Sunday, September 19, 2010

Join us on October 20th in Hartford!

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 For more on the event, here's your official invite!

Hey You Thrivers! Let's Speak Out!

I just returned from the 15th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego, California sponsored by IVAT, the Institute on Violence Abuse and Trauma. I presented at the conference in a workshop we entitled "Awakening Power and Releasing Fear for Survivors of Abuse." My co-presenters were Kathryn Tull of The Next Bold Step and Connie Valentine of the California Protective Parents Association and we were all about THRIVING! Over sixty people attended the workshop and we handed out thriver bracelets far and wide. The thriver buzz began!

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

An Evening of Thriver Spirit and Song Launches New Workbook for Women

An Evening of Thriver Spirit and Song, a Saturday, April 17 booksigning event and concert in Windsor, Connecticut, will launch The Thriver Workbook: Journey from Victim to Survivor to Thriver! a new publication by Susan M. Omilian of West Hartford.

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

Teen Dating Violence: Education Is Everything!

"How do you recognize when someone you are dating is an abuser before you are involved," asked 20-year-old CCSU student Gina Ratz of a panel of four teen dating violence experts during a Forum at the University of Hartford. (MARK MIRKO / HARTFORD COURANT / February 9, 2010

I was at a Teen Dating Violence Forum last night at the University of Hartford. What a crowd! What a good conversation! See the article from The Hartford Courant below. I’m back there in the audience to the right of the speaker.

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.
Let's keep up the good work on this issue.


Forum On Teen Dating Violence Focuses On Boys, Personal Stories

Story By GRACE E. MERRITT The Hartford Courant

Photo By MARK MIRKO The Hartford Courant

February 10, 2010

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

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.,0,6565298.story