“I want everyone to know that anything is possible. That’s why we wrote a play- so that people will see my life from a completely different perspective. It’s a story of survival, and overcoming amazing obstacles”
When sexual abuse occurs in childhood it is traumatizing and can result in symptoms comparable to those from war-related trauma. Survivors experience more suicidal ideation than those who have not been abused. Childhood sexual abuse can hinder normal social growth and be a cause of many different psychosocial problems. While depression is the most common long-term symptom among survivors, other survivors experience higher levels of guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual dysfunction, and relationship dysfunction.
It has been shown that survivors frequently take personal responsibility for the abuse. When the sexual abuse is done by an esteemed trusted adult it may be hard for the children to view the perpetrator in a negative light, thus leaving them incapable of seeing what happened as not their fault.
As mentioned in Theo’s bio his mission statement is to “Help as many people get to where they want to go. It has taken shape in many forms, whether meeting people for a brief moment on the street or as a dynamic inspirational speaker with the intention of creating healing through conversation”, or though experiencing this play. Playing With Fire creates the opportunity for the audience member who has experienced trauma to “Feel safe through experiencing Theo’s vulnerability” and ultimately sends a message of hope.
“You are not alone.”
Below are a few examples of the influence Playing With Fire on stage has had on audience members in the community as well as links to resources for help and healing.
An Open Letter from the Marie-Vincent Foundation
An open letter from the foundation Marie- Vincent foundation in Montreal composed after two of their staff came to see a performance.
On October 15th, the Centaur theatre invited practitioners from the Marie-Vincent Foundation to participate in a talkback session following a showing of their current play “Playing with fire: The Theo Fleury story”. This is a letter aimed at continuing the conversation that was started on that day.
Recent social media movements aiming at urging the way-too-many victims of sexual violence to disclose are important. They represent a great step towards the acknowledgement of the ugly truth that sexual violence is a lot more prevalent than we might want to believe. However, we notice that children are too often left out of these movements and their experiences remain hidden and undiscussed.
When sexual violence involves children, we must understand and tackle the issue of disclosure differently than we would for the adult population. We believe that instead of urging children victims of sexual violence to disclose we should ask ourselves what is keeping them from doing it and then think about our responsibility towards change. As a matter of fact, when it comes to sexual violence disclosure, the obstacles that prevent it are often more powerful than the factors that might encourage it. Therefore, as a society, we must understand these obstacles and thrive to tear them down.
Whether it is their misunderstanding of what sexuality actually is which prevents them from understanding that nobody has the right to force them or manipulate them into participating in sexual acts; whether it is the heavy stigma that is associated with sexual victimization – even more so when it comes to male victims; whether it is the fact that some of these victims are isolated or witnesses of so many other forms of abuse which makes sexual violence feel like the norm; whether they are terrified of the idea of being blamed or not believed or of what might happen if they speak; we, as a adults, have a responsibility towards insuring every child’s security and we must stand up and act on helping these children feel safe enough to talk to us.
Child sexual violence is a crime of secrets. Child sexual violence is a crime of darkness. This leads us to wrongly believe that it is a lot less prevalent than it actually is. For every one out of five girls and for every one out of ten boys that will be sexually victimized before the age of 18, let us build environments that support open discussions around sexuality and sexual violence. Let us prevent sexual violence by teaching our children about the importance of equal relationships between boys and girls, but also about respectful and safe relationships between children and adults. Let us support parents in engaging in talks of safety around sexuality and in communicating to their children that they are open to hearing their questions about it. Let us make preventative services available to children in daycare, school, sports and social activities settings. Let us be loud and clear and vigorously condemn any act of sexual violence that we witness or that we hear about. Most importantly, through our actions, let us send a clear message to our children that when they talk, we listen. When they talk, we believe. When they talk, we do our best to help them. When they talk, we aim to protect them. Because, although sexual violence is designed to be a crime of loneliness, they should not be alone in this. Let us show them that we are ready and willing to support them when they say #metoo.
A Letter from a Fan
I saw your show last night and wanted to tell you how much
I loved your performance. I am a sexual abuse survivor, as
a child, and while I am 70 years old, was so moved by your
portrayal of Theo. The last 15 minutes I held back tears,
grabbed my husbands hand and almost ran out at the end to a
private street and cried. The hurt child is always there,
and, like Theo and many other survivors, the child needs to
be loved, and forgiven. Your emotional speech to that
child was incredible, especially after such a physical and
Thank you! Thank you!
Resources for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
THEOREN’S FOUNDATION AND WEBSITES
Breaking Free Foundation: https://breakingfreefoundation.ca/
Kim Barthel and Theo; Conversations with a Rattlesnake: http://kimandtheo.com/
Theo Fleury Life: https://www.theofleury.life/
Canadian Mental Health Association: https://cmha.ca/
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder association of Canada: http://www.ptsdassociation.com/
Me too: https://metoomvmt.org/
SURVIVORS OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
ONTARIO COALITION OF RAPE CRISIS CENTRES
SEXUAL ABUSE IN SPORT
ABUSE SURVIVOR RESOURCES CANADA
CANADIAN RED CROSS
CANADIAN CHILD WELFARE RESEARCH PORTAL
CANADIAN RESOURCE CENTRE FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME
NATIONAL CENTRE FOR POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH
ANXIETY BC – PTSD
DAVID BALDWIN’S TRAUMA INFORMATION PAGES – COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
GIFT FROM WITHIN
MENTAL FITNESS FOR TEENS
RAISE PTSD AWARENESS
Read the PDF article
INTERNATIONAL TRAUMA LIFE SUPPORT
Resources for Addiction Recovery
ALCOHOL REHAB GUIDE