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Introducing Karen

My name is Karen Fennell, and I am a psychotherapist who treats sexual abuse survivors.  I am also the mother of a son who, as a child, was sexually abused by a family member.  My son came to me when he was 19 years old and told me he had been sexually abused when he was a little boy by his uncle. The news shook me to the core. My world was rocked by sexual abuse,
and I didn’t have anywhere to go to seek information and share profoundly personal information.  If I, a professional working in the field of abuse recovery, felt this alone and frightened, I can only imagine how those with less experience must feel.

Plain and simple; sexual abuse sucks, and it takes time and patience to heal. My son, my husband, my children and I spent several years coming to terms with the abuse. As we inched toward renewed health, I made it a mission to use my professional training as a therapist working in the field of sexual abuse recovery, combined with my personal experience as a mother, to offer a roadmap back. No one should have to go it alone.

I have worked tirelessly to help and/or support those affected by childhood sexual abuse. I maintain a private therapy practice in Charleston, South Carolina. A significant portion of my caseload consists of abuse survivors or their family members. I also speak publicly on this topic as often as I can. In addition, I wrote a book detailing my family’s experience called Straying Towards Truth: A Therapist’s Personal Story and Professional Guide to Healing after Sexual Abuse. I am deeply committed to assisting those traumatized by childhood sexual abuse. My professional training combined with my personal experience make me uniquely qualified to assist and support.

If I can reach someone in need in my office, it’s great. If I can reach them during a conference, I’ll do that. If I can help someone through my book, I consider it one more person who is not journeying alone. Naturally, when the opportunity arose for me to join forces with Healing Sisters, I jumped at the chance to participate in yet another vehicle to contribute to the healing process of abuse survivors and their loved ones.

This is my first official blog entry on Healing Sisters.  I am joining forces with Healing Sisters because I believe in their mission. I am truly excited to offer a safe place to share information and seek support for anyone impacted by childhood sexual abuse. I wonder how much less burdensome my painful journey would have been if I had had a website like this where I could have instantly found a community of others who “get it”.  

Please be a part of that community.  This is the beginning of a new journey for me as well.  Join me on my blog page.  Ask away!  I spend most of my days in my office with clients tackling everything and anything related to sexual abuse. No question or concern is taboo. I have heard it all….nothing shocks me. Often, people exposed to abuse are timid to seek out information because the topic is so unseemly.  I plan on “going there”.  I plan on posting answers to questions I receive, but in addition, I plan on covering topics that I feel are vital to understanding the impact of childhood sexual abuse. So many behaviors, thoughts and feelings expressed in adulthood originate in the abuse suffered as a child, but the connection is not obvious, so therefore, misunderstood.  Let’s begin to understand the connection.  We are all going to be healthier and safer.  I value each and everyone’s story, struggle and triumph. I’m sitting here at my computer, poised and ready to begin……

Comments

Karen, I'm fairly new to Stacey's blog but immediately logged on after reading her book.  I devoured her book after my husband heard her on NPR.  I applaud your efforts and honesty on this subject and found myself nodding and sharing the pain of being a mother to a child who was sexually abused.  There is too much to cover in one post but as a survivor, whose daughter was being groomed for abuse and as a woman who longs for the same community of women who "get it", I say hello and good for you!

I would love to visit your blog, where do I find the address?

Dear Little L,

I have been invited to be a part of Healing Sisters.  I will be posting every Friday.  Please feel free to ask me anything and I will share my insight as a professional therapist, treating sexual abuse survivors, and as a mother of a survivor.  I hope you find my blog on Healing Sisters helpful! 

Welcome to Healing sisters Karen.  I am so excited to know you will be a regular contributor here.  I have always wanted to bring a little light, into a world, that for me, and others, was filled with darkness, and despair.  I hope Healing Sisters is one way I can do that.  When I learned that you would be joining us here, I knew you are just what we need.  A person who knows both sides of this horrible problem.  Thank-you for becoming a part of our community.  I look forward to getting to know you.

Thank you for the warm welcome.  I truly believe that we all learn from one another.  What's most important is that we all recognize our special contribution to the healing process.  Everyone plays a role; from those who regularly blog, to those who may only leave one comment.  I am so appreciative of my clients with whom I work because they teach me something new every time we are together.  I may have the tools to interpret their words and feelings, but they give me a glimpse inside, which is the biggest gift of all.  I know I will experience the same connection here.  I look forward to working with everyone associated with Healing Sisters.   

Karen,

  I have struggles with emotions for several years. Growing up I was told never to cry it was a sign of weakness amoung other things and there were times that if I actually did cry as a child I was punished in various ways. So now as an adult I find myself in a strange place emotionally like I have been shut off. There has been some movement forward but my emotions still seem to never really match what has happened or what is currently going on. For example while I was in therapy I couldnt get angry with my father or the other abusers. My childhood was one of a lot of fear and it would be easier for me to tell you who didnt abuse me then it would to list those who did. So being in this place is frustrating to say the least.  Its like there is a block there something that keeps the emotions from coming to the surface and from really being felt and dealt with. So the question is do you know of anyways to try to get in touch with the emotions so that I am not stuck ? I hope this makes sense.

Butterfly

Dear Butterfly,

What you are experiencing is normal for abuse survivors.  Abuse of any kind messes with our ability to express emotions appropriately.  As a child, you were not only told that crying was weak, your abuse was reinforcing that message.  Even if you showed saddness by crying, you were not going to have it validated.  And unfortunately, crying does not stop abuse from happening.  You trained yourself very early to eliminate what seemed to be "useless" emotions.  Fear is the safest place for an abuse victim to live.  It is the emotion that you believe will make you ready for the next time someone blind sides you with abuse.  We learn to trust fear. 

In addition, most abuse survivors "split" emotionally during abusive episodes.  It is a protective measure to keep the victim safe from emotionally feeling what is happening to them physically.  The body is getting abused but the brain and emotions are a million miles away.  That ability to split allows children to endure horrific crimes against them.  We must appreciate that child for keeping you safe when you needed it most.  Although clever at the time, the abused child's brain cannot simply turn off that protective measure when the abuse stops.  It follows into adulthood.

Butterfly,  you are already ahead of the game because you recognize that you feel closed off emotionally.  You are strong because you are seeking answers. I admire your bravery.  I urge you to keep going with therapy, while continuing to educate yourself about childhood sexual abuse and the lasting aftermath of such an experience.  Hopefully, with time, you will enjoy a complete, and appropriate range of emotions. Thank you for reaching out. 

Thank you for answering my question and making me not feel so abnormal. I have never really felt like I fit anywhere. Being a part of this site makes me feel a little less alone. I was afraid to open up on here but I feel deep down that its safe to open up here.

 

Butterfly

Karen,

You seem to have a tremendous amount of knowledge when it comes to helping and treating victims of abuse. My question, however, has to do with the other side of abuse. One of my best friends was falsely accused of sexually molesting a child. It was blatently untrue, and her name has since been dragged through the mud. She's an amazing woman, loves children, and is now incapacitated because of this sick and twisted lie. How would you recommend someone heal from such a terrible accusation? Sometimes it feels as though it's more guilty until proven innocent, even when charges are never even pressed. I'd appreciate your professional opinion.

Sincerely,

Unworthy

 

Dear Unworthy,

It is difficult for me to answer your question because I don't have much information.  Yes, in rare cases false accusations are leveled against an innocent person.  Most often, they involve custody cases during messy divorces.  I have never worked with anyone who was either falsely accused or anyone who said they were abused but ultimately came to realize they were mistaken.  I have, however,  worked with plenty of victims who recanted their accusations of abuse.  Victims of these crimes are so incredibly fragile when they come forward that the desire to recant in an attempt to "make it all go away", is pretty common.  (My blog post today will be on disclosure, so please give it a read).  I have also worked on plenty of cases where the perpetrator, when confronted, denied culpability.  We may never know the complete truth. 

I think what makes these crimes against children so difficult is that it is so hard to prove.  One person is saying it happened the other is saying it didn't.  There is rarely any evidence on either side.  Unfortunately, it is ultimately a "he said, she said" situation.  But I will ask you this; in most situations where accusations occur, who has more to gain by lying- the child/adult who is making the accusations, or the person accused? 

It is interesting that you say it feels like "guilty until proven innocent".  That is very similar to how most survivors of sexual abuse feel, only they feel like "crazy or lying until it is proven it really happened". I appreciate you contacting me, although I am certain there are better places to receive information on the  topic of false accusations than an abuse survivor website.   Best of luck, Karen

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About Stacey Lannert

Stacey is free. In January 2009, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt commuted her sentence of life without parole. She is currently speaking out about sexual abuse and sharing her message of love, healing and forgiveness.