Sunday, September 19, 2010

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!!!

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