March 25, 2021

Healing From Emotional Abuse: Black Trauma: with MST Survivor Traci Sharpe

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Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

 

Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse.  Today, I have Traci Sharpe, again. Returning guest! Gosh, I’m so excited.  Traci Sharpe hosts amazing educational workshops about how to manage yourself after trauma.  It’s about looking at things in retrospect, so people can move forward and heal. She also focuses on how People of Color are less likely to be believed when reporting abuse and assault. Welcome back Traci. I’m excited to have you back.

 

Traci: Hi, Marissa! Thanks for having me back again.

 

Marissa: Of course! Oh my gosh.  Okay, so let’s dive in.  When you and I were talking last time, it came up afterwards that you work with people of color.  Or you, as a person of color, experienced a lot of backlash and a lot of disbelief and doubts when you were reporting.  So, can you tell us about that?

 

Traci: Yes.  And thank you, before I even begin, for having this very difficult conversation. So thank you for bringing this to the forefront.  You know, as I’ve said, my incident began in 2013. And as a woman of color, I followed the process because there are policies in place to report up the chain of command. And I was told that because I was a divorced, woman of color, a single-mom at that point,  that I would not be believed over a decorated officer.

 

Marissa: That’s disgusting. So because of your skin color, that had a negative affect on your report and your wellbeing.  That’s not fair

 

Traci: It isn’t fair. And I have found that this is something that happens.  I, in the beginning, took it personally.  I was thinking, well, why me? I’ve never had a negative review, or negative performance review of any kind. I’d like to think that I have a pretty decent portfolio.  And so, that really took me by surprise, because it wasn’t about the actual incident.  My skin color became the transgression.  And it also became the thing that negated the validity of my report.  Because of the way I looked.

 

Marissa: Did you experience anything like ridiculous backlash, or something that was worse specifically due to your skin color, do you think?

 

Traci: That was all of it.  I was, in the beginning, when I tried to come forward.  Like I said in my past episode, I tried to come forward 3 different times.  So this isn’t like a one-and-done. I tried to report 3 different time.  And each time, I was told there was an issue because of the way I looked.  One of the things that we have to be mindful of with the perpetrators and their enablers, is they use little things against you.  So, when I talked before, when we spoke, I had spoken to you about gaslighting. And so, I can remember one person saying, with everyone PTing like crazy, I need to get myself back in the gym because I’m getting fat. It’s just a matter of conversation.  And that was used against me.  So I looked, and if you see any pictures of me, or even if you know me, then you’d know that I’ve never been overweight.  But that was that one thing that they picked up.  And there would be other little things. Like, my children had to be picked up by six o’clock.  So, those were the self-limiting things. Like, I was told, “Someone else has a nanny, so why don’t you have a nanny?”  You know, typically, who has a nanny? You know what I mean? So, it was just little things like that, that added up to becoming a big problem.

 

Marissa: That’s disgusting. So, they did studies across colleges and had a white woman and a woman of color tell almost the exact same story of assault, and then the participants would have to decide whether or not they believed the story.  And I think across the board, 90-something percent of people believed the white woman.  And most of the people, I don’t remember the exact percentage, I think it was close to 80%, believed that the person of color was lying.  Just based on their skin color.

 

Traci: Absolutely.  And I think what happens with people of color… you know, when you’re hired in these organizations, there’s a honeymoon phase.  So, you feel welcomed and it’s hard to say, and I don’t want to say I was a tokenized hire because  I don’t think that would be fair, but that’s what I began to feel like afterwards.  And, I will tell you, even in presenting, because I am a platform trainer, and even getting up in front of audiences, and teaching for the military, there are times that I have been asked  not to participate in my own projects. And I hate to say this, but I was told that I wasn’t a part of the Blonde Ambitions Corp. And there were two other individuals there who were blonde haired, blue eyes, thin and I was actually asked not to participate. And it’s disgusting.  So you go from the honeymoon phase, to then reality sets in. And so, you start to point out transgressions, or the micro-aggressions.  And what’s gong on with this? I’m the one who put this entire project together, why am I not presenting? And so, I was told that it looks better to have someone that fits the mold and I didn’t fit the mold. 

 

Marissa: That’s disgusting. 

 

Traci: Yes, it really is.  And these are the things we fight.  And this is why I’m so vocal about it.  I know that there are other people who have experienced these same transgressions, and these same repetitive injuries, and people live their lives not speaking up about it.

 

Marissa: And that has to be so painful. Living your life feeling like everything is against you.  I mean, I can’t even imagine that.  I’m a white woman that came from a sheltered home. So I have no idea what that feels like.

 

Traci: Yes, it’s difficult. It is. Because then there is the denial of racism.  Once you bring it up, then there’s the denial.  And then there’s, “Wait a minute Traci, that didn’t happen that way.” And I’m saying, explain.  Because if you help me understand, then I can explain to others what going  on and we can still do really great work here.  But that’s when the targets come into play.  And then it is, “Well, we needed someone to add something else,” when we didn’t need them in the beginning.  And I want to point out that I was the purchase card holder.  The human rights protection official.  There were so many other collateral duties I had that other people didn’t have.  But they didn’t look like me.  So they were the ones that were put out in the forefront.  There have been others who weren’t even trained.  They weren’t platform trainers, who have trained in my place because of the way they looked.  And it is.  It’s really disgusting. 

 

Marissa: I’m so sorry that you went though that, and probably still go through that. That’s so not okay.  And I wish there were better words that weren’t just a strong of obscenities. 

 

Traci: No, there aren’t.  But I think we need to be honest and have the conversations, which is why I’m stepping out and talking about it.  And you know, what happens is, we go and get these educations, and we get all these certifications, and specialties, so when we present a portfolio, it looks a certain way.  And unfortunately, sometimes the view of what the person having that portfolio should look like, it doesn’t match up.

 

Marissa: But that’s a preconceived notion. You can’t identify what a person looks like based on their accolades.  I mean, you’d probably never think that I looked the way I look if you saw my portfolio.  You’d probably think I was like, a 40 year old woman with wrinkles and 12 kids.  I mean, you just, you can’t judge somebody like that.  And that’s the problem in our society, in my very humble opinion. We have these dumb, preconceived notions based on stereotypes.

 

Traci: Yes. yes. And so in addition to fighting the sexual harassment, the sexual assault, and all of the other sexual misconduct and transgressions across the board, this is an added layer. So, it isn’t just the offense.  There are so many caveats to it. So, it isn’t just one fight.

 

Marissa: You are a champion for continuing to fight and continuing to speak out.  Thank you.  And keep shouting this out loud, because this is the kind of dumb stuff that needs to end.  It needs to be silenced.  We need to stop assigning believability to a race or a color.  That’s garbage.

 

Traci: Right. I agree 100%. The thing for me is, as a mature woman, I know that there are so many others coming up behind us, and they need this.  This is a blueprint for them to be able to, just really decipher what’s going on around them.  And ask those questions. And document, document, document.  Sometimes, it helps, other times it doesn’t. But, it will definitely help that person know that they aren’t crazy in this.  A lot of times, and I speak a lot about the gaslighting and the false information, and the, “Well, you know… it wasn’t that way…” But actually it was.  And it’s okay to say that.  It’s okay that you’re failing, and then we need to challenge these beliefs.  And that’s where the issue lies.  Let’s challenge.  Let’s challenge those beliefs, and let’s say, we don’t know what the reception will be.  We don’t know whether or not someone like me can go in, and I’d like to think I’m a pretty decent trainer.  I’ve received great feedback across the board.  And I’ve been doing this for about 15 years now.  And I’ve not had one person have a complaint.  And then, to get to this position, and to have someone judge me just based on what their preference is, because I guarantee you, it wasn’t everyone else’s preference, I would have been harassed the way that I was.

 

Marissa: Thank you for building this blueprint.  You’re doing a huge part in changing the world and changing the way people perceive people and professionals.  I mean, it’s disgusting that this is something that we even NEED to talk about.

 

Traci: It is. It really is.   But we know that it is far reaching.  It isn’t unique unto me. This is the experience.  We have to change the narrative around all of it. 

 

Marissa: Around race. Around sexual assault. Around people of color who have been assaulted. Absolutely. 

 

Traci: Yes. Absolutely.

 

Marissa: Do you mind telling us a little bit about your workshops? I’m intrigued.

 

Traci: So what I do is, I limit them to 10 people.  I have a couple now that I’m doing.  One that has been really successful has been, working with women of color who have experienced sexual misconduct in the workplace.  So, I vet out the participants. I have to vet them because we really unpack some heavy stuff.  And the last thing you want to do is get into a workshop and feel like, either you’re not understood, or that someone is a spy, for lack of better words.  But that someone is in there and the intentions aren’t pure. And what I like to do is, speak to each persons experience.  Because we all have a voice, and there is nothing worse than being lost in translations, with everyone else’s story.  So, that’s why I limit it, my capacity is 10.  Personally, that’s about what I can handle.  I sometimes do 4-hour workshops, sometimes it’s 8-hours, depending on the content we’re covering. So, I cover everything from the actual experience itself, whether it's harassment or the assault.  And then we talk about how to unpack it, and how to reframe it.  And I never let anyone leave without resources.  So, one of the biggest things for me is, whoever participates in my workshops, they leave with a plan. And they can always touch back if we need to revisit it, or whatever.  But they have to leave with a plan to move forward.  Whether that is pursuing the EEO process, finding the right attorney to represent them, finding the right therapist, the right medical doctors.  Whether or not they need to follow up and do research on what medications will work for them, or whether it’s yoga or meditation.  Just making sure they have that information, understanding how it can benefit them, and having a plan.  And one of the biggest parts of the plan is not only having the resources, but having a strong, solid, support system. There are times when we say, “Oh, you know, I can call my mom. Or I can call my sister.” I really teach people how to realistically develop the support system they need.  Because someone loving you, like a parent or a friend or a significant other, it doesn’t always mean that they are able to support you in a way that you need to be supported.  So, that’s basically what I cover in all of the workshops.

 

 

Marissa: That’s amazing! Oh my gosh! So, not only are you helping them fight thought heir trauma, but you’re giving them a community, and you’re giving them a safety plan.  That’s phenomenal! Thank you for doing that.

 

Traci: Thank you for saying that. We have to.  One person at a time.

 

Marissa: I hope you understand the value of that.  People will go to therapy, leave therapy and immediately feel relieved.  Then the next day they wake up lost again.  So by, handing them, and creating with them — making them a big part of their safety plan — I think that that’s so powerful.

 

Traci: Yes, I think it is.  I think we teach victims how to be victims.  I like to teach victims how to be survivors. And if they are at the center of their own plan, then they are empowered to reach out and develop whatever it is they need. The resources are interchangeable. And that’s the thing.  It’s not a one-size fits all for everyone.

 

Marissa: Right. There’s no one right healing journey. It’s very personalized. Thank you so much.  So how can people get in touch with you about your workshops?

 

Traci: They can go to WhichNarrative.com.  It’s www.whichnarrative.com.  They can look over the website.  There are a few resources. I uploaded a few short videos. You know, just to let people know they aren’t alone, and some of the things they are experiencing, some of those visceral responses, are common, so people don’t feel like they’re wayyy out there by themselves.  To contact me on the website, there is a contact sheet they can fill out, and I get the information, and I respond within 24 hours.

 

Marissa: Thats amazing. Thank you for the service you’re doing for survivors, to help them heal. And thank you for speaking with me on this really difficult topic. 

 

Traci: You know, I think we have to. Because there are times when we feel like you’re experience is the only experience.  And no one will get it.  One of the things that I’ve spoken to you about, that I don’t mind sharing with the listeners is, well, my son was gung-ho and ready to join the military until all of this happened. And so, now his whole life has been impacted. He’s not comfortable, and I am not comfortable either, with his name, his last name being the same as mine. And my story being so highly publicized.  We know that there are some people out there that will hold that against him. So, he’s decided now that he’s going to go to college for two years, stay at home, and then he’ll transfer to a four year college.  But that wasn’t his plan.  And I think just letting people know that your whole life is impacted in ways that you never believe it will be. So, it isn’t just your life. It’s those that are attached to you as well.

 

Marissa: It’s not a one person issue.  It becomes a familial issue.  Right? Everybody that you are close to, who is impacted based on your trauma. The people who live in our home, who share you lineage. Everybody is affected.


Traci:
Sure.  Even friends. Because if you think about it, when you suffer from anxiety or depression or PTSD, there are times where you turn down invitations.  I can remember a time that for months on end, not wanting to leave the house.  And so, where I was someone who was really social, and got out and did things; I hiked and I connected with friends; and just had a really great social life.  That all came to a screeching halt, because I just was incapable.  And thank god I found a wonderful therapist who let me know that it wasn’t me.  It isn’t you.  It’s what you’ve experienced, and we’ll work through this. And now, I’m able to clearly state my needs or my limitations. So, rather than saying, “I’m not going.” or ducking the phone call, I can say I’m not up to it today. I’m dealing with some things over here, and once I get through those, then sure, we can go have a glass of wine at the winery. 

 

Marissa: That’s amazing. And I’m glad that you’re able to set those boundaries. And for people listening, I hope you know that needing to take space and declining invitations, that’s normal and it’s okay.  Don’t ever feel guilty for needing that time and that space. And knowing how to set boundaries.

 

Traci: Yes, and being able to state it clearly.  Even if you can’t communicate it at that moment, being able to clear that up.  Because it’s empowering. 

 

Marissa: It’s like taking control of your life back. It’s one small step towards taking control.  Thank you so much, again for being here Traci.  You’re phenomenal, and you’re such a wealth of knowledge and information.  I’m so happy that we got connected.

 

Traci: I am too. Thank you Marissa. And don’t forget, if you need help out there, I’m at www.whichnarrative.com

 

If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

 

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