Letters from Foundation President and Executive Director

Letters from Foundation President and Executive Director

Letter from Board Chair and President

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Dear Friends,

One of the things I feel the most joy from in this work is hearing from past participants who are using the techniques they have learned at our retreats. I love when they share specific examples of using skills to manage their triggers. For example, I often hear about participants using mindful breathing techniques to ground themselves through difficult moments. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that our work continues to help them long after they leave retreat. I also love knowing that we are helping to continue the dialogue to protect children against sexual abuse.  Every time I hear about a parent engaging in conversation with their child on the topic of sexual health, I feel even more determined to further this work.

At The Younique Foundation, we work to inspire hope in women who were sexually abused as children or adolescents by hosting them at a retreat, where they are uplifted by each other and learn skills that can help them find individual healing. In addition, we educate parents and empower them to protect their children from sexual abuse while leading a public dialogue to bring the epidemic of abuse to light.  For truly it is an epidemic.

In 2015, we hosted 103 women over 11 different retreats.  We held hundreds of outpatient therapy sessions.  We reached over 12 million people via social media, and we launched our education programs. What is truly remarkable is this all happened in the second half of 2015.

We have big plans for 2016.  We will host 720 women at our retreats.  We will provide thousands of outpatient therapy sessions.  Our education will reach thousands of parents and caregivers, and social initiatives will impact millions.

To say that we are grateful for the outpouring of support we have received is a tremendous understatement.  This work is so important and couldn’t be done without the help we receive through donors. We will continue to do all in our power to never let this discussion fade, ever.  Each and every voice that joins ours is a voice we are thankful for.

With Humility,

Shelaine Maxfield: Board Chair and President

 

Letter from Executive Director

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To Our Kind Supporters,

This last year was an amazing ride, and January 19th, 2015, will long be a day of significance in my life.  It was my first day as the first employee of The Younique Foundation.  I walked into an amazing vision, and I was given resources to make it happen.  Coming in, I knew how to build organizations, and I knew that building always starts with surrounding yourself with great people.  We were amazingly blessed with 12 talented, dedicated people ready to bring healing, education, and awareness to the world.

So what did we do in our first year?  We wrote a book, a workbook, launched two brands, launched six social media channels, hosted over 100 women at retreats, hosted hundreds of session of outpatient therapy, reached over 12 million through our messaging, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and prepared to exponentially grow all of our services in 2016.

So what’s to come in 2016?  We will host over 700 women at retreats, host thousands of sessions of outpatient therapy, reach millions through social media, educate thousands of parents and caregivers, augment our web and social channels with online education and therapeutic resources, and grow our staff to 33.

I am extremely grateful for your kind donations and your tremendous voice.  I consider myself a steward over your giving and will ensure that all of our resources are used wisely.

With Gratitude,

Chris Yadon: Executive Director

Gaining Power Through Surrender

Gaining Power Through Surrender

When past memories or triggers crash in upon you there are three choices on how to respond. You can 1) run away from them, 2) fight them, or 3) simply acknowledge them and let them be through surrender.  Only one choice has proven to be effective in the long run. That is to acknowledge memories and triggers as they come and choose to let them be.

It might seem counter-intuitive that surrendering is actually the key to taking back your life after trauma. It is known as a paradox, which is a statement that leads to a conclusion that seems senseless and logically unacceptable. But as you use the concept of surrender, you will learn to understand when and what to fight.  It all begins with permission.

The Power of Permission

There are two main parts of the brain that are critical for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to understand in order to overcome their trauma. The first part is the Limbic System, the unconscious part of the brain. The limbic system controls our survival needs as well as all of our physical desires. This instinctive part of the brain can exert a powerful influence on a person’s behavior due to triggers and cravings. However, it cannot force you into behaviors.

The limbic system cannot move your arms, legs, hands, or feet. That part belongs to the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the conscious part of the brain that helps you reason and think through emotions. For us to act on triggering thoughts, our prefrontal cortex must give permission to the limbic system.

Consider this example:

Sarah has been dealing with triggers due to her sexual abuse for quite sometime. Whenever she sees something or someone that reminds her of her trauma, her limbic system screams at her to run away from the triggering thought by eating some type of food to help relieve the pain and help her escape from reality. While the limbic system is screaming, the prefrontal cortex in the midst of chaos decides to give the limbic system the permission it needs to keep Sarah safe. Sarah then eats the candy bar, thus creating a cycle that perpetuates the trauma without finding true healing.

But what if Sarah did this exercise instead?

She sees something or someone that reminds her of her trauma. Her limbic system screams at her to runaway from the triggering thought by eating. However, Sarah using her prefrontal cortex takes a step back and becomes aware of her surroundings, acknowledges the limbic systems wants and fears, and says this:

“Oh there is my limbic system again trying to take care of me by avoiding reality because reality is causing me some pain right now. My limbic system wants a candy bar and why wouldn’t IT. IT is just doing what it was meant to do. I don’t need to be angry or frustrated with IT. I will just let IT be and do nothing with the thought and craving.”

She then just sits with the feeling for a few minutes and the thought eases up. Through this exercise she was able to give more power to her prefrontal cortex and not give permission to her limbic system. In turn, Sarah is able to find some peace and healing through surrender by letting IT be.

What It Means to Let IT Be

A person facing disturbing memories of the past must remain aware that trying to crush, kill, destroy, and run away from unwanted thoughts tends to make the thoughts stronger because they are coming from the survival, unconscious limbic system. You cannot reason with that part of the brain.

By gently acknowledging the thoughts and learning to let them be, those thoughts will dissipate faster than any other method. Letting them be is completely different than giving the thoughts your full attention or denying them.

You might ask, “How am I supposed to surrender to these thoughts without letting them take over?” The paradox is that when you learn to peacefully acknowledge these thoughts, they tend to lose their power because you are not fighting them. Such thoughts are simply treated as events to be experienced as apart of being fully human.

Think back to Sarah’s example. She was able to find healing through gently acknowledging the triggering thought and letting it be. She didn’t act on it, and she didn’t give permission to her limbic system to take over. She just sat a let the thought be.

Power is gained from surrendering and accepting that triggering thoughts are not bad. Every time a trigger hits, all you need to do is become aware of your surroundings, acknowledge your feelings and thoughts, then let them be. The more you practice this strategy, you will be able to find the healing you desperately want.

5 Tips on How You Can Respond When a Survivor Breaks the Silence

5 Tips on How You Can Respond When a Survivor Breaks the Silence

Breaking the silence of abuse can be one of the hardest things a survivor of childhood sexual abuse does. Even it if has been several years since the abuse occurred, it is emotional, sensitive, and courageous to let someone else know about the abuse.

It can also be difficult for the family member or friend who is receiving the news. Family members and friends have deep feelings of love and care for survivors, but many don’t know the best ways to support a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Hearing that a friend or family member was treated in such a horrible way can be very challenging. It might come as a shock, and most likely a flood of emotions will accompany the news.

So how can friends and family members respond appropriately?  To help, here are five tips on how to respond and not react to your loved one when he or she breaks the silence of abuse:

Believe Them

One of the greatest fears a survivors have when they speak about their abuse is that no one will believe them when they break the silence. Your opportunity as a supporter is to believe them and show confidence.

Listen

It is natural to want to ask a lot of questions about the abuse, but to the survivor that can be really intrusive. Before you ask, listen.

Sometimes you don’t need to speak to be there for someone. To many survivors, just telling someone they trust about their abuse will lessen the weight of isolation, self-blame, and secrecy.  Always listen without interrupting. Being there and listening without being judgmental can be the greatest support to your loved one.

Validate

Reaffirm your love for the survivor, and reiterate that your love will never change. Let them know they are valuable and important. Re-emphasize that they matter. Make sure that your loved one knows that you are there for them and will be there at their side.

Many times survivors carry around the belief that they are to blame for their abuse. Reaffirm to them that this is not their fault. Make sure he or she knows that you don’t see them differently because they were abused. Reassure this often.

Help Explore Options

Helping your loved one know his or her options on how to proceed on the path to healing can be really helpful to a survivor. Work alongside them as they try to find professional services that can help them overcome the trauma. Knowing that they are not alone in this process can make a big difference in a survivor’s healing journey.

Take Care of Yourself

You are also affected by this abuse. Even though the abuse did not happen to you, knowing that it happened to someone you love will impact your life. Make sure you assess your own feelings, and remember to care for yourself.

It isn’t possible to be your best self in your supportive role if you are too tired to listen with compassion or overfilled with emotions. After every conversation, make sure you do a healthy activity to re-center yourself. This can be going for a walk outdoors, doing some yoga or taking a jog around the neighborhood.

Taking care of yourself along the journey will only help your loved one more as you both work to find peace.

While it will be difficult to hear that someone you love has been abused, the thing to remember is that healing is possible. With support and love from you, your loved one can overcome the trauma and find peace.

Younique Foundation Named Local Philanthropist of the Year

Younique Foundation Named Local Philanthropist of the Year

This week, a Utah magazine, Utah Valley Business Q, released their list for the Q Awards, which are the movers and shakers for 2016 in Utah Valley. The Younique Foundation was listed as Philanthropist of the Year.

“Nothing about the Younique Foundation was an after-thought,” said Derek Maxfield. “The foundation has always been the motivation.”

The article highlights how Derek and Shelaine Maxfield found their great purpose in supporting women who were sexually traumatized as children and the reason why our retreat program was created.

“This is an epidemic that affects 25 percent of the population that’s one in four of our daughters,” Shelaine said.  “People are usually surprised to hear that, and it’s because it’s such a taboo topic. These girls grow up carrying around guilt that not theirs to bear and it’s not fair.”

Now we as a foundation work to break the long held silence and help survivors find their voice in order to make a difference in their lives and in the world.

In the article Shelaine said this, “We need people to give us their voice. This issue is bigger than us. We can prevent so much suffering if we just raise our voices.”

The article also mentions how Shelaine made the life-changing decision to raise her own voice.

“Nothing about my childhood said I could do something like this. I don’t have a college degree. I grew up in a very poor family. And while those things are true about me, they are the wrong truths to pay attention to. The truth is I can make a difference in this world. And once I started listening to that truth, life changed.” She added, “The same is true for these women we’re helping. Because of this horrible trauma in their past, they’ve been listening to the wrong truths about themselves for far too long. It’s our mission to give them the power to change their futures.”

Click here to read the full article in Utah Valley Business Q

Finding Peace by Developing a Relationship with IT

Finding Peace by Developing a Relationship with IT

Imagine a lighthouse and how firm it stands in the midst of a storm. Though waves crash upon it, the lighthouse remains grounded. It continues to give light and hope to sailors who depend on its guidance.

Have you ever wondered if it is possible to find that kind of hope and peace after trauma? Is it possible to remain grounded while triggering memories enter your mind? The answer is yes. Yes, it is possible!

First, need to accept that recovering from sexual trauma is an ongoing process and not a one-time fix. You won’t be able to keep the past from coming up from time to time because of the way the brain works.

However, you can learn how to manage those memories and triggering thoughts by acknowledging your feelings and staying connected to the present moment. You will also need to develop a relationship with your limbic system, or as a Jack Trimpey explores in his book, Rational Recovery, a relationship with “IT.”

Meet IT

The subconscious part of the brain known as the limbic system. IT has three main functions: survive, avoid pain, and seek pleasure. When the developing brain is traumatized, IT stores memories to help protect you from danger in the future. IT also tries to soothe you or bring pleasure when you are triggered or in pain.

Consider this example:
You are at a movie theater waiting for your movie to start. Suddenly, you see an individual walk into the theater that reminds you of your abuser. IT (the limbic system) most likely sends a signal of immediate alarm that you are in danger. IT cannot differentiate the past from the present and is just doing ITs job to warn you of perceived danger. You walk out of the movie theater before the movie starts. You drive away distraught and frustrated that you cannot find peace.

According to IT, IT has successfully kept you away from danger. At the same time, the conscious part of your brain, the frontal lobe, is telling you that you were never in danger. The problem when dealing with trauma is that IT has all the control. Your job is to learn how to manage IT.

Important Truth to Accept about IT

Think about the last time you were triggered by a feeling or memory and insisted or demanded that it go away. What happened? Most likely, it only increased in power.

This is because you were trying to control IT (your limbic system) with rational thought, and rational thought cannot crush IT. Memories and triggering thoughts may always come and you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you can learn how to manage IT.

Acknowledge What Happened

In order to change and grow it is necessary to acknowledge what happened to you. This might sound frightening, but learning to be aware of, and then acknowledge, your raw feelings is what helps keep you safe when IT, the limbic system, perceives a threat. Then awareness and acknowledgment allow you to consciously choose how to manage these raw feelings.

Consider this example:
Like before, you are at a movie theater waiting for a movie to start. You see an individual enter that theater that reminds you of your abuser. IT (the limbic system) screams out at you that you are in danger, but you take a moment to be aware of the present. Then you acknowledge the feelings that IT is having. After assessing all of your feelings, your prefrontal cortex (the conscious and reasonable part of the brain) decides that the individual you are seeing is not your abuser. You are not in danger.

You refocus your thoughts by employing some grounding techniques and continue waiting for the movie. The result is you have accomplished some level of healing through awareness and acknowledging your feelings. The perceived danger did not derail your day. You successfully finished seeing the movie and left the theater empowered by your ability to manage IT.

Though it might be difficult, helping your body feel again after trauma by acknowledging what happened to you will help empower you to manage your triggers and memories when they do appear.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over IT

It’s common for those in recovery to become angry or feel guilty for having a triggering thought. Triggers are what they are and nothing else, and they can’t make you do anything. All you really need to do with a disturbing memory or triggering thought is to acknowledge IT and then just let IT be. If you acknowledge IT and let IT be without yelling at IT or giving IT full attention, ITs power will begin to dissipate. With practice, you will be able to learn how to manage IT.

In time,  you will become like that lighthouse. Though the waves of past memories and life may continue to crash upon you from time to time, you will be grounded and they will have no power to harm you. You will have found peace despite the storm that might rage around you.