It’s June in Alaska as I look out the window, not fully sure if it’s 2 p.m. or a.m., given the constant light and beauty that is this time of year here.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an update and a lot has happened! This is a phrase I find myself thinking and saying to people often as I think over 2017-2018. In my last post (in April 2017!), I talked about my recent trainings and conferences, the people I was so honored to meet, and my commitment to this work.
As fast paced as 2017 felt, it’s only picked up from there. Starting with a major life and career decision. Most of you may not know that alongside my treatment/training work in sexualized violence over 20 years, I’ve maintained full-time employment as a Therapist/Supervisor at various community mental health agencies. From being on the ground-floor in creating the Children’s Crisis Team for L.A. County Dept of Mental Health in the late 90’s to assuming a leadership role in running what later became the Emergency Outreach Bureau for several years, to picking up and moving to the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles (one of the nation’s highest impact areas for domestic violence, trafficking, and sexualized violence) and working with several agencies here, training clinicians and supervising thousands of clients. And that’s probably scratching the surface.
I combined full-time work with…full-time work. In 2017, in the midst of my travels and realizing I was using all my vacation time to do MORE training, I decided it was time to make a change. That this is where I need to be.
Building Sexual Assault Awareness into the treatment, training, and consulting agency I’ve envisioned for so long.
I had a long talk with my Director at Penny Lane, the last agency I worked for. Several long talks actually. She was, and continues to be, very supportive of my work and told me she knew it was only a matter of time before I “launched.” Penny Lane was always very appreciative and supportive of this “outside” work and I plan to continue my relationship there as a trainer and for the EDGY Conference as a committee member and presenter.
So on May 3rd, 2018, I left the security of full-time employment to become a fully independent entity.
Friends and associates have repeatedly asked how I felt about this transition. “Scare-cited” was the word I came up with to capture the overwhelming range of feelings and thoughts I had about trusting my gut and believing the incredible encouragement I’ve had for the past few years.
So, here I am. Committed and passionate to take this on while nervous as hell about what’s to come! My goal is to develop more innovative trainings around sexual arousal, further treatment methodologies, pursue expert testimony on sex crime cases, enhance law enforcement victim-interviewing skill, decrease the stigma of normal bodily responses to sexual assault, and write that book. Throughout all of that, I will also work to keep my focus on the needs of my clients and those who have suffered the trauma of sexual assault and abuse.
In the month since leaving community mental health, I provided a daylong training to over 200 officers, advocates, and prosecutors for the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault (ICESA). I presented alongside Russell Strand, who you may recall I am a huge fan of and was able to meet last year. From meeting a man I admire to presenting with him at the same training has been one of the many honors I’ve been privileged to have this year.
And now I’m in Alaska providing the same training to military victim advocates and mental health providers of the AK National Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Victim Advocates units. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with the base commanders to talk about why understanding neuro-biology and trauma-informed intervention is so important to victim support and reporting.
Just a few months ago, I was in Korea presenting to the OSAN Air Force personnel and soon after that was in Switzerland at the European Society for Trauma & Dissociation (ESTD).
I’ve done a lot, but there’s a lot to do! If you’ve looked around this website, you already know that’s true. Updating the site is just one of the changes I plan to make in the coming months, along with continuing my research on how arousal affects female survivors in the aftermath and building on all the connections and relationships I’ve made these past years to create more opportunities for learning. For mental health professionals, for the military, and law enforcement. And to continue reaching out to marginalized communities experiencing sexual assault; CSECY, trafficking, and sex industry professionals who have little professional support.
Just today, I had a client ask me what keeps me motivated, why do I do this? And without even thinking about it, my answer was: Because I love this work!
It’s a simple thought, I know. But it’s a thought filled with compassion and empathy and hurt and fear and love and a desire for EVERYONE to understand that the shame and stigma suffered by victims of sexualized violence is a lie! It’s a false idea, a myth that we all contribute to. Yes, in patriarchy and rape culture; concepts I hope to write more to in coming articles. But in many other ways.
It’s an accepted and reinforced idea that assault victims and survivors bear the brunt of a harmful, destructive choice that someone ELSE chose to do.
I say often that when we, as a society, as a world, shift to treating sexual assault, rape, and child sexual abuse, as openly as we treat a mugging, we will have taken the next major step in ending sexual violence. To put all the responsibility for that harm where it belongs. Not only on the perpetrator, where it begins, but on friends and family, law enforcement, the justice system, psychotherapists, sex educators, and others, for the part we all play in promoting the idea that being harmed can be in any way the fault of the person that is hurt.
There’s a lot ahead of me. I’m scare-cited to see where it goes. And I love this work!
Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope we all finding love, acceptance, and healing!
All my best!