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Empowerment-Beyond Surviving

Most sexual abuse survivors seek to resolve and recover from their trauma as a way of restoring peace and balance in their individual lives. Through the process of Telling, Recovering, and arming themselves with the Education to understand their experiences, they are usually succesful in healing from their abuse, and can live much fuller, happier lives. On it’s own merits, this is a form of empowerment.

But for a significant number of survivors, they feel called upon to engage the wider world. They come to view their own experiences beyond the prism of personal trauma, but within the broader context of social oppression. They feel a calling to transform their own personal tragedy into social action- a phenomenon that Judith Herman describes as a “Survivor Mission”

TREE Climbers is itself a “Survivor Mission”-created by two women whose own experiences of sexual abuse compelled them to take collective action. Along the way, they came to discover they were not alone in their thinking- that many other survivors felt the same sense of restlessness and determination to push for social change. Ultimately, this is the over-arching goal of TREE Climbers- our first priority is to help restore the individual, but we do not plan on stopping there. Here is how Judith Herman describes the purpose and reward of the “Survivor Mission” in “Trauma & Recovery”:

Social action offers the survivor a source of power that draws upon her own initiative, energy, and resourcefulness but that magnifies these qualities far beyond her own capacities. It offers her an alliance with others based on cooperation and shared purpose. Participation in organized, demanding social efforts calls upon the survivor’s most mature and adaptive coping strategies of patience, anticipation, altruism, and humor. It brings out the best in her; in return, the survivor gains the sense of connection with the best in other people.

So what form does this broad social action take? The answer is ultimately yours to decide. We encourage ALL survivors to find what fuels their passion, and find the “Survivor Mission” that empowers them. A few ideas that may inspire you:

  • Organize or participate in a “Speak-Out” against sexual violence in your community
  • Hold workshops and trainings for professionals who work with children about preventing sexual abuse
  • Give presentations in schools to help children learn about sexual abuse
  • Volunteer with your local rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter
  • Get trained as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate, a.k.a. Guardien ad Litum, an advocate for the rights of children within the family court system)
  • Write letters to the editor of your newspaper if you see a story that is insensitive towards victims of sexual violence.
  • Join the campaign to end Human Trafficking
  • Advocate for legislation to strengthen child protection laws, and increase funding for victims resources

These are just a few ideas-the possibilities are endless.

If you decide to take up this challenge, please send your story, as well as any pictures and videos you may have of the event to  so we can post them on our blog. We would be honored to share your own “Survivor Mission” with the world.



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