Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I Am A Lost Boy............................................


                                                                             - Elizabeth Sullivan/EmpowerSurvivors

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 For many survivors of childhood sexual abuse we spent our childhoods daydreaming, never feeling like we really fit in. We stood on the outside of life looking in and not feeling as though we were a part of what we were seeing.We wondered where our place was. We lived in the past or the future. We wondered why the world was the way it was and would lose ourselves in the clouds and daydream of places we would rather be.

We wondered what was wrong with us, instead of seeing what was right with us. We blamed ourselves for the crimes adults did to us. We kept people at a distance instead of drawing them close to us. We ran from things we didn't understand and because of this at times lost out on love. A love we desperately needed but felt too vulnerable receiving. 

Today is a new day.

No need to feel alone any longer. 

There is a rising that is happening, a breaking of silence, survivors are finding their voices, breaking the chains of shame and blame that have weighed them down for far too long. 
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Survivors are rising from the ashes of abuse and becoming the warriors they have always been.

Our time is now. We no longer need to hide. We no longer need to keep the secret and feel like that lost little boy or little girl. 

Start a new song, a new chapter.

Hold that child within you, you are free.

Join me and other survivors this November 11, 2017 in Stillwater,MN for our 
2nd annual "Giving Voice" EmpowerSurvivors Conference.

This is a conference for YOU ! Purchase your tickets today!



There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too
Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for awhile
He said, "Peter Pan, that's what they call me
I promise that you'll never be lonely, " and ever since that day
I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we're bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
"Run, run, lost boy, " they say to me
Away from all of reality
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free
He sprinkled me in pixie dust and told me to believe
Believe in him and believe in me
Together we will fly away in a cloud of green
To your beautiful destiny
As we soared above the town that never loved me
I realized I finally had a family
Soon enough we reached Neverland
Peacefully my feet hit the sand
And ever since that day
I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we're bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
"Run, run, lost boy, " they say to me
Away from all of reality
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free
Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy Darling
Even Captain Hook, you are my perfect story book
Neverland, I love you so
You are now my home sweet home
Forever a lost boy at last
Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy Darling
Even Captain Hook, you are my perfect story book
Neverland, I love you so
You are now my home sweet home
Forever a lost boy at last
And for always I will say
I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we're bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
"Run, run, lost boy, " they say to me
Away from all of reality
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free

Friday, May 19, 2017

Faces Of Survivors , Voices of Warriors - Introducing Dee !

Faces Of Survivors, Voices of Warriors Project

Our First Warrior - Introducing Dee !


Through the Mud Grows a Lotus


The beginning for me started very early. See, my mom decided to date the man that would become my “stepfather” figure and abuser when I was 2 years old.  This is also the age that he moved in with us.  He claims that when he saw me toddle down the hallway one morning that he just fell in love and knew he would be staying awhile.  This was all the fatherly stuff he would tell me when he was drunk and had to go over the story again for the millionth time.  Eddie was an alcoholic as long as I knew him.  My mom actually met him when she was tending bar one night.  How romantic.

My real father and my mom were separated, not divorced yet, when I was conceived and born.  I have a brother and sister who are 8 and 10 yrs. older than me. I was what you’d call my mother’s love child.  She admits that she would have done anything to try and save her marriage.  Well, it didn’t work.  The divorce was final when I was 4.  I really didn’t know my dad.  What I did know and remember was him showing up to visit and my mom sending us out of the house so she could argue with him.  This was every time, which wasn’t much.  Soon, it was barely ever and then not at all.  To the point that he actually forgot my birthdate.  I was born February 1st and when he started to call or send a card it always referenced the 2nd.  I would have to correct him quite a bit.  So I grew up not knowing my dad and what I did know was whatever stories my mother told me of him.  It was all filled with bitterness and hate.  She even went as far to tell me how he and his family wanted my mother to have an abortion with me. That he didn’t want me and his family didn’t either.  That he would be bringing another child into a broken family and he didn’t want that.  
So, I can remember around the age of 4 sneaking out of the house early in the morning, before anyone was up, and swinging on the playground right in the back yard.  We lived in this townhouse and right behind our row was an incredible playground.  Lots of hiding places I would make forts out of.  Anyway, I would get in big trouble when they would wake up and not find me in the house anywhere.  When they finally did, I was just swinging away, still in my nightgown.  Every time they couldn’t find me, that’s where I was.  They finally had to put a lock on the top of the door and put a strict rule in place that I was not to come out of my room until someone woke up and came and got me.  This is the only memory I have from that time and I find it sort of weird that this is the memory that stuck. I just know that being on that swing was the best feeling in the world and felt so free.
We moved to another complex when I started Kindergarten.  I had to share a room with my sister and I remembered just recently, actually, that I didn’t even have my own bed.  I slept on an old couch.  If you can imagine 70’s wood furniture with these green rough cushions and triangle shaped back bolsters.  It was not comfortable at all.  No padding on the arms, just wood.  My mom would dress it like a bed, sheets, blanket, a pillow, but it was NOT a bed.  I was 8 when I got my first bed.  My brother went into the Navy then and I moved into his room. That’s the only way I got my own bed.  Now that I think about it, I inherited his dresser and nightstand too.  I really never had anything of my own until my brother moved out.  Until then I had to share everything of my sister’s.
Eddie was still an active role in our home.  He had taken on the father figure with all that goes along with it including discipline. Being an alcoholic didn’t help any.  He was a Jekyll and Hyde drunk. To everyone outside the house, he was the greatest guy. He was classy, thoughtful, a gentleman…  We knew the truth.  He was physically, emotionally and mentally abusive as long as I can remember. He would throw things across the room, anything, even his dinner plate food and all. He would jump so fast that it would scare the hell out of you and you couldn’t move fast enough to even try and get away.  You didn’t dare look at him wrong or at all because you had no idea what was coming.  I don’t know how many meals were thrown and dishes broken that we had to clean up.  
He was abusive to my mother, my sister and me.  He had also been abusive to my brother which is why he had ran away to my father’s once and then went into the Navy as soon as he was able. The kind of physical abuse that went on varied. He would slap, throw things at us, throw us to the ground or across the room into the walls.  His favorite was to drag us by our hair where ever he wanted us to be or throw us into the wall by our hair.  He also liked to back hand us.  I remember one time that I was accused of lying about going out to the bus stop early for school.  I had a specific time to go out and was not allowed out any earlier.  I was in the bathroom at the time when he was leaving for work. He called out to me to tell me he was leaving. I said goodbye, yelled actually.  He didn’t hear me.  He came home drunk as usual and made me stand in front of him until I confessed to going out early to the bus stop.  I wouldn’t confess because I didn’t go out early. He accused me of lying.  I said over and over again that I was not lying.  He asked me if I knew what would happen if I lied.  I said yes, I would be in trouble but again, I was not lying.  The next second he backhanded me across the face so hard that it moved my whole body. I almost fell over. I stood back in front of him and told him again that I was not lying. He could hit me again if he wanted. It was my mission to not let him see me cry. I rarely cried in front of him or anyone else for that matter. One other time that really has imprinted on me is when I was about 12. One night he had come home late from drinking. I was in bed sleeping and I was awoken by yelling and commotion downstairs.  I woke enough to hear what was going on and it was my mother calling for me.  Calling for me to come help her.  She was screaming and crying saying he was trying to kill her.  I could hear him yelling too.  I tried to hide under my covers and pretend I was still sleeping.  Maybe it would all stop and go away.  Well, it didn’t, and her voice got more and more frantic.  I instinctively jumped out of bed and flew down the stairs. I don’t even think I touched but 2 stairs on the way down.  I turned the corner to find him with his hands around her throat and her on her tip toes trying to get away.  I ran over and jumped on his back.  Started fighting and hitting until he let go.  He kept telling me to “get off me you little bitch”.  I threw him down to the floor as soon as his hands were off her neck and jumped on top of him to start punching him.  I got up, made my mother get her purse and I made us leave and go to the neighbor’s house.  We stayed there for a couple hours waiting for him to go to sleep.  Nothing was ever done, no police call, no DCS, nothing.  There never was.  I learned at that moment what my role was in that house.  I was not the child, I was the protector.  The protector of my sister AND my mother.  This isn’t the way to live as a child.  I was now the grown up taking care of the parent.
He was constantly telling us how useless we were and how stupid and lazy we were. If we weren’t careful we would end up fat cows like our mother. My mother was practically anorexic because of him, far from a fat cow. We will amount to nothing. All women are trash and whores. As I got older in my early teens he wondered if I had any boyfriends.  If I did I was a whore and if I didn’t I was a lesbian. I couldn’t win no matter what. There was so much emotional and mental abuse that it all just was part of my every day.
He also abused me sexually. I had been molested by him from around the age of 5 or 6 until I moved out of my mom’s house when I was about 21.  The last few years it wasn’t often because I was never there.  I tried to be gone from the house from the minute I woke until the minute I went to bed. Sometimes I wouldn’t come home at all, I’d stay at a friend’s house. I don’t have actual visual memories from when I was really small.  This is more like body memories, feelings, emotions or fears. It’s hard to explain. I used to take naps in my mom’s room when I was little. I thought it was cool because I could watch T.V. and fall asleep. It wasn’t cool for long.  I know the feeling of being cuddled and when he would be up behind me, it wasn’t the same as cuddling.  It just felt wrong. I knew it was wrong.  Again, I don’t have memories of what actually happened other than him being up against me. Maybe that’s all there was but it was wrong.
The turning point in the sexual abuse was when I moved into my own room. That’s when it started happening more often and I became more fearful.  That’s when I started to “know” it was happening. He would come into my room at night and stand over me, watch me sleep, I’d wake a little and he would leave.  These visits got longer and he would start sitting on the edge of the bed.  I would pretend I didn’t know he was there.  I was frozen stiff, afraid to move.  At first, remembering, I thought it was only when he had been drinking but it wasn’t. It happened all the time.  He would run his hand over me as I slept.  At first, very lightly so I would barely notice and then eventually he would just touch me. He got to the point of going under the covers then pulling the covers down. Run his hands over my body as he hovered over me. I could feel him breathing and whispering. I stopped wearing nightgowns, never again have I worn one. I tried so hard to move and roll away like I was sleeping, maybe he’d be afraid I was waking up and leave. It worked sometimes. There were times while watching TV in the living room I would be on one end of the couch and he would come sit down and purposely rub my thigh or look at my breasts. I started curling up with pillows and blankets any time I was down stairs.  I stopped wearing shorts and certain T-shirts. He would also come downstairs in his robe and make coffee or something.  On his way back to the dining room or living room he would “accidentally” let his robe open up and expose himself.  He would do this when he wore shorts too.  He would sit a certain way so that he could show himself.  It was so sick.  I tried to never even look at him because I never knew what or when he would do something like that.  It would turn my stomach, make me feel panicky and I would just want to get the hell out of there.
He still had this thing about me taking naps with him every once in a while.  I, of course, would do all I could not to.  One time I remember resisting and being very firm about it.  He came all the way down stairs, pissed off as all hell, saying “You are such a spoiled little bitch, who do you think you are? I told you to come up here and you will do what I said. Now get the fuck upstairs!” He proceeded to come through the living room in his robe, grab me by the head of the hair, drag me up the stairs and throw me into his bedroom.  I laid there while he spooned me, frozen, trying not to cry. He was not going to see me cry, he was not going to see that he got the best of me. I would lay there until he fell asleep and then try to slide out of bed without making a sound or waking him.  On those days I would leave the house and go climb my favorite trees.  I would just sit in them for hours pretending I was anywhere but there.
There were many different scenarios and ways he abused me. These are the ones I remember vividly. Others all seem to merge into one another.  Sometimes I would wonder where one would start and the other would end? My life was a daily question of what kind of abuse would it be today, how bad would it be, will anyone notice or do anything about it, will my mom stop him this time?  I never spoke a word of the abuse until I was 42 and in therapy because my life was falling apart.  I had no intention of telling my mother ever.  I got up the nerve and told her. She never knew about the sexual abuse, she claims.  I don’t know how she couldn’t but she swears she didn’t.  She wonders why I never told her.  I said that she never did anything about him beating the shit out of me so why would I think she would do anything about that either?
I remember being woken up at night, didn’t matter if it was a school night, so he could sing songs with me. He would come home falling down puking drunk and I would have to take care of him while he vomited, clean him up and then he would want to sing.  He turned a lullaby into a trigger for me.  I can’t hear the song “You Are My Sunshine” without flashing back. If I didn’t want to sing because I was so tired, he would get mad and either slap me or pull me out of bed and make me stand there and sing the song until he was happy.
I learned how to drive prior to 16 so that my mom could wake me up some nights to go pick him up from the bar because he was so drunk he couldn’t move off the bar stool he was sitting on. My mom could drive but she was afraid to drive at night so she took me with her until I could drive and then I drove and she would come along.
I feel like I’m rambling now. This is all just so messed up.  I remember when I was about 10 asking him to stop drinking, to stop drinking for me.  If he loved me he would stop.  He cried and said he would try.  There were times he was sober but not for long.  I was about the same age when I told him what he was doing to me was wrong.  It wasn’t right for him to be touching me that way.  He was supposed to be a father figure to me and fathers who loved their children didn’t do these things to them.  I told him that if he didn’t stop I would tell Mom.  He begged and pleaded for me not to tell.  He knew it was wrong and he was sorry. He said he couldn’t help it, he thought I was just so pretty and so perfect. He said that if I told that she would make him go away and leave us.  He promised he would stop.  He didn’t.  I never told.
This led me to drink at an early age, I started doing drugs in college and did whatever I could get my hands on.  I mostly drank and smoked pot.  I tried to kill myself a couple times, a few of those not on purpose.  I didn’t realize at the time that this behavior was a direct effect of the abuse I had endured. I was raped while at college. I was drunk, didn’t listen to my friends, I went off where I shouldn’t have gone, with people I shouldn’t have been with. I never told anyone what happened. I got back to my dorm and cleaned up, climbed into bed quietly and laid there and cried.  I was an angry, violent person and worse when I was drunk.  I would punch things, punch myself, I would pick fights with my friends and strangers. I just wanted to die and I didn’t know why.  

I now know why. It all makes sense now. I’ve been in therapy for 2-3 years and I’m learning a lot.  I have come a long way but I still fall and have setbacks.  I missed my opportunity to hold him accountable as he died a couple years ago, prior to me ever speaking about it.  I do regret not speaking out and making it known.  I’m sure there are others that he did the same thing to in his family and I’m sorry for what they may have gone through. I wish I had told and had charges brought so he couldn’t hurt anyone else but I didn’t.  I never felt I had any support or anyone to back me.  I was all alone. That’s all different now. I know I’m not alone in this. I know there are others just like me. I handle things differently now.  I reach out to my couple good friends when I need support.  I reach out to the EmpowerSurvivors family when I need to.  They are always there to help me through the rough spots. I have a family, husband and two boys, that keep me going and show me all the love and support I could ever ask for. They are my heart! I have finished Yoga Teacher Training, Trauma Informed Yoga training and have started back to college to finish my degree. I am determined to do something with all I have been through. I still have a very long way to go but you see, I’m a fighter.  I’m still here. I keep showing up and I’m doing the work. I am a survivor!
Thank you Dee for sharing your experience. It is an honor to be on this journey with you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Faces of Survivors, Voices of Warriors

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Faces Of Survivors, Voices Of Warriors............


Many times we see stars or public figures that are in the paper for giving voice to the sexual abuse and rape they experienced as children but what about survivors in general?  Where are those faces and voices?

Today and everyday we celebrate survivors of childhood sexual abuse , celebrate resiliency , recognize their courage of “giving voice” and see them as the warriors they are.

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse EmpowerSurvivors invites you to submit your story of victim, to survivor, to thriver . You can choose to use your first name only or first and last name . If comfortable we also support you in owning your story with a picture of yourself, you as a child, adult or photo of you holding a picture of you at the age of abuse.

If you would like to have your story and photo considered to be spotlighted on our EmpowerSurvivors blog please send story and photos to Elizabeth Sullivan
( Founder and President of EmpowerSurvivors) and add “ Faces of Survivors” in the subject line.

Your “Faces of Survivors, Voices of Warriors” submission , if chosen, will be added to our blog https://empowersurvivors.blogspot.com/ which can also be found on the EmpowerSurvivors website at http://www.empowersurvivors.net/.

May we all come to recognize the importance of our voices, coming together as a community and breaking the silence that enables childhood sexual abuse to go on through the generations. Every survivor matters..............

Please send submissions to

Elizabeth Sullivan
EmpowerSurvivors@gmail.com

We believe in "Giving Voice" 
Break Your Silence ,Help Stop Abuse



Saturday, April 8, 2017

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

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As you know ( or maybe don't) this month is child abuse awareness month and sexual assault awareness month. For many who know me they ask why I do the work I do. Some tell me to go back to a 9-5pm paying job. Tell me I can't save the world. In response I tell them that everyone needs to have someone in their life that listens, sees them, supports them, helps them to find truth and more.Image result for PTSD
I know first hand what it is like to be sitting on the floor in a bathroom having a flashback, waking up from nightmares where you are that child all over again, avoiding crowds or being uncomfortable in situations that most would have no problem with. I know the deafening silence of telling someone you were abused and having no one to sit with you in that pain. I know the pain of being told to " get over it" or " you shouldn't be airing your dirty laundry" or " some things you just don't talk about".I know the pain of feeling like there's no way you are going to make it through the process of healing, living minute by minute afraid you will have a melt down at the store, with a co-worker or at the dinner table in front of your kids.
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Thankfully I also know the relief of having a person stand with you in your pain, help you to see truth , aid you in undoing all the pain and lies and understanding that healing is a process and not a destination, that you cannot fix what you do not acknowledge. I also know what healing looks like, feels like and and that it is attainable. We never forget the pain, we may still have our hurdles but the pain lessens, light enters and healthy coping measures are learned. Life gets better.
Over the last several years I have spoke to thousands of survivors that reach out to me to tell me stories of their childhood sexual abuse that they have never told anyone. They look to be seen, heard, supported and undue all the trauma that is still in their systems today.I have spoke with survivors from Minnesota , nationally and even internationally .
It is an honor to stand with those who are giving voice and breaking the silence of the molestation and rape they suffered as a child.
Child abuse and child sexual abuse ( child rape and molestation) is a problem that has gone on since the beginning of time. One that is hard to speak of for most. This is true whether you are a community member or survivor.
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This April my heart goes out to survivors who are still out there keeping the " secret" that they are too shamed and scared to tell, my heart goes out those who have found the strength to break their silences and face the demons of the past. My heart goes out to those children who are being abused at this moment as you are reading this post. My heart also goes out to those that support survivors, aid in recovery, use their voice to help others to break their silences and all of those that believe that we need to reduce the statistics that say 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18 by people they know, trust or care for.

Please support survivors, learn ways to prevent, learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse ,how to properly report, and talk to you kids. Kids look to us adults to keep them safe. Be a hero to your children and keep them safe.
If a child or adult tells you of their abuse, believe them, tell them you are sorry that this happened to them and that no child deserves to be abused by an adult. Help them to find resources that will aid them in recovery. Do not place judgement on them. Help them.

Let's all work together- Go!
Elizabeth Sullivan
Founder and Director of EmpowerSurvivors
www.EmpowerSurvivors.net
Online support for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/EmpowerSurvivorsMinnesota/
Upcoming " Cheers and Beers" fundraiser at the Lift Bridge Brewery ( all are invited) on
Tuesday , November 25, 2017. Click on link below and find out how you can support our programs and survivors
https://www.facebook.com/events/266408900470467/

Giving Voice - EmpowerSurvivors- 

Our November 11, 2017 Conference in Stillwater,MN for survivors of childhood abuse and community members wanting to learn and prevent.
Giving Voice -EmpowerSurvivors 2017 at The Grand Banquet Hall in Stillwater,MN
***Tickets only $40.00 through April******

Support my efforts by donating monthly as little as $5.00! / Donations can also be sent by mail 
https://www.patreon.com/Empower

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study


Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to
  • risky health behaviors,
  • chronic health conditions,
  • low life potential, and
  • early death.
As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes.
The wide-ranging health and social consequences of ACEs underscore the importance of preventing them before they happen. CDC promotes lifelong health and well-being through Essentials for Childhood – Assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. Essentials for Childhood can have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential. ( CDC)
Published on Jun 24, 2015
Nadine Burke Harris, MD, MPH
CEO, Center for Youth Wellness
2015 Child Health, Education, and Care Summit

Transform 2015, hosted by Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI), brings together thought leaders from around the globe to tackle the challenges of transforming the future of health and health care. The center offers a unique space within Mayo Clinic to rapidly iterate new ideas into the practice. CFI’s multidisciplinary team uses a human-centered design approach to turn innovative ideas into practical solutions that change how people can determine their own health and experience the delivery of health care.


Find out more about ACE's at :

https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/practicing-effective-prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/adverse-childhood-experiences

http://www.acesconnection.com/