Review of No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal

No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal From Sexual Abuse by Robin D. Stone

The author of is a survivor of sexual assault. She has been an editor for Essence magazine, The New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Detroit Free Press, and Family Circle. She also teaches journalism at New York University. This impressive writing experience is evident in her clear, concise, compassionate, and culturally enlightening work: No Secrets, No Lies. Throughout the book, Stone offers “Fast Facts” in the margin, adding relevant material to the readers’ knowledge. For example, Stone states, “Blacks are sexually victimized in childhood at the same rate as Whites. In one survey, they reported being more severely abused with greater force.” Stone cites her sources in an extensive “notes” section. She also offers a valuable resource list and index.

The title of the first chapter is: “Was It Sexual Abuse?” Stone writes, “For many of us, we have buried sexual abuse so deep into our psyches that we would never connect it to today’s physical illnesses and pain, our depression or addiction, our inability to hold a job, get out of debt, find satisfaction in a relationship, nurture our children, or simply say no to people or situations that do us harm.” Indeed. No matter the gender, race, religion, socio-economic class, or ethnicity, victims of sexual abuse will experience the devastating ramifications. Victims suffer initially with the abuse, then again with each result that limits our human potential. Stone tells the reader: “in addition to the trauma of sexual violation, survivors must also deal with the trauma of being born and raised in a racist and sexist culture.” And therein lies the roots of our troubled society.

Stone offers case examples in each chapter. We read about Kim, who says, “I’m always afraid that people will leave if they see the real me.” The “real me” is the child who was molested by her stepfather until she was nineteen; even as a young woman, he slapped her for resisting. Kim’s mother kicked Kim out of the house, leaving Kim to fend for herself with friends. Kim learns that a relative had sexually abused her mother. This addresses the frightening fact that perpetration is all too often generational.

The author incorporates the limitations placed upon Black survivors. “When Blacks seek help from White institutions [they] find little sympathy or understanding.” “Blacks [have] a deep mistrust of a majority White medical profession. Blacks have been slow to embrace traditional therapy.” “We often find ourselves sitting across from a counselor who hasn’t a clue about the complexities of our culture, our history, and our challenges, and who can only see our problems solely from a White or middle-class perspective.” However, Stone encourages counseling: “We have historically turned to our own support systems…sister circles…but for many of us the problems associated with being sexually abused run far too deep for untrained experts to help us tackle them in a meaningful way.” Stone tells the reader: “…experts have developed multicultural approaches to therapy that incorporate the values, customs, and traditions of non-Whites.” In chapter four, Stone suggests methods to finding “African-Centered Healing.” cultural starting point for the study of African people.” Stone then shares Rhonda Wells-Wilbon’s Aya Model: Ten Steps Toward Healing” for a culturally sensitive method.

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s Story

Holidays Past, Present, and Future: From Turbulence to Calm



I am feeling like saying say hello for the Holidays. Hello!!

The Holidays this year are pretty darn Merry in my home. This year feels as if a corner has been turned. I have had moments of deep calm and clarity. Partly I believe due to the fact that I have been exercising regularly for quite some time, and getting enough sleep, sex, and food. I have been getting way too much caffeine, but some things never change! I definitely feel energized for the holidays. I’ve been listening to The Reindeer Room remixed Christmas songs, it’s a great compilation of songs set to groovy trip hop beats. I love it! That is part of my new family tree tradition. I have been concentrating on my new family tree as of late, we are the roots, the seeds even. I even bought an actual tree, a “Glitter tree”, from Trader Joe’s that will grow to 10 feet. We tore all the old stuff out. It’s gone, ashes, ciao. I feel like a pioneer. I was having a conversation with a special person in my life the other day, and we were discussing past lives, whether they exist or not, and I said, for me, I do not feel like I have been here before. She said to me, “Maybe this is your first.” That really resonated within me in a concrete way. That is just how it feels to me. I must be very careful too with my legacy, with what I pass to my kids having no blueprint to go by.

It’s not that sexual abuse and my father are my only story, it’s that that experience is one of many .
It’s not about living in the past, but allowing the past to live in you and honoring it and healing from it and knowing when to allow it to go, piece by piece. It’s not about spinning in circles but traveling the healing spiral and spiraling up rather than down. It’s about being as hypersensitive to our goodness as we are our faults and perceived flaws. It is about realizing that this is your world now, not his/your abusers. It is about realizing you just may have to start over, and that you are a pioneer emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is about blazing a warpath toward helping speak the truth about your life, which gives others in your life the permission to do the same. It is about learning when you are being treated well, and when it is time to let go of that friend or relationship you do not want to admit is killing you because you need to fix people. (I’ve tried that, and sure enough, my parents can not be fixed by proxy nor can my childhood.) Especially for the holidays, it is about breaking with old patterns and traditions and being a student of your new life. This means learning how YOU want to celebrate, reading about what others do and brainstorming for nouveauways to live from. 
Paths to New Traditions: Create a collage that envisions your new values and rituals for the Holidays. 
New kinds of music. Research ITunes. Google “Nontraditional” holiday music, or whatever you are interested in. If you never had anything traditional and want that as a new way of celebrating, do that. 
I absolutely love remixed Holiday music, Christmas blues, anything that is groovy, loungey, jazzy,  and unique. Get yourself ornaments that are in alignment with your creative side. Use this opportunity to open up your creative channel. Christmas/Holidays are a goldmine for creativity!
The Holidays for me are exciting not only because it is a collective celebration, and a time when things are magical and full of wonder, but also because it is the beginning of new beginnings. After the Holidays we get to look forward to a brand new year! 

Yes, it is hard, painful, and challenging. It is not as hard or painful or costly as giving up or giving in and going along with the old family energy. That is just not an option for me, and so I go forward. Since beginning this and specifically implementing new Holiday traditions with my family, it gets so much easier as the rituals you create become unique to YOU and YOUR family. It is empowering. I feel completely empowered. Of course, I still tear up at times when thinking of my father and how it is not even safe to love a man who could rape you. This is normal. Yet, I can feel those moments and still feel EMPOWERED by what I have created now. And that is one of these basic human rights we had taken from us, the right to be empowered. I want to remind you, especially if you are struggling right now, it is YOUR life now. YOU have the power to change the trajectory your life travels. Allow the soft, the beautiful, the mundane, the sparkling moments, the peace that is your birthright, allow the light and allow the dark too. I think we live in parallels as survivors, ( I know I do)we step into the now, what is happening today, but we know the pain is till next to us, and that is okay too.
 In Maya’s wise words:
When we come to it 

We must confess that we are the possible… 
We are the miraculous, the true wonders of this world 
Free to choose our ends, and our new beginnings 
That is when, and only when… 
We come to it.

Maya Angelou



Merry Happy Everything to ALL! 
Love and Light, Sarah

What Obama Means For the Fatherless

What Barack Obama Means to the Fatherless

By:

A good survivor friend of mine and I were waxing on this and he asked me to write a little about it, so my dear lovely here you go.

(You are a wonderful man and father! Remember that!)

We took our kids to see Obama at a rally a couple of weeks ago. It was electric, amazing, and very powerful to do with our kids. We believe in teaching them to honor that they have a voice, to use that voice and affect change, to be opinionated, and not to be sheep.“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you ought to prefer is to have kept your soul alive.”—Robert Louis Stevenson

Obama is sincere and eloquent, brilliant beyond an Ivy League level—he is emotionally intelligent. He is socially intelligent. And he alleviates my need for cynicism. I was raised by cynics. I threw that veil of shame—and many others—off years ago. I refuse to pass that to my kids. That will not be their legacy. Or mine. But I understand it and empathize with those feeling it. It is easier in some ways to remain cynical. It is safer than putting yourself out there, we think, because then we risk disappointment. Sometimes it means going against your own inherited family rules (It did in my case.), spoken or unspoken. My children have made me believe in life; they kind of pulled the rug out from under my very cynical nature. My hubby is the same—he went against his upbringing to become extremely positive, politically outspoken, and idealistic. Kids, they do the damndest things.

This country could use some hope. It’s as if some people are allergic to it. I understand. One thing he said that resonated deeply with me and especially with my survivor friends was that “Fathers in this country owe more to their kids—they need to stand up and be men and be a real father to their children.” He is using his personal pain as a fatherless child to affect social change. So important. I do not care if you are Republican, Independent, Libertarian, liberal, purple people eater, whattheheckever—this is a common universal need. Touting family values is one thing; valuing family another. Fathers need to be there for their offspring. Period. That your father was absent, abusive, nonexistent, or otherwise emotionally/physically not there must be faced. And felt.

This is of interest to all of us who either had abusive fathers, or nonabusive fathers. Every father needs to be more emotionally in tune and available to their kids. Fathers need to protect and provide, but they need to exhibit empathy and reverence toward and for their children. So many children, girls and boys, are growing up feeling a vague, uneasy sense of disconnectedness. They are acting out (criminal behavior, hurting others, etc.) or acting in (self destructive, my hubby and I both did this for years as teens) because of this: Just because you are a “father” and you bring home the proverbial bacon does not mean you are done. My husband is a fabulous example because he shows the boys it’s good and right to feel, how to conduct oneself as a man, to empathize with another’s struggle, to express their dreams and hopes, to be kind and sensitive to women, children, other men, humans all over, to think about animals, to honor the life force itself. In this rigidly patriarchal society, we have lost the sacrament of the sensitive male. Fathers showing their feelings, imagine that. Golly gee. To their sons, to their daughters. What a novel idea. It touches my life so much that Obama is verbalizing this reality; fathers are not fathers just because they provide. That’s a provider. Fathers are not fathers just because they made a baby; that’s a sperm donor. A child knows when a parent is giving them their energy—it’s an energy, a connection, a soul feeling. They know it. It is a soul nourishment.To all my survivor friends, I know this means something deeply profound to you as well. To anyone who has not directly experienced father issues, I know you can be proud of this as well.

Obama is challenging the status quo by saying this. He is calling out those fathers who are emotionally lazy and do not want to own up to their own feelings about fatherhood. Kids are growing up feeling fundamentally flawed inside because of their parents’ issues, issues that they project all over the child, who then absorbs the crap as their own.To me, that’s what Obama is about. Now, I am a proud Democrat, a very liberal one, although I do believe in the death penalty for child killers and rapists, but I say this as a woman, mother, wife, and daughter of two very inadequate, abandoning, abusive parents. I don’t care that Obama is more moderate than I might like—I don’t think he’ll be legalizing pot or confronting the failed drug war, putting nonviolent drug offenders in rehab instead of prison, for instance. Nor has any candidate gotten up there and said, “I plan to eradicate incest, because 1/3 girls and 1/5 boys are sexually abused in this country.” I’m still waiting on that.

BUT, that he is voicing this call for fathers to step up is why—among a zillion other reasons—Health care: we were personally affected by no health insurance when our first son was born. It was awful and everyone should enjoy a wonderful socialized health care system—it’s working beautifully for Australia, Europe, even Cuba); pro choice rights (it’s a decision that belongs to a woman; it is her body and that is that.); actually addressing sources of unwanted pregnancy and aiming to prevent it (fathers in the home loving their daughters would help this, too); sex education is the only realistic way to do this. Less warmongering, more diplomacy, ANY diplomacy at this point, more gun control (I don’t want kids getting their hands on guns; our country is number one for gun related death), just more control. You NRA folks just chill; for me, we need to screen people and keep guns out of the hands of kids like Dylan Klebold and prevent more Columbines). Shall I go on? I will proudly vote for him. Anyone who cannot find a reason to do the same I ask you to think about this, just this, the subject of fathers. It’s something I think we can all agree on. Namaste.