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When the Body Speaks: Somatic Language Across the Continuum

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When the Body Speaks: Somatic Language Across the Continuum of Sexual and Reproductive Violations

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Black Women’s Blueprint coined the Sexual Abuse to Maternal Mortality Pipeline (SAMM), the result of a six-year national sexual assault and GBV intervention process to collect survivor narratives as a Black Women’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Research on the long-term effects of sexual violence in the lives of women of color, across the spectrum—child sexual abuse, incest, sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual coercion, rape—show an increase in occurrences of physical disorders like obesity, cancer, high-blood pressure, fibromyalgia, fibroids which are often the cause of hemorrhaging, preterm labor, miscarriages, fetal growth issues, placental abruption, and frequent C-sections. All too often the impacts of previous sexual trauma are compounded by medical encounters that are largely reminiscent of the harm experienced. The non-consensual insertion of medical equipment such as speculums and ultrasounds into women’s bodies, coercive and derogatory commentary, and the dismissal of bodily autonomy, commonly act as triggers to survivors of sexual violence and can lead to seemingly overly emotional, intense reactions in patients that medical professionals mistake as the patient being “difficult” or “crazy.”

As discussed by Penny Simkin in “When Survivors Give Birth,” birth can be experienced in three different ways - as a retraumatization of past sexual violence, as a neutral experience in which neither harm nor healing is done, or a positive, healing experience where past sexual harm is transmuted and transformed. Understanding how trauma lodges in the body and is somatized and expressed by survivors is a necessary first step in ensuring that at the very least, birth experiences are neutral and positive for survivors. As research done by Reva Rubin RN shows, there is a correlation between positive birth experiences and positive infant touch and interaction, indicating that trauma informed, survivor centered obstetric care can be a primary intervention in breaking cycles of inter-generational abuse.

In this live webinar we will discuss:

  1. How inter-generational trauma is stored in the body and therapeutic and somatic techniques for survivors, advocates and caregivers to safely work on releasing and transforming trauma.
  2. Aspects of medical practice and advocacy that contribute to either retraumatization, neutrality or positive birth experiences and strategies to ensure birth experiences are largely positive.
  3. Strategies that create and support survivors in creating, emotional and physical safety throughout their reproductive lifetime.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Participants will learn how they can integrate trauma-informed practices into their interactions with all community members and survivors seeking reproductive services across their lifespan.
  2. Participants will be able to identify common trauma reactions in survivors in order to respond in more trauma informed, survivor centered ways to create a positive birth experience
  3. Participants will practice strategies that can promote post-traumatic growth, and how to support a survivor most effectively to prepare for a subsequent birth or visit to a medical facility after they have experienced trauma.
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