The Second Wound Blog

Maddie & Me

“What do you have to lose?”, her partner asked.

Maddie Morris had been thinking about contacting me for a while. She wanted to say she’d been comforted by the podcast and my writing about “the second wound”. She might even offer to be a guest on the podcast, Truth & Consequences. But Maddie hadn’t decided. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to take the risk. That is, until her partner posed this question. 

Maddie sat with it a while. Probably, the worst that could happen was that she would get no response. Maddie knew she could handle that. She’d already lived through so much worse.  

In February of this year, Maddie emailed me. She wrote briefly about her own traumatic background and warmly thanked me for the podcast and my work. She also included a link. And when I opened it–and watched a video of Maddie performing an original song for the 2019 BBC Young Folk Awards–I became her fan. 

Maddie is a tremendously gifted musician. Her song, Where Do We Go From Here captures the familiar, brutal everyday oppression that so many of us know firsthand. She explains in the video that just that week, her apartment’s kitchen had been flooded. She was living in a centimeter of water due to an obvious leak and when she showed her landlord, he told her the water came from “condensation”. Because he claimed authority, Maddie felt pressured to accept his ridiculous denial of the problem. One that he was responsible to fix. Maddie wrote the song, she says in the video, in part about “that feeling of powerlessness on the basis of gender”. 

Maddie won the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award for this song and performance, and she 100% deserved it. When I listened, the song and Maddie’s voice pulled me in and moved me and I wrote right back to tell her so. Soon after, we recorded a lively podcast interview that I can’t wait for you all to hear. 

But, there’s still more to this story. A few days after I emailed a copy of our edited interview to Maddie so she could hear it before it’s release, she sent me a recording in return. She’d written a song called *Consiquences. It captured her feelings about our podcast conversation, the friendship we were forming, and the pasts that connected us. After I opened Maddie’s email, I pressed play on the recording and asked my husband to sit down next to me. We both teared up as we listened to Maddie’s beautiful voice and poignant words. When it was over, Adam lay his head on my shoulder and just breathed the word, “Wow.” My thoughts exactly. 

There is so much value in knowing we are not alone. It makes all the difference to witness that the deepest, most personal pains we have suffered, no matter how unique they may feel, are shared by others. People who can articulate what we might not yet understand, who know without explanation what we carry around with us. It’s the whole point of the work I do and I think the same is true for Maddie. Helping others also helps us heal. 

It’s one reason Maddie’s music is so powerful. It resonates because she writes and sings with a vulnerability that reaches out and pulls us close, comforted and safe in our struggles. Connected across time, space, and oceans. 

It’s brave of Maddie to put herself out there this way, especially at the age of 22. An award-winning kind of courage that pays off for her. And for all of us. I can’t wait for you to meet Mattie. I’m so glad I did. 

*Hear the interview with Maddie Morris and song Consequences on the Truth and Consequences Podcast Season 3, Episode 1: Maddie & Me


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Dylan Farrow Waited a Long Time to Be Heard

[Originally published as a Huffington Post blog piece in April 2014.]

When the newest issue of New York Magazine arrived in my mailbox last week, it didn’t take long for me to flip to the back page and peruse the “Approval Matrix,” their weekly ranking of timely facts and intriguing news tidbits. I usually find it a fun read, but not this time. In the quadrant, which assigned this high-profile story the status of “despicable,” was a photograph of Woody Allen holding a young Dylan Farrow and the words: “The crosscurrents of accusations from the Farrow-Allen households.”

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No Room for Error – Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse

“They would never do that.”

These are dangerous words when spoken in response to concerns about potential sexual abusers. And yet, I regularly hear stories about people answering this way when confronted with someone who might pose a danger to children.

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Take A Side Against Sexual Abuse in the Family

Growing up in Second Wound families, I think many survivors learn to take what they can get. They are taught not to ask for much. And they don’t dare complain for fear of being shamed and blamed. It’s safe to say they are not allowed to have strong voices within their families.

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A Perfect Shame

Perfectionism is a familiar affliction for survivors. 

So many of us strive to achieve top grades and performance reviews, to dress just right for every occasion, and master the social skills that help us appear naturally confident. All the while, we’re scared to death of letting the mask slip to reveal our secret: the shame we carry as a byproduct of sexual abuse or assault. 

At its root, perfectionism is often an unconscious attempt to cover up shame. 

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A Safe Way for Survivors to Stop Repeat Offenders

What if we lived in a world where victims of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment felt free to speak up? What if they were treated kindly, and almost always believed? What if perpetrators of these crimes were aggressively investigated and prosecuted on a consistent basis, their sentences reflecting the damage they inflict on survivors? What if we treated sexual violence survivors like victims of other crimes–especially those involving theft of money? 

The answer is easy. We would live in a world with fewer sexual crimes. And for those who still chose to perpetrate sexual violence, they would be caught far more quickly and easily.

Because victims would feel free to name offenders. 

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Fear, Loss, & the Grocery Store

The following is adapted from a bonus Truth & Consequences podcast episode recorded during the Covid-19 quarantine. I post it here because it addresses retraumatization and the resurfacing of past trauma and loss.  

If you have a few extra minutes this week, I’d like to share a story and some thoughts with you in the hopes that you’ll find it useful. It’s a story about going to the grocery store. Something that used to be an annoyingly frequent chore, at least to me, but has now become a whole different experience for a lot of us…of course, that’s IF you’re actually still venturing out to buy food in person.

Because our world has changed.

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Grateful for What I Know

It’s American Thanksgiving today. In the midst of the bustle of holiday prep, I have survivors on my mind. Those, like me, who are estranged from their family. Whatever the status of our family relationships, so many of us feel misunderstood by loved ones who minimize or deny the weight of our experiences. They just don’t get it. And maybe they never will.

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Healing Begins with Connection (as seen in The Mighty)

[Originally published on The Mighty on May 14, 2019.]

There is no substitute for feeling heard, understood and cared for. These are the gifts of human connection, an integral component of where healing begins from the trauma of sexual abuse and assault. For survivors on the path to healing, it’s vital we connect with people who will sit with us in our pain and struggle, appreciate our value and share in celebrations of our progress and triumphs. These may be therapists or other professionals as well as partners and caring friends. As legitimately scary as it can be to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and risk trusting others, doing so (in our own time and with careful judgment) helps to repair our damaged hearts and fulfill our emotional needs.

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Parenting with a Limited Road Map

There have been many points during my parenting journey when I wished I could fall back on what I’d learned from my own mom and dad, to recall how they’d handled similar situations and use their actions as my guide. But based on the way things went during my childhood, I didn’t have that luxury. In fact, for a lot of parenting moments, I was determined to handle things differently from the way my parents had.

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