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.
I met my life partner Luke in Australia in 2011. When my Australian visa ended we decided to travel 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 has been an intense healing process. I needed support, stories and space from wise elders. I learned tools such as sweat lodge, the medicine wheel, altar practice, 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 tools for medicine and healing; 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.
Spiritual gifts have come to me primarily through trauma and pain. As I healed, every family of origin relationship and many others faded away, sometimes dramatically such as a 7-month period when my father, nanny and best friend all died. My cosmology, sense of identity and placement in the world changed. For most of my life I lived in denial about my value and worth, and 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.