I hope you will take a few minutes to read this article.  People everywhere have to talk about rape and talk about it in age appropriate ways with kids.  How will it ever stop if we are too uncomfortable to bring it up?


Magic Toy Stores Are Hard To Find

Last week, I watched the movie “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.”  Yes, it came out several years ago and as usual, I’m behind on movies.  This one was not particularly well received by the critics, but it always seemed intriguing to me.  It was kind of silly, but I thought it was cute.  If you haven’t seen it, it is about a man who owns a magical toy store.  The man, played by Dustin Hoffman, is quite old.  As the movie progresses, the viewer learns that he is over 400 years old actually.  He has decided that he is old enough and it is his time to die.

The toy store does not agree.  It is depressed and frightened by his leaving.  The store, because after all it is a magical toy store, begins to lose it’s magic.  Toys become lethargic and have lost the ability to play.  Mr. Magorium begins having a difficult time getting to his apartment above the store because the magic door that leads him there begins to malfunction.

Mahoney, Mr. Magorium’s assistant and manager of the store, played by Natalie Portman, learns that Mr. Magorium has decided to die and leave the store to her.  She does not believe she has enough magic in herself to keep the store happy and content.  She takes Mr. Magorium to a park and asks him to do several different activities that are very playful.  Of the several things she has him do, my favorite was dancing on bubble wrap.  It was a fun and playful scene.   When he is finished dancing, Mr. Magorium asks Mahoney why she is having him do all this.  She says to remind him of all the magical things he does.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a little more magic.  I could use more play and more light-heartedness in the world.  We have lost our sense of wonder in the world.  Some of us never really knew wonder.  We look at bubble wrap in the park and think of litter, instead of dancing.  We watch news that is beyond depressing.  We deal with heart-ache, illness and pain on a daily basis and sometimes there is simply no getting through it quickly.  Magic toy stores are hard to find.

By the end of the movie, Mahoney has found her own magic.  She found strength in herself and the store comes back to life.  It is happy and magical again.

Every day does not have to be a struggle.  There are bad things that happen around the world every day and all the sadness is overwhelming.  But you have to find whatever it is in you that is magical and makes you happy.  You probably won’t get to ride a unicorn to work, but you might get to wake up most mornings feeling mostly happy.  It might be easier to smile and easier lay out bubble wrap in the park and dance.

Abusers try to kill out that spark of magic.  I hope it still burns in you and you do whatever it takes to feed that spark and let it light every step of your journey.   The world certainly needs your light.

What is the magical, playful thing you do to help yourself heal and be happy?

Forgiving Out Loud

When I was a child, I used to think forgiveness was a peaceful, magical process.  I was taught how important it was to forgive, but not how it worked.   In my lifetime, I have received tons of advice about forgiveness, most of which I now count as totally useless.  It was something I had to learn for myself.

One of the most important things I have learned about forgiving is that it is a very loud and messy process.  It starts by talking about it and quite often, forgiveness involves getting angry.  Have you ever been told that if you’re angry, then you haven’t forgiven?  I will tell you that if you’re angry enough to talk about it, then you are working toward and through forgiveness.  Don’t stop.  Keep going.  The very act of verbalizing your anger is actually taking the pain that is inside you and letting go of it through words.  Letting go is a big part of forgiving.  People who keep it bottled up through denial and bitterness aren’t forgiving.  Don’t seeth.  Don’t stay there.  Let anger be a path to forgiving and moving on.

One of my counselors who knows a lot about the brain physiology of trauma helped me understand that when trauma happens to us, our brain is physically affected.  It creates a “knot” of thought around the trauma memory, often causing us to get stuck there.  My counselor was on a team of therapists who went to New York September, 2001 for a month, to lead group therapy sessions where they encouraged people to tell what happened to them Sept. 11th.  The victims were encouraged to tell their stories over and over again, but each time to tell it a different way.  They shared stories by categorizing parts of the day, then by major characters involved, next by lessons learned.  They told it chronologically, even backwards.  Telling their stories in all these different ways, she said, helped the victims untie the knots.  It allowed their minds and souls to move through the memory and let it go…to forgive.

Telling your story of abuse is important on so many levels.  Jackie and I have talked about this several times.  We created in part to give people a place to tell their stories.  There’s still too much stigma around telling our stories of abuse.  It sometimes makes other people in our lives uncomfortable.  Like Marie Fortune often says, “They want us to forgive so they can forget.”  It often makes me uncomfortable to tell my own story, and at times it has been very hard for me to hear others’ stories.  But that’s not a reason to stop.  We need to forgive out loud.  We need to tell and we need to listen.  And, we need to be gentle with each other and ourselves.  Not every telling goes well.  If you know a survivor that you feel is stuck in their story, instead of suggesting that they “move on,” try setting aside time and a place and ask him/her to tell you his/her full story  in one or two different ways .  Be patient and kind.  And realize that when s/he is done the story still needs to be told again.

“Can I Help?”

I’m breaking my own rule again and writing about things I see on the news.  On Monday, May 6, 2013, three women were rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio from which they were being held captive.  Few details have been discussed yet about what happened to these women during their ten plus year incarceration, but one of the women did come out of the house with a little girl.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight.  These are names we all need to remember.  They need to be engraved on our collective conscience just as Jacy Dugard and Elizabeth Smart have been.  We need to remember them just as we do Shawn Hornbeck.  (I’ll admit, even living in St. Louis when Shawn Hornbeck was found, I couldn’t remember his last name.)

I used to believe that children who were kidnapped were held in dirty houses or closets and abused incessantly.  From what I’ve learned in talking to people who were kidnapped and got away, this is often true.  Often though, children are forced into child sex trafficking.  These children are seen as disposable.  Their families may never forget them, but the people who took them, sell them and buy them give no thought to who they could have been.  The pimps see them as a profit and the people who buy them see them as an object.

While it is my hope we never forget the names of these children who have been found, it might do us all a little good to consider those whose names we don’t hear or remember.  There are thousands of children who are kidnapped and do not return.  The stark reality is that often we do not ever even hear their names.  If they are local, we may hear about them briefly, but then they drift into the background and we hardly ever give them another thought.  Here’s the link to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. There are international sites as well.

We try to convince ourselves that the only thing we need to fear is stranger danger.  All of these children named above were taken by people they did not know.  We try very hard to convince ourselves that the danger is out there – lurking in the bushes, hiding in the shadows and no one that we know would ever do anything like abduct and rape a child.  That is the sugar coated pill we all try to choke down.

Statistically, this is completely untrue.  As stated on, only 5% of children are sexually abused by strangers.  Here are some other statistics from Darkness to Light which are helpful to know.

  • Family members commit 39% of the reported sexual assaults on children (Snyder, 2000).
  • 56% of those that sexually abuse a child are acquaintances of either the child or the family (Snyder, 2000).
  • Only 5% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger (Snyder, 2000).
  • The younger the victim, the more likely it is that the abuser is a family member. 50% of those molesting a child under 6 were family members. 23% of those abusing a 12-17 year-old child were family members (Snyder, 2000).
  • 34% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by juveniles. In fact, 7% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by youth under the age of 12 (Snyder, 2000).
  • The younger the child victim, the more likely it is that the perpetrator is a juvenile. Juveniles are the offenders in 43% of assaults on children under age 6. 14% of these offenders are under the age of 12 (Snyder, 2000).
  • Homosexual individuals are no more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual individuals.\ (Jenny, et. al., 1994).

In connection with these statistics, here are some other names I would like you to remember.  Jennifer Carmer Phelps, Rachel Komlo and Jackie Lawrence Gutschenritter.  We all survived childhood sexual abuse and rape.  We were all abused by people that we knew.  These are people I know who have survived to tell their harrowing tale of abuse.  Some of our offenders were criminally charged, but most of us never experienced that and kept our hidden secrets buried deep with in us.

We were all groomed to be quiet.  We were groomed to comply and not rock the boat. We struggled with depression, addiction, poor self-image, lack of confidence, relationships that were not good for us and sometimes abusive, mental illness, and so many things we were not expected to survive.

Somehow, though, we did survive.  In my opinion, we have become pretty amazing people.  We have all also chosen to speak about our abuse.  It is no criticism of other survivors who do not speak out; this is just what we have decided to do.

And we have all decided to be happy.  This is also no criticism of people who can never get to that point.  Sometimes, it is too much of a struggle to get to that point and the fear and pain are too great and the help to get there is too inadequate.

So, I offer this challenge.  It is easy to see the stories on the news and be happy.  I am ecstatic that Amanda, Gina and Michele were found.  When you can, watch the news for the joys and the tragedies.  Get a book by a survivor of sexual abuse, whether they were kidnapped or abused by someone they knew.  Once you’ve been able to read a survivor’s story, get to know one.  You won’t have to look nearly as hard as you think.  We’re everywhere; and we all have a story to tell, especially to a willing, listening ear.

What you hear will break your heart, but it will also lead you to a story of survival through unimaginable pain and silence.  I hope it gives you hope and encourages you to dream big.