Hidden Predator Act
Through the Hidden Predator Act of 2021, Maryland is poised to make great strides toward justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, their healing, the prevention of future abuse, and the ability to hold accountable individual perpetrators and institutions that might have facilitated them. Will you stand with us?
Book Review: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
It is a rare for a book about trauma and its recovery to become a sort of instant classic that speaks effectively to those with firsthand experience, professionals, and broader interested audiences. The Body Keeps the Score, written by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and published in 2014, has done just that, even achieving the second spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for Science in 2019. While covering a broad range of traumatic experiences and offering tools relevant to them all, significant portions of the book discuss the experiences of those who endured childhood sexual abuse and ways they have accessed healing. For all of these reasons, No More Stolen Childhoods has The Body Keeps the Score in our resource lists for both care providers and survivors of abuse.
The wealth of information presented in The Body Keeps the Score defies simple summary, but as the title suggests, the starting premise is that traumatic experiences – ranging from combat, to childhood neglect, to sexual abuse of all forms, and beyond – all have lasting impacts on one’s mind, brain, and body. Accordingly, Dr. van der Kolk, later discusses three main avenues of healing: 1) that of “top-down” interaction, discussing and reconnecting with others in order to make conscious sense of one’s experience; 2) using medication to manage alarm reactions that result from trauma; and 3) the “bottom-up” approach of “allowing the body to have experiences that deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage, or collapse that result from trauma.” Many trauma survivors benefit from a combination of all three approaches, but one of the book’s aims is to call attention to the underutilization of the third approach.
However, before delving into different methods of recovery in the fifth and final section of the book, Dr. van der Kolk builds for readers a far-reaching and holistic understanding of trauma, the history of its study, its biological and neurological impact, its role in childhood development and attachment relationships, and its lasting imprint.
Throughout these sections, powerful anecdotes from decades of professional experience are interwoven with research findings and insights into the hurdles that arise in the scientific study of trauma. These anecdotes and the entire book can be an intense read, but such accounts are an important part of the holistic and ultimately empowering growing awareness of trauma. The reader gets windows into the depths of post-traumatic despair, but also the heights of human resilience. Encountering both aspects alongside each other becomes another opportunity for those without personal traumatic experience to glimpse the juxtaposition many survivors live with and manage in an ongoing way.
Section 5, Pathways to Recovery, touches on the role of language in achieving clarity, before delving into lesser utilized practices that have helped trauma survivors; such as dance, theater, yoga, Somatic Experiencing therapy, and the more well-known Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), all of which can be methods to reconfigure associations around bodily sensations and the perception of threat vs. safety. These are also approaches that rely less or not at all on the discussion of traumatic events. Nevertheless, there is no one approach that works for all people and one of the resounding themes of abuse recovery is the growth of autonomy, including in the sifting through options for healing.
Successfully explaining the history, impact, recovery, and context of traumatic experiences, The Body Keeps the Score spans from an introduction to an advanced lesson in the experiences under discussion. When one recognizes the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and other traumas, it becomes a book about understanding people in our own lives and communities, which is part of making those communities stronger, generation by generation. It can be found online in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.
A New Session of the Maryland General Assembly Opens January 13, 2021
In 2019 and 2020, the Maryland House of Delegates stood up for children and survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) by overwhelmingly passing The Hidden Predator Act of 2020. The Hidden Predator Act was developed to remove the civil statute of limitations on CSA and provide a lookback window of two years; a period in which those harmed by CSA can pursue civil lawsuits for abuse that previously fell outside the statute of limitations.
The importance of this legislation cannot be overstated, as the bill clearly signals that individuals and institutions can be held financially accountable, in perpetuity, for abuse they committed or facilitated. This opportunity for justice is also one for abuse prevention, and states that have implemented lookback windows and statute of limitation reform have been able to bring abusers to light who could otherwise continue to harm children undetected. For example, under California’s 1-year lookback window, 300 abusers were identified.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and the early closure of the Maryland General Assembly meant that in 2020, the Hidden Predator Act could not move forward in the Maryland Senate. As the 2021 Legislative Session begins this week, the coalition of advocates, prevention experts, survivors, and community members who have been advancing this effort for over a decade, are galvanized by the support received last year, and determined to succeed in what will still be an unconventional legislative session heavily shaped by the ongoing global pandemic.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, this year we are entering the session with more momentum than ever, with bill sponsors in the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House and a broad array of supporting organizations from across the state, some of whom are joining the effort for the first time this year. The growing number of elected officials who understand the importance of this legislation and share their desire to stand with survivors is significant.
With this legislation, we are on the precipice of a monumental shift in how Maryland can prevent Childhood Sexual Abuse, hold perpetrators accountable, and facilitate the healing of those who have been abused. The passing of the bill would be the culmination of years of effort on the part on hundreds of individuals determined to make our children and our communities healthier.
As a friend and supporter of No More Stolen Childhoods, you can support the successful passage of the 2021 Hidden Predator Act. For more information on how to get involved visit our grassroots partners in this effort at www.Justice4MDsurvivors.org.