Tag Archives: recovery

Journaling for healing

How journaling benefits our health, via Huffington Post:

In today’s busy world, we hear a lot about remembering to slow down, to unplug from technology, and to find ways to de-stress. I, myself, have written about the many benefits of meditation and yoga — not just for adults, but for children as well. There is another method I recommend, and that is the daily practice of journaling.

The very act of writing has been scientifically shown to be a beneficial creative process. By putting pen to paper, you are using the left side of your brain, which is critical and rational. This gives the right side of your brain a chance to access your feelings and intuition without any mental blocks.

Other health benefits of journaling include:

  • Improved immune system
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung and liver function

In my experience researching the neuroscience behind stress and relationships, women –especially mothers — tend to repress their feelings of pain and depression in order to focus on the needs of others, such as their children, spouses, relatives. By taking a few minutes each day to write down those feelings, without hesitation or editing, unblocks the reservoir of energy spent in repression and allows women to use that energy for self-discovery and healing.


1. Write consistently. Think of journaling as a daily practice that you would incorporate into your routine as you would yoga or running. Aim to write in your journal each day for 20 minutes. The day-to-day expectation of creativity effectively confronts the thoughts and feelings that are keeping us up at night.

2. Consider starting out each day journaling. A 2012 University of Toronto studypublished in the journal Emotion has shown that people are more optimistic in the morning. Writing first thing in the morning helps give you a fresh perspective and the chance to start the day off with a clear mind.

3. Never self-edit. Write freely, without worrying about spelling or grammar, and without the burden of worrying about what others might think about the words you choose. This journal is for you, and you alone. It might take practice, as we are programmed throughout our lives to write for others, but once you get into the habit of writing freely, you will start to get a clearer picture of what your true feelings are and then be able to work through them.

4. Record it all: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to list the happiest moments of your life as well as the lowest moments of your life. This helps give you perspective of the complete picture. In reviewing your journal, you will be able to step back and see the whole story of who you are and how you got to where you are: what defines you, and where you want to go. Further, self-analysis builds self-worth by validating the entirety of your world-view, including your goals and values.

As you continue with your new journaling practice, you will begin to see your life through new eyes: you can now look at and clarify events that have shaped you. This in turn gives you a sense of control and reduces stress. A regular practice of journaling offers you the chance to explore your innermost thoughts and emotions, to know yourself better, and to engage in the most intimate and most important relationship you can ever have: with your true self. As my mother was fond of saying: “To know all, is to forgive all.”

Supporting teen survivors

7 ways to help a teen survivor of sexual assault, via Everyday Feminism:

(Trigger Warning)

It is devastating to discover that a teen you love has been a victim of sexual violence. When faced with their pain and confusion, you may find yourself feeling powerless to help. If the victim is your own child, the sense of grief can be consuming.

Remember, you are not alone. Other parents and allies have walked this healing path and can help guide you and your loved one through recovery.

As the Founder and Director of Survivor Healing and Empowerment, a healing community for survivors of rape, abuse and domestic minor sex-trafficking, I want you to know that there are many ways you can compassionately support the teen survivor in your life.  44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, so we need to carefully assess the unique needs of young men and women who have endured this trauma. Some of the resources I share will be more applicable to teen girls, but many of these suggestions serve survivors of all gender identities.

Here are are 7 tips to help begin this journey to wholeness:

1. Encourage your loved one to express herself. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Psychologist Dana C. Jack calls depression “the silencing of the self.” Consider finding a counselor who integrates expressive arts therapies (such as art, music or dance therapy). Creative expression helps teens connect with and process the truth of their experience. Writing as A Way of Healing by Louise A. DeSalvo and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron are excellent sources of encouragement for a survivor who wants to heal through creative expression.

2. Help her explore contemplative practices. A contemplative practice quiets the mind in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight. Examples include yoga, tai chi, meditation and prayer. This is particularly helpful in healing dissociation, a way that trauma victims disconnect from their experience in order to survive. If your loved one has been abused by a religious figure or someone affiliated with your spiritual community, don’t push religion as a source of healing. Give her space to discover their own spiritual path.

3. Visit the website for Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. Through this site you can search for your local rape crisis center and learn more about sexual assault. Direct your teen to the Online Hotline, an instant messaging section where she will be connected with a trained advocate who will answer any of her questions. After connecting with your local crisis center, research recovery groups and ask for referrals. She needs to know that she is not alone. Hearing the stories of other survivors helps to heal self-blame and shame. I also highly recommend Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse by Dr. Patti Feuereisen as a recovery companion.

4. Engage her in discussions about the media. Help her dismantle messages that reinforce sexual objectification. Verbal abuse expert, Patricia Evans, says that verbal abuse occurs when someone “tells lies about who you are.” Mainstream media constantly tells lies about who girls are. Make sure that she can critically engage with representations of girls and women that emphasize their value as sexual commodities. For excellent feminist critiques of pop culture in a teen-friendly space, check out Bitch Magazine. SPARK is an innovative organization helping girls differentiate between sexuality and sexualization.

5. Talk about healthy relationships. Surviving sexual assault is one of greatest predictors for your teen to eventually experience some form of relationship violence. Be pro-active in discussing the difference between an abusive and a respectful relationship. Model this in your own life and refer her to loveisrespect.org as well as the sex-positive teen site Scarleteen.com.

6. Honor her boundaries. Ask for permission before touching or hugging the survivor. It is important that she feel in control of her body at all times. You can discuss safety planning, but make sure that you do not take away her freedoms out of your own fear. Check out the Circle of 6, a cutting-edge app that will help her stay safe.

7. Never blame the survivor. Remind her that it is not her fault. She did whatever she needed to in order to survive. Ultimately, the greatest gift you can give is to be a patient, empathetic listener. To learn the basics of empathetic listening, read a book such as Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD.

Be gentle with yourself and your teen during this time of recovery. Self-care is essential for both of you. Do not hesitate to reach out to a counselor or rape crisis center for support as you process what has happened. Sexual assault is devastating, but there is hope for those who choose a healing path.

Cleveland survivors return home

Earlier this week, three women who were missing for over a decade (and had no previous connection to one another), were found, and are now returning home.   This story is both heartbreaking and amazing.  Heartbreaking for the 10+ years of horror that they experienced; amazing for their survival and rescue.  Hopefully, they can now begin their healing and recovery processes, and the media will give them the respect and privacy to do so.

From The Washington Times:

Amanda Berry, fellow Cleveland captives turn to recovery after being kidnapped

Details began emerging Tuesday about the horrors endured by three Cleveland women who were kidnapped and held for a decade in a run-down house with plastic bags over the windows, but researchers on abductions and sexual assault say there will be a lot of help for them and their families.

As the sensational story developed, police encounters with the house in a poor neighborhood also began coming to light. They included separate calls from neighbors about seeing a nude woman crawling in the backyard and hearing pounding from inside the home’s doors.

The women, who reached freedom Monday night, “are now embarking on their next journey, and that’s the journey to heal,” said John Ryan, chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which supported the hunt for two of the missing women, Amanda Berry and Georgina DeJesus, who vanished as teens. The third woman, Michelle Knight, was reported as missing as an adult.

Mr. Ryan, whose group offers resources for family counseling for such traumas, called the escape “a day of celebration.”

“Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over,” said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI office in Cleveland. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”

Cleveland police have arrested three brothers — Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50 — in the case. Criminal charges were expected to be filed by Wednesday.

According to NewsChannel 5 in Ohio, the three women endured multiple pregnancies during their years of captivity. At least five babies were born inside the home, and one victim had at least two miscarriages because she was so malnourished, reporters said. The house was boarded up in parts, some doors did not have knobs, and chains and tape were found inside.

Melissa Bermudez, a licensed clinical social worker at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest organization against sexual violence, said she couldn’t speak to the specifics of the Cleveland case but that victims of trauma and sexual violence generally need to “feel physically safe” as an important first step.

Next steps are commonly getting back into basic self-care — brushing one’s teeth, for instance — eating a good meal, reconnecting with loved ones, and re-establishing a sense of safety and stability, Ms. Bermudez said.

“Then they can really start working towards [addressing] the more complex parts of the trauma,” she said, noting that it’s not uncommon for certain sounds, smells and lighting in a room to trigger unpleasant memories.

The women were rescued Monday evening after Ms. Berry, 27, cried out for help to a neighbor, Charles Ramsey, from behind a nearly closed front door. When Mr. Ramsey saw her fighting to get through the door, he and another man came to her aid by kicking in the door. Ms. Berry and a little girl — believed to be her 6-year-old daughter — scrambled out.

They ran to a safe place, and Ms. Berry frantically called a 911 dispatcher and said, “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”

Police swiftly converged on 2207 Seymour Ave., a house near downtown Cleveland, and found two other women — Ms. DeJesus, 23, and Ms. Knight, 30 — who also vanished about a decade ago.

Authorities arrested homeowner Ariel Castro and his two brothers.

The three women and the girl were taken to a hospital and released Tuesday morning. Cleveland police Commander Keith Sulzer said they were with law enforcement specialists and family members.

“Those women are so strong. All have a positive attitude,” Sandra Ruiz, aunt of Ms. DeJesus, told reporters Tuesday. “What we’ve done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive.”

However, two neighbors in the mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood where the women were held said they had alerted police to suspicions regarding the Castro home.

Elsie Citron, whose daughter saw the naked woman some years ago, told reporters that she called law enforcement, “but they didn’t take it seriously.”

Israel Lugo said that when he called about hearing noises from inside the home 18 months ago, police merely knocked on the door, and when they didn’t get an answer they “walked to side of the house and then left.”

According to The Associated Press, police went to the home at least one other time since the women were kidnapped, but on an unrelated matter that led to no arrests or official action.

Cleveland police have been accused of incompetence and not noticing crimes in poor and minority neighborhoods. In 2009, Anthony Sowell was arrested after 11 women’s bodies were found buried in his home and yard in another run-down neighborhood. Many of Sowell’s victims — he is now on Ohio’s death row — were addicts whose disappearances were barely investigated.

In the latest case, Ms. Knight vanished in August 2002 when she was 19 and was reported missing by her family. Her mother, Barbara Knight, moved to Florida but often returned to West Cleveland to search for her daughter.

Ms. Berry was last seen April 2003 leaving her job at Burger King in a car with an unidentified driver. She was 16.

Ms. DeJesus vanished while walking home from school when she was 14.

Ms. Berry’s mother, Louwana Miller, died in March 2006 after being hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments. Her relentless search for her daughter took a toll on her health, family and friends said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.