The epub is almost done!

Closing in on the deadline

I got a note from my publisher today saying that the e-pub is about two-thirds of the way done! It’s been a long time coming, but we’re getting there! It appears that we’ll make that second deadline of march 31st and have the book available for you all.

There’s some things to iron out yet before the e-pub is available

It’s relatively easy to create an e-pub, not quite as intensive a process as making the book ready for print. I am still looking for a way to move to print within the next year or so, but it all depends pretty much on how well the e-pub sells and is received. I’ve asked a famous researcher to read it and write the forward. And no, I’m not yet telling you who it is, not untill he confirms that he is going to do it!

Excitement is coursing through my veins

Last year when my book came out in Dutch was exciting, but this forray into the American bookmarket is nervewracking. Here I know the social terrain and I know who to call that can help promote the book. I know which magazines to approach for an article and which television programs will treat a subject like child sexual abuse with the proper respect. While it is true that at least some of this I’ve learned since I published my book, it’s more difficult for me to promote the e-book in America because I’m unfamiliar with the therapeutic terrain.

How you can help:

One thing I’ve learned and learned very well is to ask people for help. So I’m asking you all, everyone who is reading this. You know more than I do about child sexual abuse in the USA (or whatever English speaking country you are in).

  • If you know someone for whom this e-pub might help, let them know
  • Help me contact the media, either traditional or social.
  • Let me know who you think I might need to speak to

If you have ideas on the promotion of this e-pub, please send me a note, let me know what you think. I need all the help I can get.


Repeat after me: ‘Obedience is our enemy’

Abusers know best how to instill obedience in a child

‘Don’t tell mommy, we’ll both be in trouble’, is one of many standard sentences that abuser use to make sure the child keeps their secret. Instilling a sense of shame and guilt is a very effective method of control. Usually the abuser will add in a sense of complicity: ‘You and me against the world’, ‘Our little secret’ and ‘You’re so smart, other people won’t understand’. A mix of friendliness and threats often keep the child from telling for many years.

Complicity and compliance

Enlisting the childs complience is an important step. It’s a way of making sure that the child is obedient and quiet. If you can get the child to feel responsible for what happens, the fact that it’s a bad thing means that they will keep their mouth firmly shut about it. After all, they feel it was their fault: ‘Look what you made me do’, ‘You shouldn’t have done that’.

Conspiracy of abusers? Or just child rearing mistakes?

Some contend that there must be a manual, something that people who abuse children must have read in order to skillfully seperate children from the very people who could help them. A list of things to do if you want to abuse a child. I believe the truth is much more sinister than that. Child rearing has long been based on the very same principles. It’s just more of the same, only the goal is different.

Powerlessness in children gives the abuser the advantage

What are some of the things we habitually say to our children that abusers pervert to their own ends?

  • “Shame on you” (for doing something bad)
  • “Respect your elders” (respect in this context generally means obey)
  • “Not another word out of you” (your opinion doesn’t count)
  • “Stop crying” (your emotions are best suppressed)

A child in this world is fully dependent upon adults and is taught many lessons that emphasize its powerlessness.

Empowerment for children

Empowering our children to say no, even to us, may give them a leg up on any would be abuser. Some think that this leads to lawless children, but I think their fears are overstated. Most children thrive on having good, clear boundaries established for them. Feeling the need to test them is a natural impulse. Offering them explanations and the reasoning behind the rules, is a way of helping them understand the world around them better.

Empowerment for toddlers

Empowerment can start at a very early age. Give a toddler a choice of 2 sets clothes to wear and as young as they are, they will pick one and feel empowered by the fact that they have a choice. It allows them to have some influence on what they wear, rather than you having all the power and making all the decisions for them.

10 golden rules for professionals

How can professionals help people heal from child sexual abuse?

Dande-lion heart, symbol for the lionhearted, survivors of child sexual abuse, photograph by Agnes van der Graaf

There are a lot of ways in which health care professionals and therapists can aid people in their healing process. I recently found this anonymous piece about the 10 golden rules for professionals. It was in a different context, but adapted them for professionals dealing with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. I’m sure there’s a few more golden rules we could think of. I found the first one to be very helpful. Quite often professionals invest a lot of time in getting the clients trust. This seems to me like a waste of time. Trust is something that you learn, perhaps, at the end of therapy, not something that is a prerequisite to it. Let me know what you think.

Rule number 1: Realize that your cliënt doesn’t trust you.

Trust has to be earned and once broken it’s very difficult to get back. For people suffering the long term effects of child sexual abuse, trust was broken a long long time ago. That means they don’t trust you, they will test you. Be trustworthy, but don’t expect your cliënt to trust you completely. Ever.

Rule number 2: Let the cliënts tell their story

Let them tell the story in their own way, on their own terms and in their own tempo. You may not have a need to hear it, but the cliënt may have a need to tell. So sit there and listen to it.

Rule number 3: Accept that your cliënts did the best they could

Hindsight is 20/20 they say and I’m sure you could have thought of several better ways of dealing with the abuse and the subsequent situations. Your cliënt can probably think of a million more. At the time however, your cliënt made the best of the situation. They did the best they could to survive and succeeded. Honor that.

Rule number 4: Don’t treat your cliënt like a statistic

Your cliënt is a person, with their own characteristics, their own needs and wants. They have their own history and their own way of dealing with what happened to them.

Rule number 5: Don’t judge your cliënt

Your cliënt is neither good nor bad. Your cliënt is who he or she is, with all the good and bad that is inherent in any human being. They are who they are and that is all they can be at this point.

Rule number 6: Don’t think you know better than your cliënt

All you know is what your cliënt chooses to tell you about themselves and that’s always just a small part of who they are. Remember you’re just the ‘hired help.’

Rule number 7: Don’t think you know what your cliënt should do

You don’t know. Your cliënts are the experts on their own lives. They may be lost and confused, but they still know a lot more than you do about how to survive their trauma.

Rule number 8: Don’t burden your cliënt with your expectations

Your cliënt has enough to contend with, just dealing with their own expectations on a daily basis.

Rule number 9: Listen to your cliënts feelings

Don’t just listen to the words, listen to the feelings as well and accept them all. If you can’t accept your cliënts feelings, how do you think your cliënt is ever going to learn how to deal with them?

Rule number 10: Don’t rescue your cliënt

Your cliënts can rescue themselves. They have done so for a long time. Besides, they were smart enough to come see you weren’t they?

What are your golden rules?

There they are, 10 golden rules for professionals. Let me know what you think: are you missing any of your golden rules? If you’re a professional, how do you measure up with these rules? If you’re a survivor, how does your ‘hired help’ measure up?


How to release anger without hurting anyone (including yourself)

Expressing anger and establishing boundaries is an important element of healing child sexual abuseIs anger the right response to child sexual abuse?

If it comes to healing, do we need anger? Certainly if you have been abused, you’re entitled to be angry at what has been done to you. And I do believe that it’s important to feel that anger and deal with it appropriately. For most survivors expressing it was not a safe thing to do, all too often you suppressed anger. Sometimes to such an extent that feeling it has become too difficult, too threatening. This causes a problem in your life, because healthy anger is necessary, in order to set and maintain boundaries. Unhealthy anger on the other hand can pose serious health problems.

Unhealthy and healthy anger

Healthy anger is all about setting and maintaining boundaries. If you can’t be angry, it’s likely that people will take advantage of you. It’s like you become a doormat of sorts and say: ‘Please, feel free to step on me’. Generally this get’s to be a pattern until you can’t take it anymore! All the anger you’ve suppressed comes out. You get out of control angry and expres it in (verbal) violence towards others. This is a road that leads nowhere fast and into trouble even faster.

Putting unhealthy anger to ‘good’ use

Some people put this anger to ‘good’ use and join community action committees against child sexual abuse.  Sometimes they direct their anger at high profile abusers. While it may seem like at least some good comes of this, for the survivor it’s actually a recipy for disaster. Instead of healing the past and leaving it behind, they feed the anger until it feels like anger is the only emotion they ever feel. Don’t be mistaken, I don’t think this is true for everyone in those committee’s, but if anger fuels your actions, beware.

Unhealthy anger generally hurts those closest to you

Unhealthy anger, the kind that boils over, most often hurts the people who are closest to you. They are the ones you feel safe with. Sometimes even safe enough to express your anger. They bear the brunt of your anger because they just happen to trigger it. The response of your loved ones makes you either cringe back in fear (if you throw anger back at you) or make you cringe back in guilt (if they start to cry). Either way you damage the relationship you’re in and love is put to the test.

Unhealthy anger turned inward

Anger under tight control is generally turned inwards. Sometimes this leads to all kinds of medical conditions, like  heart attacks, high bloodpressure and so on. Sometimes it is more directly expressed in the form of self harming behavior, ranging from cutting and suicide attempts to poisoning your body with (legal or illegal) drugs. If your anger comes to a boiling point and the world around you is not safe enough to express your rage, you may resort to what many survivors do: Harming yourself in some way.

Learning how to properly use anger

Living without anger is not something to aspire to. Healthy anger is necessary to prevent you from being taken advantage of. For setting boundaries and maintaining them and protecting yourself from further abuse or any kind. It can also be a frightening thing, in particular if it was used against you. If you have been at the receiving end of out of control anger on the part of the abuser, quite often you are afraid that if you let your anger show, you too will lose control. You’re afraid that if you blow up at someone, you will become like your abuser. But, ironically, by keeping it all bottled up inside, you actually increase the risk of that happening.

Releasing anger wisely

I own a boxing bag that hangs right in my living room. Whenever I have had a particularly frustrating day at work, I pound the bag until my anger is gone. Then I am again able to deal with reality intelligently and from a peaceful place. If boundaries need to be set, I am able to set them without resorting to (verbal) violence.

There are many way’s of releasing anger

The boxing bag is my way, but there are many ways of achieving the same.

  • Ride a motorbike really fast.
  • Go for a long intens hike up in the mountains someplace.
  • Excercising rigorously.
  • Go ‘rooster tailing’: drive down a gravelroad making a huge rooster tail behind you.
  • Scream loudly to music (I’ve done that)
  • Paint horrible pictures.
  • Write or think up horrible ways of revenge

The main objective is to release your anger while refraining from harming others or yourself while doing so. Do you have a healthy way of expressing your anger? If you have a tip please feel free to add it below!