Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tonight I watched the movie “spotlight” with my 15 year old daughter.
I’ve watched this movie I don’t know how many times but recently my daughter asked me to watch it with her. So I did.

There is something about this film that makes me want to watch it again and again yet at the same time I don’t want to watch it at all.It is  as though I am searching for some truth, some type of deeper understanding. A deeper understanding that I may never achieve.

It saddens me, eats at my soul and makes me ask the question “ Why”. Why would someone want to strip away innocence, hurt a vulnerable child, ruin them, and treat them as though they are nothing and then blame them for the abuse perpetrated against them. This is an evil I just will never understand.I know this is a terrible crime that happens everywhere yet as a Catholic it hurts so deep to know this crime happened so much in our church and was covered up by so many.

I loved my church but yet am so saddened by the reality of the abuse that was done to so many children by priests, priests  I looked up to. Catholicism was my whole life. Filling every fiber of my being but yet I can no longer get myself to attend mass regularly. I raised my children in the Catholic faith, sent them to Catholic school, taught others about the faith , and now I just feel saddened. Saddened by the fact that children were not protected. Saddened because I had looked at my church as being life giving yet everything contradicts that. How can the Church be life giving when they fail to protect our vulnerable children? How can it be life giving when our children were not protected? When our children’s very souls were crushed by abuse.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse the movie Spotlight hits just a little too close to home.
I found myself wanting to guard my daughter against it as she watched the movie spotlight. Try and help her to understand but yet not understand too much.

My children do not understand what it means to carry the pain of being sexually abused as children. I have protected them to the point that I wonder if they have been harmed. Harmed by my over protection. Harmed by my anxiety, harmed by my hovering. I spent every moment trying to protect them from a crime done to me. I knew that I could never handle the pain of knowing that my child had been sexually abused. Every moment of motherhood meant protecting them at all costs. Protecting them from the evil. The evil of abuse burned through my soul.

I never wanted my children to feel the pain of abuse. I worried constantly that they would suffer the same fate as I. Feel the pain that lingers so deep in the soul, the pain that makes you question if you will ever get better or if you should even continue living.  

I thank God that my children have not had to feel this pain. The pain of knowing that someone you trusted could hurt you so bad. The pain that made you question your very existence, your sanity.

I thank God that I am able to stop the cycle of childhood sexual abuse in my family line. I am thankful that I faced my demons and now can help others. I can speak about the uncomfortable, teach my kids about the realities of sexual abuse and create an environment for them that they know they can always come to me and tell me anything.

As a society it is up to us. It is up to us to protect our children, our future. We can no longer sit silently by as our children are being abused .

Join me in giving voice to childhood sexual abuse and all abuse, creating a safer world for our children.
Join in helping to pass legislation that helps to bring education to our kids on childhood sexual abuse by writing to our legislators.
Help to educate every adult on the signs and symptoms of childhood sexual abuse so when we suspect abuse we can get that child help immediately.
Help to break the silence of childhood sexual abuse.
If you were sexually abused as a child get help. Tell your story and break your silence. Help others by being the warrior you have always been. That person inside of you that says no more, no way , this will not happen to my child or any child.

We can make a difference in the lives of children .
No child should go through the pain of abuse.
No person should suffer in silence from the abuse done to them as a child.

Learn more about childhood sexual abuse and prevention by visiting some of these websites :

Peaceful Hearts Foundation
National Association of Adults Survivors of Child Abuse
 Erin's Law

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Childhood Sexual Abuse- Let's Take A Town Like Stillwater,MN

                                        Stillwater, Minnesota 2016

Today I was driving through downtown Stillwater and started thinking.
Most people, when they hear I’ve been thinking, want to run for the hills because they know I will be blabbing their ear off in a matter of seconds.
I guess that should be your warning. You can choose to quit reading now before I get all philosophical and statistical on you or you can continue reading..

So ,anyways , I was thinking about the statistics of childhood sexual abuse in our communities. I suspect most would be thinking about others things, things like family, how they are going to get Billy to practice on Thursday, What they are going to have for supper tonight, when did baby Josie have her last  bowel movement, why is my boss such an ass, and things of that sort. Not me. I was thinking about the statistic that states 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18.

Now this is where most readers will bolt. Why? Because talking about childhood sexual abuse freaks people out, it is a scary subject.. I know because I am an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I guarantee if you want to clear a room full of people just start talking about childhood sexual abuse or mention you run a nonprofit for abuse survivors.

The discussion of child rape and molestation is a hard one. This is a conversation most will avoid, including survivors.. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that people don’t care but it does mean it is a hard and taboo subject.It also means we can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge and that means we need to start talking about this subject whether uncomfortable or not.I know these discussions are hard. I know you probably would like to stop reading now but I ask you to just think about this and read a bit longer.

So, say I take a town like Stillwater,MN.
For those of you who have no idea where Stillwater is I would say it’s about 45 minutes from Minneapolis,MN.
Stillwater is a quaint river town. Full of antiques, resteraunts, books, coffee houses and bars. In the 1800’s Stillwater was a booming lumber town and is affectionately called the birthplace of Minnesota.Whether it is or not may be questioned but what we do know is that the last government census put Stillwater,MN as having 18,674 residents. In further reading, another census broke that number down between males and females. . In this census report they listed a total of 18,225 residents , 8,834 of those residents were male and 9,391 were females.

By now you may be thinking, and your point is……….?
Well, truth be told if we were to take those numbers and use the statistics that say one out of four girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18 we would have a total of approx. 3,820 residents that were sexually abused and raped as children. Just think about that for a minute. We have a town total of 18, 225 residents and of those residents approx 3,820 of them will have been sexually molested and raped as children. Of those children approx. 1,472 will be boys, and 2,348 will be girls.

This number is staggering.

Sad thing is that we know most survivors will never tell of their abuse and because of this these numbers do not properly reflect the true degree of sexual abuse .
We really need to start talking about childhood sexual abuse. We have pandemic levels but yet no one talks about childhood abuse. We need to get the conversations going. A hard subject yes but a vital one to discuss.

I believe it is on us adults to learn the facts about childhood sexual abuse, learn how to empower our children, all children, learn prevention and also educate ourselves on the signs and symptoms of childhood sexual abuse.

Whether an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse or a child being abused, survivors need help, love and support. Let’s get the conversations going. For more on prevention check out the Darkness to Light website at, , , or google childhood sexual abuse for more information.

Let’s work together to give voice to childhood sexual abuse and reduce these staggering statistics.

If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse I invite you to visit my website at , visit and “like” our EmpowerSurvivors public facebook page at , join our closed peer support group on facebook at or join us offline at our weekly peer support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse located in Stillwater,MN!

It is up to all of us to protect our most vulnerable and it is by all of us working together that we can draw awareness to this horrible crime.

Elizabeth Sullivan
Founder of EmpowerSurvivors

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Conference will offer safe space for dialogue about childhood sexual assault By Jackie Bussjaeger/Staff Writer

Conference will offer safe space for dialogue about childhood sexual assault

  • By Jackie Bussjaeger/Staff Writer

STILLWATER — Sexual abuse is a subject that many think of as difficult to talk about, but a conference in Stillwater this November will tackle the topic head-on in an attempt to remove the stigma and promote healing for survivors of childhood sexual assault.
The conference is hosted by Stillwater-based EmpowerSurvivors. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide safe spaces for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the St. Croix Valley and surrounding areas by reducing isolation, mitigating feelings of shame, rebuilding trust and providing empowerment through peer support groups.
The conference, which is entitled “Giving Voice: EmpowerSurvivors 2016” will take place Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Grand Banquet Hall in downtown Stillwater. The keynote speaker is Matthew Sandusky, the son of Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was sentenced for sexual abuse of underage students in 2012. Matthew will discuss his own abuse by his adoptive father and later share the ways he recovered from his trauma and launched a successful career. 
The program will also feature presentations from representatives of Cornerstone,  a sexual violence-prevention organization based in Bloomington. The speakers will offer a basic definition of childhood sexual abuse, including its damaging effects that can and often do persist. They will also discuss trauma and PTSD and ways of managing these conditions. The day ends with a panel discussion composed of panelists who are local survivors of child sexual abuse. 
Stillwater resident Elizabeth Sullivan began EmpowerSurvivors in 2014 as a way to provide resources to other survivors in the community. As a survivor herself, she 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. 
“The kids who are lucky enough—and they are lucky—to have somebody pick up on this, they are way better off than the child who never told or who told and wasn’t believed,” she said. “These adults who never had that chance are now dealing with this as an adult, and they may be married, and all that stuff will affect how they raise their kids, how they deal with an employer, how their medical health is. This isn’t something that just affects the survivor; it affects the community as a whole.” 
Contrasting it with the public alarm raised surrounding the threat of Zika virus, for example, Sullivan pointed out that many of the most dangerous threats to children are much closer at hand. One in every four girls and one in every six boys are subjected to childhood sexual abuse sometime before the age of 18. And though schools and parents vigilantly warn of “stranger danger,” Sullivan said more than 90 percent of assaults are committed by someone who is known to the victim. 
“There are things that we can be doing to reduce this and it happens in every neighborhood, every ethnic group, and in every family,” she said. “In every family, there’s going to be someone who’s sexually abused. They may not know it, but it’s there.” 
The statistics are shocking, and part of the reason is because the pandemic of childhood sexual abuse is so widespread, but discussed so rarely.
“Sexual abuse is so prevalent in our society, yet it’s really, really hard for people to talk about because it makes them uncomfortable,” Sullivan said. “It’s a struggle to get people, whether it’s a school board or local churches to talk about this, and I want to kind of help people feel more relaxed about talking about this.”
Sullivan said that the statistics — already as high as they are — likely do not represent an accurate picture of just how extensive abuse is because many children do not report their abuse, whether it’s out of fear, guilt, shame or for some other reason. They often suppress the feelings and memories associated with abuse, and Sullivan said that the suppression often comes to a critical point during middle age in adult survivors. 
“Them not dealing with that has a way of coming back in adulthood,” she said. “The average age is 42 that these kids actually start to deal with it. Something will happen in their present life that triggers all this stuff from the past. It might be something like all the abuse coming out from the Archdiocese; that might trigger a lot of people, or it can be as simple as having a baby, or your children get to the ages that you were when you were sexually abused and you get triggered. So all of a sudden these kids that took all that in and also took in a lot of lies due to that are all of a sudden at 42 being reduced to a 10-year-old or 13-year-old.”
Trauma may manifest in adulthood in the form of flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, or serious disorders such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia or any number of chronic conditions.
“We have kids who are sexually abused at an alarming rate,” Sullivan said. “And it goes on generation after generation because people don’t talk about it. The more I started to realize this, I realized we have to do something and support these adults.” 
EmpowerSurvivors’ mission is to provide a safe space for those conversations to take place, especially by creating a support group of fellow survivors. The organization recently became a nonprofit, and Sullivan hopes this will enable her to offer more wellness events for survivors and education for the community at large. She wants all parents, teachers and community leaders to know the warning signs, which are often written off as juvenile delinquency. Even medical professionals have more to learn about trauma and the way it affects the mind and body, Sullivan said.
Sullivan also hopes that the conference will become a yearly event. In the meantime, she plans to continue her educational and support services for adult survivors in the St. Croix Valley and beyond.
“If they are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it wasn’t their fault,” Sullivan said. “The shame keeps you silent, but there is healing that can be had and you can heal from this. It’s important they get support, because the majority of survivors don’t get support from family or community. It’s really at a pandemic level. Worldwide.”
EmpowerSurvivors meets every Thursday 6-7:30 p.m. at Joseph H. Roach Hall (208 Third St. S., Stillwater). Each meeting begins with a 15-minute topic discussion, such as grounding techniques and ways to deal with the various symptoms of trauma. The rest of the meeting consists of whatever members care to discuss. New members are always welcome and there is no fee to attend an EmpowerSurvivors peer support group.
Sullivan can be regularly heard on the radio show hosted by NAASCA (National Association for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse), where she has discussed her own survivor story. She also recommended to resources RAINN, 1in6 for male survivors, Cornerstone and NAASCA. To learn more about the conference and EmpowerSurvivors in general,
Jackie Bussjaeger can be reached at 651-407-1229 or

Monday, October 24, 2016



Elizabeth Sullivan from EmpowerSurvivors cuts the ribbon at a Chamber welcome celebration

Chamber Welcomes Non Profit, EmpowerSurvivors

STILLWATER, MN – Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors joined EmpowerSurvivors Director, Elizabeth Sullivan along with her family, board members and supporters at a welcome celebration on October 18 at Rivertown Inn Bed & Breakfast in Stilwater.

Founded in 2014, with non-profit status as of July 2016, EmpowerSurvivors is a Stillwater based, peer led nonprofit organization for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse that promotes individual and group peer support. They offer both online and offline peer group support, individual support, and education on childhood sexual abuse and prevention. Group meetings are currently held Thursdays at Roach Hall, 921 N Fourth St, Stillwater from 6:00-7:30pm.

“We want to bring attention to this extremely common, and very important issue that is so often not discussed or addressed” stated Elizabeth Sullivan. “Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are everywhere and this issue often affects a person for their whole life, even if it has been repressed for decades”.

EmpowerSurvivors is run by adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. They focus on supporting the survivor in mind, body and spirit through peer support, education and prevention. They will soon be launching resources to help others start up peer support groups in their communities.

Their first annual conference, “Giving Voice- EmpowerSurvivors 2016” will take place Saturday, November 5 from 8:30-5:00 at The Grand Banquet Hall in Stillwater. The keynote speaker is Matthew Sandusky who was molested by his father, Jerry Sandusky from Penn State. Matthew has gone on to form his own nonprofit. The event will also include education from nonprofit, Cornerstone, free acupuncture, and yoga, and much more. Tickets will not be sold the day of the event and can be purchased online at



Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Silence

                                            The Silence

At 19 years old, Cleo Tellier directed her first film The Silence, which won over 50 awards across the world and got over 30 additional nominations. After The Silence became OSCAR eligible, Cleo made her second film, Mishka (TRAILER RELEASE: DECEMBER 2016).Ann, Leslie, Isabelle and Jerome were four out of the two million children who live in foster care all around the world. Before their life in foster care, they were forgotten, abused, unseen and unloved. Today, they decide to break the silence surrounding child abuse, and share their story to the world in a heartbreaking way.


I watched this film this morning,while drinking my morning cup of coffee.
It is amazing to me how the young 19 year old Cleo Tellier can create a film that captures the truth about childhood sexual abuse and can show in such a short period of time what childhood sexual abuse is like for a child. 

Childhood sexual abuse is a silent epidemic in our country and one that most do not want to talk about. Let's face it, childhood sexual abuse is one of the last taboos, it makes people uncomfortable to talk about and most non survivors can never truly know what it feels like to have this crime done to them in childhood and then try to function as a healthy adult in this world. 

As survivors, most of us stay silent. Why is that? 

 We stay silent because we may have tried telling someone only to have them shut us down or not believe us. We stay silent because we were threatened, scared into silence, think of ourselves as damaged goods, and feel dirty. We stay silent because childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated behind closed doors and some of us returned to the room again, and again, and again. We stay silent because deep down we believe we were at fault. Some of us take this secret to our graves never telling a soul. Some of us kill ourselves because we can't stand the pain of reliving that experience over and over and over again in our heads. Some of us stay silent because when we did try to tell, we were beat, ostracized, unsupported.

For those children that never broke their silences the pain does not stop because the abuse stopped. Trauma is stored deep in the mind, in the body and in the soul of that child. That child begins to live a life built on the belief system that they will never be good enough, clean enough, smart enough, loved enough. These children take the blame, the hit. The blame that is NEVER the fault of a child.

Many of us went on to have troubles in school, early pregnancies, drug addictions, alcohol addictions, and mental or medical health issues. We may have issues with sexual identity, relationships, authority, self image, intimacy, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and PTSD, just to name a few.

Then we grow into adults.

We may have buried the pain, the sexual abuse, our childhood deep inside of ourselves to only have the memories come screaming back in our mid life. For the average adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse we don't begin to deal with the abuse done to us till we hit our 40's or above. Something in our current lives trigger the memories and we may again be right back in the mindset of that child. Frozen in fear, isolating to stay safe, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and a world that seems to be suddenly turned upside down. We may look 40, 50, 60, 70 but inside there is the child screaming, begging to be seen, heard, and loved.

When we are silent, whether as a community or individual , we cannot find healing. We cannot prevent this from happening to others, we cannot recognize the signs and symptoms of children that are being sexually abused. 

Childhood sexual abuse does not have to be a death sentence but it does need to be talked about, processed, and validated. Victims of childhood sexual abuse can heal. The abuse does not need to own us. We can learn and educate ourselves, break the chains of shame, and stop the abuse in our generation so it does not happen to our children and our children's children. 
We can unlearn too. Unlearn the lies we believed due to abuse, unlearn the unhealthy lifestyles we may have developed as a result of abuse, and unlearn the self hate we may have been putting ourselves through all our lives.

As a community of people we can lower the risks of our children being sexually abused. As a community we can start talking about this epidemic that plagues so many children, we can learn, we can become educated on how to talk to our kids, how to teach prevention, how to train adults on the signs and symptoms of childhood sexual abuse. We can heal. 

To heal we must break our silence. This is where the healing begins. Just as we can not grow a garden in the dark we cannot grow in our healing in the darkness of silence.

It is also time to break our silence as a community of people. Our communities will become safer for our children if we can break the silences that surround the silence of childhood sexual abuse. Communities need to be educated on childhood sexual abuse, taught how to support survivors of any age, and how to prevent and when prevention fails to take action.

Join me today. Break the silence

Give Voice-
Elizabeth Sullivan
CEO/President of EmpowerSurvivors


Monday, September 26, 2016

Image result for person by computer

Okay I will admit, I've never written a blog before. Like Never. 

In the picture above you can clearly see a woman that is happily looking at her computer and I'm guessing she probably knows what she is doing. 
If I were to post a picture of myself it would show me developing my new blog today pulling my hair out, saying a few colorful words here and there and wishing my kids were home from school so they could help me get this up and running.

Yes, now you know my secret- I am technologically challenged.

If you end up following my blog, which I hope you do, you will also see that I can't spell worth a darn half the time and my sentence structure is a little off. Besides that though you may get a good laugh here or there or maybe learn a thing or two. My hope is you will.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Now, that isn't all that I am, but it is a part of me that I will never forget. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that stayed silent till the age of 42 years I just want to tell you I get it. I get the pain, the nightmares, the tears, panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and the feelings of feeling that your entire world has turned upside down. 

Most survivors of childhood sexual abuse never tell. I never did. It took me decades before I would talk about what was done to me and the only reason I started was because I was triggered in my midlife. I went from being all star soccer mom, okay slight exaggeration , to feeling like I had completely lost it. Nuts. Cuckoo for coco puffs type of thing. I never would have imagined that the abuse that I had hidden for so many years and tried so hard to forget would suddenly come front and center and completely turn my life upside down. 
But it did and I know I am not alone because there are billions of us out here.

It took me years of intense therapy, group therapy, my own research , conferences , tears and hard work but I can say today I am so much better then I was when I started out on this journey. 

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse I know your pain. The abuse you suffered was not your fault. It is never the fault of a child. You deserve support and you will get through this. It isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination but it can be done.

This blog is for you, the survivor, and all those that support survivors. Come join in as a community of survivors, break your silences, and begin anew.
Welcome to my blog, our blog , our journey.