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How Little Talks Can Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

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How Little Talks Can Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse


You want to protect your child from sexual abuse. But where do you start? With Little Talks! You can have them at ANY age, starting as young as a newborn. Not sure what to say? Check out all of our Little Talks below to see what you should talk to your child about, no matter their age.


Little Talks to Have With Your 0- to 2-Year-Old

It is never too early to talk to your child about sex and healthy sexuality. Even your infant isn’t too young for you to lay a positive groundwork.

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Little Talks to Have With Your 2- to 4-Year-Old

When children are this age they are very curious about their bodies and the way that everything works. It’s the perfect time to talk about sex!

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Little Talks to Have With Your 5- to 8-Year-Old

As your children interact more with the outside world, they may hear or see things that make them curious. If those have to do with sex then you want to make sure you’re the one they talk to about their questions.

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Little Talks to Have With Your 9- to 12-Year-Old

Your tween may be going through puberty, or will be soon. Time to make sure that they understand what’s happening to their bodies and minds as they develop.

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Little Talks to Have With Your 13- to 15-Year-Old

A younger teen may start pushing you away so they can have a greater feeling of autonomy. Make sure that you still keep the communication open and continue to talk to them about sex.

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Little Talks to Have With Your 16- to 18-Year-Old

The older your child gets, the less comfortable they may be talking to you about sex. Don’t let that discourage you! At this age they are still vulnerable to sexual abuse and need you there to talk to them and support them.

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The 3 Ways I Taught My Special Needs Son About Sex

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The 3 Ways I Taught My Special Needs Son About Sex

Talking about sex is awkward. Talking about sex with your child is even more awkward. Talking about sex with your son who has autism goes beyond awkward and into the realm of “How the heck am I even going to start to explain this to him?” That’s where I am right now. My son has high-functioning autism, he’s almost 10, and I’m pretty sure he’s about to start going through puberty. He’s always been big for his age, and the pediatrician warned me he might go through puberty early; looks like his prediction is coming true. Lucky me. The first thing I did was reach out to other moms of kiddos with autism to see if they had any advice. They all had advice for how to get him to take care of his hygiene, but none of them had any real advice on how to talk to him about sex and all the things that go along with it. Most of them seem surprised that I even wanted to tell him about that when he was so young. I’m a single mom, and my son has special needs – both of those factors increase the chances that he’ll be sexually abused. I am not going to withhold information from him about healthy sexuality (that could prevent abuse from happening) just because I feel awkward. Lucky for me, I work at Saprea, and I have access to people who could help me figure out how to traverse this new milestone in autism mothering. I would love to give you a list of ten amazing things I was able to do that made everything clear to him and allowed him to understand everything perfectly, but I can’t. Like everything with parenting, I’m doing my best and hoping some of it works! Here are three things I’ve tried so far and how they worked for us.

01 - We Read Books Together

My son loves to read, so I thought this might be a great place to start. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of books about puberty for boys and none that I’ve been able to find for kids with special needs. Two books that have been helpful are Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys by Cara Natterson. We read them together. He wanted to skip some things or got embarrassed about some of it, but we had lots of good conversations, and he was able to get the information in a way that made sense to him. I felt comfortable giving him the Guy Stuff book and letting him read it on his own, but I felt like I needed to read Sex is a Funny Word with him because it is a little more sex-related (obviously), and I wanted to be there to explain things to him.
Pros: The information was accurate, the illustrations were fun, and we were able to talk about respect, consent, and what a relationship should look like. I learned a lot about what he wants his future relationships to look like.
Cons: He now blames everything on puberty. He actually said to me, “Mom, my butt itches. I think it might be puberty.”
Conclusion: This was the easiest thing I did, but he didn’t want to keep doing it every night. Now we touch on it about every other week.

02 - We Talked About It

I sat him down and tried to ask questions and start a conversation. I’ll be honest – this was doomed from the start. He was not interested in having a “boring” conversation with me. He hates talking anyway but talking to his mom about love, sex, and relationships were (apparently) the worst topic possible.
Pros: I was able to tell him that he can talk to me about any of this kind of stuff whenever he wants.
Cons: You can’t have a conversation with a kid who doesn’t like to talk, so it was a lot of me talking and him listening or me asking questions and him being annoyed I wouldn’t leave him alone.
Conclusion: This doesn’t work for a kiddo who doesn’t talk or has a difficult time talking. But I tried it, and that’s what matters!

03 - I Talk About It in Front of Him, but Not to Him

My son always listens attentively, even when I’m not talking to him. I decided to use that to my advantage and talk about sexuality, puberty, relationships, and healthy interactions when he was around. I brought it up with friends and family members – different topics and subjects each time – and discussed with them all the things I wanted him to know about.
Pros: The words were said (so I know he’s at least hearing them), and it helped other people in my life get used to talking about healthy sexuality.
Cons: I don’t know what he wants to know more about or if he has any questions. And I have no idea what information he’s taking away from these overheard conversations.
Conclusion: I have no idea how effective this is, but I can tell he’s listening. It also gave me the opportunity to learn what other moms and people I care about think about various things, and I loved talking about it with them. This parenting thing is hard and having a child with special needs brings its own challenges. Don’t excuse yourself or your child from learning about healthy sexuality just because it’s difficult to talk about. If you learn nothing else from me, I hope you’ll take away the lesson that it’s worth trying. Just keep trying.

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg
Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate, Saprea gets a small commission if you buy from these links that help to support our cause at no extra cost to you.

Why the ACE Study Is Important for Parents

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One of the most comprehensive studies about the long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences is the ACE Study. This post will explain, briefly, what it is and how it can help you as a parent or caregiver to raise a more well-adjusted child.

From 1995 to 1997, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recruited participants for a long-term study that has come to be known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The study ended up using 17,337 participants.

What does the ACE Study measure?

The ACE Study asked people if they had experienced any of the following 10 things as a child:





















Each of the above experiences that occurred would raise a person’s score. The higher the score, the more at risk a person is for the following, although this list is not exhaustive:

  • Alcoholism

  • Depression

  • Illicit drug use

  • Financial stress

  • Suicide attempts

  • Unintended pregnancies

  • Sexual violence

  • Poor academic achievement

You can go to the CDC website for a more thorough look at the study and the risks associated with a high ACE score.

What Can We Learn From the ACE Study?

When you look at the first list, you can see that one thing might lead to another. If a child’s mother is abused, it raises the likelihood that the child will be abused as well in some form or another. Emotional neglect can lead to a child becoming the target of a perpetrator of sexual abuse. Household mental illness may mean that a child is physically neglected. It’s difficult to take one aspect of the ACE without tying it to another.

So what does that have to do with helping you prevent your child from being sexually abused?

The ACE Study shows us that there are things that will make your child more vulnerable to sexual abuse. As you are looking at your child’s potential ACE score, you can see the places where you need to put more focus and energy.

For example, if your recent divorce has left your child feeling emotionally neglected, you still have time to remedy that situation. Take a close look at yourself and be honest about what you can do to lower your child’s ACE score. The more informed you are, the better decisions you can make. Give your child the best chance you can to become a well-adjusted, high-functioning adult.

5 Facts About Sex Trafficking in the United States

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5 Facts About Sex Trafficking in the United States


Sex trafficking is a part of child sexual abuse that is often overlooked by parents. It may seem like something that only occurs in other cities, states, or countries. It actually can, and does, occur everywhere. Information is the greatest shield against it though, so here are five facts about sex trafficking in the United States you may not know about, courtesy of our friends at Operation Underground Railroad (OUR):



Cases of human trafficking in the United States have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and all United States territories.



Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, male or female, come from all backgrounds, and economic levels. Children as young as 9 can be targeted for exploitation.



When it comes to children getting pulled into trafficking, perpetrators are looking for vulnerable children that they can easily control and manipulate. Lonely kids who don’t have a good relationship with friends or family are prime targets.



We’re also the biggest consumers. Both the production and consumption of pornography can feed into the demand for sex trafficking in the United States.



Women, boyfriends, and family members can all lead a child into sex trafficking. Sexual abusers sometimes coerce the children they abuse into sex trafficking as well.

Children can be made more or less vulnerable by the adults in their lives. If a child is loved, cared for, and taken care of, they are much less likely to get lured into sex trafficking. Educate yourself on the risks of sex trafficking in your area and do your part to protect the children you love from becoming a statistic.

6 Important Principles to Teach Your Child about Sex

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6 Important Principles to Teach Your Child about Sex


There are six basic sexual health principles that can guide someone in making decisions about their sexuality. These are important concepts to teach your child or teen, in addition to learning and modeling them in your own life. Within each of these principles, you’ll want to discuss safety, trust, communication, respect, and accurate information—all of which are key to achieving sexual health and happiness. As you read these, think through how they relate to you and your family, and decide if there are other rights or principles you want to add when you talk to your child or teen about them. Not everything below is appropriate for all ages. Use your judgment to decide what your child is ready for.



Consent is the full, continuous, mutual agreement to sexual activity between the individuals involved. Consent includes the right to:

  • Choose what you participate in, what you don’t participate in, or abstain from completely.
  • Change your mind at any time.
  • Fully understand what you are agreeing to.



Exploitive relationships use coercion and power differentials to benefit one individual over another. You have the right to non-exploitive relationships and to:

  • Feel safe in your sexual activities.
  • Not be taken advantage of due to age, gender, religion, ability, race, etc.
  • Voice your needs, concerns, and preferences as they relate to your sexuality.
  • Not please others at your own expense.



Protection from STIs, HIV, and unwanted pregnancy comes through medically accurate education, information about the risk partners pose to each other, and access to appropriate healthcare and resources. You have the right to:

  • Ask about the risk your partners pose to your sexual health.
  • Deny sexual contact without use of protection or deny sexual contact altogether.
  • Educate yourself and others about types of protection.



Honesty is being truthful within sexual relationships. Partners should voluntarily share important information in an environment of safety and trust. You have the right to:

  • Be honest with yourself and your partners.
  • Give and receive accurate information, even when stakes are high.
  • Ask questions of your sexual partners that impact your sexual and emotional health.



Sexual activities can have different meanings for different people. Sharing sexual values can help to clarify what is acceptable for each person in the relationship and create clear expectations. You have the right to:

  • Take time to know your own and your partners’ values around sex.
  • Have your values respected without being belittled or condemned.
  • Feel safe sharing the values that you have and why you have them.



Safe sexual experiences built on trust have the ability to bring enjoyment and satisfaction to those involved. You have the right to:

  • Find your personal sexual preferences, expressions, and desires.
  • Feel safe when exploring sexuality.
  • Experience consensual pleasure without pain.

As you think through these principles and share them with your child, you may find things that resonate more at different times and in different situations. Having open and honest conversations about sex and healthy sexuality is one of the most important things you can do with your child or teen. It can prevent them from being sexually abused, help them have happier and healthier relationships, and allow them to make more informed choices around sex and sexuality.

How to Manage Your Triggers in the Digital Era

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How to Manage Your Triggers in the Digital Era


Guest blog post written by Taylor Street

We live in the age of information. Access to scientific findings, economic data, and expert knowledge on any subject we’re curious about is literally at our fingertips. Answers to just about any question we can think of are rarely more than a few clicks away.

But, living in a world where we are surrounded by the technology that connects us to all that information has its shortcomings. At any given moment, your phone is probably never more than a few feet away from you, buzzing every few minutes with emails, text messages, and social media notifications. Chances are, at least some of your day-to-day work responsibilities revolve around a computer. And, if you’re like most people, you have at least one television—if not multiple—in your home.

The challenge this poses to a survivor of child sexual abuse is that the risk of encountering something triggering can be extremely high. You might be scrolling through Instagram when you see a photo that reminds you of someone involved in your abuse. Or, you might be watching your favorite TV show when a commercial for the evening news reports yet another celebrity has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Because society will probably only become more inundated with technology—and because conversations around sexual violence will continue making headlines—it’s important that you learn to recognize and manage these triggers. Ignoring them could impact your healing journey and might also affect your ability to function in certain settings.

What is a Trigger?

In recent years, the word “triggered” has become synonymous in pop culture with being overly sensitive, or with the inability to take a joke. Neither of these uses are true or accurate.

In reality, a trigger is an instance when you become physically and/or emotionally reactive to certain sights, sounds, or smells related in some way to the trauma you experienced. These symptoms and feelings are part of your brain’s natural response to unsafe experiences from the past. Your reaction to triggers does not define who you are. Your ability to “control” them does not put a limit on your healing or growth.

What Does “Being Triggered” Actually FEEL Like?

Everyone experiences triggers differently, but like we mentioned above, triggers generally produce some sort of negative physical and/or emotional response.

Physical responses to a trigger might include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Difficulty breathing and/or hyperventilating
  • Tunnel vision or an inability to focus
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you may notice that some of the physical responses listed above are very similar to what you might experience during a panic attack. It’s important to keep in mind that being triggered can lead to a panic attack, but not always. Additionally, not all panic attacks are caused by feeling triggered. If you’re interested in learning more about panic attacks, check out this Tip Tuesday.

Emotional responses to a trigger might include feelings of:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear or mistrust
  • Irritability, or a desire to lash out at others
  • Loneliness, detachment, or a desire to isolate yourself
  • Confusion
Additionally, encountering a trigger can cause your body to go into fight/flight/freeze mode, which might make you feel like you’re experiencing aspects of your abuse all over again. In these instances, the frontal lobe—or “logical” part of your brain that helps with decision making and impulse control—has drastically reduced its activity and the limbic system has taken over. The limbic system—or “primitive brain”—is subconsciously responsible for survival and avoiding pain. It’s where those strong physical and emotional responses originate. To learn more about the different roles your frontal lobe and limbic system play in your healing journey, click here.

How to Identify Things That Trigger You

Identifying triggers in the moment can be difficult—because your limbic system is in the driver’s seat, you probably won’t have time to logically think through what could be causing your discomfort or why. But, reflecting on the experience after you’ve calmed down can help you identify specific triggers.

Here are two tools some survivors find helpful when reflecting on their triggering experiences:


Writing is one of the simplest ways to address and process feelings associated with the trauma of your past. This is sometimes called expressive writing, and has quite a lot of research to back up the claim that it’s helpful for survivors. As you think and write about the triggering experience, keep the following situations and questions in mind:

  • You’ve noticed that negative emotions often arise when you watch television. Is there a specific program or type of program that bothers you? Are there specific topics that you find uncomfortable to read about or listen to? How do you respond when the negative emotions arise? Does one of the characters bother you in some way?
  • A loved one shares some type of personal news on Facebook. You want to respond positively, but you can’t help but feel sad or angry. What is the news about? A job promotion? A new relationship? A plan to move to new place? What emotions arose when you read the news? How did your body feel? Are you actually sad or angry about the news or about a memory the news brought up?
  • A group text with friends or family members made you feel nervous and uncomfortable, but you’re not sure why. What was the topic of the conversation? What was the tone of the conversation? Where were you when you were engaging in the text chain? Did someone say something specific that upset you? Who were the people involved in the conversation?


Another tool that many survivors of child sexual abuse find helpful is our emotion wheel. It helps simplify complex feelings and can help you better understand the emotion (or emotions) you’re experiencing. Understanding is an integral step in solving any problem or dilemma—once you understand the emotions that arose when you felt triggered, you can take steps to ease those emotions.

Saprea's emotion wheel, a list of basic emotions surrounded by more specific emotions that fall under a base emotion.

To use the emotion wheel, first think about an experience in which you felt triggered. Start by using the middle of the wheel to identify the core emotion you felt during the experience. Were you angry? Afraid? Sad? Numb?

From there, move to the outer part of the wheel and look at the feelings associated with that emotion. Don’t necessarily look for an emotion. Rather, take note of which ones resonate with you.

Repeat this process several times as you think about various triggering experiences. As you do so, take note of patterns. Are there specific emotions you feel when a triggering experience involves social media? Do you generally feel the same way in all triggering experiences or do the emotions vary depending on the situation?

Because coping with feelings of aggression often requires different tactics than coping with feelings of insecurity, understanding these patterns is critical to the healing process. Once you have an idea of how your emotions typically respond to triggers, you can make plans to cope with those triggers.

How to Cope with Triggers Through Planning and Practice

One of the most challenging aspects of healing from the trauma of child sexual abuse is learning to manage triggers. Because triggers evoke an automatic (often involuntary) response, some survivors find it helpful to make a plan of how they want to manage triggers when they arise. Once you’ve made a plan, you can practice your planned responses so that they come more naturally when you encounter an unexpected trigger.

Below, we’ll go through several types of activities and grounding exercises you can do to combat triggers. We encourage you to try these when you feel calm to not only build your coping abilities, but to also determine which exercises are most helpful for you.


Many survivors use grounding exercises to help them de-stress during moments of extreme emotions, dissociations, or flashbacks.

Try this simple, sensory-driven grounding exercise to root yourself in the present moment:

  • Name 5 things you can see.
  • Name 4 things you can feel.
  • Name 3 things you can hear.
  • Name 2 things you can smell.
  • Name 1 thing you can taste.

If you find this exercise helpful and are interested in printables that you can carry with you or hang on your wall, click here.


Breathing is a wonderful grounding technique because you can do it anywhere, at any time, with no supplies or equipment. Intentional, mindful breathing increases the brain’s serotonin levels, which in turn helps calm the mind, balance emotions, and nourish the body.

To practice mindful breathing, follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position either in a chair or on the floor.
  2. Inhale through your nose, counting to five as you do so.
  3. Hold your breath and count to seven.
  4. Slowly exhale through your nose, counting to nine as you do so.
  5. Repeat until your heart rate has calmed and you feel more at ease.

Struggling to get control of your breath? Focus on exhaling. That can help kick-start the deep breathing that you need.


The butterfly hug—sometimes referred to as the “self-love hug”—is a simple self-soothing technique you can use any time you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or triggered.

This exercise is simple:

  • First, get in a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
  • Then, cross your arms over your chest and rest the tips of your fingers on your collarbone, shoulders, or arms.
  • Next, gently tap your arms, alternating sides. As you do so, breathe in and out. Tap for as long as you need to.
  • When it feels right, rest your hands and let your attention come back to the present moment.

For a video tutorial of the butterfly hug, click here.


A crisis card is a helpful tool that can come in handy when you’re feeling triggered. Creating one ahead of time will help you plan the actions you can take, people you can call, and positive sayings you can repeat to yourself in a moment of emotional turmoil.

Follow the steps below to create your own crisis card, or click here for a crisis card template that you can complete on your computer and then print at home.

  1. Find a pen and small sheet of paper or note card—we recommend using a sheet about 3×5” that can easily fit in a purse or wallet.
  2. List three things you can do when you’re in an emotional crisis (i.e. mindful breathing, focusing on your senses, going for a walk, etc.).
  3. List three people you can call during these difficult moments (i.e. a friend, family member, significant other, therapist, etc.).
  4. Write down short answers to the following questions:
    1. What do you need from others in this moment?
    2. What is one thing the person who call CAN do for you?
    3. What is one thing the person who call should AVOID doing?
  5. Write a positive statement about yourself that you know has the power to lift you up.

Managing triggers is challenging, and unfortunately, a world filled with technology that could send you into a spiral at any given moment doesn’t make survivors’ lives any easier. But, through thoughtful self-reflection and careful planning, you can learn to recognize and interrupt triggers as they arise.

There Is Hope After Sibling Sexual Abuse

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There Is Hope After Sibling Sexual Abuse


A very little key will open a very heavy door.

—Charles Dickens

“Vista Balboa Crisis Center, this is Katie. How can I help you today?”

I hadn’t been expecting this particular phone call one sunny Thursday afternoon while working my shift at a crisis center. Although I had heard many stories from adults who had been traumatized as children, the depth of pain I felt from the person on the other end of the line was especially heartbreaking. They had experienced severe sibling sexual abuse, and this was the first time in over 30 years they had disclosed it to anyone.

As we talked about this person’s experiences, they expressed deep confusion and shame toward the abuse, toward their sibling, and especially toward themselves. They hesitantly described how they had opposite, conflicting, and confusing feelings toward the abuse as well as toward their sibling. When this person learned later in their childhood that it was taboo to have sexual contact with a sibling, they felt like they were responsible for what happened. This had kept them from seeking help over the long, lonely years since their childhood. In those years, they continually struggled with issues of power and balance in their relationships and had immense difficulty trusting others. In over 30 years, they had never had a close relationship.

If you have experienced sibling sexual abuse, you are not alone.

While there are many practical resources you can use to heal from sibling sexual abuse, realizing that you are not alone and that your experiences are valid can be important first steps for many survivors. In this blog post I hope to walk alongside you for a few of those steps by sharing with you some common experiences of survivors of sibling sexual abuse.


Experiencing ambivalence, or conflicting feelings toward someone or something, is a common experience for survivors of child sexual abuse—especially for those who have experienced abuse by a sibling. Just as the weather can be rainy and sunny at the same time, people are capable of experiencing multiple feelings at the same time—even some that may seem opposite, like love and hate.

These emotions can feel confusing or isolating. For many, these contradictory feelings may lead to additional feelings of guilt if they have any positive feelings about the abuse or toward their sibling(s). Deja,* for example, wanted desperately for her step-brother to like her, causing her to readily comply with his abusive and humiliating requests. As an adult Deja feels angry and betrayed by her step-brother and his harmful actions. On the other hand, she still desires his approval and struggles with feeling the abuse was her fault because she had complied and never asked to stop. Deja’s ambivalence toward her brother and sense of self-doubt made it difficult for her to seek support or talk about the abuse to anyone for many years.

Some survivors experience this ambivalence toward their parents or other caregivers, sometimes more so than toward their sibling(s). Although sibling sexual abuse can happen in families with attentive and loving parents, many survivors struggle with feelings toward parents who may have been absent, were busy with their own relationship issues, favored some siblings over others, or responded poorly when the abuse came to light. Research has shown that even typical parents may struggle to intervene appropriately when abuse occurs between their children due to the complex nature of the issue and also because both children typically need help. When there is a lack of appropriate action, it can create layers of resentment or pain for the child being harmed.1

Charlie’s* parents, for instance, were amazing examples of love and support for most of her life, but then swept Charlie’s abuse under the rug when they felt it would cause too much disruption in the family. As a result, Charlie feels both loved and unloved by her family, and the ambivalence leaves her uncertain how to interact with her family.

Because of how the human body automatically responds to certain sensations or scenarios, many survivors may feel confused by how their body may have responded to the abuse, and as an adult may still experience sexual thoughts or fantasies related to those experiences. This can lead to a conflicted relationship with physical intimacy as well as feelings of shame. Some survivors also feel that because their body responded positively to the sexual touch, they must have liked or deserved the abuse, when in reality no one deserves to be abused.

If you have experienced conflicting or ambivalent feelings about your abuse, your sibling, your family, or even yourself, you aren’t alone. You are neither good nor bad for having the feelings or responses that you have, and these feelings and responses don’t define who you are. You can explore more about your feelings here, and speaking with a trained therapist can help you further understand and work through your experience.

Power and Control

Sibling sexual abuse often progresses over time. What may start out as non-abusive play in some situations can escalate into abuse, especially if coercion, power, or force become defining features. John’s* sexual abuse by his older brother typically came after his brother was in trouble with his parents and was the way his brother regained control. As an adult, John makes sure he is the one with power and control in all of his relationships and gets easily frustrated when he feels out of control. Secretly, John feels deep shame, embarrassment, and loss about his childhood and the relationship with his brother he wished he could have had instead of the one he did have.

Because of the nature of sibling sexual abuse, it’s common for blame to be unjustly shifted to the survivor. Some survivors are made to believe by the sibling (or others) that it was their fault or that, as mentioned before, because their body responded or because they complied, that they must have made it happen. Andrea’s* abuse, similar to John’s, involved control and manipulation by her sibling who also made Andrea believe that she was to blame. In contrast to John, Andrea finds herself in a passive role in her adult relationships, even in moments when she tries to be assertive. Her feeling of powerlessness often becomes immobilizing during intimate moments with her partner. Again, similar to John, she secretly feels deep shame, embarrassment, and loss about her childhood.

If you struggle with power and control in your relationships or other aspects of your life, you are not alone. Your real power lies within, and you have the ability to heal. You deserve to have balanced and safe relationships with those around you. You can explore more about relationships here, and can further develop relational skills with a licensed therapist who specializes in relationship issues.

Trust and Hope

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness

—Desmond Tutu

Imagine that each time you try to open a certain door in your house, it jams. So you start to use a different door and eventually stop using the door that jams altogether. Having your trust broken is similar to the jammed door. Over time, you may learn to never trust the person or institution again.

The trust that is broken in the course of trauma—whether it’s the abuse itself, the responses of others, or your belief in yourself—can feel as if every door in your house is jammed and no one can be trusted. You may feel stuck, powerless, or hopeless that the future will be any different.

These feelings make absolute sense given the experiences you have had. You adapted to your situation, and distrust can be wonderfully helpful in protecting you in many instances where someone may harm you, at least in some circumstances. Being vulnerable would mean opening yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. However, being vulnerable also means opening yourself up to experiencing love, joy, and healing.

We're never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.

—Walter Anderson

Interestingly, the word hope first meant trust. With time, the definition of hope has extended to mean to expect with confidence, and, my personal favorite, to cherish a desire with anticipation.2

Cherish hope. Cherish healing. Trust there are doors waiting to be opened to you that lead to safety, healing, and growth. If you are seeking hopeyou are not alone.3


*Names have been changed.

If you are in crisis, or would simply like to talk to someone, you can call (U.S.) 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a trained crisis worker. 

You can also text HOME to 741741 to text with a trained counselor. (Canada: text 686868. UK: text 85258).

Kintsugi: The Value of a Broken Bowl

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Kintsugi: The Value of a Broken Bowl


I am kintsugi.

—Linda, past participant at the Saprea Retreat

The Legend of Kintsugi

A Japanese legend tells the story of a mighty shogun warrior who broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it away for repairs. When he received it back, the bowl was held together by unsightly metal staples. Although he could still use it, the shogun was disappointed. Still hoping to restore his beloved bowl to its former beauty, he asked a craftsman to find a more elegant solution.

The craftsman wanted to try a new technique, something that would add to the beauty of the bowl as well as repair it. So, he mended every crack in the bowl with a lacquer resin mixed with gold. When the tea bowl was returned to the shogun, there were streaks of gold running through it, telling its story, and—the warrior thought—adding to its value and beauty. This method of repair became known as kintsugi.

Kintsugi, which roughly translates to “golden joinery,” is the Japanese philosophy that the value of an object is not in its beauty, but in its imperfections, and that these imperfections are something to celebrate, not hide.

For a beautiful illustration of kintsugi, watch the video below:

Just like the kintsugi bowl, I am being restored.

—Janet, past participant at the Saprea Retreat

Kintsugi and You

That’s a nice story, you may be thinking, but what does it have to do with me? Imagine that your life is like a ceramic bowl. When good things happen, it’s like the bowl is being polished. And when bad things happen, it’s like the bowl is being dinged or scratched. Something like child sexual abuse could create significant cracks. The resulting trauma may even have left you feeling that your bowl had been broken into pieces. You repaired it as best you could, and, like the metal staples, maybe the ways you coped allowed you to be functional, but not utilizing your full potential. With kintsugi, every step you make toward healing is like gluing those pieces back together with gold. You feel more whole and complete.

Although the trauma in your past cannot be changed, it can be managed in ways where it no longer dominates your life. You may carry deep wounds that need validation and healing in order for you to move forward. With proper education, tools, and support, it’s not only possible but probable that you will be able to live a positive, productive, and empowered life. As you learn about how the brain responds to the trauma of your childhood, you can begin the process of putting the broken pieces back together.

It gave me the opportunity to see myself in a completely different light... flawed and broken but not destroyed.
—Sareta, Survivor

The Saprea Retreat and Kintsugi

When participants arrive at the Saprea Retreat, one of the first activities that they participate in is our version of kintsugi. They take a ceramic bowl and break it. Then they take the pieces and carefully glue them back together using glue mixed with gold-colored powder. It takes some patience, a little bit of practice, and the willingness to try over and over again to fit the pieces back together. This can be an incredibly impactful activity for a survivor and serves as a great way to begin or continue a healing journey.

As a metaphor, kintsugi takes on a different meaning for each survivor who participates in the activity. In some cases the bowl may represent their childhood. Others may feel that the pieces represent their broken trust. The ways kintsugi can apply to your healing journey is as individual as each survivor. Take this opportunity to think about what the metaphor of kintsugi can mean for you and where you currently are in your healing journey.

The activity that put a lot into perspective for me was the kintsugi project. It showed me that what was once broken can be mended and become something even more beautiful.

—Stephanie, past participant at the Saprea Retreat

Your Real-Life Kintsugi

Here at Saprea we understand that your experiences may be difficult to acknowledge or talk about because of the shame and stigma that often surrounds sexual abuse. There can be a lot of reasons to put off addressing your trauma and pursuing the healing that you deserve, but if you don’t face your past, you risk being held hostage by it.

Your wounds and healing are part of your history—a part of who you are. No matter what breaks you’ve experienced, your journey is beautiful. We don’t celebrate that you were abused, but we absolutely celebrate the wonderful person you are and will continue to become as you create your real-life version of kintsugi.

How to Handle the Holidays as a Survivor

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How to Handle the Holidays as a Survivor


The Holidays can be Difficult

The twinkling lights and smell of pine. Soft scarves and warm food. Music and laughter. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be fun and exciting. Sometimes though the holiday season can present overwhelming emotions and triggering moments. Holidays and family get-togethers can be trying for anyone, but for survivors of child sexual abuse they can be even more difficult, especially if your family is tied to your abuse in some way. It could be that they didn’t believe you, that they didn’t stop it, that they don’t support you in getting help, or that the person who perpetrated your abuse is in your family. For some survivors, the holidays represent the frightening possibility of being in the same room as the person who abused them.

So, as a survivor, how can you handle the holidays? Or, if you’re someone who loves and supports a survivor, what can you do to make the experience less stressful for them? Whether you’re a survivor or a supporter, you’ll find tools below that can help you traverse this time of year with safety and, hopefully, end up feeling more peace and less dread than you have in the past.

If you’re a survivor, keep reading; everything you need is right below. If you’re a supporter, we have suggestions tailored specifically to you here that can help you understand the ways that you can provide encouragement and safety for the survivor you care about.

Handling the Holidays: Tips for Survivors

As you decide what tools to add to your holiday survival kit, trust your intuition. If something feels right, try it. If something feels like it’s not for you, that’s okay. You can simply move on to the next thing. Some things may be easier if you “practice” them before a potentially triggering situation, especially grounding techniques, which are techniques that can help you focus on and stay in the present moment. For example, when you first learned how to tie your shoes it probably took a lot of thought, time, and concentration; now you can probably tie them without even looking. It may take a lot of energy the first few times you try a new technique (including asking for help), but you’ll improve your ability the more often you do it. The more you’ve practiced a technique, the more effective it will be in moments of distress.

Plan ahead

One of the best things that you can do for yourself before any event, party, or get-together is to plan ahead. We tried to make it easier for you by creating the guide below. We’ll walk you through each part of this resource step-by-step so you can get the most out of it.

Identify people who can help

There are a variety of ways to manage triggers, but one thing that can be especially helpful at a party or gathering is identifying a person or group of people who are safe and supportive. This could be someone attending the same event, like a family member or friend. It could also be someone you can call or text, like a therapist, if things start to feel overwhelming. Reach out to this supporter or supporters before the event and let them know that you might need them at that event or during that day and time.

Think about what you'll need from your supporter

When you reach out to let your supporters know that you might need their help, it can be a good idea to let them know a few things that you’ll think will be helpful. This will allow both of you to know what your expectations are. For instance, if you only want someone to listen, it’s important to let your supporter know that, otherwise they may try to fix the problem and make you feel worse. You can also ask them to remind you of a grounding technique that you’ve found effective, or ask them to give you an excuse to leave early if you need it.

Plan out a response to any sexual abuse related questions

When the #MeToo movement began in 2017, it opened up a space for survivors to share their stories and made conversations about sexual abuse more common. If the people at your event know that you are a survivor, it may come up in conversation. If this happens, keep in mind that you are in control of your story and you don’t have to talk about it unless you want to. Plan out a few responses you can use if someone brings this up and you don’t want to share your story or only want to share a part of your story.

Make a list of positive affirmations

Having some positive affirmations ready to use can be a great way to maintain a sense of safety in a stressful situation. You can come up with affirmations that are as general or as specific as you like. Keep in mind that you want these to be encouraging and calming. Instead of saying: “My family will never accept who I am now,” you could tell yourself: “I am enough.” Say your affirmations out loud and see how they make you feel. You can even try writing them down in prominent places so that you see them in the days leading up to the party.

Know when to say No

No one knows what you need better than you do. And sometimes what you need is to not attend a family gathering or holiday event. There can be immense power and relief when you choose to say no. It’s not always easy, however, especially if you feel as though you’re disappointing someone. Take some time to practice declining the invitation. You can even ask a friend to help you roleplay what you’ll do or say. The important thing to remember is that you're doing what is best for you and your well-being; it’s not selfish, it’s self-care.

Make self-care a priority

Speaking of self-care, it is vital for your healing journey that you make caring for yourself a priority. This looks different for everyone. If the thought of a bubble bath makes you roll your eyes, but the idea of taking a long walk makes you feel peaceful, then walking may be a good form of self-care for you. Sometimes something as simple as taking care of an everyday task that you’ve been putting off can be exactly what you need in a moment. Self-care is important for balance at all times of the year, but critical for survival in the holidays when stress can be more common.

Be kind to yourself and don't give up

If things don’t go well, it can make you feel frustrated and defeated. You may blame yourself for being triggered or not handling things as well as you wanted to. Instead of positive affirmations empowering you, you may give in to negative self-talk and berate yourself with mean thoughts. This presents a wonderful opportunity for you to practice being kind to yourself. You’re on a healing journey and this means that there may be setbacks and detours, but as long as you don’t give up then you’re heading in the right direction.

The holidays can be exhilarating or exhausting; they can be exciting or overwhelming; maybe a mix of all of them. Trust your intuition as you identify what will be best for you. Consider ways to plan ahead, ask for help when you need it, and take care of yourself. Above all, you are absolutely worth the effort, so don’t give up.

Handling the Holidays: Tips for Supporters

It can be hard to see someone you love struggle. It can also be hard to know what to say and how to help when that person is a survivor who has disclosed their abuse to you. There are countless ways that you can be a great supporter, but in our guide below we cover five of the biggest ones. Download the PDF and read on for our tips for making this holiday a happy and healthy one for the survivor in your life and you.

Listen to what they need

Too often when someone comes to us with a problem, we want to fix it or make it better. Sometimes that means that we’re jumping to solutions too quickly. Or, out of a desire to spare them the stress of talking about it, we interrupt or try to change the subject. Put those impulses aside and really listen to what they’re saying. Let them tell you what they need.

Create a Safe space

When a survivor is experiencing a trigger or is overwhelmed by their emotions, feeling safe can be the first step in helping them. Work with them to create a safe space (either literally or figuratively, depending on where you are) that will allow them to work through what they’re feeling. During a party or gathering this could mean taking them to a different room, talking to them on the phone, or stepping in to help them escape or navigate a conversation. Talk to them about what you can do to create a safe space for them.

Be a Buffer

Holiday parties or family events can be crowded, noisy, or environments where potentially difficult conversation topics arise, all of which can be very challenging for anyone to handle. However, when you are a survivor these same situations may become unbearable. Talk to your survivor about topics or people where they would like you to help out or intervene. Make a plan for how you can support them if that topic arises or that person tries to talk to them. While your first instinct may be to step in and protect, allow the survivor to call the shots. You are there to empower them to handle the situation, not fix it for them. Your behavior may also serve as an example to others and encourage them to adopt similar behaviors.

Encourage self-care

When emotions are high and stressors seem to be coming at them from every side, remind your loved one to take a minute for themselves. Encourage them to practice self-care regularly. Figure out the ways that help them decompress or recharge and try to make those possible for them as often as you can. Continue to listen and be sympathetic to the stressors and holiday busyness that the survivor is trying to navigate. Sometimes it may be especially helpful to encourage your loved one to accomplish a specific number of things on their to-do list, and then to follow that with a self-care break. It’s important to remember that your loved one doesn’t want to feel broken or incapable, and they may feel like ignoring the things they need to do will also backfire. You can remind the survivor how important balance is and that it’s especially important at this busy time of year.

Take care of yourself

Have you ever heard the adage: you can’t pour from an empty cup? It means that you can’t take care of someone else (or fill their cup) when you’re running on empty. Take time to check in with yourself and make sure that you prioritize your own self-care. You and your loved one both benefit when your needs are met before you feel burned out, defeated, or resentful. This is a critical time to practice being kind to yourself. There may be times where you’ll wish you could do more for your survivor, but know that you are a blessing in your loved one’s life and your efforts to provide support and safety is evidence of the good you are doing. (And reminding yourself of this would be a fantastic affirmation.)

Your Efforts Can Make a Difference

For many, the holidays are a wonderful time of the year filled with traditions and good food and the joy of being with the people you love. If a survivor you love is struggling, please know that you make a difference to them. You may not be able to get them to jump up and down with excitement, but you can help them look to this time of year with less dread and more hope. Sometimes letting them know that you’re there for them and they don’t have to go through it alone can make all the difference.

8 Myths About Child Sexual Abuse

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8 Myths About Child Sexual Abuse


When myths about child sexual abuse are accepted as truth, survivors may be more likely to stay silent.

In order to break the silence and lower the risk of sexual abuse, you need to know the truth about sexual abuse. Below are eight myths that we should all work to dispel:

Myth #1

Sexual Abuse Always Includes Physical Contact

Sexual abuse includes non-physical contact as well. Perpetrators may expose children to pornography or participate in acts of voyeurism. These can potentially have the same long-term effects on a child as physical sexual abuse.

Myth #2

Sexual Abuse Only Happens to Girls

Even though abuse of boys is not discussed as often, 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old. Your sons need your protection just like your daughters need it.

Myth #3

Stranger Danger is the Biggest Cause of Sexual Abuse

Many times, perpetrators are people we interact with on a regular basis. It has been reported that 90 percent of those who are abused knew their abuser. 60 percent are abused by a trusted family friend and 30 percent are abused by a family member. While stranger danger is a risk, it is by no means the biggest risk.

Myth #4

Sexual Abuse Only Occurs in White Vans or Dark Alleys

Sexual abuse can (and does) occur anywhere children are, including schools, churches, community centers, or at home. Sexual abuse can even take place online. This is why it is important to always be on alert and always have an ongoing dialogue about the risks of abuse with your children.

Myth #5

Sexual Abuse is Always Reported to Authorities

Due to the shame that accompanies this subject, many cases of sexual abuse go unreported. Fewer than 12% of cases are reported to the proper authorities. Much of this is due to the fact that perpetrators threaten harm in order to protect their abuse. Even worse, families often sweep it under the rug after the child comes forward, causing additional damage.

Myth #6

Sex Trafficking Doesn’t Happen in Your Community

Trafficking happens in every community. According to, between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked in the U.S. each year. The average age a child enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12–14 years old. It doesn’t matter how big or small the city you live in is; trafficking is taking place within your community.

Myth #7

Survivors Always Become Abusers

It is reported that 30% of survivors of child sexual abuse will become perpetrators themselves. However, this risk is significantly reduced if the survivor receives help. For this reason, the stigma surrounding this important subject needs to disappear. Everyone needs to stand up and help children find the healing they need after abuse. It is possible to break the cycle.

Myth #8

Sexual Abuse Will Happen and I Can’t Do Anything to Stop It 

Educated parents and caregivers can significantly reduce the likelihood of sexual abuse. Taking actions to stay informed about how to prevent, recognize, and respond to sexual abuse will help equip you with the tools you need to protect your children. Also, keeping an open dialogue with your children about healthy sexuality will help give your children the confidence they need to confide in you about this sensitive subject.