Friday, November 20, 2015

Road To Repair--Teaching Effective Communication With Severely Traumatized People Using An Equine Assited Teaching Model

Marrissa Jacek of WTKR news took this photo when she was out to do a story on Ashley Edwards training programs for professionals who deal with severely traumatized people. To date participants in her training sessions have included prosecutors, detectives, road deputies, victim witness coordinators, and CASA staff.

Her sessions are simple, ground breaking and incredibly powerful. And she is uniquely qualified to teach this topic. She explains to participants the difference between the body language used by predatory animals and that used by prey animals. She demonstrates how the horse responds to each type of body language and then has participants come in and work the horse so they can see for themselves how high the wall is that is created when one uses our natural predatory stances, gestures and movements in seeking to communicate with the horse. They also learn how much easier it is to communicate with the horse when one uses the stances, gestures, and movements of prey animals instead of those that we instinctively use as adult human predators.

And then she moves on to the crux of the issue. As small children we were not predators and it is only as we mature that predatory body language becomes the norm for us. Young children respond best to the body language of prey animals.

And so do those who suffer through extreme trauma.

Simply put, predators seek autonomy as one of their highest goals. Prey animals seek security as their highest goal.

One who has been severely traumatized craves the sense of being secure that so often completely eludes them. They find it easier to feel secure when one uses the body language of a horse instead of our natural body language of the wolf, bear, lion,and every other warm blooded predator on this planet.

She is uniquely qualified to teach professionals these techniques. I met Ashley when she was seventeen years old. I have been prosecuting sexual assault and molestation cases for over fifteen years and I have never encountered a person who lived through worse abuse than did Ashley.

And she lived through those years of abuse while maintaining a 4.2 GPA.

 And for all of those years the system had failed her. Time after time various professionals had been called in but in every case they failed to communicate in a manner that made it possible for Ashley to feel secure enough to answer their questions.

Brutally abused, articulate and brilliant. Her insight into human communication and its implications exceed that of anything that I have ever read. That is not a coincidence. Her very survival depended on her ability to instantly read and interpret the motives of everyone with whom she dealt.

The links above are to a great newspaper article about her and a wonderfully done clip from WTKR news.

One day what she teaches will become so mainstream that students in police academies will be shocked to learn that there as a time that cops did not know these communication techniques.

That day can't come soon enough.

1 comment:

George W said...

Great work being done.....very, very necessary work. Events of the last few weeks have particularly driven home the need for this ki d of teaching and education. On o ne hand, Ashley is teaching people to communicate effectively with those who have been overwhelmed by pain and trauma, and on the other, we help people who have been overwhelmed by pain, trauma, and the ensuing anxiety to begin to corral those fears amd get control of them. There is a lot of healin in a horse.
There are countless millions of people in the world today who desperately need the latter, and countless millions more who need to learn to look beyond their own petty fears and insecurities, in order to become more compassionate, more understanding of the plight of their fellow man...and by fellow man, I mean pretty much everybody.

Ashley's work here is as one tiny sprig of grass, one from which a whole field, by root or seed may be grown.