A GIFT OF HEALING & UNDERSTANDING
Partners, Friends, Parents, and Children of Survivors
Challenge to Find Understanding
with Building Relationships
Worthlessness and Isolation
with the Stages of Disclosure and Understanding
AND UNDERSTANDING FOR PARTNERS, FRIENDS,
PARENTS AND CHILDREN OF
CHILD ABUSE SURVIVORS
Visiting the "Reaching Out" Monument
or sharing in pictures of the quilt squares and poetry
from the project through a book or over the Internet
can be an opportunity for partners and close friends
to have a natural means of discussing abuse issues
and gaining further understanding of the survivor's
experience. Dorothy found,
"The monument has given me an
outlet to share my abuse with people that I need
to share with. It has also given me pride and strength
The validation and victory of collaboration
can remove some of the shame that is so often a roadblock
to openly discussing a tragedy that happened to someone
when they were merely an innocent child. Supporting
a survivor can take its toll in the dark days and
It is important for allies to get acknowledgment
for their assistance and presence. They have gone
through their own unique hell that is reserved for
those who have no choice but to suffer the witnessing
of the turmoil of their loved ones.
The "Reaching Out" Monument
is equally a memorial to the allies of survivors.
Our society owes them, along with the magnificent,
courageous survivor/artists who created this work
of art, a great debt of gratitude.
I see around me beauty
I see around me brokeness
What is the wisdom,
brokeness into wholeness?
It is you
In you I found life
In you I found love
In you I found
Here you see my hand outstretched.
In my heart, it is clenched --
For I am fighting back.
Damn all of you!
For the pain you caused me to endure.
For the pain that has been inflicted on the one I love.
You stole my childhood,
You broke my heart,
You took my innocence.
You were the ones that should have loved me.
Yet, you are my worst enemies.
You have been my sanity,
You have been my lifesaver,
You have been my miracle,
You have been heaven sent;
You are my husband and
I will always love you.
A Vessel for Identification
The creative work of artists provides
a vessel within which individuals in
the group place their conflicts.
This projective identification allows
the observer of art to participate
in the transformative properties
of the deep expressive process
and social healing
power of art offers individuals
and society a means to come
to terms with child abuse.
My anger and tears
Part of my past
Getting on with life
Not in the past
Broken By Abuse, Healed
A child, full of pain and
from crushing words and violent beatings
finds brief escape under a starlight sky.
For her, the night sky looks as though
God has asked everyone in heaven
to turn the lights on in their rooms|
to let her know she is loved and not alone,
even though what happens to her at home
makes her feel very unloved and very alone.
people and places have come into her life
bringing love and healing,
just as the stars brought comfort
with the Love that had created both
the girl and the stars years ago.
To this day,
the night sky appears to her
like a giant blanket of stars placed over her
by the love of God.
The quilt squares contain powerful
stories that help with creating a understanding between
ally and survivor.
After the Flood
I take a tentative step
forward, then two.
There is no one to stop me
no one watching me
no one threatening me
no one controlling me.
I can run and laugh and shout and dance
and no one punishes me.
I step forward out of the wreckage
and close the door firmly behind me...
I Embrace My Innocence
I have gratitude for the presence
The knowing of self
The stepping forward, nurtured
by all this energy
The knowledge and experience of abuse is
Present but not defining.
The gift of presence in this world
creates freedom in my heart and breath
To move through and beyond
the pain to have hope.
Drawing from this core
I can realize my dream
I can nurture and comfort
I am not barren.
I am not alone.
Together - To
To life, to Life, L'Chaim
Together we'll rid ourselves of the pain, anger, frustration
Together we'll get past
Together we'll find joy in nature
Together our spirits will soar
Together nature, with its kindness, will lead us to
I've searched for.
Together, with your support,
we'll find the jot, peace and tranquility
The spirit, the sun, the water, our togetherness will
bring the vision,
beauty and knowledge
To defeat the anger
To Life, to Life, L'Chaim
Together we'll meet the challenge
Without your love I wouldn't get to love myself
To Life, To Life, L'Chaim
to Find Understanding
Friends, family or partners of survivors
grapple with understanding the abuse experience --
past and present. The incomprehensibility of sexual
assault on a child, the years of secrecy surrounding
the abuse, the limitations of verbal language and
the very places where trauma is processed and stored
in the brain all work together to make child abuse
difficult to address with words. It is in fact a sign
of our goodness that it not possible for most people
to easily accept, acknowledge and comprehend child
abuse, particularly to the degree in which it is being
Allies of survivors want to at least have a grasp
of the inner world of someone close to them. They
want to show care and soothe the suffering. When the
survivor cannot find all the words to tell allies
what it was like to have lived with abuse, they are
at a greater loss to help someone else understand.
and support, ongoing relationships can deteriorate
with the survivor suffering increased damage as a
result of injury inflicted while they were an innocent
child. One survivor relates,
"Prior to remembering
everything I was an extremely sociable individual.
I slowly withdrew from my friends because, although
they tried, they did not really understand."
If her friends had had
a means to assist with understanding, this survivor
may have had friends who developed into allies.
Through the Monument artist/survivors and their allies
are presented with the extraordinary resiliency of
the human spirit. The squares on the Monument are
not "in your face" rage and horror pictures of abuse.
They are the deep core and soul of the survivors.
Though some squares refer
to sad or tragic events, they all shine with the brilliance
of victory. The squares of the Monument are filled
with compassion, altruism, the desire to help others
understand and a drive to make the world a better
with Building Relationship
The quilt squares provide
a safe medium to share the depth of the pain and the
breadth of the healing. Issues and life experience
that have been difficult to talk about seem to come
out almost casually. One survivor said the monument,
"Brought me closer to explanations
of feelings to my partner of how deep the pain goes
and how much I've grown." Matt found, "It
has given me another tool/opportunity to speak to
others about abuse and show them something positive
that came out of it."
The Monument brings out the victories
and strengths that are more fluid bridges to build
A survivor who had not participated in working on
the Monument found viewing the quilt squares with
her husband was, "Empowering and very healing."
Her husband said, "It allowed us to talk about
things that are hard to comprehend, much less find
words for." Most people care and want to respond
to this issue, but do know how or where to respond.
The project has been widely sponsored
by businesses and community groups. Survivors who
see the lengthy list of supporters here receive a
clear and direct message that they are not alone,
they have nothing to be ashamed of and they are not
Survivors who may have hidden their
abuse for decades can see a concrete representation
of social voice of validation and inclusion. As a
result negative feelings can dissolve or be reframed
in a manner that may not have occurred by psychotherapy
Whether it's through the Monument,
the media, documentaries or individuals telling their
stories, the social acknowledgment and validation
of child abuse helps to release some of the protectiveness
and distancing that resulted from abuse. Sylvia was
struck by, "The reality that there are people
who care, people who don't even know me care."
An increased sense of self acceptance
leads to a greater acceptance of others. One survivor
working on the Monument affirmed, "I'm much more
accepting of other people's advice and opinions."
This kind of change in perception and attitude can
do much for deepening a relationship that may have
been previously volatile from defensive or closed
Survivors and their allies can take
advantage of these openings and plateaus to renegotiate
patterns in the relationship.
Worthlessness and Isolation
Three primary wounds of child abuse
are a sense of shame, worthlessness and isolation.
Because of the nature of the abuse they are experienced
in a highly social nature.
Broken trust becomes a constant wedge
with others. The internal conflicts of abuse create
havoc in relationships with others. Abuse can make
one feel like they are wrong, bad or unworthy of relationship
Seeing and hearing the supportive and
positive responses of others can greatly impact the
shame, worthlessness and other negative and crippling
feelings and perceptions that are a legacy of abuse.
One survivor wrote,
"Whenever I've shown my quilt
square, even unfinished, to others, they have all
expressed wonder and awe at the powerful impact
the square evokes in them. A feeling of empathy
The experience for me, especially
in relationship to non-survivors, validates and
embraces the quality of pride and victory I feel
over the sexual abuse trauma in my childhood and
in the healing I've achieved through a long and
arduous period of psychotherapy."
The degree of interest and support
is surprising to many survivors. The strong positive
response of others helped Jacquelyn, "To see in
a much deeper way how horrified decent, caring people
are about child abuse." Outside encouragement
and feedback assists the healing process and helps
with reconnecting the survivor to others.
Social action activity can have a dramatic
impact on a survivor's self image in relation to others.
As one quilt square artist shared,
"I felt that my experience and
my person could never be any encouragement to anyone."
However, after involvement in the project,
"I felt a bit more comfortable
with people, and at times believed that I was 'Helping'
She went on to write,
"I wanted it to help me let go
of some of the shame, and especially the secrecy.
It helped me Be Silent - No More!"
Many survivors who become involved
in social activities find dramatic changes occur with
the shame and secrecy they have carried for so many
years. The increased self acceptance in turn has an
impact on their personal relationship with allies.
with the Stages of Disclosure and Understanding
Quilt squares provide a way of communicating
in a more acceptable, easier form. Though survivors
want to be able to tell the truth to their allies,
that truth often needs to be told in stages, for the
sake of both. One survivor told her grown son "I'm
doing a project about child sexual abuse," instead
of talking about herself. She found it less threatening
and easier for both of them to talk about a social
Survivors have brought friends or close
work colleagues to view the Monument without directly
disclosing their abuse history. Similarly, survivors
may share a newspaper article, book or story as a
way of testing the water or telling without telling.
Clients have used the Monument to bring their therapists
and therapists have used the Monument to have discussions
To create greater understanding teachers
have brought their classrooms, politicians have brought
other politicians, social workers other social workers,
ministers, police, doctors and other professionals
have brought colleagues to view the Monument to bring
about greater understanding.
In her experiences of reaching out to the community
Rebecca says, "It has shown me that there are
a lot of good people out there." Rebecca shared
that she was able to be more real and trusting due
to "people's donations for our workshop. I have
also had many people that I hardly know come and offer
me support. I have had a lot of validation for my
feelings of hope."
It is important to know that others
in the community care and are willing to reach out
and respond. The care and acceptance are valuable
lessons for survivors who certainly felt no one cared
during and after the abuse.
There is a great need to come to terms with this tragedy.
Artistic expression in the public domain is likely
going to be integral in assisting the community at
large to come to terms with the abuse of children
and move beyond this malignancy.
Society can take advantage of
the cross-cultural and historical phenomena of groups
of people healing and transforming through the creative
act of art.
Faceless people, frightening
figures, ghostlike creatures will remain,
In the deepest, darkest, innermost regions of my brain.
In vain, I've tried to eradicate them,
But they stubbornly continue to be a problem.
Up and awake is the only known way,
To keep them from bothering me, so the entire night
How long will this last! How long can I fight!
I'm tiring rapidly and the end is not in sight!
Is what I've been doing an immense deal of lately.
I'm beginning to wonder if ever an end there will
These nightmares plague me constantly, will I ever
Exhaustion becomes paramount,
insipidly doubt is able to creep,
Right into my soul, so I dare not sleep!
I don't even care who they are anymore,
I can't imagine it being worse than what I've remembered
There's no-one I entirely trust, there's nowhere to
It's as if I am trapped in some crazy freak show.
I no longer care to decipher what this is about,
All I want is a licence to GET THE HELL OUT!
Entangled and cornered
by family and few friends that are giving,
Who continue to tell me that life is worth living.
I must ask the question, "Worth living"
It certainly isn't for me, perhaps I can do it for
My son and my daughter and my husband as well,
Deserve better than me and my moods from this agonizing
I've tried and I've tried to get out of this mess,
I'm exceedingly tired of trying,
death is tempting, I confess.
But this, I am told,
cannot be a choice,
My family is important and must have a voice.
It is a difficult task to be in this place of grieving,
However, it is incredibly selfish to even think
Of this, I keep reminding myself for all,
To stay focussed on family, both adult and the small,
I must endeavour to continue to cope,
Perhaps down the road, for me, there will be hope.
Hope for a brighter and sunnier tomorrow,
A time when I'll not be so full of sorrow.
How will I manage? I really don't know,
I suppose one day at a time, is the best way to
My husband was an
The profound effects
on our family have
but the cyle stopped.
Hands should bring
someone close to you
not push them away.
Hands are for holding,
not for hurting.
together we are stronger
Bruce and Austin
My friends are nice.
Friends last forever,
help those who have
Believe in yourself
and have everyting.
A little light
goes a long way
for those who don’t feel
Family is everlasting
even if it’s not your
Everyone has someone
Help those who don’t
you are loved!
Chris and Eric
I'm so proud of you.
Together we can make
a difference and
Heal our hearts.
We have to be nice
to people and
make them happy.
Wen people are crying
I could cheer them up.
will be inside
It’s nice to have a
Be a friend.
Give a hand.
Hands for help.
It is not an easy
thing to live.
Let's work together
to stop ABUSE!
All our precious children
deserve to feel safe
Be yourself and
trust in yourself.