I am the child of two lineages steeped in trauma and conflict: a German father and a Jewish-American mother whose ancestors fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. From infancy until age 15, I was sexually abused by an uncle. I bonded to my nanny as a mother, but a cross-country move at age 5 separated us. I grew up primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., a place with a history of slavery and racial tension for over 300 years; it is the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., and home of a Confederate Memorial that is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world that is carved in a mountain in a public park.
Throughout childhood I had problems with my digestive and hormonal systems; from ages 18-33, I endured intense physical health challenges, with my digestive, hormonal and nervous systems dis-functioning and shutting down. My body was so full of trauma, I could not digest what I had experienced, nor be present in my environment. I did not know myself, and did not realise it. I had poor boundaries and was in many codependent and abusive relationships, including with my family of origin. Because of an interest in justice I let myself be pushed into law school, though the Western legal system is not my idea of justice at all. Determined to be of service, I spent years doing pro bono and low-paid work in the U.S. and around the world with a focus on child advocacy, community building, and conflict resolution. In India I drafted a law to criminalise child sexual abuse that passed in 2012; in South Africa I led a small non-profit focused on community building and did conflict resolution with a rural Zulu communities; in Australia I worked with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, which ultimately led to a Royal Commission and a lot of systemic reform.
I met my life partner Luke in Australia in 2011. When my visa ended we travelled South America to be together. I finally felt safe and distant enough from my family of origin for repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse to emerge. It was like a cork full of chaotic energy popped open and challenged most of what I thought I could count on. Though my life started to make more sense as dissociated and lost soul parts emerged, it was an intensely painful process of awakening. As I healed, every family of origin relationship and many others with close friends and trusted mentors faded away. The most dramatic period of profound grief and loss was when my father, nanny and best friend all died within seven months, and my husband moved across the country for work.
Many spiritual gifts have come to me through all of this trauma and loss. I learned about the medicine wheel, altar practices, and shamanic journeying; participated in plant medicine ceremonies in the Amazon; did a silent meditation retreat; danced three dry-fasting Native American healing ceremonies; apprenticed in sweat lodge-keeping; studied grounding, movement, music and performance as medicine; and learned wilderness, survival and first aid skills. I also earned a Ph.D. in social work through three research projects on indigenous healing of sexual trauma.
For most of my life I lived in denial about my value and worth. Through healing I have been learning to be free and courageously speak my peace, embody self determination and dignity, and live interdependently with all earthly beings. My cosmology, sense of identity, and placement continue to become clear as I am adopted by the land and spiritual ancestors of Australia. I find myself entering into spaces where I am needed, and though I don’t always feel welcome, I am starting to feel, for the first time, that I am home.