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The moving, sad, and inspiring story below is from Elizabeth Braverman, a Clinical Psychologist, artist, writer, public speaker, and a longtime follower and supporter of Kidpower. We are sharing this story because it has important lessons for people like yourself who care about the safety of children.

TRIGGER WARNING: This story starts with the death of a child.

Elizabeth’s Story

Selfie of Elizabeth
In the early 1970’s when I was a child, I found the body of a dead child in the woods. The main tragedy didn’t happen to me. I didn’t die. But the proximity of the other girl’s death affected the entire rest of my life.

I have often wondered how the trajectory of my life might have been different if I had known Kidpower skills from an early age. What if I had learned to find a trusted adult to tell what was happening to me? What if I had practiced continuing to tell until I got the help I needed like Kidpower teaches? What if my parents knew how to identify signs of distress in children? What if they were educated in how to listen, elicit information, support and comfort me as a child?

People who receive support following trauma are significantly less likely to develop PTSD. How different my life could have been with that kind of support early on! Maybe I could have more fully enjoyed my life and been better able to use my abilities to help others. I am sharing my story now to uplift the importance of Kidpower’s work, and to bring a new level of closure to a tragic event to which I was a witness.

I don’t remember if I told anyone. Maybe I couldn’t find words to describe the horror I had witnessed. Maybe I was afraid to upset my parents or lure danger to my home. Maybe I tried to tell but was dismissed or misunderstood. There are many reasons a child might remain silent or not be heard. Miraculously, after my family moved from that area, the memory of what happened there got lost for many years. It got buried under the layers of day after day facts, activities, and concerns; under the mundane. But of course, the memory of something that horrendous doesn’t just go away.

I continued living a good life on the surface. I earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, traveled to different places, and truly enjoyed many aspects of life. But I always carried an inner pain and turmoil which I didn’t understand and hid from other people. Then, in my early 30’s, I was taking care of a friend following a medical procedure and this experience triggered the re-emergence of memories of the girl that died, along with a lot of chaos and confusion in my psyche and my life.

As I confronted and began processing my initial memories, life went on. I had twins, a girl and a boy. I focused on being a good mother, worked at various jobs, and cared for my ailing parents. But my connection to the girl that died was always with me.

With my history, I knew I might have a tendency to be an overprotective parent, and I wanted my kids to grow up confident and free. I wanted them to experience all the independence they were ready for at each stage of life. So, I took them to a Kidpower self-defense class. Following the work of Kidpower over the years has been personally healing as well. It helped me to know there are people out there who care, who listen, believe, support and protect.

I sometimes also wonder, what if the girl had been trained to identify dangerous people and situations like Kidpower teaches? What if she had learned how to physically protect herself from violence? Maybe she could have survived.

I’m no longer the only person to know about the unidentified girl’s remains. That little girl was a person. She was a child. Someone hurt her and stole her life and made it seem like she disappeared. But she didn’t disappear. Now, after many years of emotional work, I’ve also come to understand that I’ve done all I can for the girl in this world. And her soul is being cared for in a realm beyond my capacity.

I’m beginning to believe that my job is almost done. As I approach the final stages of healing, I ordered two memorial stones, one for the precious girl that died almost fifty years ago, and the other for missing children in general, may God bless and protect them. And I’m making a monetary donation to Kidpower International in honor of the girl that died.

Elizabeth hugging a gray great dane dog.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. You’ve already helped me and honored a lost child by doing so. If you’re inspired to do more, please join me in making a donation to Kidpower. I couldn’t save that little girl years ago. So, I’m asking now. Please help by making a donation to keep children safe today. And if you had any personal reaction to this story, I’d be very interested in hearing from you.

Elizabeth Braverman is a Clinical Psychologist, artist, writer and public speaker. She loves living among the trees and animals of Washington with her giant dog, her tiny dog, and a lot of egg layers.
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If you wish to share thoughts with Elizabeth, please email safety@kidpower.org and we will forward your email to her.

With deep gratitude for your commitment to safety, and to Elizabeth for sharing her story,

Irene

 

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Published: August 18, 2022   |   Last Updated: August 18, 2022

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.

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