Cultivating Hope With Child Abuse Survivors

Watering the Cracks in the Sidewalk

Connie Robillard, MA, LCMHC, NCC


Authors:  Marcel A. Duclos & Connie Robillard


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Abstract: In excerpts from their book, the authors share their experience of listening inward to exiled child parts that were encapsulated in their bodies. Over the years they have allowed those exiles to speak, documented their experiences and unburdened the residuals of childhood trauma.  In this book they share their journeys.  The authors’ goal is to speak on behalf of children still caught in the needless, steadily increasing epidemic of child abuse. They hold the belief that awareness, consciousness and knowledge will help parents and care givers save children from  perpetrators and be unintentionally retraumatized by those of us whose goal it is to help.


“The human mind is naturally divided into parts. The parts of one person demonstrate different temperaments, talents desires, ages and gender. Together they form an internal family, which organizes in the same way as other human systems.”

Richard Swartz & Regina Goulding - The Mosaic Mind, 1995



Beyond Our Two Stories: Trends in Our Current Culture:

  • 52% of maltreated children in this country suffered neglect, 25% physical abuse, 13% sexual abuse, 5% emotional abuse, and 14% other forms of maltreatment.  More than half the children were under the age of 8; 26% were younger than 4.  About 52% of the victims were girls; 47% were boys. (Nation’s Health, 1997)

  • At least 20% of American women and 5 - 10% of men have been sexually abused as children. (Finkelhor, 1994).

  • Family members constitute 30 – 50% of the perpetrators against girls, and 10 – 20% of the perpetrators against boys.

  • In 2002, 2.6 million reports concerning the welfare of 4.5 million children were made.  (Vincent Iannelli, MD, 2007).

  • 84% of all suspected abuse cases in schools are never reported. (Education, 2006).

  • According to a recent University of New Hampshire study, one in five children face online solicitation (Paul Grendon, May, 2008)


The Twelve Year Old Part of the Girl Speaks

The name might as well have been tattooed to my forehead, “chubette.” I was it. In my mind I was the fat girl in slippery, patent leather shoes, moving uncertainly among the real people – the thin people.  The part of me that held this memory told me the story of a teacher long forgotten.


My sixth grade home economics teacher measured my hips as we laid out a pattern for the purple baby doll pajamas that I would make for my eighth grade sewing project.  “You should be ashamed of yourself” she said, as her pendulous breasts swayed in front of me.  In that moment I was ashamed that I wasn’t ashamed. She was a huge woman with a round corseted body. My twenty two inch waist and thirty four inch bust was larger than the other girls – so in her mind I should be ashamed.


All year I watched the big bottomed teacher move around the room so tightly wound from the waist down she looked, to me, like she was cast in concrete. If she wasn’t embarrassed about her size and I was supposed to be, then I must be something awful to see. As I surveyed her body, the thought of my largeness mortified me. I wanted to stay home, hidden away from sight. That was the year that I began to cover my body, hiding it away from the part of me that was now seeded with what was to become my own inner body critic.  


Added to sexual abuse, verbal or emotional abuse simply becomes one more humiliating secret at all ages and stages of life."



Therapist’s Point of View

Children have limited life experience. They count on adults to tell them the truth. The critical voice of an adult can over power a child. Like a sponge, the child soaks in the adult’s opinion, believing it to be the truth.  The critical voice, now encapsulated within the child, repeats the verbal abuse. As the child grows, the voice grows with her, becoming a sophisticated, internal, nagging self torturer.



Self Discovery

What would happen if we, as much as possible, nourished children from our core Selves. Caring for them with clarity, curiosity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage and connectedness?  How would your family change? How would your community, this country and the world change?  How would you change?



Discussion Questions

Think about a time in your life when an adult, unknowingly, handed you a distorted view of yourself. Take a breath and notice – where does that part live in your body? 


Place your hand gently on the part of your body that holds the memory. Let this part know you are there to listen and help. Listen in, write down its story and bring compassion to this young inner child. Let it know you will be back later to help it unburden.



A Young Part of the Boy Speaks

I am thirteen years old.  When I measure and weigh myself with my leather ski boots on, I am five feet two and tip the scale at ninety-eight pounds.  I will be going away to prep school in the fall.  My mother prays that I will become a priest. 


With a new moon and only one lit street lamp to cast a shadow of the house in the back yard, I brave the darkness and slip myself into the tent my family gave me for graduation.  It’s ten-thirty when I put down my book and shut off my flashlight.  My eyes are slamming shut.  I feel myself go off to sleep to the sounds of the crickets.


 “Can I come in?” whispers Ron, shaking the pup tent and waking me out of a dream.

Ron is a trusted neighbor and my sister’s music teacher.


 “What do you want?  What are you doing here?” I ask. Before I realize it, he is in the tent. “There’s only room for one in here,” I protest.


I can feel my throat clamp shut.  I can’t speak.  I can’t breath. 


Within the boy a managerial, protective part grew. It had a job, to keep people out, to keep the boy and his parents safe and to protect the child from feeling the impact of sexual abuse.



Therapist Point of View

Like any addiction the needs of perpetrating parts can be unpredictable and insatiable. The confusing aspect of pedophilia is that child molesters have positive, engaging qualities.  Many perpetrators once were child abuse victims. If we review the theory of the multiplicity of the mind we can see that perpetrator parts take over, are taken in as introjects, eclipsing the personality. Emotional parts of the child abuser, encapsulated within his/her body at risk of being triggered by external stimuli. What if it were possible to unburden perpetrator parts?


To date, treatment methods for pedophilia have failed. It is up for debate whether perpetrating parts can be successfully unburdened. Until then the only answer our society has come up with is identification and attempts to keep children safe. Our current efforts are failing and the numbers of victims continue to grow.




Scan your body for parts that are triggered by the boy’s story. Take time to notice where these sensations live within you.  Are there parts that resonate with the boy? Are there polarized parts that hold aspects of an inner perpetrator?  Perpetrator parts may surface as anger, impatience or intrusiveness with others.  


Give your internal parts time to write or draw their feelings on a piece of paper. Maybe it will be a picture, colors or shapes– Whatever parts are present and willing to participate in this exercise, thank them.  Let them know that you take them seriously and you will return to help them unburden or find a therapist to work with them.


The goal of this book is to bring awareness and understanding to the struggles of children and to illuminate the long term effects of child abuse. The authors of this book challenge you to think differently about the treatment of PTSD and Complex Trauma, prevention and solutions.


This book will be available for purchase at the 2010 USABP Conference. Marcel and Connie will be presenting the Multiplicity of the Mind Workshop.





Connie Robillard, MA, private practice as a psychotherapist in Londonderry NH.

Marcel A Dulcos, M.Th. M.Ed., Clinical Director, Northland Family Help Center, Flagstaff AZ.

Lorraine Lordi, M.Ed.  Editor, educator at Hesser College and writing groups.


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Look What Dick & Tony, Tom and Lauri have to say about our new book….



This project, Cultivating Hope With Child Abuse Survivors, is about courage.  It took courage for the authors to tell their personal stories in such a compelling and informative way.  It takes courage for us to fully witness and absorb their message.  And it will take courage for all of us to step out of our complacency and act.  This is an important call to arms in the battle, not only against child abuse itself, but also against the denial that still pervades our culture.


Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Founder, Internal Family Systems Therapy


This is a remarkable achievement.  Connie and Marcel’s calm presence is compelling, healing, and reassuring of the human capacity to suffer pain, reach for understanding, and to heal.  Theirs is a beautiful telling of the inner experience of trauma, the resulting attempts to cope, and the journey towards healing.  Their description of the process of unlocking the silence that surrounded the trauma, and the  “unfreezing” of parts which never were spoken about,  is realistic and at the same time reassuring.   This healing narrative will be an excellent resource for survivors of trauma, therapists, teachers, and anyone who wants to understand these issues.  We are fortunate that they have had the courage to share not only their personal stories but also their wisdom.

Tom Holmes, PhD, MSW
Lauri Holmes, MSW

Authors of Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life (with illustrations by Sharon Eckstein, MFA)


This book and DVD are extraordinary.  In listening to Connie and Marcel’s stories, I am  moved by their clarity and their humanness. They deliver their truth thoughtfully, clearly with courage and dignity . Cultivating Hope With Abuse Survivors will be a rich resource for all kinds of people struggling to heal from trauma. I can envision referring this to clients and students, colleagues, friends and to anyone facing the journey toward recovery. 

Thank you Marcel and Connie for being brave enough to bring your personal accounts forward in the service of others. This makes your project truly remarkable.


Toni Herbine-Blank MSN

Senior Trainer, Internal Family Systems Therapy


NH Counseling Association


Certified IFS Therapists

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors


Connie Robillard, MA


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