Breaking Free - April 2022

From the editor

Welcome to the April edition of Breaking Free.  This month our feature article talks about the ACE Study.  ACE stands for “Adverse Childhood Experiences”.  These include experiences such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence.  The ACE Study provides valuable information to both survivors and professionals, and we encourage you to explore the numerous resources provided.

As we recognise Domestic and Family Violence Prevention month, Dr Cathy Kezelman takes part in an episode of the podcast “There’s No Place Like Home”.  There are 10 episodes in total, and each episode tells the story of 10 extraordinary people who share their experience and pull back the curtain on domestic and family violence.

We have also released a new fact sheet – Responding to Adults Disclosing Child Sexual Abuse.  This fact sheet has been specifically written for people supporting adult survivors of child abuse, who are disclosing their abuse to them.

We would also like to thank Bruce for sharing his powerful story. We hope that by sharing, Bruce inspires others in our community to share their stories with us.

Until next time, take care,
Blue Knot team

The ACE study – what we can learn from it and how it can help us

child drawing

You may have heard about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). The term refers to an ongoing study in the USA (since 1995), which has produced regular publications since 1998, and which shows how common early life trauma is (Felitti, Anda et al, 1998; 2010).
To find out more about the ACE study go to  

Most importantly the ACE Study identifies the importance of finding support to help minimise the effects of the trauma and promote healing. The reality is that even early life trauma CAN be resolved and there are now many more possibilities for healing than there used to be. Understanding the ACE study is about building awareness and opening up possibilities for healing and recovery. Hope and optimism about the possibility of recovery is not just `wishful thinking’ but is upheld by research. Neuroplasticity (i.e. the capacity of the brain to change both in structure and function) means that supportive relationships can support the process of recovery, regardless of childhood experiences.  

The ACE study shows that adverse experiences in childhood can have a range of negative effects on the health and physical and psychological wellbeing of adults who experienced it. It also shows how the coping strategies people adopt in childhood to deal with overwhelming experiences can become risk factors for less than favourable health impacts later in life.  

Listen to this Ted talk by Nadine Burke Harris about the impacts of childhood trauma  

ACEs are common across different populations and continents. Some populations are more vulnerable to ACEs than others because different communities and people living within them experience different social and economic conditions in which they grow, play, learn, live and work. 

The original study listed 10 different adverse experiences such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse and each of them regardless of the number of times they were experienced received a score of one. Almost two-thirds of study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs. 

The ACE score is the total sum of the different categories of ACEs reported by participants. Study findings show a graded dose-response relationship between ACEs and negative health and well-being outcomes. In other words, as the number of ACEs increases so does the risk for negative outcomes. Another useful resource is  

As well as providing valuable information for survivors recognising and understanding ACEs is important for health professionals and people who work with survivors.  In fact, understanding ACEs has also been enhanced by a global movement called PACES connection – positive and adverse childhood experiences. It is a growing network for building trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on the ACE science. To find out more go to .

My Story – By Bruce

*trigger warning – child sexual abuse 

The child with the broken mind was not far from God but never knew it. As a child he ran to the bush to hide from grownups. He would climb the tallest of trees to get away from anything human. He would sing with the birds and play with the rabbits, tame the snake and calm the blue tongue lizards. If it had been possible the trees would have covered the wounded child with their protective bark. It was not possible and at the end of the day and in the dark that little one would once again return to the world of grownups to a place of darkness, a world of violent and sexual violation, an R18 world. It was the meadow which kept him alive.  

God knew he would escape to it once again so when he fled into the meadow to lose himself from others he was never lost to God. When the child cried out from psych pain God echoed back his name shrouded in pure love through the birds, the trees, the un-kept grass, its wondrous smells and the animals which knew nothing of the human world and whilst amongst them he forgot its horror.  

As a child he knew not the Christ back then he did not know it was me who beckoned. It was me who wooed this deeply troubled child to my refuge in the meadow where through nature I cradled one more broken child. The child with the broken mind was not far from God but never knew it.  

 – Bruce 

There’s No Place Like Home – Podcast

there is no place like home

There’s No Place Like Home is a Future Women podcast supported by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and is hosted by Tarang Chawla, whose sister Nikita was killed by her partner in 2015.  Told in survivors’ own words, each episode tells the story of ten extraordinary people who generously share their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences with you. 

 Dr Cathy Kezelman features in episode 10 ‘Deborah’ and discusses the impact on survivors of domestic violence, including feelings of shame, self-blame and disempowerment. Cathy also highlights the importance of recognising the strength it takes to survive, and the growth that comes from the healing journey afterwards. 

We urge you to listen to all 10 episodes.

Listen to the podcast here.

Responding to Adults Disclosing Child Sexual Abuse – Fact Sheet

Diverse friends sitting at cafe table

Many people who were sexually abused as a child have never told anyone about their abuse. Disclosure is often a process that unfolds over time, and often this disclosure occurs in adulthood after years of having kept their abuse a secret. 

Disclosing for the first time takes enormous courage and can be very challenging for survivors. It can also be confronting if a survivor discloses to you, and you may be unsure how to respond. 

This new fact sheet from Blue Knot can help support you to support them to feel as safe as possible during this time. 

Download the fact sheet here

Change Starts with Your Story - *Reminder

Now is the time to share your story with the Disability Royal Commission (DRC).

The DRC want people with disability, their families, support networks and the community, to share their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Telling the DRC about your experiences will help create change in the future. What you share in confidence will be protected and remain confidential.

Register for a private session before 30 June 2022.

Submissions close on 31 December 2022.

There are several ways you can make a submission:

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 1800 517 199 (9:00am to 5:00pm AEST, Monday to Friday excluding public holidays)

Make a written, audio or video submission on the website:

If you would like to share your story in your own language, including First Nations language, we will organise interpreters and translators.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can use the National Relay Service, or text 0459 906 629 to arrange an Auslan interpreter.

Counselling and support are available to help you. You can call the National Council and Referral Service – Disability on 1800 421 468.

In the News

Disability royal commission heads to Hobart to hear evidence on sexual, domestic and family violence 

NDIS-funded support workers not automatically screened, says mother of abuse victim 

Pope meets Canada Indigenous groups seeking apology for abuse of children 

‘Devastating’: woman with a disability met with disbelief after sexual assault, royal commission hears 

Will Smith’s slap is a trauma response 

Diagnosis normal – the impact of abuse, mental illness and neurodiversity—the-impact-of-abuse,-mental-illness-and-neur/13828630 

Former GP and brother of Tasmania’s A-G speaks out over child sexual abuse and groaning in parliament incident