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Working Together to Prevent Suicide

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and this year the theme is sample of a outline paper “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”.

How do we do that? What actions can people take to prevent someone from taking their life? How do we know if someone is suicidal? What can you do support someone who has been brave enough to admit suicidal thoughts?

Prevent. It may seem impossible but there are some things we as a society can do that would go a long way in lowering the incidences of completed suicide and suicidal ideation. For example – childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of suicide in adolescence. Imagine if ALL adults learned how to keep ALL children safe from sexual abuse? The fact is that we continue to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will experience an unwanted sexual act before their 18th birthday. They often don’t tell anyone and carry this burden through their lives.

Knowledge. There is a lot of information available that can help you to learn the signs of suicide. Imagine if we took time to learn and to put these into practice. Here is a great visual from TWLOHA.

Support. I am going to share some ideas from a post I wrote for World Suicide Prevention Day in 2016. It’s based on the theme that year which was Connect, Communicate, Care.

Connect: When a person is suicidal they do not feel connection. Not with anyone and certainly not with themselves. They are listening to the critical voice inside their head that is telling them how hopeless life is and in a trance-like state with a seemingly impenetrable shield. It’s hard to break through and you may not be successful however the attempt at connection is in and of itself connecting. Remind them of activities or behaviours that have helped them before. What has brought a smile to their face or sparked some passion in the past? Talk with them about those things and if possible, help them to experience something again. Maybe you have noticed they are ‘lighter’ when watching the sunset or perhaps a drive or listening to certain music elicits that spark. Talk about the future with them as well. Ask what dreams they had as a child. Talk about making dreams come true – orient them to the future. This is a step towards finding purpose and nurturing hope.

Communicate: When I was suicidal, I withdrew so much from everyone and everything and yet there were moments when I was almost manic in my need to be heard and seen. I wanted – no NEEDED to be heard so desperately and yet when I spoke it felt like I was invisible. I felt as if no one saw me – and really, how could they? I was hiding so much…hiding shame, hiding the dark, hiding my angst, hiding a secret that was destroying every part of me. Every single day was a lie. Communication was difficult as I could not connect with myself or verbalize what I needed because I did not know nor did I feel worthy. Communicating with someone in this state is so important and yet how do you reach them? For me, the biggest breakthrough was when someone actually took the time to sit with me and not demand that I talk. They were there – and I mean they were there in every sense of the word. They touched me, they saw me, they were present with me, they did not tell me what to do but rather assured me that they would never, ever give up on me. They let me know that I was ‘heard’ even when I did not speak. Communication is so much more than the verbal. Good communication is being fully and completely present with another.

Care: We say we care about people but how many are prepared to really step up and put actions behind their words? People who are having suicidal thoughts are not easy to have around. They may behave in ways that frustrate even the most caring and loving of friends. It’s also very frightening. When you are caring for someone who is having suicidal thoughts, they are a part of your consciousness every moment of every day. There is no respite. You are literally fighting for their life. I have spent months caring for someone in a suicidal state. Checking in daily on my way home from work there were times when opening the door I would be greeted by silence. My heart would start racing – my PTSD would kick in and I was certain I was going to find them having completed the act of suicide. And yet and although it was a very difficult situation, I kept the promise to this person and to myself that no matter my fear and discomfort I would continue to care. When they lashed out at me, I stayed. When they broke promises, I stayed. Care for a person who is suicidal is a verb –it requires that you feel concern.

For those of you who are committing to be the one who reaches out – it is vitally important that you show yourself the same compassion. Ensure you connect with professionals and loved ones who can support you. Communicate your fears with your support network. And practice self- CARE. Be gentle with yourself and know that if you are not successful, it’s not your fault. Know that your love was felt and your words and actions mattered – oh yes, they mattered so much – and you showed up, you loved, you provided moments of peace.

Post script – I have lost 3 family members to suicide. One was my stepmother who died by suicide at the age of 49. Like me, she was sexually abused as a child. I had many heartfelt conversations with her in an effort to understand. She knew she was loved and told me as much more than once. I hold that with me when I feel helpless.

~Cynthia

Resources:
If someone is in crisis – dial 911
Call your local distress centre for help and support or Crisis Services Canada

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has a lot of valuable information understanding, grieving, supporting, preventing and advocating.

 

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‘Nice Pimp’? This is sexual exploitation of minors!

Recently, Justice Colin McKinnon ruled that mandatory minimum sentences for two sex offences should not apply in the case of a “naïve and unsophisticated pimp who unwillingly recruited and photographed two under age prostitutes”. (Here’s the article)

At Voice Found, we are a survivor led organization that supports countless numbers of victims of human trafficking and exploitation in Eastern Ontario. Many of our clients are under the age of 16. As persons with lived experience, we are deeply saddened and angered by this decision. There is no such thing as an underage prostitute. All minors involved in sex work are victims of sexual exploitation and should be treated and spoken of as such.

As we evolve and our justice system changes, so do the manipulation tactics used by pimps to control and sell victims of exploitation. Justice Collin McKinnon’s decision has paved the way for traffickers to further manipulate their victims into telling our justice system that their abuser did not know of their young age and that they were treated very nicely by the accused.

Our system does not protect our children. Decisions such as this is why it is so hard for victims to come forward. The only “irreparable damage“ that has been done is to the future of these young girls and to the future of the many other young girls who will be exploited.

Finally, we commend the work that the Ottawa Police and the Ottawa Police Human Trafficking team do to fight this crime. These were not ‘exaggerated police claims’ – these are police identifying minors being sexually exploited.

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Media Advisory – February 22nd, 2018

Media Advisory

On February 22nd, Voice Found marks Ontario’s First Human Trafficking Awareness Day by launching H.E.A.L.T.H. – Canada’s first health clinic for persons at risk of, being or who have been trafficked.

There will be a press conference at 9:00 am immediately following our invitation only launch event and during the day upon request and subject to availability.  We will arrange tours of the clinic upon request between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM on the 22nd.

Called H.E.A.L.T.H. (Healing, Education, Advocacy, Linkage, Trauma-informed, Healing) the clinic is exclusively designed to care for and support trafficked persons who can often find mainstream health care environments traumatic. We will serve ages 13 and up – regardless of gender, insurance or documentation. In addition to health care services, there will be case managers onsite to help connect clients with appropriate support including peer support. This will include a representative from Ottawa Victim Services who will help clients with access to the victim quick response program (VQRP). Training opportunities for healthcare professionals will be available to help them learn how to work with survivors of human trafficking in a mentored and supported environment that models trauma informed, client centered, and culturally informed care. We will also be providing employment opportunities for survivors.

The breakfast event will be held at 7:30 am on Thursday, February 22nd in Ottawa at the Andaz Hotel, 325 Dalhousie St – 2nd floor. Press Conference to follow at 9:00 am.

Contact:

For more information contact:

Cynthia Bland Founder/CEO Voice Found

613-763-5332 office 613-282-7424 cell

Cynthia@voicefound.ca

About Voice Found: We are a national survivor-led charity whose mission is to prevent child sex abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. We provide front line services and support to persons who have been or are being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation through The Hope Found Project.

 

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Press Release: New Clinic Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking to open in Ottawa

Press Release for H.E.A.L.T.H.

H (healthcare). E (education). A (advocacy). L (linkage). T (trauma informed). H (healing).

Press- First of it’s kind in Canada –  H.E.A.L.T.H. is a collaborative project between Voice Found, Ottawa Victim Services and Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner, Tara Leach.

 Click here for further information about H.E.A.L.T.H.

PressRelease_HEALTH.docx

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I Have Joy

 

“The big parts of the story take up so much space don’t they? The darkness is in there. It was, and still can be all consuming if I’m not intentional about making choices that keep me well. I left 18 months ago. The initial feeling of safety and freedom was quickly replaced with overwhelm and fear. I felt totally lost, incapable, and afraid of doing life. Everything from choosing my clothes to ordering off a menu felt too big for me. The feeling of hopelessness became all consuming. This was the opposite of what I imagined leaving would bring me. I felt broken, worthless and completely stuck.
I kept on going. A steady ‘three steps forward, and two steps back’ recovery pace was set. It became evident early on that my success would be determined by my willingness to ask for and receive help. I had no choice but to trust the people that I had been so blessed to have come into my life. I was desperate to be well, and never go back to my old life. I’ve done everything that I’ve been told would get me well. A little at a time I’ve crawled my way out of broken, worthless and stuck.
I’m reaching. I’m hopeful. I’m strong. I’m loved.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined being able to make those four statements about myself a short time ago. Gratitude fills me.
All of that is more than enough, more than I’d hoped for when I left. The big parts of my story now take up less of space in my mind. This leaves room now to see the little parts. I see them through cracks mostly….they feel far away. It’s possible that it isn’t that they are so little, as much as it is that they are far. The light is in there. My little girl dreams. My creativity. My sense of humour and adventure. My very big, mushy, loving heart rest in the far away, little parts, beyond the cracks. Every so often a crack quakes open and a moment of clear mindedness fills all of me. It takes over. I observe colour and sound through eyes that have looked through the dull for so long, that the experience of it briefly lifting moves me to tears. I see a tree and really see it. The moon over the water, while canoeing on a northern lake at night time. The sound of water rushing through rapids. I feel a connectedness and belonging during these times. All of this moves me beyond words. I breath and gulp these moments while they are there and then they are gone. They come more and more often. I’ve struggled to explain what is happening to me, and have looked to others to help me understand.
I know. I get it. 
The tears are not sadness. The experiences of clarity and connectedness are not moments of delusion. 
This is what joy is. 
I have joy.”
Shannon L.

Each Friday we share good news from and/or about our clients. Today’s blog post is from Shannon L. It’s deeply moving, beautiful and full of hope. Shannon – thank you for sharing this incredible awakening as you travel along your path.

Please share with others who you think might benefit from reading her words.

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The Whole Picture

During the month of July we shared information about the crimes of child sex abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. We hope you have gained some new or additional insight into this complex topic. If you have missed something, here are the posts : July 1st to 7th, July 8th to 14th, July 15th to 23rd, and July 24th to 30th.

Each post had an accompanying visual with a part of a picture. Just like these crimes – we often don’t see what is right before our eyes. We catch glimpses or have a ‘gut feeling’ that something may not be right but we don’t quite know what to do. Or maybe we DO know but are afraid to take action. One of the best things you can do is to acknowledge that children and youth are being sexually abused at alarming rates and that ignoring it will not make it go away.

Once you acknowledge that it is happening then you need to learn how to respond to disclosure or suspicion of abuse and to support survivors.

These are largely preventable crimes – it is up to all of us to see the whole picture, to get trained on prevention and to speak out. Silence only serves the perpetrators.

Stay tuned for additional training resources in the coming weeks.

To book Stewards of Children Child Sex Abuse Prevention Training contact info@voicefound.ca.

We also deliver and develop customized training and are available for speaking engagements specific to Sex Trafficking, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Sex Abuse.

Contact us at info@voicefound.ca for more information.

Annual Report Fiscal Year ending March 31, 2017

 

We’ve really grown in the past few years! An annual report is not something we have previously published and so we are quite excited to share our first one with you.

Thanks to our summer student, Jenna, our report is nice to look at as well as contains information that will give you a glimpse into our fiscal year that ended March 31st.

As always – your support of our work is so greatly appreciated!

Report can be found by clicking on the link below.

Voice Found Annual Report 2017

 

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I See You

Friday, February 23rd we hosted the first annual Voicefound [un]gala. Our special guest for the evening was Torre Marie – a survivor of child sex abuse and the subject of our soon to be released documentary, ‘The Yellow Dress – A Story of Hope.’  Torre spoke to the crowd after the documentary was aired and her words made a significant impact on all who were there. Many have asked for a copy of what she said and so we are happy to share her speech below.

“Last week I quickly heard someone state that being described as lost is being described as valuable.

It began a firestorm of thoughts. To be lost and to be noticed means at least one other person sees you. Values you. Misses you. Is looking for you.

I have been invisible a very long time. Most of the time I still feel that way.
There are certain people in a person’s life that can be invaluable – they have insight in knowing, proclaiming, and speaking to the lost and forgotten. Personally, these people in my life are my Traumatologist, Cynthia Bland and Voicefound, and a very few friends I have here tonight.
There are too many times where we as a society don’t look up. Where we yell for each other to stop doing what we are doing to survive and remind each other of the annoyances our coping has created. There are too many lost with no one noticing. To many people walking around invisible. Unvalued, and misunderstood.  What you have done tonight. What you can continue to do tonight and everyday from here on is to say “I see you.”
By being here and by supporting this fundraiser and VoiceFound, you are saying, “you are lost, we notice, we care and we are going to help find you.” So I thank you. Without the support of Cynthia and Voicefound, and the others I mentioned I would still feel invisible. So I offer my gratitude, I know you see me. You accept me for who I am. Where I am. And most importantly you are on this journey with me to find me.
For a long time I was lost. I was lost and walking around in this world unnoticed. My experiences and my pain unvalidated. It wasn’t until I was seen in my darkest hours that I knew I was worth something. Worth the work, worth the fight, to heal and to find freedom from the invisibility that suffocated all hope.
To the survivors here tonight. I see you. I know you’re lost. I will help search for you. I am one of you. You are not alone. We matter.”
Thank you, Torre. Thank you for your courage, your beautiful vulnerability and for inspiring so many.
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