Friday, January 14, 2011
I think that our VICTIM to SURVIVOR to THRIVER theme is catching on!!!
President Barack Obama’s speech was very inspiring, speaking of all those who were killed that day in Arizona and those who survived and are bravely fighting to once again thrive!
Here’s one quote from the speech that I really liked:
“We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved -- and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.”
You can view a video of the entire speech.
You can also get a complete transcript of the speech,
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Don't miss our Wednesday, October 20 event -- An Evening of Thriver Spirit and Song -- in Hartford Connecticut. It will be a book signing event and concert that celebrates one of the success stories in my new book, The Thriver Workbook: Journey from Victim to Survivor to Thriver!. Join us. The event is free of charge. You can register at www.thethriverbook.eventbrite.com. For more on the event, here's your official invite!
Soon we had people with thriver bracelets on all over the conference. Martin Moran, child sexual abuse survivor and author of an excellent new memoir, The Tricky Part: A Boy's Story of Sexual Trespass, A Man's Journey to Forgiveness, proudly proclaimed from the stage "I am a Thriver!" as he showed the THRIVER bracelet on his wrist. He received an award at the conference from IVAT for Distinguished Service and Excellence in the Print Media.
I have attended this conference since 2004 in San Diego and I have felt the energy build over the years about recognizing throughout the system -- mental health services and the criminal justice response -- the trauma from violence and abuse that people have experienced in their lives. It significantly impacts our ability to grow and change after such trauma.
I was particularly moved by what Tonier Cain of the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care said as a guest speaker at the opening session of the conference. Tonier, a former drug addict and child sexual assault survivor who lived on the streets for many years. She said that what people need to ask someone who is seeking help in our systems of care is NOT "What is wrong with you!" BUT "What happened to you?" and then listen with care, compassion and empathy. If we can achieve that shift alone then all of us can truly be helped to move beyond abuse and trauma in our lives.
So things are moving! It's happening! More and more people are recognizing that "thriving" is the destination on our journey through violence and abuse, not just merely surviving!
Let's all go out there and speak our truth! We are thrivers!!!
Sunday, April 4, 2010
With easy-to-use work sheets, interactive writing exercises and inspirational success stories from those who have survived abuse, this workbook sets forth the motivational guidance Omilian has successfully used in the My Avenging Angel WorkshopsTM that she has facilitated throughout Connecticut since 2001 in order to help women move on after abuse.
Omilian was inspired to do this work after her niece Maggie, a nineteen-year-old college student, was killed in 1999 by her ex-boyfriend.
“Maggie didn’t live beyond her moment of realizing she was a victim of abuse and she didn’t survive the assault,” explains Omilian. “So now I work with women not only to survive abuse, but also to ‘thrive’ after abuse. I believe women who reclaim their lives in this way are less likely to return to an abusive relationship or suffer the long-term consequences of abuse.”
With the publication of this book, Omilian hopes she can reach the millions of women who will be subjected to abuse and its lingering aftermath in their lifetimes. “I want to show them how to live well, be happy and feel strong and confident once again,” says Omilian.
Omilian will appear at the April 17 event with three singer/songwriters, Vanessa Stevens of The Purple Song Project, Donna Gentile and Kate Callahan. Mary Jones of The Mary Jones Show on WDRC-AM and All That & More on NBC Connecticut will be the emcee for the evening. The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Northwest Park Nature Center, 145 Lang Road, Windsor, CT, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.
A suggested donation of $10 at the door will benefit the Never Going Back to Abuse Project of the Connecticut Alliance for Victims of Violence and Their Families, Inc., (CT-ALIVE) a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose mission is to empower victims and their families to heal after experiencing the trauma of violence and abuse by providing support, advocacy and education. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book that night as well as a Silent Auction will also benefit CT-ALIVE.
“CT-ALIVE is proud to sponsor this fundraiser to support programs that provide the critical ‘next step’ for women to break permanently out of the cycle of violence in their lives,” says Jack Holden, President of the Board of CT-ALIVE. “Our Never Going Back to Abuse Project embraces Susan’s unique, innovative approach to helping women heal, grow and thrive after abuse.”
This CT-ALIVE project, coordinated by Omilian, builds on the life-saving work of the domestic violence shelters and sexual assault crisis centers. The goal of those programs, Omilian points out, is to get women safely out of abusive relationships and support them in dealing with the effects of violence on themselves and their children. “But women who have been abused also need services that will help them rebuild their self esteem and focus on what is positive in their lives,” Omilian adds.
In addition to the workshops and monthly support sessions she provides to women free of charge, Omilian is working with CT-ALIVE to develop other services, such as job counseling, educational programs, housing and support for children exposed to domestic violence.
For more information about the event, call 860-236-2401. Tax-deductible donations to CT-ALIVE can be made to P.O. Box 330083, West Hartford, Connecticut 06110.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
It was so gratifying to see so many people there… the place was packed… getting good information from the speakers and asking good questions. Most gratifying to me was to hear the Richard Graziano, publisher of the Courant and Fox 61 TV News talk about his commitment to the issue of domestic violence. He spoke of Alice Morrin, his executive assistant, who was killed last June by her estranged husband, what a good person and a good mother she was. He said that the Courant and Fox 61 TV would continue to make reporting on this issue a priority. I talked with him after the program and expressed my gratitude for his attention to this issue and told him about my nineteen-year-old niece Maggie and how she was killed by her ex-boyfriend on a college campus in October of 1999.
For me, ten years after Maggie’s death in a dating violence incident, it is great to see all that is being done and yet, as we all know, there is so much more to do. I particularly like what Dr. Pollack said about how to help men and boys today in our society.
Forum On Teen Dating Violence Focuses On Boys, Personal Stories
HARTFORD - Though the spotlight in relationships is usually on teenage girls, boys often are pressured to be in control and never show emotion, a "gender straitjacket" that can push boys toward dating violence, a panelist said during a forum on teen dating violence Tuesday at the University of Hartford.
When boys realize they are not in control in their lives, they may try to control others in relationships, a trend that hurts not only their partners but themselves, said William S. Pollack, author of "Real Boys."
Pollack and other panelists talked about alarming trends in teen dating violence and shared stories of their own teen relationships, such as mistaking constant texting to track their movements as romantic gestures and believing their partner's promises to change.
Iris Ruiz remembered falling in love with her boyfriend and never having a clue that she was trapped in a violent relationship.
"I was very much in love with him. Even though he was really violent, he told me he would change," said Ruiz, who is assistant director of Interval House, which provides services to victims of domestic violence.
It took a long time to realize that the boyfriend's changes were temporary and that she was the one who would have to change — and leave, she said.
"It's not until your intellect takes over your emotions that you can change," Ruiz said.
During the forum, sponsored by The Courant and Fox 61, the experts talked about how to recognize the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, such as extreme jealousy, threats, constant texting, unexplained bruises and fear of a partner.
They also warned that the most dangerous time in such a relationship is the effort to break up, and they urged women to develop a safety plan in advance and get advice from a dating violence source such http://www.endabuse.org/.
Some of the panelists lamented that, in a world of tabloid and reality TV shows, there aren't many healthy role models for teens. They said schools and parents should begin teaching students about healthy relationships at an early age.
Panelist Jhumka Gupta, of the Yale School of Public Health, an expert on violence against girls and boys, said studies show a connection between dating violence and unwanted pregnancy. In some cases, abusers try to sabotage birth control, such as flushing the pills down the toilet, to control their girlfriend's ability to protect herself against unwanted pregnancy.
The audience was packed with students, concerned parents, teachers and some victims who grimly connected with the painful stories being told.
Gina Ratz, 20, a student at Central Connecticut State University said she remembers being covered with bruises, having cash stolen from her and having a gallon of Bacardi rum thrown at her head during a relationship."
Once you end the relationship, you realize how long ago you should have known," Ratz said.
Panelists said parents should take notice if their children seem depressed or socially withdrawn, if they no longer hang out with the same friends or if their grades start to plummet. For boys, parents should look for negative macho talk, threatening behavior toward adults and irritability and negativity, which often are signs of depression, Pollack said.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
“It’s Maggie,” she said, her voice trembling. “She’s been shot. She’s dead.”
I couldn’t believe it. Maggie, my brother’s 19-year-old daughter, had been murdered at school by her ex-boyfriend who then killed himself. It was another senseless act of violence but this time, Maggie – our Maggie – was dead.
In my heart, I knew I had already felt loss in my life. Two years before, I had been forced out of a well-paying job and prior to that, I went through a devastating divorce. But the impact of this new trauma was different. Shock, guilt and the cry for revenge welled up inside me but who could I blame? Surely someone should have saved Maggie. Why not me?
Oddly enough, I saw signs of my own recovery in Maggie’s death. I had worked for years as a feminist attorney and advocate for women’s rights but Maggie’s death made the issues of violence against women more personal and very immediate. If this could happen to my family and to Maggie, it could happen to anyone. But what was I being called to do?
One morning it came to me. I was thinking about the power of the moment when a woman decides to leave her abuser. I realized that Maggie did not live beyond her moment, but suddenly I imagined myself working with other women to transform their lives after abuse. After all, wasn’t getting on with one’s life the most exacting revenge against a man who had tried to bend that woman to his will?
By then I could see that for those of us who face a "life-altering event" such as abuse, death of a loved one, divorce or the loss of a job, there is either a road to recovery that brings new vigor and purpose to our lives or a spiraling down into anger, depression and hopelessness. I had stumbled onto the more productive path, one in which I could:
· discover opportunity in what felt like loss,
· focus on positive emotions and energy that could move me forward,
· dare to create the life I so richly deserved, and,
· celebrate the life I had by choosing to live in the present, not the past.
How could I work with women who had been abused so that they, too, could be similarly transformed? Slowly I envisioned a workshop, inspired by the quote by Victor Herbert, “Living well is the best revenge.” Sure I wanted to avenge Maggie’s death, but with a lighter touch like an angel’s and without anger or recrimination. So I coined the name, "My Avenging Angel,” and saw the workshops as the “next step” for women to help them move beyond abuse and restore the positive energy in their lives.
Is this work easy? Hardly. I have heard so many stories from women of abuse, betrayal and dashed hopes that I wish I had a magic wand to simply wave away their pain and anguish. They have suffered greatly. At times, their self-esteem is low and they have little belief that their lives will ever get better. But they do have hope.
Each time I give them the choice of reliving the abuse and the pain inflicted on them or reaching deep down inside to uncover their true heart’s desires, they do choose the latter. They set goals for themselves that are not only achievable but also can spur them on to making bigger and better changes for themselves.
The essence of this kind of transformation is well described by Dr. Judith Hermann in her groundbreaking book, “Trauma and Recovery.” If the core experiences of trauma are disempowerment and disconnection with others, she wrote, then recovery is based on the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.
I can now see that the process of reconnecting to positive energy in one’s life is the movement from victim to survivor to “thriver.” This is the journey I now travel and teach in the My Avenging Angel Workshops that I originated after Maggie’s death and have conducted since September, 2001. Through these workshops, I have helped women gain a new, more positive perspective on their lives, regain their power and reclaim their lives.
I know that having a positive outlook on life is hard for survivors of abuse and loss. It really gets to us sometimes that everyone else seems to have an easier life, a more comfortable journey or a less challenging existence. But now I can see that the truest measure of our lives is not what we have experienced but what we have made of our experiences. We don’t really know how good it can get once we get positive and focus our energies on our future, not the past. Whatever we might have imagined for ourselves is only a fraction of what we can have when we free ourselves to live well, be happy and create the life we want.
Then living well is not only the best revenge; it is, in fact, the song of our soul and the fulfillment of all our dreams.