Breaking the Cycle of Trauma: Healing for Offenders

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Trauma affects everyone, and healing from trauma doesn’t end with those who have been survivors of trauma. In fact, it doesn’t even need to begin there. It’s time to open our minds, our hearts and the conversation about trauma healing.

“Seeing things from the lens of compassion lessons the load we often carry.” — Theo Fleury

‘Ending the cycle of trauma’ means healing for all, from survivors to offenders and everyone between. Trauma is like a circle, it just goes around and around, affecting us all, and will continue to do so until something gets in the way of that path of hurt.

Let’s look at abuse for example, abuse is a learned behaviour, which is why a large majority of abusers have themselves been abused. Knowing that, really brings a lot of perspective to the saying “hurt people, hurt people”.

Offenders need a lot of healing too, and that’s why since releasing ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ in November of last year, Kim Barthel and Theo Fleury have been speaking at prisons across Canada. On July 24th, Kim and Theo spoke at Bowden Institution in Alberta, it was the third prison the pair had visited. Expanding on themes from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’, Kim and Theo spoke to inmates and prison staff about learned behaviours, healing and breaking the cycle of trauma.

Their approach to these speaking engagements, is the same reason people are having such a strong, positive response to the book. Theo’s personal story, peppered with Kim’s scientific explanation of “why”, let’s them both empower an audience (of anyone) on “what now”. And what happens during these visits is powerful and twofold: walls and stigmas are broken down, and all anyone is left to do, is be human.

Both inmates and prison staff had an emotional response that day, and the majority of people in that room felt inspired to make a change. Every person who makes a change, is doing something to help end the cycle of trauma.

One inmate at Bowden had already started his journey, after following in the footsteps of Theo Fleury and paying attention to his story, and the proof we can all heal is right in his own words that day:

“I had to help myself in order to help others. I had to forgive myself in order to be forgiven.”

That was one prisoner who was on the path to healing and ending the cycle of trauma, and we look forward to hearing of the progress from the other offenders we met that day who made personal goals of their own.

We were happy to donate a dozen copies of ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ to Bowden Institution, so the inmates can take this conversation one step further for themselves. And thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous person, we were able to give books to Stony Mountain Penitentiary during our visit there as well. If you’re interested in making a donation for books to be sent to a prison or other facility, please contact us.

Imagine if we could bring ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ to every prison across Canada, we could make a real dent in the trauma epidemic. Until then, let’s keep the healing conversation going, join us on Facebook or Twitter.

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