Breaking Free - June 2022

From the editor

Welcome to the June edition of Breaking Free.  This month we reflect on some of the issues survivors may face around the process of disclosing their experiences or parts of their story.  If you are a survivor it is important for you to choose if and when to share your trauma experiences, and if you do, to do so in a way that is as safe and empowering as possible.  We are seeing that the stigma around survivors speaking out is maybe a little less than previously. Disclosure has become more prominent through movements such as #MeToo and also as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and other inquiries.  More voices are being heard, listened to, and more often believed.  Some survivors feel that this has given them the strength to come forward and tell their own stories.  For others, this is not possible or the right time. Either way, if and when you do disclose, it’s important to choose to disclose in your own individual way.

Emma’s Project, recently launched by the Australian Childhood Foundation seeks the input and insights of the lived expertise of adult survivors of child sexual abuse.  We share Emma’s story and her passion to make the world safer for children and protecting them from child sexual abuse. We also explain how you can get involved in the project.

Dr. Cathy Kezelman, Blue Knot President shares some of her story in the Open Stance podcast, and also provides important information around complex trauma and the work of Blue Knot.

There’s also an opportunity to take part in important research studies being undertaken by Griffith and Swinburne Universities.  If you feel that you meet the criteria and are interested and well supported, please have a look to see if you wish to take part in either of these studies.

Until next time, take care
Blue Knot Team

Supporting a loved one who is impacted by complex trauma

As a community we are having more conversations about violence, neglect and abuse than previously. The issues are not quite as hidden, and perhaps a little less stigmatised. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard testimony from 7981 survivors of child sexual abuse in 8013 private sessions and 1344 written accounts of sexual abuse from survivors. It was a watershed inquiry but far from the only movement for change, with significant initiatives in the domestic and family violence sector, the galvanising impact of the #Metoo movement and many others.

We are hearing from survivors with a range of experiences who are coming forward and speaking out. For many this is an empowering and affirming process. We do know however that we often make meaning about our lives including our trauma by developing a narrative for our experiences. Doing so in turn can help us process the intensity of emotions stored within our traumatic experiences. Doing so also often inspires others, and it also often encourage others to speak out, sometimes for the first time. Listening to others’ experiences can help survivors to feel less isolated and alone but speaking out is not for everyone.

Telling your story, especially in a public domain or sharing it at all is a deeply personal process, and one for which there is no rulebook. We are all unique with unique experiences and our own processes and paths to healing and recovery. Storytelling all the same has been an important part of building community understanding and a sense of connection for survivors who have chosen to do so.

The bottom line is that it is important to only share your story if and when you feel ready to do so, and only in a safe space with someone you feel you can trust. And it’s up to you how little or how much you share at any one time. You may choose to start sharing with a friend or family member, testing the waters first, with a small part of your experiences, to gauge their response. You may choose to share some of your experiences in counselling or therapy and this often evolves as you build a relationship of trust and safety with your therapist.

The process is very individual and often occurs over time. It is important to note that actively revisiting traumatic memories and graphic details of events can be very retraumatising. Revisiting traumatic experiences can throw people back into feeling as though the trauma is happening again in the present. It can trigger flashbacks or reliving or elements of traumatic experiences and contribute to feelings of overwhelm. While it is generally helpful to acknowledge what happened and how it has affected you, this is different from drilling down into the details of traumatic experiences.

Sharing your story publicly is a very personal choice, and not one which everyone chooses. The decision to do so, not only takes courage, but also requires consistent empathic support. This enables you to feel and be safe enough to share your experiences with the outside world. It also means working through the shame and self-blame which so often stops survivors from speaking. Despite more people speaking out publicly all the time, only a very small percentage of survivors ever do. It is important that each survivor chooses what is right for them, at any one time. No one should ever be coerced or feel compelled to speak out.

Sharing ‘Emma’s Project’

Four years ago, Emma approached Australian Childhood Foundation because she wanted her story of survival to change the ways that children and young people are protected from child sexual abuse.

Now 22 years old, Emma partnered with ACF in an effort to integrate the wisdom and views of people with lived experience of child sexual abuse into the development of freely available resources and training materials that will galvanise and inform the Australian community. They will involve a strong call to action for everyone with children in their lives to make children’s safety from sexual abuse an ongoing and critical priority.  

Listen to Emma explain her reasons for leading the project with ACF.

Blue Knot is honoured to share a pivotal project launched recently by the Australian Childhood Foundation. Called ‘Emma’s Project’, and Emma’s initiative it seeks the input and insights of the lived expertise of adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Its goal is to help children be safer and better protect them from abuse in the future.

To find out more about Emma’s Project and how you can get involved go to:

You can take part in an anonymous and confidential survey (if you are over 18 years of age), share details of the project with colleagues or friends, or register to stay informed about the project. Thank you for supporting Emma’s Project and contributing to ways to keep children safer from harm.

Podcast – OPEN STANCE with guest Dr. Cathy Kezelman AM

Dr Cathy Kezelman joins Tracey Hiete Smith in this podcast episode of Open Stance.  Cathy speaks from a place of intense personal understanding and compassion as she is a survivor who lost a decade of her childhood to sexual abuse. Cathy’s story is bravely shared in her memoir: Innocence Revisited: A Tale in Parts.

In this podcast Cathy discusses crucially important information, providing education and understanding around WHAT is complex trauma, HOW these experiences can present in childhood, adulthood and into old age, and WHAT options are available for people to receive specialised trauma-informed support. The most resounding message Cathy shares in this episode is a message of HOPE. Listen to the podcast here:

You can also watch the interview on YouTube here:

Call for Research Participants

Have you settled your legal dispute out of court for sexual abuse you suffered in institutional or state care in your childhood?

Griffith University logo

Griffith University is conducting research to understand survivors’ experience of resolving their civil compensation legal disputes, to understand what survivors’ needs are when it comes to settling out of court.

The research is seeking to understand survivors’ experience in mediation or a settlement conference, and their thoughts and views about whether any changes may be necessary to assist other survivors to get the best outcomes.

The research aims to learn what survivors’ needs are in mediation and out of court settlement, what they are seeking from formal processes like mediation, and whether trauma and disadvantage impact on the process of settling the legal dispute.

Interviews will be for a maximum of 90 minutes, with your choice of telephone videoconference, (or face to face if you are in the Brisbane /Gold Coast region). The interviewer won’t ask questions about the abuse you experienced. No confidential information is being sought. Just your views about your experience and how things could have been better, or what worked well.

Please be aware that if you participate in the research, you will not be identified, unless you specifically request to be acknowledged.

The researchers would love to hear your voice about your experience and any improvements that need to be made to make mediation and out of court settlements less traumatic for survivors.

The research is being conducted as part of a PhD study:  GU: 2020/622. The research team can be contacted at [email protected], or 0438 127 050.  If you are interested contact Louise McDonald (student researcher) on the above number/ email and she will explain the project further to you, answer any questions you may have and send you an information sheet.