Trigger warning: this blog contains sensitive topics including human trafficking, rape, and domestic violence. If you or someone you know is being trafficked or abused click the button below for a free live online support group.
Terms (defined by google)
Human Trafficking: Human trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, or holding victims to exploit them or to help someone else exploit them, generally for sexual purposes or work.
Trauma: Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual's ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. It does not discriminate and it is pervasive throughout the world. We all have trauma.
These definitions are good to help our logical understanding, however what do they do for our healing? Domestic violence (DV) and Human trafficking (HT) victims often do not even identify themselves as DV and HT victims due to the reality of complex circumstances surrounding events. Often times it can take years to fully acknowledge, even to yourself, the extent to which you have, in fact, been victimized. This is a natural and normal response and coping mechanism. We are fighters, survivors, the backbone of our families and communities, why would we identify ourselves as victims?! This mentality allows those of us in traumatic situations to continue with everyday life while, maintaining a normal appearance to the world, we privately balance extreme and life threatening situations. Living in survival mode can save your life and make sure the children are take care of, however it does damage to your nervous system to constantly live in a state of stress and fear.
There are a few things I want to cover right away if you have experienced DV or HT:
1. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
2. You are not dumb.
I say this because, those two statements describe how I have felt many times. Even writing this post, I would lying if I said there wasn't limiting beliefs swirling through my mind about the judgement I could receive by vulnerably sharing this sensitive part of my life's story. However I am putting myself out there because if this helps even one woman who read this, it is worth it.
FIGHT, FLIGHT OR FREEZE
Naturally when faced with a life threatening situation you will do one of these three, fight, flee or freeze. Many survivors of HT or DV report being able to survive, and at times tolerate their abuse, by assuming the freeze tactic. This is a survival response, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Women often look back with the feeling, they could have "done more", however it is important to be compassionate and gentle with yourself as you remind yourself that you were doing what you did to survive and did the best you could. Getting stuck in the freeze response, like a deer in headlights, can cause prolonged trauma to your nervous system and your life. "You are not lazy, unmotivated, or stuck. After years of living in survival mode, you are exhausted. There is a difference". -Nakeria Homer
This is my first time sharing publicly and for my own healing I am placing boundaries on what I share online. It has taken a solid support system, therapy and years of self healing for me to be able to admit this to myself and now to you. I have been human trafficked.
It wasn't until years after the initial traumatic experience that I started to realize I had deeply suppressed the effects of this trauma, to the point that they materialized physically through health problems and the breaking point was a domestic dispute. It was only then, years later that I finally started unpacking and addressing my own healing. Up until that point I had become very proficient at distracting myself with healing others, using this as "morally sound" excuse for avoiding my own discomfort.
You have got to feel all your feelings. Trust me... this is not most fun process, however it is necessary for your healing.
Trauma is trauma
Don't belittle your trauma. We have all experienced trauma. To some, what would be a minor inconvenience could be serious trauma to another individual. We do not get to define what is traumatizing to others.
Do not compare your trauma. As mentioned above DV and HT survivors often deny the severity of their experiences. Abuse does not need to be physical to leave an energetic imprint. Energy does not care if you are mentally avoiding or suppressing your emotions, this tension will merely fester and grow, causing dis-ease in the mind and body. “We don't get to choose what happens to us—but we always get to choose how we react to it.” - Epictetus
Coming back into alignment does not happen overnight. Be gentle with yourself during this process. Even when you feel alone, you are not. Support is there for you.
Dealing With Flashbacks
In times of emotional crisis I need to get out of my own head, if movement is not enough I turn to youtube for immediate self-help or self-soothing videos. I use calming music, specially 417 Hz, and find this has a very calming and comforting effect. Dolphin music, native american flutes, and hang drum music also provide soothing soundtracks that boost serotonin production. For self-help videos I watch Teal Swan, who is a spiritual guide and SA survivor. I am not saying watching youtube is the best solution ever, or what you should do, I am simply sharing how I have coped.
Another way to deal with flashbacks is inner child work through journalling or meditation. Weather you were traumatized as a child or an adult, inner child work can be extremely beneficial. Below I go into more detail about how alternative healing modalities assisted me to deal with flashbacks and how to get some sleep when your mind continues to assault you long after the traumatizing event.
Here is a reading list of books I have read and found helping for healing and integrating trauma. Speaking from personal experience I understand that it can be overwhelming to be reading about these topics if you are currently involved in dangerous situations. Take it at your own pace, these resources are here for you whenever you are ready for them. Trust the timing. Trust yourself. You got this.
The Body Keeps Score, Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma
by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
Existential Kink, unmask your shadow and embrace your power
by Dr. Carolyn Elliott
Woman Most Wild. 3 keys to liberating the witch within
by Danielle Dulsky
When Love Hurts, a woman's guide to understanding abuse in relationships
by Jill Cory and Karen Mcandless-Davis
The Emotion Code, how to release trapped emotions for abundant health, love and happiness
by Dr. Bradley Nelson
I hope you find these books helpful.
Alternative Healing Modalities
From my experience alternative healing modalities including Reiki, yoga, hypnosis and meditation proved to be the most effective in my continuing healing journey. These were practices where I didn't have to talk about and relive my experience, yet it allowed my body the ability to process and release the difficult emotions I had been holding onto. My hope for you is that you find one or many of practices beneficial and easy to fit into your lifestyle.
The Importance of Safe Physical Touch
Reiki provides safe physical touch. This experience can be extremely healing for trauma survivors. However it is important to listen to your own body and assert your boundaries when working with any Reiki practitioner. If you do not feel comfortable with someone else touching you, explore your own physical touch. Human contact is an extremely important and often overlooked component of our healing. There was an unethical experiment conducted on babies by the German King Frederick the second, in the thirteenth century where babies were placed in isolation and with the exception of diaper changes and feeds the babies received no loving physical touch. The purpose of this experiment was to find out what language babies would naturally speak if they were never spoken to, however the answer was never found because tragically all the babies died. The importance of contact comfort was demonstrated once again in another more recent experiment done by Harlow in the 1950s. In this "study" Harlow took baby monkeys from their mothers and provided them with two fake surrogate mothers, one made of wire that feeds them and one made of soft cloth that did not feed them. The results were clear, the monkeys preferred the comfort of the cloth mother over the wire mother, regardless of the food coming from the wire mother. At the time there were theories that offspring were only attached emotionally to their mothers because they provided food, however this was proved inaccurate (and also unethical).
As we grow old our need for connection does not go away, we may learn to mitigate the effects of lack of human connection through drugs, video games or self-harm, however the underlying need does not go away. Humans are hardwired to seek comfort through physical touch. "Anything that promotes feelings of love and intimacy is healing; anything that promotes isolation, seperation, loneliness, loss, hostility, anger, cynicism, depression, alienation, and related feelings often leads to suffering, disease, and premature death from all causes." -Dean Ornish
Get to Sleep (or atleast Relax)
When our mind is going a mile a minute, we can not settle down enough to sleep, one way to temporary deal with that is free online meditations and sleep hypnosis tapes. My personal favorite sleep hypnosis tracks are done by Jason Stephenson, you can find them free on youtube. There are many other meditations, affirmation tapes and soothing music that can assist you to get some sleep.
Listening to a sleep hypnosis will at best put you to sleep and at worst allow you to focus on something other than your own thoughts, resting your mind and eyes. You can also try taking a sea salt bath with lavender to relax your muscles before going to bed. Our healing is accelerated when we sleep, therefore it is important to make sure we are getting the rest we need.
When trauma get trapped in the body it can be helpful to get your body moving to get that stagnant emotional energy flowing.
Think of a time when you got really mad, and I mean REALLY mad. How were you able to tolerate the strong emotional current flowing through the body?
It is OK to be angry! It is a part of the human experience. You have every right to feel anger towards your situation or even yourself. What is not healthy is denying or surprising how you are really feel. Once you nonjudgmentally allow your anger to come to light it will be much easier to release, leaving behind a feeling of deep peace.
When I get angry I need to do something physical like go for a run or punch a pillow. When it is not an intense anger that needs to move through yoga and dance are my go to ways to get energy moving through the body. Both of these movement practices are powerful ways of releasing emotional energy through the body.
Do not worry about learning a choreographed dance or taking full yoga class just move your body intuitively. Focus on how it feels not what it looks like.
Find Support that Suits You
It is important that you find practices that feel right for you. How do you know if a practice is right for you? Ask yourself if you are forcing it or if it feels LIGHT, what makes you feels light, is right for you.
Breathwork, crystals, witchcraft, cooking, painting and gardening are all great options of practices and hobbies to explore that support your healing.
If any of the alternative healing modalities mentioned in this blog appeal to you we will be diving deeper into these practices during the live online support group. You can join from anywhere and all email subject titles will be discrete.
Click the button below to join for free.
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment on this blog post if it resonated with you today.
Let me know of practices you have found that support your healing.
Sending you love.