of identity play a huge role in the way a sexual assault is perceived by law enforcement and medical professionals, unfortunately. And there is rarely justice for survivors of sexual assault, even when the survivor fits into what we deem “worthy” or “acceptable.” So justice happens even less frequently when the survivor is a man, is a person of color, is trans, is a sex worker – the list goes on.

Depending on your individual circumstances, reporting an assault may or may not be the right thing to do. And unfortunately, a lot of people will have an opinion on this that they will want you to know.

But stop.

Ask yourself: Do I want to report this crime or undergo a forensic exam or involve any professionals at all?

And listen to the answer that your heart provides. Everyone else can (and will) deal with your decisions.

If you do wish to report the assault and seek medical care, calling your local rape crisis centeris a good place to start. Likewise, if you are interested in seeking advocacy or therapy, your rape crisis center should have resources for you.

5. Accommodations

You deserve to take the time and space necessary to heal.

If you are in school or at work, I hope you will feel empowered and deserving of time off. You are entitled to a vacation, and you are entitled to an extension on that paper or exam.

It is strong and brave to ask for what you need and deserve. You deserve accommodations so that you can begin the work of healing. You deserve to prioritize your own wellness and elevate your emotional and physical health above all else.

It’s important to keep in mind that you do not owe anyone an explanation. You do not have to disclose your sexual assault to anyone, even when you are asking for accommodations.

Your request can be as simple as “I’ve had an unexpected personal matter arise, and I need time to attend to that.” Or you can tell the full story of your assault if it feels safe to do so. Just remember that you are not obligated to disclose.

That paper that’s due next week? While I’m certain that it’s important, I’m also certain that it’snot more important than your own need for sleep, healthful meals, exercise, and relationships – all things that may take additional energy or effort after an assault.

You will likely need to make choices about what you can feasibly do. And there is a lot of privilege inherent in these choices.

If it’s at all possible, I would gently encourage you to ask for the time and space you need to elevate your own healing. If you are fortunate enough to work a job that has paid vacation time, it may make sense to take a few of those days. If you don’t have paid time off, but can afford to miss a day or two of pay, remember that your own healing is worth the cost.

And if you aren’t able to take time off of work or school, allow yourself to take time off of other areas in your life. Maybe you won’t be able to attend Sunday night dinner with your family – and that’s okay. Maybe you won’t be able to drive a friend to the airport – and that’s okay.

Feel entitled to whatever accommodations you need in order to support your own healing. You deserve it.

***

As you move forward in your healing journey, remember to treat yourself with the same loving kindness that I am certain you would dole out effortlessly to the people around you.

You deserve nothing less.