Our Blog

Criminal Injuries: Compensation for Survivors of Abuse

Submitted by Centre on June 1, 2016 – 12:00 am

At our Centre, many of our therapists are well versed in helping clients apply for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. In many cases, victims of crime are entitled to financial compensation, even in cases where formal charges were not laid against the perpetrator.

In some cases, this compensation can include funding for therapy, which can go a long way in helping survivors heal from the trauma that can result from abuse and violence. Our therapists regularly assist adults that apply for compensation for child abuse they suffered many years ago. If you are a client of the Centre who has suffered abuse or violence that occurred in Ontario, ask your therapist about how to apply, and they will help provide you with information about applying to the CICB.

Here are some useful details and links:

In Ontario, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is an administrative tribunal that is governed by the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. The role of the Board is to assess financial compensation to those who qualify under the Act; that is victims; or, the family members of deceased victims, of violent crimes committed in the Province of Ontario.

Injured as a result of violent crime in Ontario can apply, and the injuries may either be physical or psychological.

This includes:



sexual assault

domestic assault (e.g. abuse by a spouse/partner)

child abuse, physical and sexual

FAQs: http://www.cicb.gov.on.ca/en/resources3.htm

More details: www.cicb.gov.on.ca/en/index.htm





Clients Travel Long Distances for Therapy

Submitted by Centre on May 3, 2012 – 9:49 am

When the Centre opened in 2007, our goal was to fill a void for services in the Kingston area. We saw a lack of therapy for male and female survivors of trauma and abuse, particularly for long-term affordable therapy.

Since opening, we have grown quite a bit, and the word of our Centre has spread across Ontario. We serve clients from areas such as Belleville, Brockville, Stirling, Perth, Odessa, Inverary, Picton, Peterborough, and Northbrook. We are amazed to see how far some people are traveling to access our services.

The Second Mile Urges Donors to Give Elsewhere

Submitted by Centre on December 1, 2011 – 12:52 pm

The Second Mile charity is urging its donors to give money to charities that support victims of sexual abuse. The charity has been rocked by the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, a founder of the charity who has been accused of sexually assaulting and abusing several young boys.

If you are looking for a charity that supports survivors of sexual abuse, our Centre for Abuse and Trauma Therapy is one of them. All dollars raised through donations and fundraising at the Centre go directly towards clients’ therapy. The average cost of providing therapy for a client is $1920.00 per year, which is more than many survivors can afford. Our generous donors allow us to provide subsidized therapy to low-income individuals who otherwise can’t afford it. 50% of our clients leverage our sliding scale.

In order to heal through therapy, the journey one takes is not easy and is often long. The length and cost of therapy leave low-income individuals at a significant disadvantage. If you were ever curious about what kind of an impact you could make in your community and in the lives of people who have been traumatized by sexual abuse, think about what affordable therapy can do:

It can help someone heal from an extensive traumatic history.

It can help a person find the strength to lead a happy and productive life.

It can have a positive impact on more people than just the survivor: siblings, parents, children, friends.

It can reduce mental stress and anxiety – and reduce the strain child abuse puts on our mental health system in Canada.

It seems that a small donation can turn out to be priceless. Many people choose to give a larger one time gift, others set up monthly giving. Visit our Donate Now page to learn what you can do.

Or set up monthly giving through Canada Helps secure online giving site:  BUTTON

Hear what our clients have to say about the impact our donors have made in their lives:

“The Centre has been phenomenal in my healing process. I would not have been able to reach the heights of my healing without the low fee that they accept for my therapy.”

“Being a client of the Centre has changed my life. I currently only pay a small fee for services. Being a person on disability and raising two teenage daughters would make it impossible for me to get the help I so desperately need paying a full fee. Since I have started going to the Centre my life has changed so much. I have hope and an alleviation of my physical symptoms. I have a part-time job and more energy than I have ever known. The best part is that I am able to be there for my children when they need me.”

“I am a 56-year-old client of the Centre. The work I have done with my therapist about the extensive sexual, physical and psychological abuse I experienced in my formative years has been life-changing. The Centre is an invaluable resource, both to individuals and to the community. I am a firm believer in the ‘ripple effect’ of healing and hope that the Centre will be able to continue its important role in that process.”

Sexual Abuse is Not a Hip Topic

Submitted by Centre on October 31, 2011 – 10:44 am

Sexual abuse is not a hip topic. It doesn’t involve a sudden catastrophe; no one is counting numbers of the wounded on the news. It tends not to be discussed around the water cooler. It is a cause that seems to raise money quietly, from those who have been affected or know someone who has suffered.  Perhaps to talk about it means we have to face the reality that it exists. Acknowledging sexual abuse reveals the fact that we all should be doing more to help the victims.

This may be a reason that our Centre continues to struggle to obtain funding. The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Therapy works specifically with survivors of abuse and trauma. We have been open since 2007 and have qualified therapists who work with both male and female clients. We value being accessible and our fee is on a sliding scale. We do not limit client sessions and are one of the only counseling agencies in Kingston who offer long-term counseling.

Through workshops and fundraising activities our Centre will continue to work to raise money for our clients and our Centre. We will continue to offer the service that we know works and extend to our clients a safe place to receive therapy as long as they need it. Our Centre has a strong respect for our clients and for what they have survived. We understand that our cause is not fashionable; we stand up for it because our clients deserve it. Maybe if we all talked a little more about abuse, together we could make supporting survivors of abuse the hip thing to do.


Support the Centre with a Simple Letter

Submitted by Centre on October 31, 2011 – 10:07 am

As the Centre continues to receive a number of referrals from other agencies in the Kingston and surrounding area, we continue to receive feedback that our services are valuable and greatly needed.  We appreciate the feedback and are hoping to formalize these responses through letters from organizations that see value in what we do.

We have drafted a sample support letter which is attached here, and we are asking our partners, friends, and supporters to please cut and paste this letter on your own letterhead, sign your name, and send to us. Your letter will go a long way in helping us validate the need in our community for trauma and abuse focused therapy and education.

Please mail, or scan and email a copy to us today. Thanks again for all the support and encouraging feedback!

3 Pitch Tournament Supported by Kingston Businesses

Submitted by Centre on September 8, 2011 – 7:59 am

The Centre is pleased to announce The Mansion, a Kingston bar and restaurant has become a premium sponsor for our Sept 24th 3 Pitch Tournament. Mansion will be providing a number of items and services for the tournament:

BBQ food and beverages on site for the day

Prizes for tournament and derby winners

An after-party room reserved at the Mansion with a free pitcher for the winning team

10% donation of sales from the canteen and after party!

The Centre is also pleased to announce sponsorships from other local businesses. Play It Again Sports have provided the tournament with 3 dozen softballs for games and the home run derby. Canadian Tire has donated water bottles, and Pepsi Canada has donated pop and water for our canteen fundraiser. The Queen’s Inn and Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza have donated gift certificates for prizes. Many more local businesses are looking to get involved and we welcome their contributions.

“We are stoked to have The Mansion on board as a sponsor and supporter of this tournament,” stated Kate Kittner, Board President for the Centre. “Their support and contributions will help make this fundraiser fun. Our goal is to create an entertaining experience for the twelve teams in our tournament. We want teams to come back next year, and we want to expand to a 2 day, 16 team tournament. Having The Mansion involved will surely help us create a fun atmosphere. We are also delighted to have Play It Again Sports, The Queen’s Inn, Woodenheads, Pepsi and Canadian Tire involved, and we appreciate their generous donations. It really is heartwarming to see the Kingston community come together for a great cause.” 

The tournament will host 12 teams on September 24th at the Cloverdale diamonds. All funds raised will benefit the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Therapy. More details can be found on our news and events page.

If any individuals are interested in playing, some teams are looking for men or women to complete their teams. Individual fees will be somewhere between $20-30/person. If interested, send us an email: info@centrefortherapy.ca

Companies that Care – UPS Canada’s Generous Gift

Submitted by Centre on September 7, 2011 – 7:15 am

Recently the Centre received a generous donation from UPS Canada of $500. UPS decided to give to our cause because they are a company that is dedicated to strengthening their communities and helping those in need. UPS has chosen to recognize and assist the Centre’s endeavors.

As you may know, donations and fundraising help the Centre provide therapy on a sliding scale to low-income members of our community. To put this into perspective, the average cost of providing therapy for a client is $1920.00 per year. All donations help us provide our services to more clients who need it but cannot afford it.

Companies like UPS Canada can make a big difference in the life of someone in our community. Hear what one of our clients has to say about the difference a donation makes for them:

 “The Centre has been phenomenal in my healing process. I would not have been able to reach the heights of my healing without the low fee that they accept for my therapy.”

~ Anonymous Centre Client

We are proud to announce that at this time 50% of our client base is receiving subsidies in order to obtain therapy for abuse and trauma. We continue to fundraise and request government funding with the goal of being able to provide treatment to all clients as needed.

Thanks again to UPS Canada, for showing you truly care about our community.


FAQs about Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

Submitted by Centre on August 13, 2011 – 7:39 pm

Why do people use them?

People use these drugs to alter the mental state of their victim, causing the victim to become submissive. The drugs often have no color, smell, or taste. A victim does not know they are being drugged, yet they are removed out of clarity of mind and easy to take advantage of.

What do the drugs do?

Date-rape drugs induce sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can include touching that is not appropriate, sexual intercourse, rape, and attempted rape. These drugs are powerful and dangerous, and strongly alter the perception of the victim.

What do they look like?

There is a wide variety of date-rape drugs. They can come in liquid, powdered or a pill form. The variation in appearance makes it difficult to detect their presence by looking at your drink. Some drugs can have a slightly salty taste, can cloud the drink, turn the drink dark blue, and the most advanced kind will not alter the flavor or appearance of the drink whatsoever.

Who uses them?

Because they are referred to as ‘date-rape’ drugs there is a common misconception that the victim knows the person. However, these drugs are used by people who wish to engage you in sexual activity without your consent. This is not to say that they are not used on people of close relation to the deviant, however, they are most commonly used by strangers who aim to never see you again.

Where do people use them?

These drugs also are known as “club drugs” because they tend to be used at dance clubs, concerts, and raves. However, they can be found in all areas in which people are drinking. The goal is to make the victim feel their decision was impaired by the over-consumption of alcohol, while not realizing they were drugged.

How do they work?

The drugs can make you become weak, confused, and can even cause you to pass out so that you are unable to refuse sex or defend yourself. If you are drugged, you might not remember what happened while you were drugged.

How do you protect yourself?

Any drug that can affect judgment and behavior can put a person at risk for unwanted sexual assault, one must understand that alcohol can also be used to impair a victim for the purpose of sexual assault. Never let your drink out of sight, share drinks, consume drinks that are unattended. If someone buys you a drink, go to the bar and watch it be poured. Don’t let anyone hold your drink, and have a friend with you looking out for you. If you feel unusual, get help right away.

What to do if you are assaulted?

If you believe you were assaulted, get medical care right away. Call 911 or go to an emergency room. Don’t urinate, douche, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your hands, change clothes, or eat or drink before you go, and do not touch the area in which the assault occurred. There may be physical evidence of the rape or assault. The hospital will use a “rape kit” to collect evidence. Call the police from the hospital, and tell them exactly what you remember. Be honest about all your activities. You may later find trauma therapy helpful in coping with your situation.

Depression & Child Abuse: What’s the Connection?

Submitted by Centre on July 17, 2011 – 9:40 pm

When a person is depressed they may look at the world in a negative way. This is usually referred to as pessimism. To the person suffering from depression, getting up every day hardly seems worth the trouble, they feel sadness, lack energy, aren’t interested in everyday activities, and feel helpless and hopeless. Battling depression is hard enough in today’s world, and people may become pessimistic in order to avoid feeling any kind of disappointment in their lives. The intense feelings associated with depression can be very overwhelming and can lead to low self-esteem, self-blame, and unworthiness.

So you ask, “How does this relate to child abuse?”

Children who live in a home that is abusive – whether it is emotional, physical, or sexual – have a sense of feeling trapped. They feel helpless and hopeless, therefore creating a natural defense for their emotions. Here are some examples:

When a child feels excited about something but is let down over and over again, after a while they will learn to stop getting excited about things. They will learn to say to themselves, “Why bother, it won’t happen anyway.” When growing into adulthood they will never expect good things, and eventually will push away good things because they figure it will go away, or be used against them.

A child will eventually stop trying to do things, especially things that they not only get excited about but also that require some kind of work or effort on their part. They think that their efforts will lead to negative outcomes, so they stop trying.

A pessimistic outlook on life is a defense to negative outcomes in their childhood; they have no reason to believe that anything they do will lead to something positive so they learn to feel hopeless.

Children who are abused will almost always self-blame. They believe that there must be something wrong with themselves and that is why their parents or others treat them badly. This creates low self-esteem, and the abuser will continue to tell the child it is their fault; children tend to believe the abuser, therefore, feel responsible for the abuse.

Depression and Grief:

A person who suffered from childhood abuse may have many reasons for feeling sad. One of these reasons could be grieving a loss that is directly related to their experience of trauma. This may be feelings of grief for missing out on a happy childhood or missing out on a loving parent. They may also feel sadness at the loss of their own innocence. This is part of the depression that an adult survivor is dealing with on a day to day basis. It is very hard to explain when someone asks you why you feel down; you may feel helpless to describe why you feel the way you do. This may be related to a sense of loss caused by childhood abuse. Many learn of this when in therapy which helps them to explain and understand why they feel sad and helps during the healing process.

After a Clinical Depression Diagnosis

Now you are an adult and have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression. The next question should be, “How do I manage my depression, and what treatment is there for me?”

As an adult who survived abuse as a child, it is expected that you feel depressed. Some may find that their depression comes and goes but it always seems to return. Sometimes depression can come with physical self-injury or self-destructiveness, and even suicidal thoughts. This may be because a child who is so angry at the abuser and too afraid to take their anger out on the abuser, will turn on themselves.

Depression is very serious and a person suffering from depression should seek therapy as soon as possible: battling depression alone can be very difficult. Here are some helpful tips for those who suffer:

Exercise your body when you can, this gets your endorphins going and will allow you to feel happier.

Treat yourself to good things, plan ahead to spend time with loved ones, and follow through with it.

Make short term small goals for yourself, this will give you a sense of accomplishment.

Learn to identify common feelings and thoughts that come with the depression, try to talk through them.

Find the treatment that feels right for you, this could mean individual or group therapy. This will help find the underlying causes of your depression.

Get medication if your doctor thinks it is necessary for you to do so, there are many improved anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications that may help you, and therapy is recommended as well.

Part 4 of 4: Healing and Treatment Options

Submitted by Centre on July 17, 2011 – 9:19 pm

Healing is POSSIBLE:

The first thing to remember is that healing from trauma and PTSD is POSSIBLE. The recovery process in therapy helps you cope with remembering the trauma, understand your reactions better and see it in a new way. Your emotions and feelings about the trauma will become clearer and more easily controlled. Finally, you can have power over your trauma, and have your life back. Healing depends on factors like the intensity and duration of the stress or trauma that occurred, it may take months or years to recover, but beginning the healing process will speed up recovery if you take it one step at a time.

Remembering and Processing the Trauma

The beginning stage of therapy focuses on the establishment of safety, emotional coping strategies, and support. It is especially important to have support when the survivor is remembering the past trauma. For example, people remembering that they were molested as children, may feel worse initially, more depressed and more helplessness. But with long-term appropriate therapy the outcome is very positive. A person can learn to pace the memories and have stability while they work on the trauma. Survivors learn to have better relationships with others, have authority over their memories, and the ability to approach life by looking positively at the present and future.


Some people may use medication to help during the healing process. If a person is depressed, has high anxiety, suicidal thoughts, trouble sleeping, or anything else that may hinder the healing process, they can get help from their doctor with medication options.

Will I Ever Be Happy Again?

Yes. Long-term trauma-based therapy is very successful in resolving trauma. There are many roadblocks in PTSD therapy. The journey is not easy and is often long. Some survivors drop out within the first few weeks after feeling some relief from their symptoms, feeling more happy and sane. But they may later return to therapy because the trauma was not fully resolved, the pain is still there, and the anger and self-destructive behaviour returns. But with persistence in therapy life becomes a lot more manageable, emotional coping skills progress, the ability to deal with stress improves, it becomes easier to the communicate and express feelings, self-esteem is raised and quality of life is much better. Finally, there is a peaceful, contented resolution that allows for a good, happy life.

PTSD Part 3 of 4: War and Employment Related PTSD; PTSD Effects

Submitted by Centre on May 11, 2011 – 7:24 am

War and Employment Related PTSD:

Physical and mental injuries caused by trauma have always been a part of war and employment such as emergency response teams, firefighters, etc. The effect on the human mind is widely known today, as well as in history. Self-blame, depression, disturbed sleep, anger, violence, anxiety, alcohol abuse, and PTSD are many problems that people face after such trauma has occurred in their life. It can be very hard for others to understand just what that person is going through, and most are not sure how to help.

War-Related PTSD

In warfare, soldiers are trained to respond to stress and violence. Because war is brutal, bloody, and violent, some soldiers come home suffering from PTSD. Factors such as – the longer the person was in combat, if they were imprisoned if they felt betrayed by another – can increase the risk of developing PTSD. It is not limited to combat survivors: nurses, administrative officers, supply officers, and anyone else that was exposed to the effects of warfare can suffer from PTSD. In a war, a kill or be killed mentality can make a person feel powerful yet powerless at the same time. Soldiers can be left feeling stress, regret, self-hatred, and shame, and survivor guilt. Soldiers may have witnessed the deaths of comrades they were close with. Survivors may feel that they should have somehow prevented death or injury.

There is the intense flow of energy that comes with the fight or flight response when the adrenal glands are responding. People may feel this exhilaration as a kind of “high”. In a battle situation soldiers are encouraged to use this “high” to fight, but when the soldier comes home back to civil society, they can have a hard time adjusting to controlling that response.

Veterans may feel expressions of fear or grief will be seen as signs of weakness, while anger will be seen as a sign of strength. Veterans who are unable to express their feelings in appropriate and healing ways may turn to substance abuse, compulsive behavior, outbursts, abuse, become depressed, and sometimes suicidal. When they experience triggers they can act in ways that seem unusual to others. When a person has been trained to react with aggression their potential for violence is higher. Managing self-control is very important when faced with these situations. Overall as a veteran of the war experience, there are physical strains, psychological strains, and unresolved issues that cause stress in everyday life.

Employment Related PTSD

PTSD sufferers experience trauma in many ways. When a place of work involves violence, blood, death, crime, etc., a person can suffer similarly to how war veterans suffer. Workers may find that they are either numb from it, or find it hard to separate their home life from their work life. The stress can be overwhelming and they may become depressed, anxious, begin to abuse alcohol and drugs just to cope with the pain of seeing awful things happen to other people. Police officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters frequently must deal with these traumatic events. Some find it hard to cope, and members of the immediate family are often the first ones to notice changes in behaviour, or personality changes in the person suffering. Family members can seek help. Trying to understand PTSD without professional help can take much longer and be more stressful on the family unit. Sometimes the person with PTSD may decide to hide their feelings of anxiety, and stress, but eventually one day it can surface, and may be explosive. They may become suicidal and others may not see the signs of depression. If your workplace involves violence, pain, and death, it is a good idea to get help in understanding the effects, and how this trauma can cause PTSD.

Home Life Affects:

A person who has PTSD can have a difficult time functioning as an employee, a parent, a partner, or as a member of the community. Their quality of life is affected in a negative way. If the person suffering doesn’t get the help for themselves, it can affect their family and friends.

Family Life:

When a family member suffers from PTSD, the family unit can be damaged by the stress from unmet needs. Family members can find it difficult to talk about problems, communicate about feelings, and adjust to the changes in the person with PTSD. A person may feel anger, frustration, or even rejection from family members – which can lead to self-blame, depression, feelings of helplessness, and guilt. The relationships within the immediate family can be strained. If there are children in the home, they can also go through these feelings; they may not understand why daddy doesn’t play with them anymore, or why mommy doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. The structure and consistency that the children were used to in the home have been lost, this can lead to behavioral problems at home and school, loss of interest, and feelings of rejection from that parent.


In the community, a person suffering from PTSD, who would have otherwise been a positive impact on the community, may be unable to attend to responsibilities. This may include the inability to attend church, community meetings, home owner’s association meetings, community fundraisers, etc. A person suffering from PTSD can have an outburst in public, which can be terrifying and embarrassing for family members. Financial strain can result; for example, a person affected by PTSD may lose their job, and a family can be swept away by poverty, can lose their homes, be forced to move, and struggle to put food on the table. Others in the community may start to spread rumors, cut off friendships, and pass judgment towards the sufferer.

Substance Abuse and Addictive Behaviour:

Another effect of PTSD is the sufferer may turn to drugs and alcohol to try and numb the pain, relieve anxiety or depression. The feelings associated with the hyper-arousal stage can be difficult to deal with and a person may find themselves drowning in alcoholism, food addiction, anorexia, compulsive sexual activity, or even gambling, to avoid feeling pain. Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms are temporary, and the feelings and symptoms return. The sufferer is right back where they started. This can cause a sense of helplessness, desperation, suicidal thoughts/actions, dependence on the substances, and low self-esteem. This can, in turn, isolate a person from family, work and community. Depression is a major factor in substance abuse; most PTSD sufferers cannot control the feelings on the inside, so they try and control their symptoms, and therefore cause more issues than just the traumatic event. Addictions, compulsions, depression, and substance abuse are some ways of trying to cope with the emotional pain that comes with PTSD; until the pain is faced and addressed, these problems will only continue.

Stay Tuned for our final part in this Series: 
Healing, Treatment Options

PTSD Part 2 of 4: Signs and Symptoms, The Biological Response

Submitted by Centre on April 27, 2011 – 6:07 am

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

There are several symptoms and signs that people may be experiencing with PTSD. Some people may experience all symptoms, or only a few. PTSD cases are not all the same and can take different forms in different people. Signs and symptoms also depend on the severity and duration of the traumatic event.

By examining the different kinds of trauma, such as an environmental based trauma (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.), or trauma caused by another person/persons (rape, molestation, car accident, combat, witnessing death, etc.), we can determine which symptoms are more likely to be present. A person may irrationally blame themselves for trauma caused by another person, thinking they “could’ve gone the other way, should’ve avoided it”, but in an environmental trauma, they can blame it on something external such as god, bad luck, global warming, pollution, etc.

Signs and Symptoms Can Include:
  • Memories or pictures in your mind of the trauma or event
  • Nightmares about the trauma or other scary dreams that leave you sweating and frightened
  • Insomnia caused by these dreams/nightmares
  • Flashbacks like you are reliving the trauma
  • Depression or feeling numb inside, loss of interest in things that previously enjoyed
  • Spaces in your memory where you can’t seem to remember certain pieces of the event
  • Anger and irritability, difficulty concentrating
  • Constantly in defensive mode, watching out for danger, anxiety
  • Dizziness, stomach or muscle cramps, physical pain that has no medical explanation
  • Thinking about the traumatic event involuntarily, these thoughts interfere with everyday life
  • Emotional shutdown, triggered by feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, and/or fear
The Biological Response

If a person goes through enough physical or emotional stress, the central nervous system receives a series of shocks. The higher intensity and long-term trauma cause a disruption in the natural chemical balance of the brain and body. But this reaction is different in everyone; one person may find that their chemical balance has not changed, whereas others may find that it has changed distinctively. Most likely those with long-term trauma will be affected by these biological changes because the trauma is severe, and repeated. Some problems include:

  • Difficulty in regulating or controlling emotions
  • Not being able to think clearly
  • Development of depression, mood disorders
  • Development of substance abuse problems

Because of the changes, a person may feel as if they are still living in the same conditions as the traumatic experience. Others may tell you that the danger has passed, but your body and mind may involuntarily revert back to how you were feeling, your emotional state when the trauma occurred.

“Fight or Flight” reaction of the adrenal glands is a response to high stress or dangerous situations and these glands secrete large amounts of adrenaline. This enables people to have supercharged energy, sudden strength, and more speed than usual. If you have ever been in a situation where your child is about to fall, you rush to them extremely quickly, or if someone is hanging off something, you all of a sudden have super strength and can lift them up? This is the result of the increase of adrenaline. The heart rate increases, digestion slows, oxygen levels rise, pupils will dilate, and the blood will coagulate so if you bleed you won’t die of blood loss. But there is also a non-adrenaline that makes you go numb or freeze; for example when an animal plays dead at the sight of danger. Some people such as soldiers in battle, rape victims, battery victims, and survivors of environmental traumas report that they just froze like they could not move or react to the event.

Even when the traumatic event is long over, but there is a trigger, such as a sound, smell, or anything that reminds us of the original event, it can cause a surge of adrenaline through our bodies. A person can become agitated, annoyed, have extreme anger reactions, night terrors, and flashbacks, or a person can become numb, confused, and non- responsive to certain triggers. Since the hyper-alertness and numbing effect can be painful, people will try and avoid certain trigger situations; unfortunately, this is not always possible. Later we will talk about how to manage reactions to stressful or trigger situations.

Neurotransmitters and Prolonged Stress

Your adrenals are not designed to withstand prolonged stress, and experiencing repeated trauma will damage these glands. This is what causes the hyperarousal or numbing of PTSD. Neurotransmitters are released with the secretions of adrenaline. These are substances that help regulate the intensity of a person’s mood or emotions, so when they have been used up it can lead to clinical depression, outbursts, overreactions, and severe mood disorders.

Stay Tuned for Part 3 in this Series:

Home Life Effects, War and Employment Related PTSD

Guest Blogger – Alexa McDonald, RSW: Childhood Abuse Effects on Adult Mental Health

Submitted by Centre on April 20, 2011 – 9:04 pm

Child abuse and neglect hurt. The degree of hurt depends on factors such as the severity of the abuse and the child’s environment. The more severe and prolonged the abuse, the greater the harmful effects on mental health. Abuse happens within the context of a child’s life. The greater the degree that a child’s home environment lacks safety and protection and the less their needs are met within the home, the more serious the impact. Being unsafe and bullied in school also increases the impact on mental health.

Childhood is a time of learning. Childhood is a time of vulnerability. Childhood is a time of hope. If a child is in a home where her parents keep her safe and protected and seek to meet her needs, she learns that her world is safe, that she is cared for and that her rights are respected. If a child is abused and neglected, she learns that she does not matter, that she has no rights or choices and that she must minimize harm. A child constantly works inside herself to think of how she will be hurt the least amount possible. At the same time, she tries to tell, without words, what is happening to her.

Abuse removes control over one’s life. Abuse renders victims helpless and powerless. The more severe the abuse, the greater the sense of helplessness and powerlessness. Total, absolute powerlessness breaks human beings. One must find within oneself some sense of control. If a child who is physically abused does all the dishes and does not get beaten, then he feels his efforts have kept him safer. He will constantly work in his mind to think of what else he can do to keep himself safer. This gives the child a sense of some control. Children find many ways to do this. Children often use their imagination to create an image of a loving parent when the parent is in fact, not loving. Children sometimes create worlds inside their imagination so they can survive.

Children believe what adults tell them. If the adult perpetrator tells the child the abuse was her fault, the child believes it. If a child is told she is stupid and never does anything right, she believes it. Children are easily manipulated into believing what the adult says. They do not know that the adult is lying to them or tricking them.

The hurt from abuse in childhood often continues to hurt into adulthood. Adults who have experienced child abuse look grown up, but there may be a hurt child inside. This inner child may have the same sense of lack of safety, the same beliefs about their lack of rights, the same anxious, constant working to minimize harm. To the adult, this is all normal. The adult does not realize that what he was taught as a child was not correct. The adult does not know about loving herself as she has been taught only self- hate. Most adults abused in childhood do not know that much of their fear comes from fearful childhood experiences.

If a child is extremely severely abused from very young, she/he may survive by dissociating the experience from their conscious mind. Mild dissociation is common to many people in forms such as a daydream or highway hypnosis, where one is driving and realizes time has gone by and they are not quite sure what point they are in the journey. Dissociation related to abuse or trauma is on a continuum, where the more extreme the abuse, the more extreme the dissociation. “Zoned out, numb, not real, not myself” are some descriptions of periods of dissociation. On the severe side of the continuum is the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Reports of the capture of Internet criminals who sell images of the abuse of infants and toddlers are difficult to comprehend. It is more difficult to hear that some of these criminals are parents of the child victims. It is this kind of severe abuse at a very young age that can result in DID.

DID can result when a very young child or infant is abused, and the child dissociates the assaults. The child creates an inside world or system where harm is separate from their conscious mind. A child proceeds through life continuing to create parts of themselves that hold the pain or the memories of the abuse they experience. Some parts are spontaneously created to help. Parts have jobs to do, including protection of the host and other parts, holding the emotional pain, denying the abuse, protecting the abusers, doing what the abusers say to do, and keeping the memories of violent incidents. All of this is kept separate from the conscious mind.

Child parts do not fit well in an adult life. Child parts communicate literally and do not understand the subtleties and nuances of adult communication. A child part often trusts too easily and quickly. A child part might lash out and become a monster so he can fend off attackers and keep himself safe. A child part does not know how to handle adult matters like paying bills, driving, working. Some adults with DID can function quite well in society most of the time. Overwhelming stress and changes in one’s life can trigger parts taking over. The adult host might lose time and not remember what they said and did. Therapy for DID includes helping the person to communicate with the parts, to love and care for the parts, to cooperate and work together, and to allow the parts to tell the adult host about what happened to them.

Healing from childhood abuse is possible. Counseling might be needed to assist with healing. The more severe the abuse, the longer healing takes. Healing takes work, courage, and commitment to oneself. Healing means that the memories of the abuse are available if needed, but the emotional pain is much less or totally gone. While abuse makes it impossible for the child to grow and develop in safety, healing means growth and development is now possible as an adult. With healing comes self-love, self-confidence, a sense of safety and power, and knowing one’s rights and choices. Healing means that what was stolen by an abuser in childhood is claimed in adulthood. 

PTSD Series: Part 1 of 4 – Understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Submitted by Centre on April 12, 2011 – 12:13 pm

 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In this Four Part Series, we will cover several aspects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to give a clearer picture of PTSD, and to help those in the journey to healing.

Part 1: Understanding PTSD, Different Traumas

Part 2: Signs and Symptoms, The Biological Response

Part 3: Home Life Effects, War and Employment Related PTSD

Part 4: Healing, Treatment Options 

 “If it were not for hopes, the heart would break.” 

~Thomas Fuller

“… in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” 

~ Anne Frank

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”


“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”

~ Audrey Hepburn

Part 1 of 4: Understanding PTSD

When people have experienced intense traumatic events, there is a psychological response to this experience that we call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When the experience is life-threatening, it creates high anxiety, and some may not have the ability to cope with the situation. When you or someone you know is traumatized sexually, physically, or psychologically, it can produce an overactive adrenaline response, where the biochemical changes in the brain are elevated by the fight-or-flight response. This response is normal and does not mean that you are crazy, or damaged. There can be Long-Term and Short-Term trauma with two different causes of the event, Environmental, or Human Caused Trauma.

Environmental Caused Trauma

When a traumatic event is caused by an environmental disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, etc, the survivor may be able to heal quickly. This is because there is no one at fault; they blame these catastrophes on things like global warming, pollution, god, or bad luck. In some cases, this can be combined with a feeling that people who should have been there to help were not, which adds a level of human betrayal. In this case, they may also blame hospital staff, EMT workers, and firefighters. 

Human Caused Trauma

When a traumatic event is caused by person/persons (robbery, rape, incest, war/combat, long or short term abuse, vehicular accident, fire) victims may blame themselves for the trauma or for not escaping it. The response to the trauma can vary depending on the degree of severity and duration or frequency of events.

Long-Term, Short-Term Trauma

Long-term and short-term traumas are very different in the sense of the exposure over time to the trauma. If a person is assaulted once it can be traumatic, but if a parent assaults a child throughout their entire childhood, this is extremely traumatic for the survivor. Children have a more difficult time understanding and dealing with trauma than an adult. An adult who experiences one traumatic event may be able to respond better than someone who experiences ongoing traumatic events. For example, in a combat situation where there is much death, destruction, and shock on a person in a very stressful and difficult situation, the brain will react differently than it would to a single traumatic event.

PTSD is a Documented Reality

People do not “make up” this disorder; it has been proven time and again that a human’s ability to cope with trauma causes a change in the chemicals of the brain, which can affect the body. These include depression, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, insomnia, and psychological numbing. The after effects can lead to alcoholism, drug abuse, and re-experiencing the trauma on a day-to-day basis. This can affect your home life, family, work, and your children. Please remember that with the right therapy you can heal from this; with the right support, you can find ways to cope and live a peaceful life.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 in this Series:
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD – The Biological Response

Understanding the Effects of Emotional Abuse in Childhood

Submitted by Centre on March 29, 2011 – 10:05pm

Were You Taught to Allow Yourself to be Emotionally Abused?

Often people who are involved in abusive relationships as adults were abused as children. Did you ever ask yourself why you end up putting yourself down or asking what is wrong with me whenever you find yourself in an abusive relationship? Well, the answer could be that you were emotionally, verbally, physically, and/or sexually abused as a child. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you have been taught to accept abusive behaviours from another person or you don’t recognize the abuse until it is extreme. It can be psychologically and emotionally very difficult to leave this person, so you stay in abusive situations, or if you do leave, you end up in another abusive relationship later on in life.

Why Do You Seem to be Drawn to Abusers?

  • You may have low self-esteem.
  • You have always been treated poorly in your life.
  • Adults who were important to you may have shown bad examples of how to be when you grow up by accepting abuse themselves.
  • You are recreating abuse from when you were a child, without realizing it.
~“That old familiar feeling.”

There are some children who were treated with respect, kindness, and thoughtfulness; when becoming adults, they do not put up with any bad treatment from anyone. On the other side, if a child grew up with disrespect, unkindness, and carelessness, as an adult this treatment can seem normal and almost comfortable to them. If it was their parents who treated them this way, they might believe that this is love and be drawn to the emotional feeling of being owned, dominated, and or even physically abused in relationships.

~“I am just like my parents.”

If one parent was abusive emotionally or even physically abusive to your other parent, then you may find yourself taking on the same roles. If you remember one parent being the peacemaker in your home, doing everything to make the other parent happy, and making excuses for the abuse, then you may find yourself taking on that role as an adult, and may not even recognize the abuse in your own relationship for what it is. There is a possibility as well that you will take on the role of the abuser, you may not even realize that you are abusive to your partner, you may just see yourself as not weak because you don’t want to be like the parent that took the abuse. In the instance, you could go either way.

~“I can’t find anyone better.”

People who have low self-esteem from the emotional abuse they endured as children feel as they do not deserve someone who will treat them well. When a spouse is treating them poorly they accept it instead of choosing to reject them. Even if the person can see that the spouse is abusive, they still stay because they think that they’re not good enough to be treated well. Sometimes childhood abuse was so severe that you believe wholeheartedly that there has got to be something wrong with yourself, and that you are never going to be accepted and loved no matter what you do. People with low self-esteem are attracted to mates who show self-confidence, strength, who act like they have everything together, and are in control of their own lives. But because of this low self-esteem, and low self-confidence, they cannot see that the person is not genuine, or that they are putting on a front. In fact, you might not be able to tell the difference between self-assuredness and dominance/possessiveness.

~“I won’t make that mistake again!”

Sometimes you might find yourself in yet another abusive relationship after you thought you knew and learned about the warning signs. You could be unconsciously trying to relive the past, getting involved with people who are like your parents. If parents didn’t show us love and acceptance, then we look for someone and try to make them accept and love us. If your mother was always critical and demanding, then you may look for friends who continue to criticize you and demand too much from you. We can fall into the trap of acting out the same thing over and over again.

Abusive Authority Figures, Caretakers, and Siblings:

It is very important to try to find out who the original abuser was in your life so that you can figure out why you are trying to have what your parents didn’t give you as a child. There are usually one or two people who were very influential in your life, whether it is your mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparents, siblings, or someone else. Some of these could be your abusers, they stand out in your mind, and they were the ones who hurt you the most. The first person to show abusive behaviour towards you may or may not have been your childhood abuser. Your childhood abuser was the person or people who caused the most significant damage in your life. You may not recognize that you were abused as a child, or at least not have been aware of it at the time. We can believe that it was just normal to have been treated that way. Some types of emotional abuse are:

  • Physical neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Emotional neglect
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Boundary violation
  • Social neglect
  • Intellectual abuse

Other Influential People as the Abusers:

Parents are the main caretakers in a child’s life, but there were probably other people who could have been an influence to you as a child. These people include siblings, babysitters, foster parents, grandparents, religious leaders, teachers, aunts and uncles, and step-parents. These people had authority over you and were in a position of control in your life. A child will look at these people as role models, mentors, and guides. It is abusive for these people to use their position in authority to harass, make fun of, name call, sexually abuse, or physically abuse any children.

Sibling abuse is common; sometimes it is confused with sibling rivalry. Family dysfunction sets the stage for this kind of abuse. A parent may ignore this behaviour and will tell the children to work it out for themselves. The parent is showing to the child that the abuse is not important to them, and the child then suffers. Children cannot be expected to solve large problems amongst themselves, especially if one child is the victim of this type of abuse, it is like bullying inside the home. When a parent gives the responsibility to an older child to care for, watch after, babysit the younger child, the older child may resent the younger child for having to deal with such a big responsibility. This is where the older sibling can take their anger, frustration, and bitterness out on the younger child. Sometimes there can also be favoritism within the family unit, with parents spoiling one child or the other. This is very severe as the child believes that they are the “black sheep” of the family, and can never do anything right.

Parents as the Abusers:

It helps to recognize the different ways that parents could have been abusive in your childhood so that you can recognize the effects in your adult life. These categories could also refer to the above-mentioned people who were influential in your life:

~ Possessive

A possessive parent may have babied their child, holding on as to almost suffocate the child to keep them close. This parent tries to control the child. The parent may feel jealous when others want to spend time with the child, so they may discourage the child from making friends by saying things like, “That kid is not your friend at all, she is mean”, or “You don’t want to play with him, he is a boy.” They try to find something wrong with anyone else. This type of parent is very strict, they don’t want the child to go out with other children, and during the dating teen years may say the child is not allowed to date at all. Sexually inappropriate parents may act out possessively.

Sometimes a parent is possessive because they want to protect their child from the bad in the outside world. Maybe they were sexually abused as a child or experienced something horrific in their life.

It can be emotionally abusive when a parent treats their child as a friend and confidant to meet their own needs. In fact, the child is the one who needs advice, to be encouraged, to feel better about herself, not the other way around. Adult problems are too hard for a child to deal with, and expecting the child to be a shoulder to cry on is not the child’s responsibility.

~ Excessively Restrictive

This kind of parent seems to want to be in control of everyone around them. They see themselves as the ruler of their household expecting to be obeyed at every command, with no questions asked. They want the rules to be heeded and dominate children in order to feel power and control. These parents have control over finances, decision making, even decisions that the child is obviously old enough to make on their own. For example, what to eat, where to go to hang out, what girl/boyfriends to have, etc. These children often grow up being very indecisive people with low self-esteem.

~ Abandonment and Rejection

There are many ways that a parent can abandon, or show rejection to a child. Some physical ways are neglect, pushing the children away, refusing to accept or give affection such as hugs, making children leave home alone at too young an age, giving up on them, or not providing adequate care. Some emotional ways are: not showing needed attention nor affection, detachment, isolating, ignoring, not showing interest in the child, being unresponsive to the child’s emotions, not caring what the child wants.

~ Being Excessively Critical

Being quick to point out the wrongs a child is doing without ever complimenting on the positive things that the child has accomplished can be very damaging to a child’s self-esteem. They feel as if they can never do anything right in the eye of the abuser. They are constantly trying and trying but seem to be failing at every turn. The abuser may be singling out one child or treating all of their children in this way. This type of verbal abuse can be even more damaging than physical abuse to a child because the child starts to believe that they are not good enough and never will be, and it affects their own development and sense of self. A child is very centered on how others see them, when a parent judges and criticizes them at every turn, they become sensitive to what other peers think of them. For example, if a child is criticized about his/her schoolwork, that it is never good enough, then a good grade will not lead to satisfaction or a feeling of success because it wasn’t the perfect grade. Therefore, the child will be over critical of themselves in adulthood and may always feel like a fraud no matter how successful they are.

~ Alcoholism/Drug Abuse

Some children who were emotionally abused grew up with alcoholic or drug-addicted parents. Children in this situation were abused in many ways such as neglect physically and emotionally, verbal abuse, having to “take care” of their parents at a young age, and a living in a distraught environment. Because alcoholics/drug addicts are unpredictable, the child will become anxious, “walking on eggshells”, and afraid of their parent. The child ends up taking care of their parent and not looking after their own needs; this, in turn, can create an adult who will do everything and anything for another person; they may seek people who need help.

These children have to grow up too fast, losing a lot of their childhood. As adults, they feel that they failed their parents by not being able to make them better/heal. As a child in an alcoholic/drug addicted home, they will be neglected, there are usually no rules/or too many rules. The child is either disciplined harshly for things they didn’t even do, or there are no rules at all. In turn, the child may grow up to have low self-control, almost no boundaries, and often become compulsive as well. This can include gambling, overeating, or alcohol and drug abuse. Because of their need to take care of someone, their compulsiveness, and co-dependency, they may become attracted to other alcoholics and compulsive people. They may feel the need to create drama in their lives, they seem to constantly be in crises, and they find that they are anxious or depressed when life is calm.

~ Passivity / Silence to Abuse

It is passive abuse when one parent ignores the other parents’ abuse of the children. Such as a parent who does not say anything, or turns away when the other parent is abusing the child or children. When one of the parents outright ignores the abuse taking place in the home, this may teach the child to be passive, and submissive. Or on the other hand, the child may become enraged and aggressive. They may learn that they have extreme control in their lives to not be a victim. By doing nothing to protect the child or themselves from abuse, the parent is then becoming an accessory to the abuse. By not answering the cries for help from their children, they are teaching the children that they just have to accept the abuse, that they have no other option.

~ Sexism, discrimination

This form of abuse occurs when a parent shows hatred toward a certain sex or characteristic of their child. Whether they are female or male, there can be favoritism for one child and abuse for the other. For example, males who are sexist tend to think that women are inferior to them, and think that they have a right to control those women and so treat their female children negatively. They try to teach their sons to have this kind of behaviour towards their sisters, or mothers. This is emotionally damaging to all the children. Parents who discriminate against a child because of other characteristics, cause similar damage to the child and to other children who witness this abuse.


Your parents and caregivers have a great influence over you as a child. The way they treat you during childhood can affect your adult behaviour in many ways. If you believe that any of the above situations were common in your childhood, now would be a good time to look at how it may affect your decision making, your self-esteem, how you see others, your ability to trust, your personal relationships, and your lifestyle. Maybe it is the result of your parent or another authority figure that had some kind of power over you as a child. By looking deep into your past, you can see why you seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. Emotional abuse is very serious and the people who are important to you in your life should never be emotionally abusive towards you, this keeps you trapped in feelings of hurt, shame, and fear. You can heal from the abuse and have a good happy abuse-free life.

Understanding What Sibling Abuse Is

Submitted by Centre on February 23, 2011 – 10:09 pm

Bullying in the home can be worse than in the schoolyard because the victim must live with this every day. In any household where children live together and grow up together, there can be sibling abuse.

This form of abuse may have been sexual, physical, or emotional. Abuse can happen between step-children, foster children, adopted children, or birth children. Usually, the more powerful, older sibling will use their position in the home to abuse another sibling, leaving them feeling powerless, trapped and ashamed of the abuse. Children may not know if certain behaviour is acceptable or not: children have to be taught the difference. Sibling abuse may lead to emotional and physical trauma.

The abuse won’t stop if parents ignore it, turn the other way, blame the victim, excuse it as sibling rivalry, or fail to believe their children when they are told about the abuse. Sibling abuse, and parent’s negative responses to this abuse can cause a lot of damage when children grow into adulthood.

Sexual Sibling Abuse:

Sibling sexual abuse can be very harmful. The victim can feel trapped, ashamed, helpless, responsible, and powerless to stop the abuse. The abuser may use physical abuse and threats to ensure that the victim will not talk about it to others in the family. In any sexual abuse situation, the victim may also feel betrayed by the abuser. Siblings trust each other, and they may not expect the other sibling to hurt them. They may also believe that the parent(s) accept this behaviour because the parent(s) left the victim in the care of the abuser.

When looking at the age differences in children, two to four years age gap means they are worlds apart developmentally. To adults, a few years doesn’t really mean much difference. But because of the growth of the brain, body changes, and understanding/comprehension, it is very easy for an older sibling to trick a younger one into sexual acts.

If both the children are very young and close in age, curiosity between the different sexes is common. For example, a three-year-old boy wonders why his little sister doesn’t have a penis. Sometimes children of the same age play “show and tell” with their genitals, they can pull down their pants and show what they have. This is normal behaviour.

But if a teenage boy is watching his little five-year-old sister while she is changing, wondering what it would feel like to touch her, then this is abusive behaviour. Sometimes parents can also be involved, or instigate the sexual abuse; in these cases, victim’s feel there is nowhere to turn. 

You may remember being very sexually active as a teenager, could this behaviour have come from some form of sibling sexual abuse? Did you ever think about the attention your older sibling gave you made you feel a little weird? Did your parents condone sexually abusive behaviour? For example, by thinking it was cute when your older sibling seemed to always be fascinated with your penis, wanting to touch it all the time?

The consequences of sibling sexual abuse are many when the child grows into adulthood. Some issues include problems in romantic and family relationships and sexual problems. Although you may be having these problems, you may also experience, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and alcoholism. As a teenager maybe you ran away at a young age, or you were pregnant at a young age due to high sexual activity. If you experienced physical abuse as well as sexual abuse, then you are most likely to need therapy help.

Physical Sibling Abuse:

This type of abuse is rarely reported, it is often seen as sibling rivalry. Physical abuse by a partner/husband/wife is seen as serious but physical abuse between siblings can be minimized and ignored. This type of abuse can also involve sexual abuse.

Tension and problems within the family can isolate children and leave victims of sibling abuse feeling scared, alone, and helpless. The older and bigger sibling can start off with small things such as hitting, kicking, and pushing, but this can escalate to serious violence, and physical injury. Witnessing family violence is also traumatic to children.

Sometimes the seriousness of physical violence has been treated differently according to gender. A female child who slaps/hits their younger sibling may be seen as just having a bad day, whereas an older brother slapping or hitting a younger sibling may be seen as having an anger problem, or this offense may be laughed off as “boys will be boys.”

Here is what one survivor said about their abuse:

“My older sister was always left in charge of me when I was younger. I grew up in a single parent home. My mother worked until 5, but we were finished school at 3, so my sister had to take care of me until my mother got home. We had chores to do, one of us would clean the living room, and the other would do the dishes and clean the kitchen. Most of the time my teenager sister did not want to clean at all. She would yell at me and tell me I had better do the dishes and vacuum the living room, or else! I challenged her one day stating that this was unfair, we had to take turns. She then got up and went to attack me. I ran up the stairs to get away from her and ran into the bedroom. She pushed through the door, pulled me by my hair down the stairs, threw me to the ground, and kicked me. She was yelling that Mom put her in charge so I better listen, or she will leave the mess, and tell Mom that I didn’t do anything, so then I would be in trouble.”

This is a significant example of abuse when parents leave the older sibling to take care of the younger one. The older sibling may be angry at having to be in this position. Then when the younger sibling doesn’t do what the older one wants, there may be threats and physical violence. The younger sibling then must live with this every day, being scared in their own home.

Emotional Sibling Abuse:

Continued teasing, putting down, criticizing, scaring (as in telling the child there are monsters that are going to get them) is sibling verbal and emotional abuse. The younger child tends to look up to their older sibling for acceptance; so if they are telling the younger ones that they are fat, ugly, stupid, or that no one really loves them, the younger child will believe it. In turn, this causes low self-esteem and possibly leads the victim to end up in an abusive relationship later in life. There are many people who have been traumatized by what their older sibling told them and have psychological scars.  
Many times when the child comes to tell the parent that the other sibling is name calling, the parent tells that child to go tell the other one to stop it, or just tells them to deal with it themselves, also parents tend to blame the victim by saying “don’t be a tattle tale!”

A survivor gives an example of emotional abuse: 

“As a young boy, I was overweight, and I enjoyed school very much. My older brother was on the football team in high school and always had pretty girls over with his friends. One time when he was babysitting me, I went into the basement where they all would hang out together, I wanted to know when Mom would be home from her date. As I walked down the stairs, they all stared at me. My older brother rolled his eyes at me and said “What do you want fatty? Some MORE FOOD! Ha Ha. Didn’t you have enough at dinner?” Then they all laughed at me, I ran upstairs to my room and cried. I had been hoping they would let me hang out with them until Mom got home. After that, I stayed away from my brother and his friends in the basement. My Mother would ask me, “Why don’t you go see what your brother is doing? Maybe he will play with you.” That would get my hopes up, maybe Mom had talked to him, told him to be nicer. But every time I would be rejected, told I was fat and nerdy, that I would never get married because no one would want me. It caused me to be very depressed, and therefore I ate more and more.”

What Can Parents Do To Prevent Sibling Abuse?

  1. Reduce the rivalry in your home between your children by setting rules and boundaries that are clear for everyone. Explain that you will not tolerate abusive behaviour such as name-calling, hitting, belittling, provoking, or “bad touching” between them. By having boundaries in the home the children become well aware of what abuse is and be more confident in telling a parent if the abuse has already happened.
  2. Do not give the older children too much responsibility for, or power over, a younger child. This can cause resentment in the older child and can lead to abuse. Try to have a babysitter, or after school care, or a trusted adult to watch your children.
  3. Set aside some time every day to talk with your children about their day. It is a good idea to talk to each child alone at least a few times a week to ask them how they are doing if they have problems or concerns.
  4. Know when to intervene in your children’s arguments before they become abusive. Children cannot possibly be expected to work out every conflict on their own. When you notice an argument is starting to get worse, possibly leading to violence, or name calling, step right in and separate them so that you can listen to each side. This way your children feel that they are being heard, and you can come to a resolution.
  5. Make sure you are keeping an eye on what your children are watching on television, reading, and what they are doing on the internet. Find out more about your children and what they are doing, in turn, this can help prevent abuse from happening in the first place. When a child learns that sex can feel pleasurable, ensure that you are talking to them about what their responsibilities are, and teach their right to say “no” to unwanted physical touch, sexual or otherwise.


Keep the lines of communication open between all of the children in your home, make sure to let them know that their bodies are to be respected, be willing to talk about sexuality and educate your children about sex, providing information that is appropriate for the child’s age. Most importantly, believe your children when they come to talk to you about concerns that they may have; children almost never make up sexual abuse stories just to get someone into trouble. 

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Your Life

Submitted by Centre on December 15, 2010 – 1:45 pm

Have you ever felt like people seem to walk all over you? That you might be like a “doormat” in your relationships with others? If you feel that you have a hard time saying the NO word, then you need to re-evaluate what boundaries, or limitations (if any) you have set. Make sure that you are setting healthy boundaries, and not putting up walls. This is not being selfish, it is self-care.  You can take care of others better when you take care of yourself. When you learn how to set boundaries you will feel more confident in your personal relationships, as well as have more energy at work and home, validate your self-value and esteem, and be in charge of your own life.

What are Boundaries?

This is simply deciding what you will let, and not let, happen to you. These are taking the responsibility for what is going on in your life, and giving others a clear picture of how you want to be treated.  All of this comes from deep within us, of our own thoughts, beliefs, personal rights, our values, what we like, what we don’t like, and our sense of self.

Why do You Need Boundaries?

Boundaries protect you from many things such as violators, and controlling people. They are also there to protect your personal attributes, your identity, and your peace in life.  It should not matter who we are with, or where we are, we need our boundaries to take care of ourselves.  This is not being selfish, it is just being very clear about what you will tolerate and what you will not.  This way we can have healthy loving relationships with people, while still having a sense of ourselves.

Getting Started:

  1. Think about what is good and not good for you personally; everyone differs on this, so think really hard about your answers.
  2. What will you do if your boundary is crossed?  Be very clear about that they have crossed your boundary, and that you do not want it to happen again, and what the consequences are for them.
  3. Do not stop there.  You need to follow through with the boundary.  When you have decided, voiced, and become firm on a belief, value, etc. then be strong and take it seriously, others will also.

Setting Boundaries:

  1. As we learn to trust ourselves, our values, and our gut feelings, we can be clearer on our boundaries.
  2. When we look at our life, what we want, what we need, what we like, or don’t like, we can set our own boundaries that will make us happier.
  3. Most importantly, a sense of self-care is fundamental to creating our boundaries.

Unhealthy Boundaries:

When you are not sure if you have healthy boundaries in place, or you want help someone else set good boundaries, you need to know what the signs are. Instead of doing everything others want, you must make choices that suit you on a personal level.

Warning Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries:

  1. Touching someone without asking permission.
  2. High expectations from others to fill your needs.
  3. Letting someone take as much as they want from you.
  4. Falling in love with anyone who shows you the least bit of attention.
  5. Being sexual for the other person only, not for yourself.
  6. Telling your whole life story in the first hour of meeting someone new.
  7. Trusting others too much, or not trusting anyone.
  8. Opinions of yourself are based on what others think of you.
  9. Giving/taking as much as you want just for the sake of giving/taking.
  10. Not seeing when someone is invading your personal boundaries.
  11. Doing things that you otherwise would not do based on your values, beliefs, rights, or desires to make someone else happy.
  12. Allowing other people to say who you are and what to do in your everyday life.

Living Everyday Life

In the end, we need to have strong boundaries to have deep meaningful, and loving relationships with others. Try to remember to not make decisions when you are desperate, being pushed into it, or when your gut is just saying “no” to you. 

Take back the responsibility of decision making in your life, don’t be afraid to take care of yourself first, and be strong and firm in the decisions that you have made. When you do this your boundaries will be your safety net in all aspects of your life now and in the future.

Poverty and Trauma: How they are Linked and How You Can Help

Submitted by Centre on November 4, 2010 – 10:34 pm

Four years ago the Centre was launched in reaction to the lack of affordable, long-term therapy available to men and women in our community. Over the years, we have noted a striking trend in that many members of our community cannot afford the therapy they so desperately need.  Almost 50% of our clients pay the lowest fees on the sliding scale.

The low-income cut-off (LICO) rates are often quoted by the media as a measure of poverty, however, Statistics Canada has stated it is not a poverty measure. The LICO published by Statistics Canada in 2005 was 10.8% (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_Canada). Unfortunately, individuals who have experienced trauma and abuse can become impoverished as a result of their experiences. In 2005, WISE, an organization that works to address the causal link between policy and poverty, encouraged 21 low-income women to tell their personal stories of living in poverty and to begin their accounts at any point they chose. After all the stories were completed and compiled, the storytellers uncovered two major long-term predictors of their future poverty:

“The #1 predictor of future poverty was overwhelmingly an event, more often a course of events, that traumatized us during childhood. The events mentioned in the greatest number of our stories were abuse, neglect, or exploitation by a guardian or family member. Fourteen of us report having had experiences of this sort. In several cases of abuse, other family members or the community knew about it and did nothing, which increased our isolation” (Sources:  http://bcseawalker.podbean.com/about-wise/; and http://challengingthecommonplace.blogspot.com/2009/02/altered-stress-genes-childhood-trauma.html)

Conversely, those living in poverty can be more likely to experience abuse and trauma. Worldwide research demonstrates this:

“According to a UN report on modern slavery, the most common form of human trafficking is for prostitution, which is largely fueled by poverty. In Zimbabwe, a number of girls are turning to prostitution for food to survive because of the increasing poverty. In one survey, 67% of children from disadvantaged inner cities said they had witnessed a serious assault, and 33% reported witnessing a homicide. 51% of fifth graders from New Orleans (median income for a household: $27,133) have been found to be victims of violence, compared to 32% in Washington, DC (mean income for a household: $40,127).” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty)

To support those in our community who are living in poverty and need therapy, the Centre relies on volunteers and donations to help provide a sliding scale for our therapy services. We understand that while people may be motivated to help, it can be tough to make large donations. Thus to respond to the need in our community, the Centre launched a Monthly Giving Club. Small monthly donations are an easy way for people to make a big impact each year. Donors help the Centre provide services on a sliding scale to members of our community who cannot afford therapy.

The Monthly Giving Club is aiming for 200 donors who can give $20 a month. This amounts to less than 70 cents a day and helps people make a big impact over time. The Monthly Giving Club Members will receive special recognition and will be updated a few times a year as to the impact of their contributions. Hear what our clients have to say about how Centre donations are used:

“I am deeply grateful for the peace, sense of self, and the compassion for my own suffering that has resulted from the work my therapist and I have done together. My life has been forever changed.”
– Anonymous

“As a client at the Centre I currently only pay a small fee for services. Being a person on disability and raising two teenage daughters would make it impossible for me to get the help I so desperately need paying a full fee.”
– Anonymous

Monthly giving is a creative way to get more people involved, who may otherwise not be capable of making a large, one time gift. You don’t need to have a big stash of cash to be able to make a real difference in your community; a little goes a long way, and anyone can make an impact.

The “Cycle of Abuse” Myth

Submitted by Centre on September 18, 2010 – 2:06 pm

Everyone has heard the idea that abused children will grow up to abuse their own children. It’s been accepted as a fact for years now. It makes an easy explanation: How could someone act that way? It must be something learned in childhood. If everyone is shaped by environment, then growing up in a bad environment must create a bad person If we learn how to act towards children from our own experiences as children, and those experiences are bad, we must grow up to believe that’s how things should be.

There’s a problem with this theory: there’s no evidence to back it up. In fact, solid research evidence says the opposite. Recent studies show that about 80% of survivors never abuse their children or any other child.

There is no single reason why any adult abuses a child; there is no straight line from experiencing abuse as a child to abusing children as an adult. Direct cause and effect relationships are simple, easily explained to the average person, and create the illusion that since we’ve identified the cause, we can do something about it and prevent the effect. But simplicity isn’t necessarily accurate. There is no one, clear answer. There are many factors leading someone to be abusive, and childhood experience is only one of them.

The myth began with a single study in 1968 of 60 families, referred to the authors (Steele and Pollock) for psychiatric problems. In that study, parents had recreated their own upbringing with their children. The authors included a warning that this was a biased group and conclusions couldn’t be drawn from it, but the idea caught hold and spread.

Other studies have been based on prison populations. Only 33 – 40% of convicted offenders of child abuse were abused as children themselves (as compared to 25 – 33% of society in general) (Marshall and Barbee). Not every survivor ends up in prison; not everyone in prison was abused. But if you look only at convicted offenders for those who have been abused, everyone studied will have gone on to become an offender.

Another source of referrals for studies is the social assistance system, which leads to a limited group dealing with other factors that have an impact, such as poverty and education. Unbalanced and backward statistics like these have been used as “proof of an ongoing cycle, even though they leave out the many survivors who belong to neither group.

In 1979, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a more balanced study by Hunter and Kilstrom. They talked to 282 parents of newborns. These children were considered to be at high risk for abuse because they were premature. Forty-nine of the parents reported having been abused or neglected as children. Of these, only nine (18%) went on to be abusive themselves. Of the parents who were not abused, one went on to abuse a child.

More and more evidence shows that the whole concept of an inevitable cycle of abuse is nothing more than a myth.

Contrary to the popular notion of a “generational cycle of abuse, ” however, the great majority of survivors neither abuse nor neglect their children. Many survivors are terribly afraid that their children will suffer a fate similar to their own, and they go to great lengths to prevent this from happening. For the sake of their children, survivors are often able to mobilize caring and protective capacities that they have never been able to extend to themselves. Judith Lewis Herman, MD (1992). Trauma and Recovery,  p 114

Despite highly publicized but irresponsibly quoted statistics that seem to predict adults abused as children will inevitably maltreat their own or other children, survivors much more frequently direct anger and abuse toward themselves in some variation of trauma reenactment syndrome. Correlations between childhood victimization and offender behavior in incarcerated felons—the population most available for study-have no bearing on the lives of functional survivors. In fact, the vast majority of survivors grow up to be fierce protectors of children, determined that no other child will ever be hurt as they were. Mary Bratton, MS, LPCC (1999). From Surviving to Thriving, p 110

Survivors are actually much more likely to direct aggression inward than they are to become abusive themselves. Studies have found strong links between childhood abuse and self-mutilation and suicide attempts, but no clear relation to violent behaviour as adults. Women especially are more likely to be victimized by others or injure themselves.
As a result of this myth, many survivors live in fear that they will do to their children what was done to them, that it’s a destiny they can’t escape. It’s thrown around as a statement of fact, that if you’re a survivor, you shouldn’t have children. Yet the majority of survivors never repeat the cycle.

These days, the focus is changing from “What goes wrong?” in 20% of cases to “What goes right?” in 80%. Instead of wondering why one in five goes on to become abusers themselves, researchers are now trying to figure out why four out of five don’t. Instead of researching what damages people, they want to know what makes them strong.

So what does go right? Resilience is the ability to overcome childhood abuse. It is not some kind of mysterious ability to be completely unaffected by trauma, or to walk through life with no pain, no scars, and no damage, or to recover instantly and completely. It’s the strength to overcome the trauma and rebound from experience, to keep going.

Our experiences affect us, but the past doesn’t define what the present or future have to be. Childhood abuse does not automatically lead to a life of abusing children. The concept of an endless cycle of abuse, carried on from generation to generation, may sound simple and logical, but it just doesn’t fit the facts.

How My Life can be Better after Therapy

Submitted by Centre on September 18, 2010 – 12:08pm

When we come to realize that we need to recover from childhood abuse, it can be very gradual and slow.  There are many good experiences in recovering, and some harder experiences, but it is all part of the healing process.  Sometimes during this process, you will feel happy, and better, and other times it will bring up many emotions that are triggered by memories.  But do not worry, this is what happens, you have the strength inside of you to deal with these emotions.

Here is a list of reasons to keep going through the healing process, even when it seems very difficult:

1. Better personal relationships:

You will look forward to being in healthy relationships whether it is with friends, family, or your significant other.  You will be able to treat others with the love and respect they deserve, and you will be treated back with that same love and respect, which will only make these relationships stronger.  You will be able to trust others, and not want to control them.

2. Being in the Here and Now:

It is very hard during recovery when you start to have memories from the past that were traumatic for you, or something that you see/hear triggers a recurrent memory.  These feelings can be very overwhelming, but when you are in recovery you will be able to focus on the here and now.  Then these memories, thoughts, feelings will be easier to handle/cope with.

3. Finding Out Who You Are:

This is the best way to find out who you really are.  During the healing process, you will come to realize that there are things about yourself that maybe you didn’t even realize because you were so caught up in the negative feelings about yourself.  But when you begin to open your eyes to the possibilities that are inside of you, you will realize you are a wonderful and strong person.

4. Having more control in your life:

As you start to recover, you will feel that you are more able, adequate, and sufficient in your life.  Another important aspect of this is that you will not feel defenseless, or lacking in strength when it comes to other people in your life. 

5. Reduced Mental Stress or Anxiety:

As you recover you will be better able to set goals, be realistic about the future, and you will feel more calm and happy.  You will have a happier and healthier mindset.  You will feel confident in the choices you make, and have hope in your desires, wants and needs.   You will feel resolution in your overall wellbeing.

6. Better Sexual Experiences:

As you recover you will face any unsettled issues about your own sexuality and how you feel about making love.  Recovery opens up a world of possibilities for you, and the past will stay in the past.  You will be able to experience control over yourself, and your body, and change any negative associations for positive ones.  Memories/flashbacks will lessen over time, or disappear altogether.  You can look forward to having a loving sexual relationship with your partner and break the ties of past trauma.

7. Enhanced Individuality:

After recovery, you will be able to clear your mind of thoughts of anger, pain, and confusion, the world will become more real for you.  You will be able to see your own behavior and will help you in opening yourself up to change.  As these unsuccessful habits are changed, you can see the world has many possibilities for you.

8. Learning Healthier Responses:

As you recover you will learn that many past behaviors are holding you back from having a healthier life.  You came to have certain survival skills that helped you live in the pain, lack of attention, and affliction that you experienced in childhood abuse.  But did you know that some of these survival skills may be harmful in recovery?  When you let out the feelings, and safely abandon the old ways, you make way for close, loving relationships with others.

9. Elevated Self-Esteem:

One of the most important things about recovery is your overall wellbeing.  In order to take care of yourself, you must feel good about yourself, otherwise, you think, “What’s the point?” Then you start to abuse yourself over and over again, with alcohol, drugs, or promiscuity.  When you go through the recovery process you will have heightened self-esteem.  You will feel better about yourself, who you are, what you can offer, your strengths, and your self-awareness.  Then you will start to have better self-care, which makes you feel better about yourself.  This is an ongoing process that just keeps lifting you up and up.  You will be able to make changes to your life with confidence and have better control over yourself.  This leaves a sense of happiness and hope for your future.

10. Enhanced Ability to Comprehend Your Emotions:

It is very important to understand your emotions so that you will be better able to understand them.  During the recovery process, you will feel these emotions rise up, they can be confusing, or overwhelming.  But when you are learning how to react to these emotions, then you will be able to express them in a healthy way, and you can look forward to managing, and directing them in a better way.

11. Reduced Physical Pain/Symptoms

Your body holds onto the abuse from your past through your emotions.  During recovery, you will be able to let go of those memories, and your physical pain will likely subside.  Muscle aches, difficulty breathing, and genital pain can be symptoms of the abuse.  But when you open up your mind to releasing the tension of your emotions, then you will find that these will be relieved, and you will gain self-love, and putting your anger to the abuser and not yourself.

The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Therapy is not a Crisis Centre. 

If you are in distress, please contact the 24/7 crisis line at 613-544-4229 or the Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 613-544-6424.  If this is an emergency, please call 911.