Today, we’re chatting with the one and only Benir Pierre!
The founder of Rising Phoenix Abuse Recovery Coaching sat down to talk about the healing process, how she nurtures it through her unique style of coaching, and of course, The 2016 Sweet Peach Soiree! She also has some great advice for those of us who love and care for survivors.Check out the interview below:
Rising Phoenix Abuse Recovery Coaching: Tell us a little about what made you decide to launch Rising Phoenix?
Benir Pierre: Most people know that I am a survivor of abuse myself, but I also studied Social Work in college and did internships in the field, including work with Child Protective Services. That gave me the opportunity to see firsthand not only how children are affected by trauma, but how entire families are affected.
Having that experience, in addition to working through my own past, helped me see not only how important it was for survivors to receive counseling and coaching immediately after trauma happens, but it also revealed the need for something that addresses the long-term effects of abuse. I created Rising Phoenix Abuse Recovery Coaching to fill that need.
RPARC: And what are some of the issues that arise with untreated trauma.
Benir Pierre: Untreated trauma is very sneaky. It can affect every part of your life and yet it’s so subtle, that you don’t even realize what going on. So of course we know the major symptoms would be depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, drug abuse, and promiscuity. But most people don’t think about how it also affects children’s behavior or concentration in school. People don’t think about how it can hamper an adult’s self-esteem and sense of identity. There are so many ways that abuse impacts us, but the good thing is that you can heal from those things. It doesn’t have to always affect you. One of my goals with Rising Phoenix is to help survivors use that pain as their power.
RPARC: One of the many ways you’re channeling your own pain into power is through your writing. You wrote a hard-hitting piece for your web site called 11 Truths Every Abuse Survivor Must Know. In it, you tackled several issues that no one really ever talks about. One of the most striking truths was “It’s natural to miss your abuser”. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Benir Pierre: Well, if we’re looking at domestic violence, a survivor may struggle with the fact that their abuser is a spouse, someone they love and promised to spend a life with. If we’re talking about child abuse, the abuser may be a friend of the family or even a parent. There is an internal struggle with wanting to believe the best in this person and wanting to believe that you can make things better, that if you do things differently, or if you could be smarter or quieter, or just be good and not cause so much trouble, then things will change.
So once you get to that point of realizing that there isn’t really anything that you can do and you choose to live healthy and put yourself first, it’s absolutely natural to miss someone to whom you dedicated so much of your life, someone who you were supposed to be able to depend on, and who you loved, even if they hurt you. Survivors shouldn’t feel guilty about that.
RPARC: Another truth you explored was: “Forgiveness is not a pardon”. Do you think some survivors withhold forgiveness because they feel like it would be giving their abusers a pass?
BenirPierre: Absolutely. They feel that to say “you’re forgiven” is akin to saying that what their abuser did is okay. That it means “I forget it. We can move on and make nice. We’re good.” That’s not forgiveness. Forgiveness is simply saying “I release you. I release the anger. I release the bitterness. I release the pain. You affected my life while you hurt me and after. I choose consciously right now to no longer allow you to affect me.” That’s what forgiveness is. It’s washing your hands. And sometimes that does look like making amends and moving forward in a healthy way, but moving forward in a healthy way doesn’t mean that your abuser moves forward with you.
RPARC: What advice do you have for people who love and care for a survivor?
Benir Pierre: I think the first piece of advice would be to not to take things personally. Someone who is dealing with the effects of trauma a lot of times doesn’t even understand that their behavior is a direct correlation of what happened.
Also knowing that healing is not always going from point A to point B and Voila!, they’re over it. Give them the compassion to have their own unique journey, no matter how long it takes or what it looks like. But of course, knowing that if their journey means that they are abusing you, then you need to take the steps to protect yourself.
Another way of being supportive is really holding space for your loved one without judgment or expectation. Just creating a safe space to foster that open and honest discussion. Letting them know that you are there to listen and help them find resources … because of a lot of times, people want tools, they want to change, they just don’t know where to begin. Support also comes in learning how to be an ally and advocate for them, even with themselves. And if they’re doing something unhealthy, instead of coming from a judgmental place, show them a new normal, and that it doesn’t have to be that way.
RPARC: And when it comes to getting that help, a lot of people don’t really understand the difference between coaching and counseling. Can you explain it for us?
Benir Piere: As a coach, I tend to work with people who have gone through counseling or are currently in counseling and are in need of some real life tools. Counseling is really great for helping you understand things that have happened or getting to the root of things. Coaching gives you the tools to move from that point forward.
Another way to look at it is that with coaching, we’re starting from where you are, looking at the patterns that you’ve made in your life, and figuring out how to change those things moving forward. Understanding what happened, is an important key in that as well, which is why both counseling and coaching play a role in healing.
RPARC: You have a very special event coming up in few weeks. Tell us about the 2016 Sweet Peach Soirée!
Benir Pierre: I am really excited about this! I think that a lot of times, when we have discussions about women’s sexual wellness, it’s always coming from a scholarly perspective. So the 2016 Sweet Peach Soirée is aimed at bringing sexual wellness education to the everyday woman.
Of course there are those moments when we sit around with our girlfriends and have discussions, but for the most part I feel like talking about sex in our community is kind of hush-hush. Sweet Peach will give us an opportunity to talk about things that we’ve always wanted to know. In addition, understanding that so many of our women have experienced sexual abuse and rape, we’ll also look at how trauma affects sexuality, how to foster healing, and how to develop partner intimacy and enjoy sex again.
RPARC: And there are some very fun extras and a very special host?
BenirPierre: Absolutely! Of course we have Tony and Emmy-Award winning poet Georgia Me as our host. She was on every season of Def Poets and is an amazing speaker. We have body painting by SkinzArt Bodyart Agency. We’re auctioning off really amazing prizes like yoni eggs, health coaching, and tickets to Love Jones the Musical. There will be vendors, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, more than $1600 in prizes and giveaways, and a really fun surprise that we might give a few hints about as we get closer.
RPARC: What is the main thing you’d like the audience to take away from the Soiree?
Benir Pierre: I want them to know that events like this — where we go really deep into healing and we’re kind of cleaning out these closets that we’ve filled with all this baggage — can really be exciting and powerful! There may be some tears shed but there will be so many laughs and so much inspiration and fun — probably the most fun you’ve had all year — all mixed into a truly transformative event.
There is so much more to this powerful interview with Benir Pierre! If you’d like to read the entire transcript, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Interview Transcript” in the subject line.