I want to thank you for publishing your experience -your absolute courage in putting it out there.

I have wanted to write to you since reading your book “Innocence Revisited” in November. I want to thank you for publishing your experience -your absolute courage in putting it out there.

Your account resonates with me on many levels. Above all, I value your descriptions of the processes of remembering and discovering yourself – that long,
fraught, strange, hazardous path. And the utter importance of a skilled and sensitive therapist with you on that journey.

My history bears similarities to yours -the details don’t matter- but reading your book helped me feel sane and hopeful. It is deeply reassuring to see that a
similar person has gone through such trauma and managed to persist and battle to discover herself. Your story helps me understand some of the how and what of survival and healing because it is a complete narrative. The sheer hard messy slog is something that isn’t conveyed in the tidy personal snippets in
(excellent) books like “The Courage to Heal” by Bass and Davis.

So I am deeply grateful for your commitment to yourself and to others in sharing your incredible achievement, and your public advocacy work in
ASCA.

You have opened up my world and again, I thank you.

Book review (published ASTSS newsletter April 2011)

INNOCENCE REVISITED—A TALE IN PARTS

Dr Cathy Kezelman

Published by JoJo Publishing ―Yarra Edge‖ 2203/80 Lorimer Street Docklands VIC 3008 Email: jo-media@bigpond.net.au or visit www.jojopublishing.com

This book was brought to my attention by a patient who is suffering with dissociative identity disorder. She has been in contact with the author, as apparently have many other sufferers from this condition, which is much more common than professionals realise and grossly under diagnosed.

The author is a qualified medical practitioner and the current chairperson of ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse) and it is a remarkable tale of survival recovery.

Professor Freda Briggs AO – Emeritus Professor of Child Development states, ―Child sex abuse is known to be one of the greatest contributors to later mental illness, substance abuse, self harm and suicide.‖ She hopes that the story will encourage others to create a safer and more caring world for children.

The book is an easy read and recommended for anyone who wishes to deal with patients

Dulcie Veltman

“Unputdownable”

Published ourconsumerplace.com.au in October

One of the gems that we discovered at TheMHS was Dr Cathy Kezelman, someone who wears “two hats” – she’s both medically trained and a consumer. She’s written a book about her experiences of childhood abuse – called ”

Innocence Revisited: a tale in parts“, which Merinda describes as “un-put-down-able.” Cathy is a passionate advocate for survivors of childhood abuse, and has a website devoted to her work: http://cathykezelman.com. Her book was released earlier this year, and attracted significant media attention (there are links on her website). We’re hoping Cathy will contribute to this newsletter in the foreseeable future.

Professional testimonial

Dr Cathy Kezelman has written a book called “Innocence revisited: A tale in parts”, in which she recalls her experiences of child sexual abuse. This is a poignant tale of repressed memory, of dissociated personality and mostly of resilience and hope.

This book can be recommended for psychology students to have an insight into the devastating effects of child sexual abuse for adult survivors and the consequences of this abuse later in life. For all psychologists who are committed to child protection, this is an important book that can inform, educate and be a source of insightful understanding.

I recommend that this book appear on the reading lists of all psychology students who will practice in the field of psychology. It allows readers to gain insight and real understanding of the effects of abuse on adult survivors and on children.

Danuta Chessor PhD, MAPS

University of Western Sydney

Review by Jennie Sattler

Dr. Cathy Kezelman’s “Innocence Revisited” is not for the faint hearted.  “Innocence Revisited” is a very personal, open and honest account of Cathy’s life.  Cathy was severely abused as a young child by the very people whose primary role was actually to protect, nurture and guide her through her childhood.  At times harrowing to the reader (who actually only ever experiences Cathy’s trauma indirectly through her writing), the impact of Cathy’s story on readers is ultimately more than offset by a very uplifting message of resilience, strength, resolution, hope and healing.

Cathy goes on to share how her early life experience affected her both as a growing child and young daughter and later as an adult, as a wife and as a mother.  “Innocence Revisited” tells how Cathy gradually faces the reality and the truth of her past and ultimately and incredibly, how she moves beyond her old blockages and pain, to reclaim herself and to attain an inner peace.

For anyone who was abused as a child (sexually, emotionally and/or physically), Cathy’s story offers insight, understanding, comfort, validation, solace, inspiration and hope.  “Innocence Revisited” offers those grappling with the impacts of childhood abuse, the opportunity to share in the intimate details of someone else’s journey, the opportunity to ‘see their own experience’ more objectively through Cathy’s eyes, to gain some context around their own experiences as well as the opportunity to share in and gain the benefit of Cathy’s insights and realisations to help them move further towards their own resolutions.

Most importantly, Cathy’s book offers those who have experienced childhood trauma, the priceless and richly reassuring knowing of: “I’m not alone with my ‘shameful’ experiences, Cathy also went through something like what I went through as a child and she has overcome it!” Cathy’s life story proves that healing from horrific childhood trauma is possible. 

For anyone who loves someone who has experienced childhood trauma, Cathy’s book offers insights into the daily challenges and the extensive, ungraspable impact of childhood trauma.  Through Cathy’s story, friends and relatives can gain an appreciation of the vital importance of unconditional love, non-judgement, listening and acceptance in supporting their loved one through their inevitable lows and in helping them to resolve their own internal struggles.  Friends and relatives can also gain reassurance and hope in knowing that recovery is possible.

For those working as therapists, Dr. Kezelman’s story is a personal, first hand account of the impact of child abuse and the long road to healing and recovery written by an intelligent, rational, educated and experienced General Practitioner.  “Innocence Revisited” offers those working with survivors of childhood abuse the opportunity to ‘step into their client’s shoes’ and to gain far greater empathy and insight into their client’s challenges and needs than any prescribed textbook could hope to offer.

Cathy’s courage, honesty and openness is extraordinary and a testament to her inner strength in overcoming all that she has endured.  “Innocence Revisited” is a tribute to Dr. Kezelman’s commitment to healing herself for her own wellbeing, enabling her to truly ‘be there’ for her beloved husband and four children.

Cathy’s book is a remarkable act of openness, courage, honesty, perseverance, a rare and precious generosity and a huge contribution towards raising awareness and healing the broad detrimental abuse of the most vulnerable, most trusting, most needy and most innocent members of our society – our beautiful babies and young children – utterly unique, pure and precious little miracles.

Child sex abuse victims. Why don’t we believe them? Radio Australia editorial

Child sex abuse victims. Why don’t we believe them? (by Phil Kafcaloudes)

5 May 2010

Today I interviewed a woman who was one of the lucky people to have survived being sexually abused as a child.

So severe was the abuse she endured from the age of 6 until 14 or so, that the entire decade of her childhood was blocked out of her adult memory. The whole thing just wasn’t there. She went on to become a respected doctor, a mother, a person who contributed to society, but for much of this time Cathy Kezelman had no memory of much of her childhood. There were snatches, sure, but she didn’t think back to Kindy or First Class or Year Five like many of the rest of us.

She couldn’t. It was wiped.

How? It was pretty simple. Cathy, as a medical practitioner, can see how. She says children have an amazing resilience, and can cope with just about anything. At a price.

When her father started sexually abusing her, her child’s mind reacted in a way that allowed her to keep going. It fooled her into thinking that this can’t be a bad thing.

Her father though, was not so resilient. He killed himself, perhaps out of guilt for what he was doing to his daughter, perhaps because he was a flawed personality. Cathy doesn’t think it was the latter. She says that he was very loving, and would snuggle up with her, non-sexually, as a father should, and do all the things that father must do, like reassure, love and care. Most of the time.

More horrifically, after her father passed on, Cathy’s sexual abuse continued, carried out by other people who were in positions of power over her. And finally, some years later, a trusted family doctor sexually assaulted her, again and again.

Where was her mother in all this? According to Cathy, her mother denied that this was happening. When Cathy told her mother that the doctor had started touching her inappropriately, her mother said something like: “Oh that’s just him, just tell him not to be silly”. This is a sentence that speaks volumes, for a mother who suspected the truth, and was too fearful to stand up for her daughter.

You see Cathy’s mum was a victim herself, a victim of the Holocaust. Her parents were murdered by the Nazis, and Cathy says it is easy to see now that the damage caused to her mother as a young woman came down the line. Her mother sheltered herself from the bad by denying it, just as her daughter did for thirty years.

Cathy’s father too had a traumatic childhood. He was a sexual abuse victim.

It is called patterning, and it happens with some victims of abuse, where they will do the same to young people in their care. I remember as a court reporter, hearing psychiatrists tell judges that a convicted sexual abuser was a victim themself. I even remember hearing one abuser, a scout master, say in his defence that it happened to him as a child and it did him no harm; it was a way of being loved. The judge wore none of it, explaining to this 50-something year old man that sexual abuse has nothing to do with love. It is about being a predator. The pattern may have been set, but it was up to him to break that pattern.

No-one could suggest that patterning happens in even a majority of cases. There must be thousands of abused people living good lives, the abuse a secret that in many cases will never be revealed, locked in their minds by feeling of guilt or fear of not being believed or fear of the damage it would do to their fathers or uncles. Others, like Cathy, have dealt with it and lives with the memory.

But there are many who don’t come through it. Recent statistics show that victims of childhood sexual abuse are eighteen times more likely to commit suicide, and are 49 times more likely to die of a drug overdose.

Cathy, mother, doctor, almost went this way too. Once her memory of the years of abuse returned to her (after counselling), she found herself standing at a cliff edge, going closer to the precipice, saved only by a voice that told her to speak to her counsellor. The talk pulled her back to this world, and into a life where she was determined to share her story, if only to let other victims learn that they are not alone.

Sexual abuse is part of every society. It is one of those things that just keeps on, like corruption, thievery and tax avoidance. The difference is that this one kills.

And there is far too much denying, perhaps from the victims, and certainly from the people who should believe them.

Book review – Susan Henry (director The Delphi Centre)

Book Review: Innocence Revisited: a tale in parts.
Author: Dr Cathy Kezelman.

This book is written by Dr Cathy Kezelman, a trained medical practitioner, the mother of 4 children, chairperson of Adults Surviving Child Abuse and director of the Mental Health Coordinating Council. It is Cathy’s invaluable account of rising to the challenge of addressing emerging memories of child sexual and organized sadistic abuse triggered by the death of her beloved niece in a car accident.

Cathy writes beautifully – which helps in recounting a story of such agony and cruelty. As Mark Tedeschi, QC, Senior Crown Prosecutor, NSW says ofthe book “it does happen … in every segment of our society …. from family friends and family members”.

Cathy is skilled at portraying the complex reactions to trauma as a child struggles to know and feel, at the same time as to not, in an effort to maintain crucial attachment bonds and create the illusion of safety to endure the abuse. Her account is easy to read despite the horrific abuse. She describes the emergence of ever more overwhelming material yet it is not a sensationalized account. Cathy responsibly and gently touches
on often ignored or denied issues such as the re-enactment of abuse (eg. with her doll) as well as the ultimate victimization in setting up a child to victimize. The final chapter includes important material about the nature and complexities of memory and related issues to healing from severe abuse, torture and overwhelming trauma.

The courage, sensitivity, responsible consideration of issues and willingness to put her story out there is to be commended. It is an important account that will benefit therapists and related professionals such as legal and policy makers. It will also aid clients when at a point in their healing where the accounts of others may be beneficial.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and related mental health professionals still do not receive adequate under-graduate training in identifying or responding to psychological trauma. Typically, inexperience in identifying trauma reactions leads to misdiagnoses or a belief that dissociative disorders are rare or confabulated. Therapists may also feel deskilled or succumb to concern about being professionally ostracized in the face of recognizing the reality of a person’s suffering and the causes.

Cathy was fortunate to find a therapist with an open heart and mind who did not merely medicate or pathologize her but who appreciated that her psyche and body would let her story unfold given a chance. She had faith in the process of healing. Like most trauma therapists, she no doubt found herself on a steep learning curve and would do some things differently now. I mention this because I imagine that both
therapists inexperienced with complex dissociative reactions, as well as clients beginning, or contemplating their journey in therapy may be concerned or confused by some of what Cathy outlines.

While every client’s path, and every therapist’s style and approach, is unique, principles of effective, compassionate therapy for dissociative disorders have evolved over a couple of decades from experience worldwide. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation provides ethical guidelines based on this. Different from Cathy’s early experience in therapy the ISSTD recommends no more  than two, ninety-minute sessions a week. Weekly sessions are typically enough. On occasion, where some clients may benefit from brief hospitalization, specialized units such as the Trauma and Dissociation Unit at Belmont Private Hospital in Qld can avoid compounding problems due to medical and nursing staff being unfamiliar with trauma dynamics and dissociative responses.

Principles of healing from trauma (such as outlined by Briere and Scott; Ross and Halpem) underpin effective strategies for helping clients navigate boundaries, ground flashbacks, place the locus on control with him/herself, and safely pace work around abuse dynamics as well as process deep emotion. Clients do the challenging work of therapy best when supported to manage a career or job, cope with a family and engage
in a social life and be a contributing member of society. Healing is not faster or better by focusing time and energy primarily on therapy. Being consumed by it actually makes it harder. Decompensation is more likely. Perceived lack of choice and control is disempowering and re-enacts the trauma.

Powerful feelings are brought up in the therapist. Even the most experienced and competent can easily find that without case consultations and ongoing professional development to address the vicarious traumatization and counter-transference, as well as enhance effective therapeutic strategies, it can impinge on therapy and therapist self-care. Without this, it is easy to respond to what the client may intensely but erroneously believe he or she needs in the midst of often excruciating distress and complex defense mechanisms.

Cathy’s book is a rare, well-crafted, one. She elucidates the terrible impact of child abuse and the long term consequences that we as individuals in society, not just therapists and academics, have a responsibility to address. It is also an account of hope and inspiration; the power of truth.

Susan Henry

The Delphi Centre

Professional Development Training and Counselling Services
Melbourne

Ref:

Briere, J., & Scott, C. (2006). Principles of trauma therapy: A guide to symptoms,
evaluation, and treatment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Ross, C. & Halpern, N. (2009). Trauma Model Therapy: A Treatment Approach for
Trauma, Dissociation and Complex Comorbidity.
Manitou Communications: TX, USA.

Mark Tedeschi QC

Cathy and husband Dan speaking with Mark Tedeschi at launch

This book is not just another memoir by another victim of child sexual abuse. It is much more than that. It is more than anything a vivid and emotionally poignant portrayal in the first person of the intricate psychological and emotional contortions that a child will go through in an attempt to ensure the child’s psychic survival during a time of abject terror. It is also a dramatic and detailed description of the psychological proceses involved in an adult striving for the state of health that comes from exhuming those memories of child sexula abuse that were deeply buried so many years previously.

This book is a roadmap for other victims of child sexual assault who are facing the trauma of dealing with events that happened many years earlier. It is a strong message of hope for those staring death in the face, those who cannot see a way forward into a life of health, those who face rejection of their memories from family and friends, those who daily revisit the terror and abject cruelty they experienced as children, and those who fear that they are lsoing their minds and descending into madness.

This is a message of hope in a bottle and a roadmap towards heatlh for those who feel isolated, lost and terrified.

Susanne Gervay – award winning author, specialist in child growth and development

Susanne at the launch with her adoring fans

Susanne with a few of her own titles

“The book, about the search for rebuilding from the ashes of abuse, is written with integrity and honesty. I found many sections confronting and wanted to reach out to that little trapped girl. Cathy’s strength in recreatinga life, family and finding herself is remarkable and courageous.

This is an important testament to survivors of child abuse. Irrespective of background, a child’s world is only safe, when the adult carer cares, loves and protects. It shows that we need to protect our children, so they don’t carry the burdens into adult years and life.”

Prof Freda Briggs AO, Emeritus Professor Child Development

Freda saying it how it is!

“This book is a sensitive and detailed account of one woman’s struggle to overcome the effects of severe childhood trauma.  As a professor of child development I am all too aware of the importance of nurture and care in the early years and the long-term disastrous effects of abuse.  Cathy’s book highlights some of the creative ways in which child victims cope with horrendous experiences.  It shows the typical refusal of the mother to believe and protect her child and stop the abuse.  It shows how hard it can be for adult survivors to live comfortable in loving sexual relationships and the strain this imposes on partners and family members.  When children are not supported, they may push their traumatic experiences to a corner of the memory where they remain until a trigger leads to their return.

 

Cathy’s capacity to dissociate as a child helped to save her and her ability to repress all memory of her abuse allowed her to function to some extent.  But still, she knew that something was wrong.  Her survival as a child and again as an adult coming to terms with her trauma is a testament to human resilience.  Child sex abuse is known to be one of the greatest contributors to later mental illness, substance abuse, self harm and suicide.  I hope her story will encourage others to create a safer and more caring world for children.”