Health Trauma Recovery

Long Term Effects of Sexual Assault

Effects of sexual assaultWe know that sexual assault and harassment is psychologically traumatizing to the victim. As we have just witnessed in the recent Congressional hearings, these psychological effects are long lasting. Our understanding of the impact, however, continues to expand. A new study released last week shows that the trauma many victims feel is not limited to their emotional and psychological health. These attacks can impact their long-term physical health as well.

The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, found that both workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault had lasting, negative effects on women’s physical and emotional health. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recruited 304 women between the ages of 40 and 60 and recorded their blood pressure, weight and height. Through a brief questionnaire, researchers found 19 percent (58) of these women reported a history of workplace sexual harassment, and 22 percent (67) had a reported a history of sexual assault, and 10 percent (30) of the women reported they had experienced both sexual harassment and assault. The numbers for this study’s population are lower than national estimates, which indicated that 40-75 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, and 36 percent have experienced sexual assault.

About one in four women in the study who had been sexually assaulted met criteria for depression, while only one in 10 who had not been assaulted were also suffering from depression. Researchers also found that those who reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment had significantly higher blood pressure and significantly lower sleep quality than women who had not.Their findings are adding to a growing body of evidence, expanded through more than a dozen other studies over the past decade. Researchers have now documented other physical symptoms caused by sexual harassment, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems and disrupted sleep.

“When it comes to sexual harassment or sexual assault, our study shows that lived experiences may have a serious impact on women’s health, both mental and physical,” Rebecca Thurston, a professor of psychiatry at the Pittsburg School of Medicine and the study’s senior author said in a press release. “This is an issue that needs to be tackled with urgency not just in terms of treatment but in terms of prevention.”

The researchers are right, sexual assault and sexual abuse has a profound impact on victims, and efforts to improve women’s health must target the prevention of sexual harassment and assault, not just the treatment of its consequences. While the momentum surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements (as well as ongoing current events) has inspired and emboldened more and more women to stand up and make their voices heard, this study illustrates the fact that this is an unfolding crisis and will require diligence, education, and continued attention to eliminate.

The goal of sexual assault prevention is simple—to stop it from happening in the first place. The same can be said for workplace harassment. However, according to the CDC, the solutions are as complex as the problem. Preventing sexual assault requires prevention strategies that address factors at each level of the society. To help facilitate progress, the CDC has put together “STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence,” which represents a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities and states sharpen their focus on prevention activities.

In terms of workplace harassment, it’s important to keep in mind that the same laws prohibiting gender discrimination also prohibit sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the main federal law that prohibits sexual harassment, and each state also has its own anti-sexual harassment law. That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done. It is important that employers adopt clear sexual harassment policies and conduct regular sexual harassment training – even if your state doesn’t require or suggest training. It’s also crucial that complaints are taken seriously, and if the complaint is shown to be valid, it is followed with a swift and effective response.

Although the studies focus primarily on women, people with non-conforming gender identities also experience sexual harassment and assault at high rates. To make the changes so desperately needed, we must work together. This isn’t something that will go away, so now is the time to act. This is a health crisis we must address. We need to listen to the victims, hold attackers responsible, and create safe environments in which people to live, work, grow, and thrive.

Finding New Purpose after Nearly Dying

Speaker, Health care Advocate

Nancy Michaels

As an  award winning public relations professional and successful small business development consultant, Nancy Michaels’ life was perfect on the outside and crumbling on the inside. With a marriage on the rocks and an ongoing illness that had progressed for eight months, Nancy was  hit by a health tsunami. A virus caught during surgery entered her bloodstream and caused her liver to fail. Suddenly on a donor list and put into an induced coma, she received the liver, but died  twice during the surgery. The doctor told her the second time she was dead for more than two minutes, which meant she would never be the same. There was also brain surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, an extended period of being unable to speak because of a tracheotomy, organ rejection issues, long therapy episodes—putting her in and out of the hospital for a year. After relearning to walk and talk, she has transformed her experience into a purpose to inspire others to face their own health issues and health care professionals and others to stay in the moment with their patients and their families to deliver what they need to get well.
Nancy’s story is full of moments spent with health care providers where they unthinkingly talked about things in their own lives that were so unattainable for her they made her very sad. Yet there were other moments of kindness and care that made her so grateful, they had a healing effect. The message she shares for health care professionals is to be careful not to become desensitized. Be mindful of who you are and that your patient is your client, an individual human being with thoughts and feelings.

Message of Compassionate Care

Having spent so much time in the hospital, Nancy  admits that now she is not a good patient. She reminds the nurses that her pain medication is two hours late and nudges them toward other duties they have yet to act on.  Like every profession, healthcare professionals enter their chosen field to help other people. With time and the fatigue of being over-worked and dealing with very sick people on a daily basis, they become fatigued and battle their own burnout. Her purpose to help healthcare providers  understand how their actions actually affect patients moves her to be the squeaky wheel, whether she is a patient or delivering a keynote address. Steering them toward best practices, which can be applied in any profession, creates a better environment for successful outcomes both for the provider and for the patient.  If she can help one nurse or doctor improve their delivery of care, she has made a difference in thousands of patients’ lives.

Message of Hope

Although Nancy admits that she didn’t hear many of the helpful messages people tried to deliver during her illness, she thinks she would have  been more hopeful if she would have heard stories of survival.  By being a living miracle, her story of thriving after death should be enough to inspire hope in others. However, she goes beyond that to describe her life before her illness and other ways she has changed the way she deals with life’s challenges to maintain a healthy perspective going forward.
To get more messages, check out Nancy’s website and sign up for her “Motivational Monthly.” She has also written three books, including the one that details her story of survival, Stripped: Seven Lessons Learned from Dying. Listen to this conversation to hear Nancy tell her story and learn how she came back to reclaim  her life with a special focus on  creating new memories and not losing sight of  what matters.

Reaching Out to Help Returning Women Veterans

Our-House-FoundationWhen Dr. Rita Spilken realized there would be a “human tsunami” of veterans returning from war zones in 2005 who would need help with health issues, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), she started the Our House Foundation (OHF). Since then the foundation has served about 600 military personnel and their families.
With the wars continuing, the needs of returning veterans have become widely known and addressed through numerous wounded warrior programs. While OHF continues with counseling and other established programs, the foundation has decided to start a special program called, “The Athena Project” to specifically address the ever-growing aftermath of military sexual assault.
The VA reports that one in three women and one in five men have been sexually assaulted by a comrade in arms. These statistics are followed by another, equally shocking, fact – female veterans have become the fastest growing population of the homeless community throughout the US.

The Athena Project Helps Returning Women Vets Transition Back into Society

Athena Project to support Women VeteransBesides continuing to raise awareness of PTSD and MST, Our House Foundation is focused on raising funds to build a state-of-the-art reintegration facility in the heartland of America. The purpose of the facility is to enable female veterans from around the country to receive the help and treatment they deserve and need.
Through donations, sponsorships and grants, the facility will offer full range of health services and evaluations, neurological testing, individual and family psychotherapy, wellness activities and opportunities for women to learn new skills to accommodate employment opportunities.

From Combat Boots to Heels Life Expo

On Saturday, November 8, 2014, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, Joining Community Forces and Our House Foundation will present a Life Expo at The Library Center, 4653 S. Campbell Ave. in Springfield, Missouri.
The 2014 National Champion JROTC all Female Color Guard will kick off the event, followed by numerous speakers about programs for veterans and a demonstration by Harken Kennels of service dogs for service members. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend to find out more about The Athena Project and the numerous ways we can support and honor our women veterans. Click here for the Our House Foundation contact information.

Leading Women Co-Author Writes on “Day Of The Girl Child”

RebeccaTinsley1Leading Woman co-author Rebecca Tinsley recently wrote in the Huffington Post about Mary, a ten-year-old girl in northern Uganda who was not aware the International Day of the Girl Child was October 11. Mary was not celebrating, she was in fact was being assaulted by a man who held her against her will for three days. The plight of Mary is not unusual; instead it reflects the low status of woman and girls in many traditional societies. It also highlights the powerlessness of children, as perceived by those who abuse them with impunity.
Rebecca writes, “The International Day of the Girl Child is on a par with the worthy treaties some world leaders sign and then fail to implement. 190 governments have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Children. Yet, each year three million girls in Africa alone are subject to female genital mutilation. Too many nations also turn a blind eye to the 15 million girls each year – some as young as 5 – forced into early marriage”

Working to Bring Positive Solutions To Heartbreaking Assaults on Girls And Women

A former BBC reporter and human rights activist, Rebecca founded Network for Africa to help survivors of war and genocide rebuild their lives. Network for Africa has schools and clinics in Rwanda and Uganda, and focuses on the survivors of African conflicts left behind by the world after the fighting stops and the humanitarian aid moves on. Ultimately, Network for Africa helps rebuild lives by providing people with access to education, health and the means to support themselves. Tinsley’s group is one of many doing good work in these ravaged areas, and in Huffington Post she mentions several other organizations working to bring positive solutions to heartbreaking assaults on girls and women worldwide.

To Make Long Lasting Change Empower Local Women

Through the years, Tinsley has realized that that the way to make long lasting change is to empower local women rather than simply deliver aid. Her long history of journalistic reporting and philanthropy in Africa have convinced her that cruel traditions that harm women and girls must be changed, and by working together we can change the balance of power that burdens women so unfairly.
Read more at Huffington Post.
Rebecca is one of 20 smart amazing co-authors of our new book, scheduled for release December 5, Leading Women: 20 Successful Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life. Rebecca learned about the needs of the survivors of genocide in the refugee camps and told their stories through a powerful novel, When the Stars Fall to Earth, A Novel of Africa.

Articles of Interest:

What Can We Do To Change Men’s Unhelpful Behaviors?
Empowering Women Around The World

Empowered Women Get Relief from Grief

Author and Grief Relief Coach

Aurora Winter

While living the dream of being married to the love of her life, having a happy family with a 4-year old child and achieving huge success in the yacht business, Aurora Winter’s life was shattered when her 33 year-old husband dropped dead beside her. She dealt with her grief proactively through self-help books, an extreme fitness regimen, and actively dating, but none of it cured her depression or relieved her foremost thought, “What’s the point?” The point was her son. He needed her. She grabbed that life-raft and developed a strategy for healing herself from overwhelming grief.
Now, 20 years later, she is a successful coach and author of 3 books, including, Grief Relief in 30-Minutes. In this conversation with Dr. Nancy, she shares her story and how she shared it in her book, From Heartbreak to Happiness. She describes her first book as a roller coaster ride through emotions. But like all inspiring stories, she comes out on top.

Busting the Myth: “It Just Takes Time.”

Aurora says that most people take 5 to 8 years to get over a loss, whether it’s the loss of a job, a loved one or your health through extreme illness. Even caretaking a relative with Alzheimer’s or a child with Autism causes grief. And it doesn’t have to take years to get over it. Aurora’s 9 easy steps can speed up the process and help you move on. She likens it to fixing a flat tire. It won’t fix itself and you don’t expect it to; you take action. The action Aurora recommends is to ignore the “poor me” self-talk that puts you in the victim mode and try to find something positive to drive you forward.
Dr. Nancy talks about her own sadness through divorce and how she started doing things differently to go forward. She repeats one of her favorite sayings, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery and today is all we have.” Her favorite part of Aurora’s “PEACE” method, discussed in her book, is the P for living in the Present Moment.
Aurora applauds Dr. Nancy for living life outloud. She encourages everyone to live in the present and embrace each moment of life. In the case of dealing with grief, she calls it an opportunity for a course correction, even a small 3-degree one, that can change your life so much that you will not end it decades later full of regrets over a life half-lived.

Helping Others Helps Yourself

Heartbreak to Happiness Book CoverAn important part of Aurora’s grief relief strategy is to help others as part of the process. This begins with reassessing three key aspects of yourself:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Answering these questions will set you on the right course and help you complete the process of healing. The answer to the legacy question can show you the best way to reach out to help others by sharing what you’ve learned and actually transform your life.

More about Aurora and Reinvention

Aurora keeps expanding her programs. Her process in going from heartbreak to happiness can be used for going from stress to success. For herself, she is reinventing herself every decade. Both she and Dr. Nancy discuss learning, growth and reinvention as a way to live life to its fullest. To find out more, listen to this interview, visit Aurora’s websites and read her books. Whether you’ve experienced loss yourself or are trying to help a loved one, you will find the guidance you need for ending heartbreak and finding your own secret to happiness.

Related Articles

How Art Can Create Healing

Integrated art into healthcare

Mary Rockwood Lane, Ph.D.

“When you start making art, you tap into a wellspring of unbelievable natural talents,” says Mary Rockwood Lane, Ph.D. “You may not know it, but you are an artist. Everyone is an artist.” In this conversation, Mary tells how a friend reached out to help her emerge from her depression through art. Mary discovered that she loved oil painting. She found the experience liberating and she released her feelings without caring whether the paintings were beautiful or ugly. She just painted and as she did, she healed mentally, spiritually and physically.
Her own healing showed her the power of self-expression through art. In the early 90’s she merged her experience with art and her nursing background to pioneer the first artist-in-residence program of its type in the U.S. Mary brought artists into hospitals to work with patients, who were newly diagnosed with cancer or had other life-threatening illnesses, and their loved-ones. The difference that it made in helping them deal with trauma was amazing.
Her new book, Healing with the Arts: A 12 Week Program to Heal Yourself and Your Community, describes the program as it has become today. Mary says the most powerful healing is to share the art with others and create an art sharing community.

We Absorb Beauty.

Dr. Nancy shares her own experience of discovering she loved to paint with watercolors. She was going through a challenging time and was surrounded by artists and their beautiful watercolors. Although she had been discouraged as a child from trying to be an artist, she began to paint and in similar fashion to Mary, began to feel the healing process through personal expression. “You heal from the inside out,” says Dr. Nancy. “We must participate in our healing. A pill won’t do it alone.”
Mary agrees and adds, “When one person heals, it heals more than just you. It heals your family and your community.” When you surround yourself with beauty, you can’t help but heal. Mary says that beauty is everywhere. It’s up to us to see it.
Dr. Nancy reads a quote from Mary’s book to synthesize the breakthrough Mary experienced through her art: “I was the artist. My pain was the art and I was free.”

Find Out More

Learn more possibilities of how art can promote healing. Check out for the complete story.

How to Listen to Your Body

Inna Segal-Visionary Intuitive HealingInna Segal was tormented by chronic pain from a twisted spine. After seeking help from different medical modalities, she was still in agony. After one chiropractor told her that her body was stuck, accept it and go home, Inna got angry. She turned that energy into self-treatment that is nothing short of miraculous.

Inna pioneered a system that helps the body to heal at a deep cellular level. She calls it “Visionary Intuitive Healing®.” Her first book, The Secret Language of Your Body, describes the technique and is an international best seller and a Nautilus Award Winner. In its 5th printing, it is praised by both holistic and western medical professionals as a tool people can use to direct their own healing path, linking individual body parts and functions with their corresponding emotions. Most important, it guides you to link mind, body and spirit, not only to learn the language of your body, but to help it respond in healing ways.

No longer in pain, Inna has become a successful international speaker and best-selling author. Her recently released second book, The Secret Path to Wellness: The Essential Guide to Life’s Big Questions, takes her Visionary Intuitive Healing® system further into healing past and present issues that truly affect emotional, spiritual and physical wellness.


I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Have you ever said this or something similar about how your life has become so overwhelming it’s making you sick? Inna’s method shows how that is actually possible. Expressions that come casually out of our mouths are real expressions of how our thoughts, emotions and body connect the dots of how we’re living our lives.

When Dr. Nancy asked Inna if her life was full of turmoil, she said that she remembered a lot of struggle during her childhood. Her family moved from Belarus, Russia to Australia when she was 10 years old. She didn’t speak a word of English. She struggled to fit in, couldn’t communicate with anyone and felt very different. She was plagued by psoriasis and other health problems. The fact that she was able to learn the English language caused her to think of listening to the language of her body as the key to her own healing. She started with breathing with the pain, then visualizing the body part that hurt. Finally, she asked for divine intervention and help healing both the source and the pain itself. With a change in perspective and relief from the pain, she was on her way to transforming her life.

Dr. Nancy pointed out that when a child doesn’t feel safe and secure, she can’t develop in healthy ways. Inna said her journey was full of discoveries about trauma, even extending back to her grandparents during WWII. Only her grandmother survived out of eight brothers and sisters. That struggle was handed down through the generations to Inna and ultimately challenged her to accept responsibility for her own illness and how to overcome it intuitively.

Today, Inna feels that she wants to do more than help people heal, she wants to help them transform their lives. Her books come with audio interactive sessions to guide the learner through the process. To learn more check out Inna’s website and explore her tools for self-healing.

Empowering Path to Wellness

Isabelle Benarous founder of Bioreprogramming InstituteWhat if you could heal yourself by resolving the emotional conflicts in your life or avoid sickness altogether? Isabelle Benarous says that she has been helping clients do just that for several years with her signature synthesis of human evolution and the processes of the mind. She founded the Bioreprogramming® Institute in 2007 and teaches others the science of Biological Decoding and Neurolinguistic Programming.
Isabelle’s book, Break the Code of Your Illness: The Link Between Emotional Stress and Health Disorders, provides a comprehensive and powerful overview about the origin of illness and how we heal. It explains how people contract a serious life-threatening disease, like cancer, as a biological response to an emotional shock. The body’s organs literally absorb the shock to resolve it; it’s part of our innate fight or flight response. She tells Dr. Nancy, there are two ways to overcome the illness: 1) change the external stressor or 2)  change the perception of the situation and help the body heal itself.

What Causes Illness

Dr. Nancy points out it’s controversial to think of disease coming from within. Our current disease model relies on the belief that disease lies in wait out there and we catch it. We expect to need a pill or surgery for a cure. In other words, we have been brought up to believe that we need someone else to heal us. Dr. Nancy says that she knows breast cancer survivors who would argue with Isabelle’s viewpoint.
Isabelle agrees that while that may be true, her clients have found it empowering to take responsibility for their own healing and to understand how our language can create a self-fulfilling prophecy for our bodies. The true benefit of this Neurolinguistic Programming is that when another emotional shock occurs, we have the resources in our minds to handle it without getting physically ill. She describes it as a process of investigation into your life and that of your ancestors to learn how you (and even your parents) have responded to emotional crises and life events. You begin to see a pattern and develop skills to handle issues symbolically instead of physically.

Links between Scientific Studies and Healing Arts

There is a lot of empirical evidence behind Isabelle’s work, but Dr. Nancy asks, “Are you getting referrals from the medical community?” Isabelle says that she is. “More and more doctors are being open to this and it’s wonderful that they are trying to do everything they can for their patients.”
There is much more, including examples of direct correlations between emotional shocks and disease. Check out more of Isabelle’s ideas on her website,

You Bet Your Life: Advocate for Yourself

Few things can turn your life upside down as quickly as a health crisis. It ranks right up there with a tornado. Our expert offers advice on how to talk with your health care team.

Triumph over the Affliction of PKD

Suzanne Ruff, author, and advocate for organ donation and PKD cureHave you ever heard of PKD? Polycystic Kidney Disease is a genetic disease that is more common than all of the known genetic diseases combined: Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia and Huntington’s disease. Yet few have heard of it.

 Author Suzanne Ruff is on a mission to put PKD in the spotlight and encourage researchers to find a cure. Her award-winning memoir, The Reluctant Donor, tells the story of her family, 19 of whom have died or have survived with kidney transplants.

 The Facts about PKD

There is no cure for PKD. When large fluid-filled cysts result in kidney failure, it is a death sentence. There is no cure and the only treatment is dialysis or a transplant. So how prevalent is it?

  • 650,000 Americans have PKD.
  • 12.5 million people world-wide have it.
  • If one of your parents has PKD, you have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.
  • It affects men, women, children of all ages, races and ethnic origins.
  • It does not skip a generation.
  • Of the more than 116,000 waiting for an organ transplant, over 90,000 are waiting for a kidney.

 Suzanne’s Journey to Become an Advocate for Organ Donations

Named for her grandmother who died of PKD before she was born, Suzanne felt it was her purpose in life to donate her kidney and to use her talent as a gifted story-teller to broadcast the need for organ donations and a cure for this devastating disease.

The wonderful courageous story The Reluctant Donor is amazingly full of humor. Suzanne says it’s really about life and family and all of the ups and downs that we face. She also says that the best compliment she receives is when someone tells her that they laugh and cry and laugh again, because that is how we live with family. Yes, Suzanne was reluctant, first of all to find out if she had PKD. Then when her sister needed a kidney, she wasn’t even speaking to her. Before she could share her life-sustaining kidney, she had to overcome the rift in the relationship.

Check out Suzanne’s website and the websites of The PKD Foundation, The National Kidney Foundation and The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for more about PKD, and the facts (please don’t believe the myths) about organ donation.

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