Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Conference opens the door on talking about childhood sexual abuse


STILLWATER — It can be hard to talk about childhood sexual abuse, but when this topic is broached in earnest, it can lead to healing and real community change.

That's the perspective of EmpowerSurvivors, a Stillwater nonprofit that will hold a conference Nov. 11 to tackle the topic head-on in an attempt to remove the stigma and promote healing for survivors of childhood sexual assault.

The conference, which is entitled “Giving Voice: EmpowerSurvivors 2017” will take place Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Grand Banquet Hall in downtown Stillwater.

The nonprofit's mission is to provide resources and support for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by reducing isolation, mitigating feelings of shame, rebuilding trust and providing empowerment through peer support groups.

“I'm just really excited it's something that can bring everybody together,” said EmpowerSurvivors founder Elizabeth Sullivan. “It doesn't have to be something that's horrible to discuss. We can discuss it in ways that we can do something about it as a society. Once you know just how serious a problem this is, I really believe people would want to do more for our kids.”

Sullivan began the organization in 2014 when she realized how important it is for survivors of childhood sexual assault to have a support system. As a survivor herself, Sullivan began educating herself about the psychological trauma and other long-suppressed effects that adult survivors endure. She said it's common for adults to reach middle age before the negative effects of psychological damage even begin to show. This was the case for Sullivan, who began experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder such as flashbacks and intrusive thoughts in her 40s. She began her own healing journey, but in the process discovered how prevalent childhood sexual abuse really was. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse.

“And most survivors stay quiet,” she said. “So that's why I named this conference Giving Voice. In order to find healing, to have prevention and intervention, you have to give voice to the epidemic.”

This year's conference features three notable speakers. Matthew Sandusky will return for the second year in a row: “Same guy, different subject,” Sullivan said. Matthew is the adopted son of Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was sentenced for sexual abuse of underage students in 2012.

Jane Straub of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center will also speak about resiliency in the wake of adverse childhood experiences.

Finally, Tara Walker Lyons of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana will tell her story of abuse, and Tara's Law, legislation she pushed through that requires K-12 and adult education on childhood sexual abuse prevention.

The event isn't just for survivors of abuse—Sullivan encourages everyone in the community to get involved in the conversation.

“Whether we know it or not, everyone we know does know a survivor or a child that is being sexually abused,” Sullivan said. “Until we start to recognize that, our kids are at risk. There are bullying projects in schools, but far more kids are being sexually abused, and we're not talking about it. Most of those will have (multiple) abusers, and the majority never say a thing, and they end up in prisons, on welfare and they will have medical issues. It really has an effect not only on survivors but generations that come after that, and also on the community. I really want to involve the community into this conversation.”

Sullivan hopes the conference will offer something unique to therapists and counselors who might work to help survivors but don't understand their trauma because they have not experienced it firsthand.

In addition to addressing challenges and successes, the conference will include many vendors from the community, such as Canvas Health, counseling care services, and holistic health clinics that offer yoga and acupuncture.

General admission to the conference is $55 plus tax. Learn more about EmpowerSurvivors or register for the conference at

EmpowerSurvivors also recently established a permanent office in downtown Stillwater at 1940 Greeley St. S., Suite 210.

“That's exciting because now we have better space for survivors to come for our meeting, and we can offer classes,” Sullivan said. An open house of the office location will take place 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28.

Jackie Bussjaeger is the editor of the Forest Lake and St. Croix Valley Lowdown, and can be reached at 651-407-1229 or

Ticket and Conference info. for this year’s Giving Voice- EmpowerSurvivors 2017

Want To Support Elizabeth and EmpowerSurvivors? Please consider a monthly donation!


Sunday, October 22, 2017

When #MeToo Isn't Enough...........................

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Is Saying #MeToo Enough?

There have been many articles, as of late, written on childhood sexual abuse and rape among the Hollywood Elite. Something that has been going on for a very long time. Children used as playthings, people knowing or suspecting but never coming to the defense of the children being abused behind closed doors or in ‘private parties”.

Childhood sexual abuse is widespread. It is in every culture, every town, every neighborhood yet we still do not know how to speak about childhood sexual abuse. We do not want to have the much needed conversations. Whether a survivor or community member childhood sexual abuse is silenced, hidden, swept under the rug.

At first I was almost excited about the whole #MeToo campaign. I thought finally people are coming forward and breaking their silences but is writing a #MeToo on your facebook profile wall enough to curb childhood sexual abuse? Is this one more “campaign” that will just be piled away with all the other clever campaigns?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that stayed silent till midlife I know all too well the shame and silence that goes along with this epidemic that affects so many children. How the silence keeps you imprisoned, held down, in pain. Luckily I have also felt and seen the healing that comes by giving voice to the molestation and rape . The greatness that develops when survivors are supported, kids are empowered, and communities become trauma informed and taught prevention.

My heart goes out to all of those girls and boys ( yes boys are raped too) who have experienced the cruelty of child abuse, sexual assault and rape and harassment. At the same time I know that #MeToo campaign will die off like every other campaign..

We need more.  

We need to do more if we want to create healthier communities, end childhood sexual abuse and rape. We need to do more then carry a sign, blame men,or write #MeToo on our posts.
These are all great things I know but much more is needed and it begins with you and me.

Do you want a safer community for our children? A supportive society for survivors? Do you want to become more trauma informed and aid in prevention? Do you want to find healing. We must act and the sooner the better.

I invite you to join the EmpowerSurvivors movement, join one of our support groups for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse , learn prevention, attend our annual November conferences. Mostly come together as one united force that really wants to put the words #MeToo into action. We can do this folks but it takes talking about a hard subject. It takes working together. No one looks forward to a conversation about child rape but we need these conversations, we need the silence and darkness broken, we need trauma informed communities.

We need you.

We cannot fix what we do not acknowledge and our kids need our protection.

Visit our website at to learn more about our mission, the work we are doing, to donate to the cause, or attend this year’s Giving Voice Event being held on Saturday, November 11, 2017 in Stillwater,MN .

Elizabeth Sullivan
Founder, CEO and Thriver of EmpowerSurvivors
1940 South Greeley Street
Suite 210
Stillwater,MN 55082

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Call To Action

A Call To Action
I’m just going to throw this out there……...childhood sexual abuse and rape sucks.

For a lot of survivors of childhood trauma and sexual abuse we spend a lifetime trying to push away the memories, trying to  forget, trying  to be “normal” even though we may have spent a lifetime feeling like we are living in a world peering from the outside in. Living our lives the way we think we “have to” rather than living our lives authentically the way we choose.. Some of us  may move through life believing we are nobody’s , that we are  damaged goods, and may keep the suicide card ready to be played at a moment's notice. We may have grown up feeling worthless, never believing we were smart enough, pretty enough, good enough.

I am one of the lucky ones.

I am a survivor that stayed silent till the age of 42. I was never going to tell my secret. I believed in those early years that my worth was at a lower level than most, that I would probably die at a young age or that if people really knew my story of abuse they would blame me, find me disgusting and hate me as much as I hated myself.. I held my secret of childhood sexual abuse back in the recesses of my mind , not allowing myself to get close to the pain, checking out , always remembering the words of what was whispered in my ear , the whisper telling me to “ move my hand”, “lay still” . “ be quiet” and more …….

I say I’m one of the lucky ones because in my midlife I have found hope. Yes, I still struggle at times but I have a light in my soul that grows stronger every day. I have found my voice, and now take what was done to me so long ago by terrible people and have turned it around and have broken free from the chains they wrapped so tight around me so long ago.

I am one of the lucky ones because at a certain point in my recovery I realized that there is power in my words, in breaking my silence, in breaking down the lies of abuse.

I am one of the lucky ones because the cycle of sexual abuse stops with me. I’ve chosen to develop strength in my voice, use my experience to help others, and live out the mission I believe that was given to me to help protect others.bring light to the epidemic of childhood abuse, and use my experience to give hope to another.

No matter who you are ,if you were sexually abused as a child you have worth. The things that happened to you in those rooms, in the baths, in the spaces you lived, are not your fault. You did not cause these bad things to happen. Bad people caused these things to happen, they caused the negative voices in your head, the lies, the low self worth , nightmares, flashbacks, disgusting feelings and more.
There was nothing you could have done. You were a child, an innocent, and do not have to hold this blame anymore.

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse I ask you today to join me in giving voice, help yourself to find healing, shed the shame and shed the blame.

Our voices are our super strength and the more we use it the more we rise up.
Like the ever rising phoenix we can rise in truth knowing that today is the day we can change our lives. This day forward learn truth , find healing and more.

Join me on my mission of breaking the silence of childhood sexual abuse, educating communities, supporting survivors and helping reduce this terrible crime from affecting our youth.

The world needs a healthy you, there is no one else like you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Come Join Us In This Call Of Action
Elizabeth Sullivan
Founder and CEO of EmpowerSurvivors
Support, Educate, Prevent

Join us this November for our second annual Giving Voice conference being held in Stillwater,MN!

Help Support this important mission!

Friday, August 11, 2017

This Week's EmpowerSurvivors News!


We Are Moving!

New Location: 1940 South Greeley Street, Suite 210, Stillwater,MN 55082
by Elizabeth Sullivan on August 11, 2017
Big things are coming to EmpowerSurvivors! As of August 1, 2017 EmpowerSurvivors has a new look and office space to do more work on supporting survivors, educating the community, and aiding in the prevention of child abuse.
Meetings for survivors will begin in new location the first Thursday in September! Contact Elizabeth for more information.
                                                                  THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES


EmpowerSurvivors Speaks To Members Of The Lake Elmo Rotary!

by EmpowerSurvivors on August 11, 2017
At a breakfast hosted by The Lake Elmo Inn EmpowerSurvivors founder , Elizabeth Sullivan, spoke to members of the Lake Elmo Rotary Club to tell her story of childhood sexual abuse, discuss issues of childhood sexual abuse, prevention and the work of EmpowerSurvivors in our local community and beyond.
A very big thank you to the Rotary for inviting EmpowerSurvivors to come speak, having a great discussion and questions! It was an honor to to not only share a great breakfast but to meet the members of this local club!
If you would like Elizabeth to come to your club, event or meeting plz contact EmpowerSurvivors at


Elizabeth joins program director Julie Good of the local “Unchained’ group to promote local peer support group!

by EmpowerSurvivors on August 11, 2017
Tuesday of this week Elizabeth Sullivan ,of EmpowerSurvivors, joined forces with Julie Good, of Maranatha Church, to promote their peer support group program “ Unchained”.
The “Unchained” group follows the “Into The Wildflowers “ program developed by fellow survivor Julie Woodley and is offered twice a year at the Maranatha Church located in Wyoming , MN
“We ( EmpowerSurvivors) believe in promoting other groups dedicated to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and were excited to be asked to be part of their new promotional video that will be airing soon.
Thank you to Julie Good and the Unchained program for asking us to be a part of this video and also for helping give voice to childhood sexual abuse and supporting our local survivors!

Check out our website

Can You Help ?EmpowerSurvivors Current Needs:

* Volunteer Grant Writers
* Board members dedicated to our mission, survivors and fundraising
* Computer/Printer
* Laptop
* Copying Paper
* Red Two Pocket Folders
* Kleenex
* Pens
* Couch/Chairs for Weekly Support Group Members.
* Large Dry Erase Board for Meeting Room
* File Folders
* Stamps
* Donations to help with rental costs, programs, books, etc.
* Sponsors for this November 11, 2017 Giving Voice-EmpowerSurvivors Conference

Other Ways To Help-
* Support The Work Of Elizabeth Sullivan And EmpowerSurvivors By Making A Monthly Pledge For As Little As A Cup Of Coffee!

Friday, August 4, 2017

EmpowerSurvivors Is Moving And Shaking!!!

Landlord giving me my key!
In 2013 I started a online group for survivors of child abuse and neglect with a buddy out of the UK named Innocence Lost and later in the year decided to start another online group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse that became known as EmpowerSurvivors.

In 2014 EmpowerSurvivors became an offline organization that was held weekly at the local library in Stillwater,MN. When I started EmpowerSurvivors I had no idea where it would take me. There were times I wondered what the hell I was doing and other times I knew exactly what I was doing! Times I have put in long hours asking myself if it is all worth it and other times knowing in the depth of my soul that it was absolutely worth it. At times there has been a real battle of the mind but in those times I have tried to silence myself, listen to what I thought God was leading me to do and try to have the faith needed to keep going with the mission all along knowing this was way bigger then me. In 2016 we officially became a nonprofit and today we are getting out there more.

There are alot of things I have failed at in my life. Things that I could have done different. Things that I should have done different but with EmpowerSurvivors it has always felt like this is what I was meant to do, what I was suppose to do.. I had no idea how I would pay for things. I have saved and crunched pennies to to be able to get EmpowerSurvivors where it is today.To date I have never gotten paid and make this my full time job. I have used most of my savings to be able to provide safe spaces for healing, education on childhood sexual abuse and prevention. There are times I've cried my eyes out and other times that I was filled with Joy.

Today I am happy to say that EmpowerSurvivors has leased it first office space! Here I will be able to hold more meetings, offer workshops and classes and provide more for those affected by childhood sexual abuse. I cannot thank the people enough who have believed in me when most have not, for the people who have donated to the cause including my own kids. I want to thank those that have answered my many questions when I felt lost and not knowing what the heck I was doing.
I used to think most people were bad but I am learning that their are good people in the world, strangers that have heard of what I am doing and handed me a $20.00 bill to help, a $5.00 bill or purchased me kleenex for the group.

I had looked at office space many times and thought to myself , you better wait. Several weeks ago I looked at a place in Stillwater off of Greeley Street by the KC Hall and fell in love with the space. Again I began the battle wondering if I was insane to take the leap and lease this space. I prayed, I looked at my bank notes, wondered what the heck to do and felt that it was time to take a leap of faith and sign a lease.

I was lucky enough to meet a nice man named Mr. Clark Nyberg. He has no idea who I am and was willing to go down in price to make leasing possible. If that wasn't enough he also made it possible for me to have some used office furniture, a microwave and more.
Main Office Area 

Back office
Today my youngest and I went to sign the lease and do some cleaning. We moved around furniture, talked about what we can do with the space to help those struggling with the after effects of childhood sexual abuse , classes, and more. I sat in a chair and looked at our new office space for EmpowerSurvivors and went over the last 4 years in my mind. My healing journey and the survivors I have been lucky enough to meet along the way.I sat there and just thought what a great day this is. When I was thinking this my youngest daughter looked at me and told me that she was proud of me. I couldn't believe the strength in those words at that moment. I felt an ache for a moment, so touched that she would say these words to me and I knew then that I was right where I needed to be.

Dare to dream a therapist once told me, dare to dream. I'm not sure where this is headed but with a bit of faith and some awesome luck you just never know 
More about EmpowerSurvivors:

Ways You can Donate:Would you be willing to pledge a monthly amount to keep my mission going?

Things we could use: 
copying paper, bookcase, Smart TV/ DVD player for group, office supplies, kleenex, water, money, lots of money,lol and a little prayer and help from above 

More work space

 Come Visit Us At Our New Location!
1940 South Greeley Street
Suite #210
Stillwater, MN 55082

Monday, July 10, 2017

Come Join Us For A Day You Don't Want To Miss- Giving Voice- EmpowerSurvivors 2017 Conference November 11, 2017

Keynote Speaker For This Year's 

Giving Voice- EmpowerSurvivors 2017 Conference

November 11, 2017 in Stillwater,MN

  Matthew Sandusky

This year we will once again be having Matthew Sandusky as our keynote speaker! We are very excited to have Matthew back in Stillwater for a day of "Giving Voice" to childhood sexual abuse, supporting survivors on their healing journeys, providing resources, educating the public, aiding in prevention and coming together as one survivor family and community. Come join us for a day to celebrate being survivors and
 being a "keep kids safe community"
Matthew Sandusky
Survivor, Advocate, Author, and Founder of The Healing Hearts Foundation

Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse from the age of 8 to 17 at the hands of his adopted father, Jerry Sandusky. Matthew is working to turn his traumatic personal experience into a mechanism to prevent childhood sexual abuse and help other survivors heal.

Through his work with Peaceful Hearts, Matthew, raises awareness around child sexual abuse in local communities, supports the life-saving work of children’s advocacy and sexual assault treatment centers, and advocates for legislative changes. Matthew works with researchers, clinicians, the media, politicians, social workers, and child protection professionals to raise awareness and improve the quality and availability of services to survivors nationwide.

In addition to his advocacy work, Matthew is committed to empowering and educating children to use their voices and help protect them against abuse. He is working with other advocates to implement an in-school curriculum to empower children to use their voices as a first line of defense, along with parents and teachers.
Matthew is also an accomplished author, chronicling his years of abuse in his memoir, Undaunted: Breaking my silence to overcome the trauma of child sexual abuse, which sheds light on the truth about abuse and the healing journey that a victim goes through to become a survivor.

As an internationally recognized spokesperson, on the topic of child sexual abuse, Matthew is asked regularly to comment on breaking news. He has done a one-on-one interview with Oprah Winfrey, been featured in two documentaries, Happy Valley and Invisible Scars, and is regularly published in major newspapers across the country.
Matthew attended Penn State University, studying Business. He along with his wife and children currently reside in State College, PA. Through his work with Peaceful Hearts Foundation, Matthew Sandusky has moved from victim to survivor of child sexual abuse.

Interview with Oprah Winfrey- 2014 (TRIGGER WARNING)

Trailer from the 2014 Documentary " Happy Valley"
Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary HAPPY VALLEY takes an unflinching look at an iconic American institution in the wake of unthinkable scandal. Nestled in the idyllic area known as Happy Valley lies the town of State College and the home of Penn State University. For over 40 years, Joe Paterno was the celebrated head coach of the school's storied football team. Lauded not only for his program's success on the field, but also for students’ achievements in the classroom, Paterno was a revered figure in a town where team loyalty approached nationalistic fervor. Then in November 2011 everything changed when longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse, setting off a firestorm of accusations about who failed to protect the children of Happy Valley. Filmed over the course of the year after Sandusky’s arrest as key players agreed to share their stories, HAPPY VALLEY deconstructs the story we think we know to uncover a much more complicated and tragic tale. Director Bar-Lev creates an indelible portrait of a wounded community and an engrossing investigation into the role big time college football played in both the crimes and their aftermath.

Speaker and Advocate Jane Straub will also be on hand delivering a great introduction to the the adverse childhood experience study and the resiliency of survivors! Jane is an incredible warrior for survivors and our communities children! 

Montana's Sweetheart Tara Walker Lyons!
Survivor, Advocate, And Author of Tara's Law, And Speaker
Tara will be on hand to discuss her rise from victim, to survivor , to thriver!

Come join us this November For a conference dedicated to survivors everywhere , and those in the community that want to support survivors and the protection of our children

Schedule and Ticket Information can be found at :

More About EmpowerSurvivors

EmpowerSurvivors Public Facebook Page:

EmpowerSurvivors Closed Peer Support Group:

Support EmpowerSurvivors Founder Elizabeth Sullivan And The Work She Is Doing For Survivors!

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Contact Person:
Elizabeth Sullivan