Sunday, May 26, 2013

Yoga at the SNAP Conference

I'll be facilitating a yoga session at the annual SNAP Conference in Washington D.C. this summer. If you can, please come join me! 

Who:  Survivors of clergy sex abuse

When: July 26-28, 2013

Where: Washington D.C.

SNAP, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, is the largest international support group for women and men who were sexually abused by religious authority figures – i.e., by priests, preachers, ministers, deacons, nuns and others. It is a nonprofit organization that is independent of any religious group and that carries no connections to any church or denominational entity.

The conference takes place from Friday July 26 to Sunday July 28, and the yoga session will be one of the breakout events at the conference. It will be a come-as-you-are chair yoga session that anyone can participate in even if they’ve never done yoga before. No mat needed. So come one, come all!

Here’s why I’m excited about yoga at the SNAP conference. A regular yoga practice can be an effective tool for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is something many abuse survivors struggle with. Yoga’s effectiveness has been demonstrated through pilot programs funded by the Pentagon, and based on the clinical results of those programs, the military is now incorporating yoga into many veterans’ centers and veterans’ hospitals. Yoga can lower cortisol, the stress hormone; it can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming; and it can deactivate the limbic brain, which is often overactive in people with a history of serious trauma.

So, the SNAP conference would be a good place to try an introductory yoga session for yourself. And whether or not you can make it to the SNAP conference, think about giving yoga a try. If it can benefit veterans with PTSD issues, then it can benefit clergy sex abuse survivors as well.

I’ll also be a featured speaker for one of the plenary sessions at the SNAP conference. My topic is “Baptistland: Where we’ve been, where we’re going, and lessons learned.” I’ll also be sharing bits of my own story, including my thoughts on what “cancer times two” has taught me about the trauma of childhood sex abuse.

I’m truly honored to be part of this event. You can find out more about the SNAP conference and register for it here.

Trauma psychologist Peter Levine wrote that “trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside us in the absence of an empathetic witness.” I often think that one of the most powerful healing graces of SNAP is that it provides a forum through which clergy abuse survivors can do for one another what faith communities – and often even our own families – could not bring themselves to do. It provides a forum through which we ourselves can bear witness to one another’s trauma. So, whether or not you can make it to the conference, I hope you’ll consider the possibility of connecting with a SNAP group in your area.

Have some questions? Need more info about the conference? Contact Barbara Dorris at / 312-455-1499.

Want to understand more about the PTSD effects of child sex abuse? Watch this YouTube video, published May 23, 2013. Attorney Eric MacLeish talks about his own PTSD struggles in adulthood resulting from sexual abuse in childhood. He became dysfunctional; his personal life crumbled; his marriage fell apart; his work went by the wayside; and he couldn’t even go to Boston for a while because it triggered too many memories and flashbacks. “I was a tough guy,” says MacLeish, “but I couldn’t deal with this until I was in my mid-50’s.”