Marti MacGibbon is a humorous inspirational speaker, a nationally award-winning author, and an expert on trauma resolution and addiction. She’s a survivor of human trafficking, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and abuse, homelessness, complex PTSD, and addiction. On January 25th, at the War Memorial in Trenton, NJ, Marti delivered a stirring keynote address at a statewide conference sponsored by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force. In her speech, Marti provided both clinical and experiential insights into the intersection of human trafficking and addiction, with a focus on the current opioids crisis. Ms. MacGibbon was able to bring light humor to her talk, along with inspiring and moving anecdotes from her own experience. The attendees included government officials, criminal justice professionals, law enforcement professionals, university students, academics, medical and behavioral health professionals, and concerned citizens. The audience showed appreciation for Marti by giving her a standing ovation. Other speakers at the conference included NJ Congressman Chris Smith, author of the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. After her talk, Marti signed complimentary copies of her books, Never Give in to Fear and Fierce, Funny, and Female.
Marti MacGibbon is a professional humorous motivational speaker, an award-winning author, and an expert on trauma resolution and addiction. She is an empowered survivor of human trafficking, PTSD, and addiction. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Marti’s busy advocating and educating multidisciplinary teams of professionals about the issue, and about how to recognize and assist victims and survivors of human trafficking. On January 11, which is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Marti presented a Human Trafficking 101 training to healthcare professionals at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco. On January 15, Marti delivered the opening speech, “The Intersection of Human Trafficking and Addiction, with Focus on the Opioids Crisis”, at Sacramento’s 11th Annual Human Trafficking Conference at Sacramento State University.
Marti also did a book signing featuring her two critically acclaimed and award-winning memoirs, Never Give in to Fear and Fierce, Funny, and Female. Ms. MacGibbon donated proceeds from book sales to Justice At Last, a non-profit headed by Rose Mukhar, a well-known California attorney advocate (and recipient of the Modern-day Abolitionist Award) who provides pro bono legal services to victims of human trafficking. Marti is a Survivor Advisor at Justice At Last. The Sacramento conference was organized by My Sister’s House, a non-profit serving victims and survivors of human trafficking, sexual assault, and domestic violence. On January 16th and 17th, Marti presented a series of trainings to healthcare professionals on trauma-informed care best practices for engagement with victims and survivors of violence. The talks were delivered at medical centers in Central Coastal California.
January is the month when we promise ourselves we’re going to make positive changes in our lives. Advertisers hit us with “New Year, New You” messages. Friends tell us about their resolution plans. In response, we might either catch the wave of excitement and make resolutions, or feel overwhelmed enough to blow it all off, scoop up a big bowl of ice cream, hit the couch and binge Netflix. New Year or not, it’s possible to build healthy habits and achieve goals and dreams. Transforming new behaviors into strong habits only takes about ten weeks if you repeat the action each day, according to National Institutes of Health. I’ve seen it in my own life. Using this top ten list, I quit smoking, kicked a ten-year hard-core drug habit, wrote two books, earned five professional certifications, and built a business as a speaker. Check it out:
1. Decide on a goal. Make it measurable and realistic. If your goal is solving world hunger, you can translate your intentions into action by keeping it small. Begin locally, in the community where you live, by volunteering at or donating to a local food bank. You’ll be thinking about other people, and that creates motivation to keep going. Your involvement locally will lead to opportunities at state level and beyond. A simple way to make your big goal measurable and realistic is to work the process one day at a time. Whether your goal is eating less sugar, writing a book, getting in shape, or earning a degree or credential, you can map out the process in one-day increments.
2. Choose a time and place to put your new practice or behavior into action. This process helps your brain to store information that will reinforce your efforts as you move forward to your ultimate goal. For example, if you want to write a book, set a time a place to write each day, or one day a week, depending on your schedule and lifestyle. Then stick to it — take an hour or two to write. Don’t worry about how much you write, that’s beside the point. What you’re doing is teaching your brain to engage in the new activity each day at that same time.
3. Set mini goals, steps you can take each day on the way to the ultimate goal. Every big win in life is actually a series of thousands of daily baby steps. This is a strategy used by Navy Seals and Special Forces. If your goal is to do a hundred push-ups, your mini-goal is one push-up at a time, one hundred times. Celebrate each push-up in your mind, then do the next rep. If you can only do one push-ups the first day, celebrate that, and keep increasing the number as you get stronger. Celebration keeps you motivated, and raises the levels of positive neurotransmitters in your brain, so you feel good working toward your ultimate goal.
4. Forget about expectations, and remember, your progress is your progress. You never have to compare yourself to anyone else, or live up to some impossible standard. You’re making plans to achieve a goal or realize a dream, and that’s nobody’s business but yours. Avoid unreasonable expectations that give you a feeling of failure. Instead, feel successful for charting a new course in life. You walk with your success, not toward it.
5. Use “If-then” plans to create new, beneficial habits. The idea is to get past the good intention stage and into action. Set up a strategy for taking a positive, healthy action at the moment a specific opportunity or obstacle to your goal presents itself. When I quit smoking, back in 1994, my plan was,* if *I think about smoking, *then* I will chew sugarless gum till the craving goes away. My plan included carrying several packs of gum with me all day, every day, for months. It worked! You can use if-then, focusing on opportunity, to reinforce a good habit, like mediating, e.g., *if* it’s 8:00 p.m., *then* I will meditate.
6. For best results, repeat, replay, reward! Repetition in a daily, fun and rewarding context will help to anchor a new habit in your brain. This year, I’m focusing on eating less sugar. My sugar cravings are strongest after dinner. After dinner every night, instead of browsing social media on my phone and eating cookies, I take a walk around the block and look at the stars. Or I listen to my favorite music and dance around the house. I started this new plan in early December, and my cravings are decreasing.
7. Revel in your resolution, even if/when you goof up. Each day, mentally congratulate yourself on making the decision. Applaud yourself for taking action. Pick a time each day or night to celebrate. One or two goof-up days will not interrupt the ten-week process of getting that good habit deeply rooted. Celebrate a goof-up as an opportunity to embrace the process and get back on track.
8. Review and mentally rehearse your plan of action to face challenges or obstacles. Positive visualization is a powerful tool you can harness to maintain your new program and progress. Take time each day to “see” yourself accomplishing goals and overcoming upcoming obstacles or challenges. If you can see it, you can believe it, and if you can believe it, you will achieve it. This isn’t hack or cliche. It’s evidence-based, and it works.
9. Get connected, and stay connected. Isolation can inhibit your progress. Get connected with like-minded people who share your goals. Align yourself with a bigger-than-self purpose or meaning. When you’re connected to social support and a higher purpose, you can rock your goals.
10. Stay the course. Persistence = Luck, and Vice Versa. Continue to take action. Focus on the long game. Celebrate your mistakes as opportunities to learn more about yourself, others, and life. When you’re persistent, day after day, you anchor positive behaviors, expand your network, and make your own good luck.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
— Francis of Assisi
The U.S. commercial holiday season kicks off immediately after Halloween and continues on through the Super Bowl, and brings with it a horde of potential stressors. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, Kwanzaa.
Holiday travel, compounded by crazy weather, budget-straining gift shopping, obligatory office parties, or the potential drama attached to family visits can be more overwhelming than festive. And if you deal with anxiety, depression, trauma, or substance use issues, you might be counting the days until the holidays are over. Research by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found 64% of people with mental health issues report the holidays season makes their condition worse.
I’m a person in long-term recovery from addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but I’ve learned some simple ways to survive the holidays and have some fun in the process. Check out my top 10 holiday survival strategies:
Top 10 Holiday Survival Strategies
- Ask yourself what you want to do. Then do it. Take ten or fifteen minutes to contemplate the pros and cons of the holidays for you. Examine each holiday-related task on your list, doing an emotional check-in to see how you really feel about it. If it fills you with joy, go with it. If you feel dread mixed with a grudging sense of duty, forget it.
- Remember to have fun. Fun is an attitude, a state of mind. When you’re having fun, you’re more relaxed. Cultivate a sense of humor as you anticipate holiday challenges — like air travel, for instance. Pace yourself, arrange moments in your day where you can stop, breathe, meditate, and stretch your muscles. If you’re dreading doing something, and there’s no way you can get out of it, plan to reward yourself afterward, and visualize yourself enjoying the planned reward as you power on through the dreaded task. Make sure to follow through with rewarding yourself!
- Give yourself permission to stay home from holiday travel. One way to reduce stress is to exit the stressful situation. It’s okay to unplug and step back from the whole thing. Even if you’ve purchased your airfare, check out the cancellation and refund policy. You may find you can get all or most of your money back. Then stay home, binge Netflix, order carryout or delivery, follow your bliss. You can FaceTime or Skype with relatives and friends.
- If you decide to travel, allow plenty of time. Target an early arrival time at airports. That way, you’ll have a cushion of time against any possible delay or mishap. Expect, but don’t fear, long lines at TSA checkpoints. Plan ahead for how you’ll handle situations. If you feel stress and anxiety building, do this breathing exercise: slowly breathe in through your nose, saying, “Let,” then hold for a beat, and release that breath slowly out through your lips, saying, “go.” Repeat. It’ll help you calm the pounding heart, shaky muscles, or butterflies feeling in your stomach. If you’re driving, stop every two or three hours and stretch, walk around, give yourself some relaxation before jumping back in behind the wheel.
- Do something kind for somebody you’ve never met. Volunteer a few hours of your time at a food bank, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or other charity. Volunteering protects you from social isolation while you contribute to the greater good. It’s also a gratitude exercise; it gets you out of your head and into action. If you don’t have hours to volunteer, take a few minutes to open a door for someone, let somebody in your lane in heavy traffic, or pay the bridge toll for the car behind you.
- Focus on self-care and self-kindness. Treat yourself to pleasant experiences. Visualize good things coming your way, and take time to acknowledge your strengths. Make a list of self-enhancing statements and read them to yourself aloud before you go to sleep at night. Make time for physical exercise each day. Cardio and/or strength training lower stress levels, release endorphins and raise the levels of “feel good” neurotransmitters in your brain. Go out for a hike, a movie, dinner, or coffee. Book an appointment for acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, or beauty care.
- Revel in the opportunity to do all things in moderation. Take everything slowly. Remind yourself that each day in the holiday cavalcade is just another day — decked out in tinsel and glitter. Practice mindfulness meditation, slow breathing, and positive self-talk to center yourself and stay grounded. It’ll keep you from getting swept away by drinking, spending too much, or eating too much junk food. Make yourself a gratitude list and review it each morning. At night, before you go to sleep, list three things you’re grateful for and expect more good things to come your way.
- Do emotional “check-ins” throughout the day to assess how things affect you. This is important, whether you’re alone or visiting relatives and in-laws. The holiday season brings lots of memories with it, some good, some bad. When you monitor your inner state, you’ll be empowered to manage negative emotions. You can dispel or transform a negative mindset or emotional state. Soothe yourself by meditating, or try making a quick mental gratitude list. Take a walk, listen to music, or watch a funny YouTube video.
- Know that it’s okay to step back from or ignore the holiday hustle and bustle. But be tolerant of the people in your life who love it. You don’t have to fake enthusiasm for things that don’t raise your spirits. If you let them know your feelings without raining on their holiday parade, they’ll be less likely to pressure you to “get you into the spirit of things.”
- Know that it’s okay to celebrate the season in a big way. But tolerate the people in your life who don’t share your enthusiasm. Understand that every one of us has a unique perspective on the holiday season. Your friend or loved one may struggle emotionally at this time of the year, or may feel guilty for not being as excited about it as you are. Being mindful will enhance your enjoyment of the holidays.
Marti MacGibbon’s memoir Fierce, Funny, and Female was announced winner of the 2018 New York City Big Book Award in the Women’s Studies category by award sponsor Gabrielle Olczak. A young woman’s triumph over adversity and trauma, told with grace, wit, and laugh-out-loud humor, the book has received multiple accolades in 2017 and 2018.
November 12, 2018, New York, NY
Contact: Gabrielle Olczak, firstname.lastname@example.org
“In 2018, we had true worldwide participation in our annual NEW YORK CITY BIG BOOK AWARD website nycbigbookaward.com In our second year, book submissions were impressive as we collected from six continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America; cities such as Buenos Aires, Cairo, London, Moscow, New York; and across the United States. Our NEW YORK CITY BIG BOOK AWARD program just proves great book content can be found anywhere on the globe, whether created from an individual author or a major publishing house irregardless what continent we find it. With over 600 entries, and we feel this is just the beginning and happy to highlight these authors and books and share their achievements.” said awards sponsor Gabrielle Olczak.
Submissions came from the imprints of large traditional publishers such as HarperCollins and Random House; large independent press publishers such as Galaxy Press, Roman & Littlefield and Wiley; small press and independent authors such as Marti MacGibbon to Sahar Aref. We welcome all publishers and authors to submit books for competition at nycbigbookaward.com/submit-online
2018 Recognized Titles and Authors include:
|-100: A Time-Travel Horror Romance||Jonathan Maas|
|100 Days of Terror||Larry Temple|
|50 Ways to Love Wine More: Adventures in Wine Appreciation||Jim Laughren, CWE|
|A Glance at my Other||Bruce Wilkerson|
|A Raccoon’s Tale: Sven Saves the Notch||Fran Hodgkins|
|Adventure New Zealand: Beneath the Totaras||Sieglinde C. Othmer|
|Aldo||Betty Jean Craige|
|Alexander’s Quest||S. Jackson|
|Alice: A Woman’s Flight for Freedom||Sam Skyborne|
|Angels and Patriots Book One||Salina B Baker|
|Aphrodite’s Tears||Hannah Fielding|
|Banished Threads||Kaylin McFarren|
|Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000||L. Ron Hubbard|
|Be a Warrior Not a Worrier||Hayley L Silk|
|Beyond Beauty Proven Secrets to Age Well, Look 10 Years Younger & Live a Truly Happy, Healthy, Long Life||Dr. Debbie M. Palmer|
|BFFs: Best Friends Forever||Alexander Rutherford|
|Blythe of the Gates||Leah Erickson|
|Butterflies and White Lies as Bollywood comes to Nashville||Mary Poser|
|Cadence: A Tale of Fast Business Growth||Pete Williams|
|City on a Hill||Ted Neill|
|COLUMBUS The Untold Story||Manuel Rosa|
|Coming Home to You||Mary McGuire|
|Complete Title of the Book||Author|
|Confessions of a Bone Woman||Lucinda Bakken White|
|Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations & Inspirations for Writers||Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D.|
|Dam Witherston||Betty Jean Craige|
|Darkness Is Coming||Charles W. Jones|
|Dead Cats and Other Reflections on Parenthood||Jesse McKinnell|
|Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact||Craig W. Ross, Angela V. Paccione, Victoria L. Roberts|
|Eat What You Want! Stop When You Want! A No-Diet, Weight-Loss Program||Sora Vernikoff|
|Elk Riders Volume 3: The Font of Jasmeen||Ted Neill|
|Elvis, Strait, to Jesus||Tony Brown|
|Evidence of Practice: Playbook for Video-Powered Professional Learning||Adam Geller with Annie Lewis O’Donnell|
|Facing The Dragon||Philip Derrick|
|Fathers of Invention||Andrew A Pansini|
|Feyesper and the Wicked Neighbor||Reynaldo Encina Jope|
|Fierce, Funny, and Female||Marti MacGibbon|
|Fourth Wife Free||Sahar Aref|
|Freddy Follows||Melanie Quinn|
|God’s Wisdom and Promises||Jack Countryman|
|Hannibal’s Niece||Anthony R. Licata|
|Hello, My Name is Bunny!||Matt Bloom and Shelley Simmons-Bloom|
|Hologlyphs – Twight Fields||S.K. Yeatts|
|How Autism Is Reshaping Special Education: The Unbundling of IDEA||Mark K. Claypool & John M. McLaughlin|
|How to Meditate and Why||Mara M. Zimmerman|
|Inspirations: My Vivid Imagination Has Been Transformed Into Reality||Peterson Francois|
|Investment Atlas II – Using History as a Financial Tool||Kenneth G. Winans|
|IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!||Christos A. Djonis|
|Janhuri, Njambi & Fighting Zombies||Ted Neill|
|Judge Malvolent||Nick Roteman|
|L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34||Editor: David Farland|
|Lizzy the Lioness||Lisa Bevere|
|Lost in the Reflecting Pool: a memoir||Diane Pomerantz|
|Love is the Answer God is the Cure||Aimee cabo Nikolov|
|Magdalena Gottschalk: The Slippery Slope||M. Gail Grant|
|Mistress Suffragette||Diana Forbes|
|Moving Beyond the Unspoken Grief: A Doctor’s Memoir of Her Own IVF Journey as a Patient||Dr Sarah Lnyy|
|My Mother’s Son||David Hirshberg|
|Neuroscience of Mind Empowerment||Anees Akhtar & Dr. Nasim Khan|
|No One Ever Asked: A Novel||Katie Ganshert|
|OUR GRAND FINALE: A Daughter’s Memoir||Laraine Denny Burrell|
|Paint Your Hair Blue- A Celebration of Life with Hope for Tomorrow in the Face of Pediatric Cancer||Sue Matthews with her sister Andrea Cohane|
|pHood for Life “How these Natural Methods healed me from Cancer”||Jenny Magnusson|
|Preferred Stocks – The Art of Profitable Income Investing||Kenneth G. Winans|
|Primeval Origins: Light of Honor||B.A. Vonsik|
|Reading Tea Leaves After Trump||Thelma T. Reyna|
|RISK: Three Women Risk All for Love, Lust and Justice||Sam Skyborne|
|Scallywags and the Candy Catastrophe||Cameron Stelzer|
|Secrets Abound in Missing Lake||Tanya Fyfe|
|Selected Inspirational Quotes||Eric Chifunda|
|Simulation: The Dawn of a Superhero||Sam Skyborne|
|Snowsisters||Tom Wilinsky & Jen Sternick|
|So Much To Celebrate: Entertaining the Ones You Love the Whole Year Through||Katie Jacobs|
|Southern Season 12 months of Tea-licious Recipes & Ideas||Linda J. Hawkins|
|Southern Season with Memory Making Recipes||Linda J. Hawkins|
|Spiritual Awakening Insights (888 Highly Intuitive Insights)||Avic M. Chio|
|Staying Stylish: Cultivating a Confident Look, Style, and Attitude||Candace Cameron Bure|
|Swearing Off Stars||Danielle M Wong|
|The Alphabet of Grief: Words to Help in Times of Sorrow||Andrea Raynor|
|The Balance Point – A Missing Link in Human Consciousness||Joseph Jenkins|
|The Daily Question: My Five-Year Spiritual Journal||WaterBrook Multnomah|
|The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For||Jo Saxton|
|The Iron Citadel||Mitch Reinhardt|
|The Last Odinian||Alec Arbogast|
|The Measurements of Decay||KK Edin|
|The Memoirs of George Sperryhawke||Austin Smith|
|The Quantum Cartographer, Book of Cruxes||Kristen Keenon Fisher|
|The Rock of Sarraka: A Spirit Animal Adventure||Gary Karton|
|The Silver Rings||Samuel Valentino|
|The Silver Shoes||Jill G. Hall|
|The Suburb Woman||Janet M. Neal|
|The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper||Fiona Ingram|
|The Third Woe||L. P. Hoffman|
|The Trinity Knot: releasing the knot of silence||DonnaLee Overly|
|The Weight of Living||Michael Stephen Daigle|
|TrumpCare: Lies, Broken…||John Geyman, MD|
|Tune Up: The Secrets of Mylin – Book I||Joe Klingler|
|Two Years of Wonder||Ted Neill|
|Unintended Consequences a Psychological Romance||Carmen McGuinness|
|Unstoppable: Challenge Accepted||Tariku Bogale|
|Waking up Safer?||Berend Mets|
|When God Made You||Matthew Paul Turner|
|When Your Affluence Fails How Low Does One Fall||Rev. Euclid Osborne|
|Where Did They go?||Katrina-Jane|
|White Trash||Alexandra Allred|
|Wordstruck! The Fun and Fascination of Language||Susanna Janssen|
|You Are You w/ foreword by Jennifer Finney Boylan||Lindsay Morris|
For more information, please visit: www.nycbigbookaward.com and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2018winners and the Distinguished Favorites listed here: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2018distinguishedfavorites.
Fierce, Funny, and Female has received multiple awards and accolades:
WINNER, 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in Humor
WINNER, 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in Women’s Studies
WINNER, 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards in Women’s Health
WINNER, 2017 Beverly Hills Book Awards in Women’s Issues
WINNER, 2018 Independent Press Award in Humor
WINNER, 2018 Independent Press Award in Women’s Studies
WINNER, 2018 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in Humor
WINNER, 2018 New York City Big Book Awards in Women’s Studies
DISTINGUISHED FAVORITE, New York City Big Book Awards in Humor
FINALIST, 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in Memoir Overcoming Adversity)
FINALIST, 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards in Humor
Last year, in 2017, Marti keynoted the Annual Chamber of Commerce Dinner in Chillicothe, Ohio. She also visited the jail and spoke to the inmates at the request of a staff mental health professional. Marti’s comeback story is one of overcoming drug addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic violence, sexual assault/abuse, and human trafficking. She now holds five professional certifications in addiction treatment and is an expert in stress reduction, mindfulness meditation, and other life skills. Marti’s 2017 talk to the inmates was brief, because she was on her way to the airport, but she brought plenty of her signature humor and authenticity. Jail administrators invited her to return, so in May of this year (2018), Marti returned to Chillicothe, where she delivered three in-depth talks on life skills to inmates. She also spoke to individuals in recovery at a treatment center that focuses on medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder. Marti donated signed copies of her nationally award-winning and bestselling books, Never Give in to Fear and Fierce, Funny, and Female, to some of the audience members.
In addition to being Mental Health Awareness Month, May is Get Caught Reading Month. One reason you might enjoy reading is because it reduces stress. Every night before going to bed, try spending some time with a book-perhaps something inspirational, which includes spiritual or self-help/life improvement books, some classical work of fiction, or just something that has characters or circumstances that engage you.
Perhaps you will enjoy savoring writing that is well crafted. You can use leisurely reading as an effective way to prepare yourself to sleep by separating yourself from the stress-building issues you faced during the day. When you’re tired and trying to relax, try choosing titles that are escapist and gripping, but remember you’re reading to slow down and prepare for rejuvenating sleep, not to binge read chapter after chapter.
Read books that hold your attention but also have places to quit for the night and pick up the thread any time. Reading printed material rather than on a digital screen yields a number of health benefits, and you don’t need to read for long periods of time to reduce your stress levels and chill out. A 2009 study at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex demonstrated that reading (68%) was more effective at reducing stress than listening to music (61%), drinking tea and coffee (54%), or going for a walk (42%). Relaxation researchers were able to observe that just six minutes of reading produced a measurable reduction of heart rate and muscle tension. According to noted neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis, as reported in The Telegraph:
Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism. It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.
So participate in Get Caught Reading Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Join the campaigns to reduce stress and combat depression and other mental health issues. Enjoy life and have more fun through reading!
Fierce, Funny, and Female received recognition in May. The book is Winner of the Independent Press Awards, in two categories: Women’s Issues and Humor. And it placed Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Awards, in the Memoirs of Overcoming Adversity category. You can pick up a copy on Amazon.
Humorous inspirational speaker Marti MacGibbon delivered a stirring and informative keynote presentation at a conference organized by the CSE Institute of the Villanova School of Law in Philadelphia. Her session, entitled, The Intersection of Commercial Sexual Exploitation/Human Trafficking, Addiction, and Trauma, included the following learning objectives:
1. Learn to assess the connection between CSE/human trafficking, trauma, addiction, and stress
2. Understand the connection between CSE and the current opioid epidemic, and recognize how exploiters use addiction as a tool of coercion
3. Know how to differentiate between clinical facts about addiction and myths and misconceptions about addiction
4. Be able to list resiliency factors and risk factors of PTSD
5. Recognize and understand trauma behaviors and addictive behaviors and how they can be mistaken for behaviors related to non-compliance, combativeness
In the current opioid crisis (As in the past), survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking are being incarcerated and doubly stigmatized, and many never receive access to trauma-informed and victim-centered treatment for either trauma or addiction. This makes successful recovery and trauma resolution more difficult for this vulnerable population. But recovery is possible, and survivors prove very resilient when provided with trauma-informed tools for healing and self-care. Marti also touched upon self-care recommendations for advocates and other service providers to manage stress, and avoid burnout and secondary trauma when working with traumatized populations. She also educated listeners about the connection between stress and addiction, trauma and addiction, and how fear and shame fuel addiction.
Marti MacGibbon is a national survivor leader and nationally award-winning author who uses humor, inspiration, and presents with an easy-going, down-to-earth style. She has survived and recovered from adolescent sexual assault/abuse/exploitation, adult CSE/human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, addiction, homelessness, and complex PTSD. She holds five professional certifications in addiction treatment and is an expert on trauma resolution. Marti shares aspects of her powerful personal story of recovery, hope, and second chances in a simple, effective way that also imparts clinical insights into addiction and trauma, as well as stress management and relapse prevention.
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
I’m a survivor of sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation, as well as intimate partner violence, and for the past eight years I’ve been actively engaged in advocacy for victims and survivors. Sexual assault carries both heavy stigma and high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder for victims. Mistaken beliefs about sexual assault and rape myths abound, and victim blaming is commonplace. Still, we’ve made some real progress. As I write these words, the month is coming to an end, with two separate watershed events occurring during the final week of April 2018.
First was the Bill Cosby verdict. A Pennsylvania jury found Mr. Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. This was the first high-profile rape trial since the #MeToo movement accelerated into the mainstream several months ago. For many observers, and especially survivors, Cosby’s conviction appears to herald a sea change in societal attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. And it’s about time! Years ago, when the Cosby case began to unfold and I began to follow it, it seemed to me no one listened to the women who came forward. They were denigrated, blamed, ridiculed and accused of lying with the aim of extorting money from a rich and famous celebrity. It wasn’t till forty-eight women came spoke out that their stories began to gain credibility. Finally, sixty women in all have formally accused Mr. Cosby of sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct.
The second event was the arrest of a suspect after a forty-year-old hunt for the violent serial rapist and murderer known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and most recently, the Golden State Killer. Sacramento police apprehended Joseph James DeAngelo in his home in Citrus Heights, having tracked him through DNA. Authorities say the Golden State Killer is responsible for at least forty-five rapes, twelve murders, and countless break-ins all over California since the Seventies. The Golden State killer terrorized communities and left no evidence at crime scenes, leading police to surmise the perp likely came from a law enforcement or military background. DeAngelo, now seventy-two years old, once worked as a police officer, and served in the Navy during the Vietnam war.
What can be learned from these events that can help us improve our society’s level of sexual assault awareness and improve our communities’ efforts at prevention?
Educate the general public about rape-specific trauma and how it affects victims.
We need to build a trauma-informed culture. When we blame and shame victims of sexual assault, we exacerbate the risk, severity and duration of their post-traumatic stress. Victim self-blame is related to post-traumatic stress disorder in many different kinds of trauma. But research by Avigail Moor and Moshe Farshi of Tel-Hai Academic College School of Social Work reveals that self-blame following rape is dramatically more extreme:
Given typical societal victim-blaming following rape, self-blame is expected to be considerably more extreme among survivors of rape than in other victims, and predictive of relatively elevated post-trauma symptoms. Three hundred and four participants completed measures of blame attribution and PTSD, sustaining the hypothesis.
Studies have shown that the prevalence of PTSD among sexual assault victims and survivors is significant, and that both victim self-blame and societal blame/stigma pose barriers to PTSD treatment and recovery. To learn more about specific trauma associated with rape, read Sexual Assault and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of the Biological, Psychological and Sociological Factors and Treatments, by K. A. Chivers-Wilson, McGill Journal of Medicine.
Train first responders, law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals in trauma-informed practices.
Early in the Golden State Killer’s bloody spree, in 1977, a Sacramento Sheriff’s detective named Carol Daly gave tutorials on self-defense to a terrorized citizenry, and treated rape victims with deference and respect. She did all of this at a time when sexual assault survivors were often re-victimized by law enforcement, and by the attitudes and reactions of friends and family. Detective Daly is worthy of praise. I was sexually assaulted in the Seventies. After escaping the rapist, I reported the crime to the police, and was re-victimized and re-traumatized by their attitude and response. And yes, they asked me what I was wearing. We’ve come a long way since the Seventies, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. When I travel the U.S. as a humorous inspirational speaker, young women tell me they have had similar experiences with municipal and campus police alike.
Put an end to punishing sexual assault survivors for speaking out.
As the Cosby case drew attention in the media, people asked, “Why did it take these women years to report the assaults?” In her 2006 paper in the American Journal of Community Psychology, Being Silenced: The Impact of Negative Social Reactions on the Disclosure of Rape, Courtney E. Ahrens writes how negative reactions silence victims of rape:
Rape survivors who speak out about their assault experiences are often punished for doing so when they are subjected to negative reactions from support providers. These negative reactions may thereby serve a silencing function, leading some rape survivors to stop talking about their experiences to anyone at all…Three routes to silence were identified: 1) negative reactions from professionals led survivors to question whether future disclosures would be effective; 2) negative reactions from friends and family reinforced feelings of self-blame; and 3) negative reactions from either source reinforced uncertainty about whether their experiences qualified as rape.”
When sexual assault victims encounter victim-blaming, they are discouraged from reporting the incident. Myths about rape and societal stigma, along with stereotypes about victims — for instance, that “a certain kind of girl” is likely to be raped, can keep a victim from coming forward and seeking help. This is why the #MeToo movement precipitated so many stories from both men and women, stories that involved events from the past that the victims had held back for years. Another stereotype is that of the “legitimate rape” or “real rape.” Rape victims internalize these myths and stereotypes. The self-blame causes victims and survivors to believe that they are not worthy of support, that they “got what they deserved” for going out alone at night, or in the case of Mr. Cosby, of going to his house. And often the people closest to the victim universally reinforce these myths, misconceptions, shames and blames.
Empower Victims and Survivors.
Self-Empowerment techniques enable independence, self-assurance, and self-actualization along the healing path. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a recommended therapy for trauma. It helped me. Cognitive Reframing benefited me as well. But most of all, the therapeutic relationship between me and my trauma therapist was the vehicle that enabled my healing and empowerment. Transformative relationships happen along the path to recovery, and we can discover many different ways to comfort and support one another. You can become naturally therapeutic in all your relationships, and in doing so, you transform your environment.
In her essay, From Victim to Empowered Survivor, Dr. Avigail Moor, PhD, who has worked extensively with survivors of sexual assault, recommends what she calls “Feminist Therapy”:
It is a relationship in which clients are empowered to find their strengths and strivings, a practice in which growth-promoting reframing of social realities allows for new ways of thinking and being. It is a process of connectedness in which each client is made to feel worthy of respect, affection, tenderness, and judgment-free acceptance, an endeavor of caring…
Be kind to yourself and others.
We can all use a lot more kindness, empathy, empowerment, and compassion in our lives today. Let’s educate ourselves about how to treat ourselves and others around us, with respect, dignity, and generosity. Let’s forgive ourselves and others, and focus on ways to find beauty and grace in our daily lives.
Self-kindness is not only for trauma survivors, it’s for everyone. Here’s something I do when facing challenges or feeling off-center:
Take a moment to reflect on the things that matter most to you. Ask yourself, “Who do I love, and who loves me?” Pause and give thanks for every friend, mentor, or stranger who ever did you a kindness. Make a mental note of the people you’d like to help or uplift or do a kindness for. Remember a past obstacle or hardship you’ve overcome and draw strength from acknowledging that victory. As you face the future, tell yourself, “I stand in love, I speak from strength, I move forward with purpose and meaning. No matter the outcome, I am enough, in this moment, just as I am.”
Marti MacGibbon, CADC-II, ACRPS, has survived and triumphed over human trafficking, childhood sexual assault/abuse, rape, and domestic violence. She is a popular keynote speaker and an advocate for victims and survivors of gender-based violence. Marti is author of the nationally and internationally award-winning memoir, Fierce, Funny, and Female, a dramatic and humorous story of empowerment and resilience.