matt pipkin

On July 23rd in the Kansas City area, Rethink Trauma is holding a gala in support of Speak Your Silence. I recently interviewed Matt to get some more detail into the specifics of the organization

Matt Pipkin is a pretty contagious guy. He doesn’t look like what people typically think of when they close their eyes and picture a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Which, really, ties into what he, The Stitch, and Speak Your Silence, are all about.

Sexual abuse doesn’t discriminate and the outcomes look different for each person. Childhood traumas and how they affect the adults and adolescents who have suffered through them is something that is slowly being understood. Evidence is mounting that proves time doesn’t heal all wounds.

Speak Your Silence (SYS) is exactly the kind of group that Rethink Trauma is pleased to partner with. They offer clarity and seek to talk about a real issue without leaving people unsupported.

SYS has broken support into essentially three steps:

1. Combat stigma
This is the main mission at SYS. My favorite part about interviewing Matt for this post is how he treats the subject of childhood sexual abuse. To him, it isn’t a hush hush thing. It’s not like so many awareness campaigns that dig up issues like this and then seem to just leave you hanging in your vulnerability. Some awareness campaigns can feel like they are walking your issues into the light only to leave you yourself in the shadows. SYS isn’t like that. To Matt, we should be champions of the cause, not victims. Those who have lived through the experience are taught and armed with ways to heal and to draw others out into the light.

2. Create Opportunity for Healing
Access to therapy is a struggle for nearly everyone I encounter. It won’t be covered by insurance or it will only be covered for a few sessions. Seeing counselors, even when there is a sliding scale for payment, can get more expensive than those suffering can afford. When I didn’t have insurance, therapy was usually around $45 a session. Add on a $100 visit to the psychiatrist to get medications and multiply that $45 by the once a week I was supposed to go and I couldn’t afford treatment. I didn’t qualify for any assistance. Seeing practicum students, though free, was not useful as my circumstances were in need of someone with more experience.
That’s just my experience. Others have different stories of being told that an initial appointment would be $350. Many people have turned away from therapy altogether because of expense.
So what do you do? It is difficult to stay positive or get comfortable enough to talk about the issues that you’re facing when there is a giant price tag hanging over your head.
SYS has developed a program whereby you can gain access to therapy for childhood sexual abuse, even if you can’t afford it. Simply apply on their site and they will connect you to a service that will help you find a therapist in your area. Instead of a huge bill, patients are asked to pay a small copay. SYS has found that in about ten sessions, most people were able to work through the trauma of his or her sexual abuse. Of course that amount is different depending on the circumstances, but ten sessions is an amazing place to start. Plus, getting connected to guaranteed help can be the first critical step towards recovery.

3. Empowerment -The Stitch
The Stitch is the hands on way that SYS has created for anyone to become an advocate for change and a voice for those whom have suffered childhood sexual abuse. It is a simple orange thread sewed into a zig zag. It represents our unique voice and with it, our story. Wearing The Stitch is a way to show solidarity and encourage others to bring the truth of their experiences into the light. Matt put it this way, if you have that secret and you see in a room of 50 people someone wearing The Stitch, it could be the confidence to share with them what you’ve been hiding. Now, make that room full of people wearing The Stitch all for different reasons, anyone who is struggling will feel safe and those who have struggled through it already will feel supported.

Often victims of sexual abuse are told that they must keep the abuse a secret. Abusers will use threats of violence to keep victims quiet. Silence is a major key of control and manipulation. Victims are fed lies about what will happen if they come forward, that no one will believe them or that the abuser will hurt people they love.

Information on how to handle being told that someone you care about has been abused is also often lacking, so poor reactions can keep survivors from getting the help that they need.

SYS is developing ways through The Stitch and encouraging survivors to share their experiences of healing to create safety for those who have not yet had the ability to come forward.

Matt talked about in our interview (and you can read more in the SYS blog) how therapy helped him realize his worth. He and SYS are on a mission to help people whose perceptions have been corrupted by abuse to realize that what they’ve been sold is a lie. They are of infinite worth. You are of infinite worth.

Silence lets the abuser control us long after the actions have taken place. Breaking the silence flies in the face of that control and says, “I don’t belong to you anymore.”

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I can tell you that I have had to fight to remind myself that I am worth love and acceptance. I’ve had to train myself to remember that I’m the boss of my body and that no one gets to tell me what to do with it. It was a long and troubled road to admit what happened to me, but I did and now it doesn’t control me.

I am so glad that SYS exists so that people like me can have more opportunity to embrace the courage that’s inside of them to heal from childhood sexual abuse.


Rethink Trauma is proud to be supporting Speak Your Silence on July 23rd at the Emaline Ballroom in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Tickets start at just $45.00 through May 31st.

Learn more at the event site.
Follow us on Facebook to get updates on the gala.

abuse, anxiety, C-PTSD, caregivers, childhood sexual abuse, comfort, complex trauma, courage, depression, Faith, healing, hope, Life, Matt Pipkin, mental illness, PTSD, recovery, sexual abuse, speak your silence, the stitch, Trauma