Everyone’s experience with trauma matters.
That’s what Daniel Oudshoorn, moderator of the next Sarnia Speaks event, wants people who have experienced any type of trauma, to take home.
“Just because someone else has a more shocking story, it doesn’t invalidate your own hurt,” said Oudshoorn, a London native who has spent more than 20 years working with people experiencing trauma including poverty and homelessness.
“You’ll drown in seven feet of water just as easily as you’ll drown in 300 feet of water — either way, you’ll still drown.
“I want people to be able to honestly say, ‘I hurt’ and not feel ashamed or feel like they have to minimize that hurt,” he added. “One person’s experience of trauma needn’t be the definition of what trauma would be for everybody else.”
Having endured his own violent childhood, living on the streets, sexual abuse and other traumatic experiences, Oudshoorn says he’s thrilled to see events like Sarnia Speaks tackling often-taboo issues, head on.
“I am a really big fan of these kinds of grassroots community conversations,” he said. “I think it’s really good when people come together to speak and share and try to find their own roads to being the kind of community they want to be.”
Oudshoorn will discuss what he calls ‘the devastation of boys’ in relation to notions of masculinity, including his own upbringing with a violent father.
“There’s this resurgence of this really aggressive hostile, toxic masculinity that’s going on in our culture right now, which I find deeply concerning,” he said, citing figures like Donald Trump and Jordan Peterson.
“To become a man in our culture requires boys to amputate parts of their heart, elements of their feelings and relationships.
“Growing up, I felt like I had to prove that I was manly; my father would beat me if he saw me crying,” he added. “And I cried a lot, because I was a sensitive child.”
Also speaking at the March 28 Sarnia Speaks event are Elleke Belet, a local activist sharing her own experience of sexual assault, and Alawode Oluwasegun, who will speak about the sudden loss of his child.
“I think the stories will resonate with a lot of people, and it’s going to be a big evening,” said Sarnia Speaks founder Danielle Cooper, pointing to a pair of photo exhibits that will be on display by Lambton College students Cassidy Cooper and Kelsey Scheuerman, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the east room at the Sarnia Library. The themes will focus on ‘mental health’ and ‘comfort’ and will include panelists from past events.
Overall, Oudshoorn wants people to challenge their traditional views of trauma as something that’s strictly negative or harmful.
“The trauma isn’t the event itself, but how that event influences those broader elements of our life,” he said. “For me, that makes me think there’s also such a thing as the trauma of love.
“As much as our woundedness and violence and all these other harmful things can traumatize us and scar us, there’s also this beauty in the world — this love and kindness that can be just as world-shaping and transformative,” he said.
“So, if we can be re-shaped through our experience of hurt, we can also be reshaped through our experience of love.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Sarnia Speaks: Trauma
WHERE: Sarnia Public Library
WHEN: March 28, 6:30 p.m. (Photo exhibits open at 5:30 p.m.)
DETAILS: Event is free, open to the public