In Memory of Dana Raphael

Upcoming holidays – 6/6 D-Day, the invasion of France in WW2 (Nazi): 6/19 Fathers’ Day (US and Canada): 6/20 is both a full moon and the summer solstice

I had planned to finish the eating disorders series, but let too much time slide by. It will come in June, I promise.

Dana Raphael passed away on February 2 of this year. She was one of the pioneers in the field of women’s and children’s health and ritual abuse as it affects the bond between women and their children. I knew her personally and she followed my work closely. I didn’t think of her as a mentor, but rather as a cheerleader. Since there hadn’t been many cheerleaders in my life, I was very, very grateful.

I knew that her life’s work was the Human Lactation Center, which she had co-founded with Margaret Mead in 1975. I didn’t know that she introduced the word doula and that she wrote “The Tender Gift: Breastfeeding,” which people called “the Bible of breastfeeding.” It addresses stigma and medical concerns as well as giving advice and encouragement to new mothers. Pretty damn good for 1973.

Dana’s interest in breastfeeding as important to the well-being of both mothers and infants broadened to include oppression of women, child sexual abuse, and ritual abuse. She became known at the United Nations because The Human Lactation Foundation participated in a large study of lactation and infant growth sponsored by the World Health Organization and co-funded by NIH and USDA. From this work came a strong connection with the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women.

Here is an article in which she describes how she came to be involved with ritual abuse issues–torture.html. In it, she speaks of attending the 2003 S.M.A.R.T conference and being very moved by being in the presence of so many ritual abuse survivors. I was at that conference and witnessed the moment when Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald said they wished they could present on ritual abuse at the United Nations. Dana said, “I think I can help. Speak to me afterwards.” That was the beginning of a yearly meeting on ritual abuse at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women.

One year – I think it was 2005 – she asked me to be part of the panel. I was honored, I was overwhelmed, and I was scared of having flashbacks, as most of my abuse had taken place in New York City. Despite mixed feelings, I asked Dana what to wear (she said anything that makes you feel like a million dollars), took a deep breath, and accepted. After the presentation, I stepped out onto the street and started having non-stop flashbacks. That dress no longer fits but I cannot bring myself to give it away.

Dana’s accomplishments were many and her interests far-ranging. At the time of her death, she was Executive Director of the Eleventh Commandment Foundation, a NGO that researches the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse on women’s experience of pregnancy, labor, childbirth and lactation. She was an adjunct professor at the Yale School of Medicine and lectured all over the world. She received two Fulbright awards, was involved in more than fifty conferences and symposiums, and wrote or edited five books and over fifty articles.

As if she didn’t have enough to do, she was also on the Board of Directors of the Club of Rome, which is working on climate change issues. And then there was her family, the New York City Ballet, the Connecticut Ballet, the American Museum of Natural History, the Audubon Society, and more I will never find out about.

Here is a picture of the Dana I knew; bright, curious, eager, open to whatever is in the moment. I am grateful that I knew her and wish she were still with us.

DAna Prof photos (8)

Lynne Moss-Sharmon: An Extraordinary Person

I found out recently that Lynne Moss-Sharmon died on March 14, 2014 at the age of 65. We met long ago, probably before 1993. Our relationship, of course, centered around ritual abuse and mind control, although I was well aware of her activism in the Native American community. A dream catcher made by her specially for me has hung over my bed for twenty years. She sent me a wonderful cartoon for my refrigerator. It shows a baby looking up expectantly, then grown into a little girl, then into a woman, then into an old woman, who says, “Well, that sucked.” Cracks me up.

I was really sad but not surprised to hear of her death. I knew she was sick and I had not heard from her in several years. I wonder who will carry on her work, who will be inspired by her, who will receive her wisdom in a dream. The world feel peculiar to me without her.

This was written about Lynne when she was nominated by E. Jane Mundy for the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism. Not sure if she got the award, but she should have. It’s posted at


Lynne Moss Sharman is a trauma survivor of organized child abuse and of domestic violence, who has spent the last twenty-five years educating and assisting other survivors The daughter of a Cape Breton Highlander from Newfoundland and a Scottish war bride, she grew up and lived in Hamilton before moving to Halifax at age 24 to study at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design. Nine months pregnant, Lynne escaped an abusive relationship in Halifax just before giving birth to her only child, Zena. She then relocated back to the Hamilton area where she started an artist-run photographic gallery at Wesley Community Centre. While running the gallery with funding from the Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council, Lynne assisted in the creation of the Native Indian/Inuit Photographers Association and the first conference for Native and Inuit photographers to be held anywhere in the world.

In 1987, she felt impelled to move with her seven-year-old daughter to Thunder Bay to continue her cultural work with the Ojibwe people. Guidance came to her in the form of a complex dream of seven native grandfathers each of whom told her a different part of a generational story. Subsequently she became involved with the Native community through the creation of Definitely Superior, an artist-run gallery for which she acquired operational and curatorial grants. After a chance ride with cab driver Willy John, who described his dream of hosting a conference of WWII Native Veterans from Northwestern Ontario, Lynne drafted grant applications and organized the first reunion of these veterans, followed by another gathering attended by Elijah Harper.

In Thunder Bay, Lynne began going to native healing circles where she met different elders and started unraveling her own memories of severe childhood trauma. Later, with the help of a therapist who had worked with survivors of severe abuse including residential school survivors, Lynne began uncovering memories of Cold War medical experimentation dating from her early childhood. With therapist Kerry Bourret’s support, Lynne made over 150 drawings including portraits of doctors and sketches of procedures and implements used. Other victims of similar abuse, including some who testified in 1994 at the Clinton Commission on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE), later validated these drawings. Together with other survivors, Lynne approached the Ontario government and secured funding to put on three conferences in the mid 1990s, which were well attended by both native and non-native survivors. Workers from various social agencies came from Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, and Winnipeg, along with residential school survivors from fly-in reserves.

Receiving a one-year contract to do art therapy with boys in foster care and group homes, and frustrated by the unresponsiveness of certain agencies who often sent abused children back to live with their perpetrators, Lynne completed her Honors’ degree in Social Work at Lakehead University so she could become a stronger advocate for victims.

Over the years as both a spokesperson and archivist, Lynne has built a library of much-needed information on Ritual Abuse, CIA experimentation on children and prisoners, missing and murdered native women, trafficking of women and children, Native survivors of adoption and current abuses involving CAS and Dilico Ojibwe Child & Family Services. Her archive on missing and murdered native women is the largest in Canada, highly valued as an important resource by the Aboriginal Native Women’s Association.

Lynne’s outreach has touched thousands of survivors globally and continues to grow. As an advocate for native women, Lynne has been active in the Elizabeth Fry Society, and compiled 23 Gladue Reports for Ojibwe and Cree women imprisoned in Thunder Bay. One particular outcome reduced a woman’s 25-year sentence to seven years with no restrictions on probation. Significantly, the Crown Attorney who had recommended the longer sentence was mandated to undergo Anti Racism training.

Twenty-six years after receiving the dreams and instructions from the Seven Grandfathers, Lynne, now 65, has never left Thunder Bay. Like many of her Anishinawbe friends, she suffers from poor health. Over a lifetime of dedicated volunteering, she recently was diagnosed with a rare lung disease often found in remote First Nation and Inuit communities and among native people who live on urban streets.

She remains deeply appreciative of the native Elders and healers for keeping her alive during her difficult healing journey. Her resourcefulness and tenacity have saved many lives. Her daughter Zena, a Ph.D. graduate currently working in gender and health care research at the University of British Columbia, is further proof that the cycle of child abuse can be broken, giving way to a full and active life.

Lynne hopes to donate her archives to a research / healing center where it could become an important resource for survivors from both native and non-native communities as well as for academic and other researchers studying the history of racial, institutional and domestic torture in Canada.

Lynne’s contributions in breaking the silence on violent crimes against humanity, the library of archives and her fight for social injustices has been invaluable for countless individuals. As well, it has created a safer place to raise our children in Ontario and through out the world. I believe Lynne is most deserving of the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism.

Mike Skinner, Activist Musician

Mike splits his time between his music, teaching about abuse and mental health stigma,  “Surviving Spirit” (a non-profit and also a newsletter), his family, many friends, and fun things, like hiking and camping. As you might guess, he has a lot of energy.

He had an awful childhood that included physical, sexual and emotional abuse from his parents and their friends. What saved him was reading about people who survived against all odds and the Beatles, who opened up another world to him. He became a drummer and joined local bands, eventually touring England for two years with the hard rock band “American Train.” He then spent fifteen years running a small record company and managing an agency that booked 20-30 groups.

At that point, Mike had a flood of memories and came into the mental health system. Here is an excerpt from his blog at

“I came to dread those words (‘mental illness’ or ‘mentally ill’) back in the early to mid nineties, when the horrors of my childhood abuse came back to ‘visit’ me in 1993. I became grief-stricken and overwhelmed by the terror associated with my early life. I was numb with shock and pain and deeply depressed because I was finally dealing with the unresolved sadness, hurt and losses associated with my childhood years. The flashbacks associated with that time frame seemed to roll on in an endless loop – having to ‘watch’ and revisit all of the sexual abuse memories I had worked so hard to suppress was overwhelming and it brought great suffering. Labels were placed upon the experiences I was having now, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] and Major Depression…and yes, within those descriptions came the many treatment providers letting me know that I was “mentally ill”, and life as I knew it was over. My life, as they were prescribing, would be one of over-medication and the belief that I would never be able to work again. Hmm…a person becomes sad, frightened and overwhelmed because of these horrible life experiences and that means you are destined to a life of nothingness? Wow! How sad and oh-so wrong to believe that. Please know, there were some wonderful mental health treatment providers who did not espouse these hurtful views to me, but sadly, many of them were part of a “mental health” system that did believe in these warped thoughts.”
Well, Mike  proved them wrong, in spades, and built a whole new career based on helping others.

Because of how he was treated when he was in the first stages of coming to terms with his past, he puts  “Please know, I AM NOT A DIAGNOSIS” and “A diagnosis is not a destiny!” all over his websites and newsletters.

Mike writes and performs in two areas, abuse education and fighting mental health stigma, and everything else. Everything else includes his own songs about life, love, loss and hope and cover songs from the Beatles, The Eagles, Cat Stevens and classic rock. He performs  in settings ranging from intimate coffee shops to concert halls with audiences of several thousand.

His music of advocacy and education is performed just about any place people want him. Some of the big names that did want him are Oprah Winfrey, the United Nations, and the State Department.  He’s on the Board of Directors of dozens of non-profits working to end child abuse and human trafficking and has spoken on Webinars, TV and the radio.

Plus he puts out a monthly newsletter describing about 20 artists and activists involved in healing projects; “Surviving Spirit: Healing the Heart Through the Creative Arts.” It has several thousand subscribers internationally.  He’s also active in the non-profit of the same name. You would think he worked thirty-hour days, without sleep.

Now if you are a musician, a writer, a dancer, an artist working in paint, ink, sculpture, fabric (or just about anything else) or a public speaker on child abuse or the stigma of “mental illness,” please remember that Mike is extraordinary in many ways. Try not to compare yourself with him! Each of us is different, each has a different talent and approach. And we need every single person to stand together and give strength to all of us for this long, hard, but intensely rewarding fight.

Use Mike as inspiration to help you start and get through the day. Please write him, let him know what you are doing and ask to be included in the newsletter, so that you, too, will inspire others. You will join his circle of friends and learn of many people doing fascinating work.

You can listen to tracks from his three CD’s, “Train of Tears,” “Waitin’ for a Train,” and “Pirates.” Go to and pull down the “Music” tab.

Check out the back issues of “The Surviving Spirit” at
Ask to subscribe at