An interview with Rachel Grant about the sexual abuse she suffered as a ten-year-old at the hands of her grandfather, and the work she has done to counteract its lasting impact on her life. Despite her training in psychotherapy Rachel became a coach because she wanted to be able to use her own story as a way to help others. Rachel describes the many beliefs that she and other abuse survivors often struggle with after abuse, things like: It was my fault, Something is wrong with me, I must have wanted it, or I have no value…. Rachel talks about the ways she worked to see these destructive interpretations for the bald face lies that they are. She made a key distinction between forgiveness, which she defines as “to send away” as a way to shed, or unburden the negative impacts of the abuse; and absolution of the perpetrator, which she does not recommend. Over years of work she has developed strategies to help herself and other survivors move forward with their lives so that the abuse no longer defines them.
A Live Forum for Courageous Conversations.
Safe Space is a show about subjects that are hard to talk about--a respectful forum for courageous conversations about difficult subjects in order to reduce stigma, provide education, offer hope and access to resources. It is a space for the in depth discussion of matters that touch hearts and yet feel risky to share; subjects that deserve, but rarely get, thoughtful consideration.
The topics on Safe Space often deal with the guests’ courage to accept difference in themselves, especially when they feel afraid or ashamed about that difference. Shame is a painful psychological and emotional experience, but it is also a cultural and political force. All acts of courage inspire others to take risks, to express themselves, to be themselves. Such acts have political force to stand up to silencing, to create change.
Each show attempts to name and acknowledge difficult feelings, and to honor those who have found their own way of putting them into perspective. Listening to Safe Space will introduce you to many who are daring to speak about what is true for them as they find a way to turn their deepest wounds or hidden struggles into a gift for others. Giving voice to the unspeakable is ultimately an act of generosity and courage that makes our world more hospitable and welcoming to the parts of each of us that feel vulnerable.
An interview with Episcopal priest Carl Russell about the childhood sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of the priest of his family’s congregation. Carl tells the story of how both he and his family were groomed for the abuse, as the priest worked to gain his family’s trust and esteem. He also describes how the shame and the threats kept Carl silent well into adulthood. He describes the emotional breakthrough that allowed him to end his silence, both privately, to his own family, and publicly, through the legal system. He discusses the way that the years of silence cost him almost as much as the abuse itself, and the enormous power it has to tell the story and be heard.
An interview with child advocate Brie Masselli about her own experience growing up in a home with domestic violence. Brie tells the story of running to school to escape her stepfather’s violent outbursts, and how her childhood struggles in and out of school were missed by those who might have helped. Brie speaks about the ways that children internalize the ways that they are spoken to, and how emotional abuse undermines their confidence and sense of self. Brie now works as an advocate to help caregivers in schools and hospitals perceive the indirect signals of distress from kids.
An interview with Dr. Vincent Felitti about his groundbreaking research to show that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s, like abuse, neglect and severe family dysfunction) are correlated not only with mental illness and addiction, but also with physical illnesses like heart disease, lung disease and even auto-immune diseases. He reports that just asking patients about the presence of such painful experiences results in fewer medical emergencies and need for extra doctors visits. Over 17,000 patients were part of a study, showing that the prevalence of ACE’s is terribly high (28% of children experience harsh physical abuse like beatings, and 22% suffer sexual abuse, 16% of boys, and 28% of girls). He reports that despite these findings about the frequency of child abuse, and the relationship to adult health, many doctors are still very reluctant to ask about it, or to include it in how they think about their patients. This is especially sad given that the simple act of asking one follow up question about how the abuse is affecting them now, reduces the need for medical care (not to mention the cost!) even further…
An interview with Dr. Vincent Felitti about his groundbreaking work discovering the high prevalence of child sexual abuse among those who are obese. In his clinic 55% of patients coming in for treatment of obesity had histories of child abuse. When the patients were asked, it turned out that obesity was a form of solution to the problem of unwanted sexual advances. The eating was a form of comforting for painful feelings, but being large made people (men and women) feel safer in the world. He reports that obesity treatment programs that do not address the underlying problems of early childhood painful experiences will not be able to address the heart of the problem. Click on this link to read Dr. Felitti’s article about obesity and child abuse. Obesity-1
An interview with Sheila Heen, co-author of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most and member of the Harvard Negotiation Project; about how she manages difficult conversations in her own marriage. Sheila and her husband are on opposite sides of the political spectrum and she and her husband feel passionately about their differences. Despite years of teaching others how to negotiate difference, it can get very personal and painful with someone you love, especially when you are also trying to model how to disagree respectfully to your children! Sheila speaks movingly about how to listen deeply to someone whose opinion you don’t like, and how letting go of trying to persuade allows deeper connection and understanding. She also talks about how sometimes it is ok to go to sleep mad, because you’ll only make it worse when you are really tired and caught up in one perspective. She gives examples of how to get bigger than your own perspective, and find something right about the person even none of you wants to…
An interview with Laura Chasin, the founder of the Public Conversations Project, about her work facilitating a dialogue between leaders of the pro-life and pro-choice movements in Boston after the abortion clinic shootings in 1994. Laura describes the intense amount of preparation that went into these dialogues, and the feelings on both sides, that they were literally sitting down with the devil. She describes the questions they asked to help them listen without trying to persuade, and the ways they were able to develop trust and respect for each other, even though they continued to disagree strongly.
An interview with Tim Wilson, a senior advisor to Seeds of Peace; bringing youth from war-torn countries together for dialogue each summer in Maine. Tim describes the way that trust, respect and communication are practiced at camp to build relationships that can foster peace throughout a lifetime. He tells the story of how an apology between a Palestinian and an Israeli boy helped build trust that effected relationships throughout the camp. He described the destructive pattern of kids competing to prove that their side had suffered more as a way to gain advantage. We spoke about his own formative experience losing a family member to the Klu Klux Klan, and how his parents had helped him overcome bitterness and hatred.
An interview with Fatuma Hussein, the director of the United Somali Women of Maine. Fatuma describes the pervasive atmosphere of fear in the refugee camps where she lived for two years after leaving the civil war in Somalia. She spoke about the challenge of meeting the United States resettlement categories of family, when extended families are the norm in Somalia. She reported that the role of women in Somali culture has been changed dramatically by the war, life in the camps and the challenges of resettling in an entirely new culture. While, when she was little, the birth of a girl child was not celebrated, now, as Somali women have shown themselves to be the bedrock of their families through extraordinary upheaval, she feels that the status of women is improving. She said that Somali women on the whole do not see the hijab (head scarf) as a form of oppression (as many western women assume), but as a symbol of connection to a culture that they value highly. She also made the distinction between Islam which she feels tends to value women’s authority and rights, more than Somali culture itself. Ultimately she affirmed the courage of the Somali women who have come to this country with absolutely nothing and have found ways to protect and support their families in the face of overwhelming newness. She invites us to see Somali women through this lens.
An interview with business owner, Hussein Ahmed about his journey from Somalia, spending ten years in refugee camps in Kenya before ultimately ending up in Lewiston, Maine. Hussein describes the many challenges for families trying to stay together through the time consuming and difficult process of applying for resettlement in the US after 911. He describes the challenges of finding work in the US due to language barriers, cultural uncertainties and religious stereotypes. He also reports that there are religious restrictions in Islam on borrowing money with interest and how this can serve as a barrier for Somalis starting their own businesses. After working as an employment case manager helping refugees get jobs, Hussein ultimately opened his own businesses, running a store and also running a service to help Somalis communicate with their family members in Kenya and transfer money to them. He is optimistic that with modifications in certain banking practices, Somalis can become even more effective entrepreneurs adding to the future of the Lewiston-Auburn area in Maine