If you have experienced childhood trauma, you can speak with a Blue Knot Helpline trauma counsellor including for support and applications around national redress

1300 657 380
Monday - Sunday
between 9am - 5pm AEDT
or via email helpline@blueknot.org.au


Do you need support for the Disability Royal Commission?
Contact our National Counselling & Referral Service on

1800 421 468
9am - 6pm AEDT Mon- Fri
9am - 5pm AEDT Sat, Sun & public holidays

May 2020Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via eMail Share on LinkedIn

From the Editor

Blue Knot Foundation continues to lead the way in researching, educating and advocating for best practice in complex trauma and its impacts, having just released a new set of guidelines for practitioners: Practice Guidelines for Identifying and Treating Complex Trauma-related Dissociation.  We are already seeing huge interest and uptake around these guidelines by the professional community.  This is particularly encouraging, as dissociation is common amongst survivors of complex trauma, and further education of professionals in this area will help lead to better support and outcomes.  It’s helpful for survivors and supporters to also understand more about every day dissociation as well as dissociation associated with trauma.  This month we explain in simple terms, what it means to dissociate, and provide some strategies to help.

We are also excited to see that governments from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and US have collaborated with leading technology companies to develop the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.  Blue Knot Foundation actively supports and endorses the principles, as responding to online child sexual exploitation requires a proactive global effort.  We will continue to support this movement to stem the tide of the exponential growth in online childhood sexual exploitation and abuse.

Lastly, thank you to those who took part and shared their Blue Sky Moment.  Without question, the year so far has been a true test for us all - even for those who are not living with complex trauma.  In amongst the uncertainty and chaos, it is good to know that those glimpses of blue sky have helped brighten someone’s day. Thank you for being part of our Blue Sky community

Take care
From the team at Blue Knot

If you have any comments about what you have read in this issue, contributions for the My Story section, or suggestions for future issues, please contact the editor at newsletter@blueknot.org.au

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Restoring Hope are looking for men to share their story

Restoring Hope are a small not-for-profit who support those who have experienced sexual abuse. In the five years that they have been running, their primary role has been in providing practical goods to those who have presented at either the police or support services at a point of crisis, fundraising and awareness raising.

Restoring Hope are publishing men’s stories of recovery from sexual abuse.  This is an opportunity for you to share your story.

We are looking for men who:

Have a lived experience of sexual abuse
Would like to share their experiences of recovery
Want to help others on a similar journey, professionals and support people to understand the recovery journey
Want to offer hope to those who may be a few steps behind you in their own recovery

We know that feeling connected to others who have walked a path like our own makes a HUGE difference.

This book is your chance to be heard and to contribute to change. 

The men who are contributing already are resilient, courageous and determined.

All identifying information is removed.

Please contact Restoring Hope for more information at michelle@restoringhope.org.au by 18th June 2020

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Call for Study Participants

An Exploration of Adult Survivors of Childhood experiences of trauma: A retrospective study of the impact of companion animals.

The University of Queensland would like to invite interested participants in research that focuses on the connection between animals and people. In Australia, 62% of households have a pet living with them.

Maybe you have a pet living in your home now, or maybe you had a pet living with you when you were a child. This research aims to explore how past traumatic experiences may have been helped by the presence of a pet. The pet does not necessarily have to have lived with you. This research focusses on the attachment you felt to a pet when you were a child and how you feel toward a pet as an adult.

Download the information sheet for more information on the study.

Go here to complete the questionnaire

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Malka Leifer fit to face extradition

"Malka Leifer, whisked away to the other side of the world, was seemingly protected within her closed ultra-Orthodox community, and the powers that be. Her frequently-claimed mental illness, now shown to starkly contrast to her recorded normal daily life, is a devastating contrast to that of her victims."

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No More Silence

"For survivors, often the greatest fear is just not being believed, and I believe it's more than a symbolic movement, it's a tangible demonstration of support for survivors, their families, and supporters."

Read more

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Judging Cardinal Pell

For victims of historical sexual abuse the justice system needs further reform

Read more here

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All Institutions must commit to national redress now

Pressure is being ramped-up on charities, sports clubs and church groups to sign up to the National Redress Scheme for child abuse survivors as the Federal Government threatens to "name and shame" those who fail to join.

Read more

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This is not a witch hunt

President of Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma Dr Kezelman AM offers the following comments in relation to the findings of the Royal Commission regarding Cardinal George Pell’s knowledge and handling of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Read more

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Vicarious Trauma – A warning to health care workers during COVID-19

Healthcare workers battling on the COVID-19 frontline are being advised to keep tabs on their mental health, after a Manhattan-based ER doctor tragically lost her life to suicide.

Understanding Dissociation

Blue Knot has recently released a new set of guidelines for practitioners. It’s called: Practice Guidelines for Identifying and Treating Complex Trauma-Related Dissociation. It’s an important set of guidelines because dissociation is common. It is especially common for people who have experienced repeated early trauma, including abuse.  It is also important because many practitioners don’t know how to recognise when a person is dissociating or how to respond. 

Dissociation in simple terms means not paying attention and not being present. It can be seen as the opposite of mindfulness because it means disconnecting from the here and now. We all dissociate at times. This is ‘normal’ everyday dissociation. Examples include daydreaming or becoming so absorbed in a task that the world around us fades into the distance. Many of us can drive as though on autopilot – not focussed on the act of driving but arriving safely regardless. When we dissociate, our mind escapes into another space. 

Dissociation can be understood as occurring on a continuum, with symptoms from mild to moderate to severe. ‘Normal’ everyday dissociation occurs at one end of this continuum, and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) which is generated by severe trauma, would be at the other. Yet trauma-generated dissociation - the product of overwhelming stress-including complex trauma – can help us cope in the short term. In the longer term, however, dissociation can become challenging. 

It has been found that many psychological problems are attempts to keep dissociated experience outside of awareness. Dissociation at the more extreme end of the continuum is classified into disorders (as in the case of DID). Many people immediately think of DID when they think about dissociation. Often this is the only context in which the term `dissociation’ is considered at all. This also applies to practitioners who often miss the milder forms of dissociation in the clients they see. That’s why the guidelines are so important.

It is important to understand that dissociation in childhood starts off as a defence against overwhelm. This can happen when a person has experienced trauma early in life and/or it has been repeated over time. It can also occur in the absence of trauma, e.g. the people caring for a child may be unattuned and unresponsive to the child’s needs because they have not recovered from their own trauma. A person – and especially a child who cannot fight or flee but only freeze - can dissociate during a trauma experience. They can also dissociate later on when being reminded of the trauma or when trauma memories return. People usually don’t know when they are dissociating because they are literally `out of awareness’. Sometimes other people notice it and are confused about what is happening. A person who is dissociating might look glazed or seem spaced out. It can be experienced as the mind wandering and not staying focussed. While it can be good to `chill’ it is also possible to be chilled too often and too much. If this is the case we become disconnected from the here and now and life can literally `pass us by’.

Studies show changes to the brain as well as impacts on the body which happen with dissociation. These reflect the challenges many survivors have in regulating their emotions and levels of arousal, as well as connecting sensations and body states. 

If you did not receive the care and nurture you needed as a child, you may dissociate frequently as an adult. People who experience frequent dissociation as an adult may notice:

Feelings of being disconnected from their own body and sense of self. This is called depersonalisation
Feelings of being disconnected from the world around them. This is called derealisation
Challenges remembering things - amnesia which can occur in mild (`micro’ amnesia) as well as severe forms-
Confusion about who they are. This is called identity confusion
A sense that their identity has changed. Some people may have a sense of what their identity was before. Others may not. This is called identity alteration.

Dissociation becomes a problem when it interferes with everyday life. It can affect concentration at school or work. Some people lose time or struggle to remember things. The good news is that just as people with complex trauma can and do recover, people who dissociate, or who have been diagnosed with dissociative disorders (and personality disorders in which dissociation is common) can also find pathways to healing.

The following are some things that can and do help:

Healthy eating 

Grounding strategies
• Therapy and counselling (with practitioners experienced in supporting people with complex trauma experiences and dissociation).

Go here to purchase or download any Blue Knot publication including the new guidelines.

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Understanding the Disability Royal Commission and the services that are available to support it

What is the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability? 

The Disability Royal Commission (“DRC”) commenced in April 2019 for a period of at least 3 years.

According to its website, the DRC is charged with independently investigating “widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability”.  1 in 5 Australians currently live with a disability, and it is well established that people with disability face higher levels of violence, neglect and discrimination than people without disabilities.  

Understanding the DRC’s key terms 

The DRC is very much based on observing the human rights principles contained in The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The DRC view:

People with disability to be people with any kind of impairment, whether existing at birth or acquired through illness, accident or the ageing process, including cognitive impairment and physical, sensory, intellectual and psycho-social disability.

Violence and abuse to include assault, sexual assault, constraints, restrictive practices (physical and chemical), forced treatments, forced interventions, humiliation and harassment, financial and economic abuse and significant violations of privacy and dignity on a systemic or individual basis.

Neglect to include physical and emotional neglect, passive neglect and wilful deprivation. Neglect can be a single significant incident or a systemic issue that involves depriving a person with disability of the basic necessities of life such as food, drink, shelter, access, mobility, clothing, education, medical care and treatment.

Exploitation to include the improper use of another person or the improper use of or withholding of another person’s assets, labour, employment or resources including taking physical, sexual, financial or economic advantage.

What are the DRC’s stated aims?

Preventing and better protecting people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation;

Achieving best practice in reporting, investigating and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability; and

Promoting a more inclusive society that supports people with disability to be independent and live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

How can people tell the DRC their story?

They can make a submission in writing, by phone, or in a video or sound recording.  They can also share their experience in a private session with a Commissioner or at a public hearing.

What are some of the potential benefits of making a submission to the DRC?

Many people who are making submissions to the DRC are motivated to seek justice for themselves and to prevent further harm coming to themselves or others.

It can be both healing and empowering to have someone to tell your story of abuse to.

It is important for the government to hear from disabled people and their supporters about the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation they have experienced, so they can act on this information.  

Some people also find it empowering to be involved in a human rights process like the DRC.

What are some of the potential risks involved in making a submission to the DRC?

The experience of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation is inherently traumatic.  It is likely to leave people who have been exposed to single or repeated traumatic experiences with deep trauma impacts.  

Some people with disabilities may not have spoken to many people about the trauma/s they have experienced, or received supportive counselling for this before.  Many people may find themselves feeling distressed and/or overwhelmed over telling their stories to the DRC, or seeking help to do this.  

Both are perfectly normal responses, and we are here to help with this.

What support can the National Counselling and Referral Service offer?

Blue Knot Foundation provides phone counselling to people who have experienced complex trauma.  We are offering an independent short-term counselling and referral service to people who have been affected by the DRC or who have experienced abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation. Many people calling our service are also affected by changes related to Coronavirus. You do not have to have made a submission to the DRC to access our service - our calls are confidential and you can ring us anonymously if you like.

We are open 7 days a week, from 9am-6pm AEST weekdays, and from 9am-5pm AEST on weekends and public holidays.
Your call to the DRC hotline may be transferred directly onto us for emotional support, or you can call us directly on 1800 421 468

We are able to provide you with:

Short-term, trauma informed counselling over the phone or online, particularly around any feelings of distress you may have over the trauma you have experienced. 

We can also support you to find services to which we can refer you for:

• Practical supports in your local area;

Ongoing trauma counselling near you - to help you manage the impacts of trauma on you;

Ongoing advocacy services near you - including help telling your story to the DRC if you want to, and potentially any other matters you may need help with; and

Legal assistance - for advice around the legal side of making a submission to the DRC if you wish.

How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected the Disability Royal Commission?

The Disability Royal Commission have had to stop holding public hearings and private sessions for now but are still accepting submissions by phone and in writing.  

The DRC have also issued a media release and Statement of Concern that has been responded to by The Australian Government and the United Nations over the serious impacts they worry COVID19 may have on people with disabilities.

While many of the ongoing advocacy, counselling and legal services supporting the DRC have been disrupted by the Coronavirus in some way, most are still open and providing assistance in different ways.

Blue Knot’s short-term counselling and referral service is continuing to operate and connect people with ongoing support services as usual on 1800 421 468.

In addition, The Disability Royal Commission are now taking submissions in relation to The Emergency Planning and Response paper they published on 15 April 2020, seeking responses from people with disability, their families or carers, about the specific difficulties they may have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Summer bushfires, or any other emergencies between now and 17 July 2020. You can find that paper here.

• More information can be found here at the DSS website.


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Blue Knot Foundation Supports Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Online child sexual exploitation and abuse is a global crime that demands a global response. In an increasingly digital and borderless world, this crime is becoming easier to commit, more extreme in nature and growing in scale. These crimes have a devastating and lasting impact on victims and survivors, and offenders continuously adapt and diversify their methods as technology rapidly evolves.
Five Country Governments (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States), in close consultation with six leading technology companies (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter) and a broad range of experts from industry, civil society and academia, looked to address this threat by developing the new Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.  The Voluntary Principles have been co-designed with industry to guide technology companies’ efforts to safeguard children on online platforms and services.

The Voluntary Principles were officially launched by Five Country Ministers in Washington DC on 5 March 2020. Please feel free to take a look at the video of the launch, the transcript of the Minister for Home Affairs’ address, and the Department of Home Affairs’ media release.  

Blue Knot Foundation is proud to support the Voluntary Principles, and acknowledges the crucial work being undertaken globally across government and private sectors in addressing this crime and abuse of children.  There is still work to be done, with some global players yet to formally adopt the principles which would greatly improve the safety of children online.  Blue Knot Foundation also acknowledges the work undertaken by WePROTECT Global Alliance to promote implementation of the Voluntary Principles internationally and to drive collective industry action. 

Read more here


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Thank you for sharing your Blue Sky Moment

Thanks to everyone who has shared a #BlueSkyMoment. Each and every post captures a hope for healing for survivors of complex trauma, and all in the community grappling with the restrictions and impacts of #COVID19.

You can see all of the Blue Sky Moments on our Instagram page here

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Disclaimer - Blue Knot Foundation makes every effort to provide readers of its website and newsletters with information which is accurate and helpful. It is not however a substitute for counselling or professional advice. While all attempts have been made to verify all information provided, Blue Knot Foundation cannot guarantee and does not assume any responsibility for currency, errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the information provided.