MN Writes Reads

Healing in Community

MWP Conversations: #3

At the January 2019 event, “MWP Conversation: Healing in Community,” more than 150 women discussed the prevalence of sexual assault, trauma-related addiction, and generational trauma, and how to promote stronger community solutions.The opening session shared personal stories of four women.

Breakout sessions dived deeper into Resilience & Adversity, Treatment & Solutions, Talking Addiction, and Acknowledging Impact. The event concluded with moderators reporting action steps discussed in their groups. This is a summary of one of the conversations.

Below are resources, needs, and recommended action steps.


Highlights from “Resilience & Adversity” breakout session below (12 min). Trigger Warning: includes insights from a sex trafficking survivor.

Resilience & Adversity 
Linsey McMurrin and Lisa Deputie were part of a group from Minnesota Communities Caring for Children, which works with service providers and parents around the state. They report that more work needs to be done to prevent trauma. “We’ve been treating symptoms, not root causes,” said McMurrin, a Bemidji-based member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Deputie added, “It is vital to have parents involved at all levels, which makes some uncomfortable. Nothing gets done without them at the table.” 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are hard for children to admit to. As one person noted, sometimes youth deny being impacted by sexual abuse, or that a family member has been imprisoned, partly out of shame, and also from the deep-seated fear that no one outside the family unit would care.

Many times, children don’t know what is not normal. 

Libby Bergman is director of Family Enhancement Center, which particularly works on therapy with children impacted by sexual abuse. She suggests society contributes to sexual violence because we don’t have conversations about healthy sexuality. Toxic representations of sex and sexuality are prevalent in media.

Advocate and survivor Chris Stark was sexually trafficked at an early age. She said it is hard for good people to understand the network of sexual abuse of children, and how difficult it is for those children to find someone to trust. Teachers and neighbors are afraid to notice and say something. She is involved in trauma conversations now to try to prevent others from experiencing what she went through. 

Many women suggested that we have little sense of being part of a village, which means neighbors tend to feel “it’s not my business” if they suspect a child is experiencing trauma. 

One woman says that whenever she moves to a different place, “I knock on doors simply to introduce myself to neighbors.” 

Thanks to our event sponsors for making this information and conversation possible.


Needs Suggested in Conversation

These needs were suggested in breakout sessions:

• Advocate easier access to recovery programs for people of color, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. 

• Support more than 12-step programs to include mind/body options for addiction and trauma. When it becomes less taboo, funding will come more naturally, and research can be done to support the evidence-based requirements for insurance. 

• Urge legislation to improve infrastructure. Without basic needs met — housing, childcare, food, water, safety — parents are paralyzed in survival mode.  Criminalize date rape. Identify sexual exploitation — including sex trafficking and assault — as a public health problem. 

• Connect with Family Enhancement Center, Minnesota Communities Caring for Children, Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and resources and women featured in this magazine to learn more. 


Action Steps for a Trauma-Informed Society

Some of our featured guests at “MWP Conversations: Healing in Community” were asked to suggest action steps and resources for change. 

  • Advocate and writer Chris Stark: Attend  the “Demand the Change” conference March 8, 2019, in St. Paul, hosted by Breaking Free. The focus is prostituted and trafficked Black and Indigenous women. 
  • Ashley Powell, teenage reporter, Trauma Troopers: Teenagers need more access to youth-focused programs in order to release their trauma. 
  • Patrice Salmeri, Augsburg Recovery Center: Support recovery resources, including continuing care after people have left treatment. “Treatment is only the beginning. What happens afterwards is crucial. We need housing assistance, sober houses, insurance coverage, continuing care, therapy, self-help meetings, employment, food, shelter, and clothing.” 
  • Kim Albers, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation:  We advocate for many issues at the state and federal level. Join us to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to assess the adequateness and uniformity of addiction treatment education and training in medical schools; encourage greater integration of specialty addiction care; urge comprehensive linkages to community-based recovery support throughout the continuum of care. 
  • Libby Bergman, Family Enhancement Center: Support the need for government-funded programs that target education of parents and families, in an effort to prevent child sexual abuse. There is no funding stream to assist child survivors who are under- or uninsured. We have many schools offering prevention education to children and youth. However, studies show that educating parents in addition to youth is more effective.  
  • Sylvia Bartley, author “Turning the Tide,” Medtronic global director: Consider meditation as a response to what I call FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). “When we recognize danger and react appropriately, fear is warranted as the body physiologically prepares for flight or fight. Our ability to assess a bad situation is necessary to keep safe and is the real purpose of fear. Meditation can indirectly help to control fear by reducing levels of anxiety and stress.” 

Recommended Resources

News

• “Moving more than oil: The intimate link between human trafficking and dirty energy in Minnesota,” by Kayla Walsh, Autumn 2018, Earth Island Journal

• “When rape is reported in Minnesota,” 2018, 9-part series, Star Tribune: The 2019 Legislature will consider sweeping measures to fix systemic failures in the way the criminal justice system handles sex assault cases.

• “Why some Minnesota lawmakers are confident they can get an opioid bill passed in 2019,” Nov. 2018, minnpost.com Video

• TED Talk by Nadine Burke Harris, MD, “How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime” (16 min)

• Trauma Troopers: Minneapolis youth help with mental health, youtube.com

• “Dakota 38” documentary, on youtube.com


Books

• “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity”

• “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma”

• “Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota”


Websites

• acesconnection.com: Effects of childhood trauma and developing resilience

• safepassagemn.org: Advocacy in MN legislature on behalf of at-risk children

• minneminds.org: Statewide advocacy collaborative

• stopitnow.org: How to protect children from sexual abuse

• comingtothetable.org: Healing racial trauma

• samhsa.gov: Substance abuse and mental health services


Organizations

• Families Moving Forward: A program for children who have been sexually abused and their non-offending parents.

• Healing Motion: Group therapy that incorporates mind-body techniques. such as mindfulness, movement, and art expression for girls who have experienced sexual abuse.

• Midwest Center for Trauma and Emotional Healing, 952-934-2555, mwtraumacenter.com

• NEST: A parent mentor program which uses community volunteers to walk beside at-risk parents, giving them emotional support and guidance as they face parenting challenges due to mental health concerns, trauma, or stress. 


More videos to come.