One of the great things about this blog’s community of commenters is the amazing variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills they bring to the discussions in our Comments section.
This came home to us Tuesday, as we were looking over a conversation between two regulars: Sheva Burton, who has fought for the rights of child sexual abuse survivors since the early 1990s; and OMGnotthisoldshiteagain, who has brought us some excellent insights into those who purport to deliver services to adult survivors.
The Real Fresh Start Foundation
Some of our readers might be aware that Sheva has been working to set up a new blog, The Real Fresh Start Foundation.
The goal is to bring together survivors to counter organisations such as Scotland’s “Fresh Start Foundation”, with their emphasis on “extreme” (read: “Satanic ritual”) child sexual abuse, and their trolling and abuse of any who try to inject a dose of reality into the discussion. It seems fair to say that the Scottish organisation exists in order to capitalise on belief in SRA, and ultimately to dominate the child sexual abuse agenda with their conspiracy-led beliefs.
Sheva’s project is still very much in its infancy, but if we understand correctly, one of its goals is to provide an umbrella organisation where good groups can be identified, and survivors and supporters can offer ideas and suggestions about how to avoid the sorts of groups which exploit, groom, and bully survivors. That’s a big task, which is why Sheva is asking for help to get it off the ground.
Identifying the bad ‘uns
OMGnotthisoldshiteagain (OMGN for short) offered Sheva some timely insights and advice, suggesting that it would be important to review some of those on the current “white list” of resources:
Just for example, the first person you recommend on your list is a new age activist called Svava Brooks. I have serious concerns about this person.
I just wondered why you are recommending her to survivors?
Please don’t interpret this as an attack on you. I honestly don’t mean it as such; I am genuinely interested in how it came to be that you are recommending Svava Brooks and other individuals and organisations in your white list of recommended links.
We hadn’t heard of Ms Brooks before, but OMGN clarified:
What really concerns me about Svava Brooks is that when you check out her video titled “The Healing Journey with Svava Brooks Part 1” here:
Within the first few minutes [at 02:17] she is promoting EFT/tapping (a form of self hypnosis that can definitely create false memories) and the notorious book The Courage To Heal as if it is some kind of wonderful thing rather than a book that has caused untold misery to thousands of innocent families. …
…(I)n another video she tells viewers that if they have doubts that they were sexually abused as children or that the “memories” they have don’t make sense to just carry on reading the books and talking to other “survivors” and to believe that the “memories” are real.
This seems to me to be utterly irresponsible and dangerous.
Another thing that concerns me very much is that she starts her videos by thanking the viewers for giving her their details and for downloading material from her website.
‘Time to turn off the tap’
Indeed, EFT (Emotional Freedom Therapy), aka “tapping”, has been denounced by reputable mental health practitioners as ineffectual at best, harmful at worst.
Briefly, the therapy is one of many dubious “energy therapies” which claim that the body somehow “stores” negative emotions and memories, which can be “released” or “purged” via various techniques, including but not limited to “tapping”, genital massage (yes, really!), placing the hands on the body to discover areas of “disturbed energy”, and so forth.
Gary Craig, inventor of “tapping” states in his 79-page handbook, “The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system”, and that “Tapping [various points of the body] sends pulses through the meridian lines and fixes the disruption”. Here’s part of the cover to the EFT Manual:
Like all good quack cure-alls, EFT claims to “apply to all issues”. In fact, according to its inventor, it was “originally designed to overhaul the psychotherapy profession”—in other words, to replace legitimate forms of psychotherapy. Hmm.
Red flags aren’t always obvious
We’re going into this much detail about Svava Brooks and her promotion of “tapping” to illustrate that red flags are not always glaringly obvious.
Anyone without some knowledge of the problems inherent in benign-sounding treatment modalities would have no reason to step carefully around them. For example, you might have heard of “tantric massage”, billed as an “ancient therapy” which can release blockages, yadda yadda yadda…but do you know what it entails?
We found this description on a random Facebook page which endorses tantric massage: “Yoni”, for the uninitiated, is yoga-speak for “female genitalia”. Can you guess what “awakening the body’s energy field” entails?
Yet tantric massage is offered to sexual abuse survivors to help “release blockages” …and we’ve seen very little study or critique of this practice.
Back to the Real Fresh Start
OMGN and Sheva both agreed that in creating the new blog, it might be most helpful to create a list of red flags which could help guide survivors away from dangerous or quack therapies and give them the tools to assess the resources currently available.
It’s a depressing reality that many resources which look superficially good, can turn out to promote things like SRA or the problematic “dissociative identity disorder” diagnosis; treatment techniques which sound benign on paper can help create false memories; books like The Courage to Heal, once held up as the bible of the CSA therapy movement, can encourage false beliefs. So this is going to take some digging, some research, and a lot of hard work.
We think that Sheva’s new resource has the potential to be a remarkable (dare we say “fresh”) starting point for survivors of child sexual abuse, helping to guide people away from the dangerous and/or unhelpful, and toward healing.
But Sheva, powerhouse though she is, can’t do it alone. This is far more than a one-person job, so we’d urge anyone interested in lending a hand to help create a “red flag list” get in touch with Sheva or us.