Friday, September 18, 2009

Marathon Spotlight - Erin Cox

At 20 years old, Erin Cox has already been running longer than most. She began at the age of 12 in Cleveland, Ohio, with 5Ks and 10Ks. Eventually she moved up to half marathons.

But the 34th annual Marine Corps Marathon marks Erin's first 26.2 mile conquest. She signed up for Team Heal Trauma because she felt it would be a "good way to get those who are interested in what I am doing interested in a charity." So from one passion to another, she is carrying the torch.

A Junior at the University of Mary Washington, Erin has been training throughout the beginning of the semester. That is no easy task when you're training for a run that may take 5 hours to finish. And on top of that, she is working hard to reach the fundraising requirement for the team.

With little more than a month of being 20, Erin is sure to be one of the youngest marathoners on October 25th. In fact, the next youngest member on Team Heal Trauma is more than 12 years her senior.

If you'd like to contribute to Erin's fundraising efforts, or learn more about her training, visit her running page:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Story of Privilege

One of the main goals of this year's Team Heal Trauma group is to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of domestic violence and the ways in which organizations like Witness Justice can help. One of the hardest and most critical steps to recovery, especially for women who are victims of domestic violence, is to physically remove oneself from the situation. Due to costs for rent, utilities, food, and other expenses, women who don't work for a living have an incredibly hard time escaping cases of domestic violence. That is why Privilege's story is so inspiring:

Privilege was not only a victim of domestic violence, but human trafficking as well. Her husband brought her to the US and physically enslaved her, beat her, and sexually abused her. She suffered at the hands of her husband for 9 years before escaping. However, with no job or work Visa, Privilege was having a tough time keeping her and her children afloat. Her application for a "U Visa," for survivors of domestic violence and sexual exploitation, was layered in red tape. She then reached out to

The website that creates petitions for social change published her story in March, which resulted in a reader suggesting an attorney that helped Privilege navigate the Visa application process. This week Privilege was the proud recipient of a U Visa, enabling her to find work and support her children and establish the building blocks to recovery and economic stability.

Privilege's story has a happy ending, but the tale is none too distant from many women who find their lives endangered by a heavily bureaucratic road to personal freedom. As hard as it is to free oneself from the abuse, the challenges of restructuring one's life in the face of legal, economic and social roadblocks can be tough to bare.

Organizations like Witness Justice and the Tahirih Justice Center are filling the gaps for women like Privilege, who may cross one bridge but find another one waiting for them on the other side. And as if it's not enough to fight for a Visa, the scars from years of domestic violence and trauma take time and effort to heal.

If you or anyone you know is having difficulty dealing with issues of domestic violence or human trafficking, either emotionally or with the legal and financial barriers that often obstruct progress, please contact one of these or other organizations that specialize in assisting survivors of trauma.

Or, if you'd like to join the fight against domestic violence, run with Team Heal Trauma to raise awareness and funds to support direct services for these survivors. You may register to join the team for this year's Marine Corps Marathon - Sunday, October 25th, 2009.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

9/11 Trauma Cases Increase in Recent Years

Cases of PTSD among survivors and spectators of the 9/11 attacks has increased since 2003, according to a new report from the World Trade Center Health Registry.

A 2003-2004 survey of more than 46,000 registrants found that only 14% reported having symptoms related to PTSD. Of those surveyed three years later, 19% reported having symptoms.

More than half of the participants who reported having stress symptoms said they had not obtained treatment in the past year.

Witness Justice recogizes the psychological impact of terrorist attacks and seeks policy reform and healing for survivors, as well as others experiencing trauma from the events.

"Passers-by such as commuters and tourists were the most heavily affected, with 23 percent of them reporting symptoms in the latest survey," remarked Deepti Hajela in the Associated Press.

It is clear that trauma from 9/11 isn't going away but rather, the lack of treatment is exacerbating the problem. With such a monumental event of international scale, those affected are likely to trivialize their symptoms. However, everyone deals with the event on a personal scale and shoud seek help if their symptoms persist.

People may feel a sense of numbness and separation from society, or experience certain triggers that will cause anxiety and make them relive the event.

Team Heal Trauma runs for these and other survivors of trauma. Money raised for the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon goes to programs and services that directly impact trauma survivors.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Train in the Rain

You never know what to expect on race day. The 2007 Chicago marathon presented runners with exceedingly hot temperatures by October standards (see below).

By the same token, the Marine Corps Marathon could see rain, heat, or day I say it, snow?

Just in case, Fit Sugar recommends that you train in every possible climate to make sure you're ready for the conditions on October 25th. See it raining? Pop outside for a quick run. Hitting 95 degrees? Test how long you can handle it. You never know what you're gonna get.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cutting and SIV

This morning's Today Show featured a segment on cutting, a topic familiar to Witness Justice, having explored it through the GlassBook Project.

The GlassBook Project promotes trauma-informed care through discussion and expression of various topics related to trauma and healing. The first project was started at Rutgers University and focused on self-inflicted violence, or SIV (i.e. cutting, embedding, burning, and other techniques used to inflict pain on oneself).

Students taking a Book Arts course learned how to manipulate glass to create these 'books' that reflected their outlook on the topic.

In the Today Show segment, Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Seventeen Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket discuss the motives behind cutting. Their studies show that 51% of Seventeen readers have intentionally hurt themselves. Their demographic is roughly from age 13-18, which shows that this is a problem starting very early on.

Dr. Snyderman believes cutting stems from deep depression. We at Witness Justice know that this depression can often be triggered from early childhoold trauma and is not simply a form of 'acting out,' but a way to connect with oneself - to cause pain only if to feel something.

Celebrities who have dealt with SIV include Princess Diana, Rosie O'Donnell, and Johnny Depp.

While the upcoming piece in Seventeen is sure to tie in cutting with a girl's perceived inability to achieve phsyical perfection, there a many other reasons that women and men hurt themselves. If you can, take a moment to read about the GlassBook Project to find out about the stigmas surrounding cutting and what the project is doing to break the mold.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crime Victims Act Introduced in Congress

"On Thursday, July 30, Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Crime Victim Rights Caucus, introduced H.R. 3402, 'The Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act of 2009.'"

This is big news for organizations like Witness Justice as it will ensure that more funds are set aside to support critical crime victim services. The Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act would establish a minimum VOCA cap through 2014 and still leave a substantial balance in the Fund to ensure ongoing stable services.

VOCA stands for the Victims of Crime Act. "It is a federal law, enacted in 1984, that provides financial assistance to support a variety of services and activities to assist victims of crime."

VOCA established a Crime Victims Fund, supported by the very people who create the need for victim assistance - the criminals. As part of their penalty, convicted federal offenders pay fines to the Crime Victims Fund that is then turned over to services that benefit the victims. "Most of the funds are distributed to states who use those funds to provide financial support to local direct victim service providers, such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and victim-witness assistance programs." No taxpayer dollars are involved.

In 2010, the minimum amount to be allocated to the Crime Victims Fund is set at $705 million. The cap minimum will increase by 23 percent each year for the next four years. By 2014, the VOCA cap would be $1.6 billion.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Early Registration for MCM 2010 at Expos

Of course we hope that you'll be running with Team Heal Trauma in 2010, but for those of you early birds, the worms are out at some national expos.

The Marine Corps Marathon released news that "a limited number of guaranteed entries to the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) will be available to runners and guests at running events across the country and around the world in preparation for the 35th anniversary race."

The following are the events and their respective dates:

Berlin Marathon, Berlin, Germany, September 17-19, 2009
Army Ten Miler, Washington, DC, October 9-10, 2009
Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL, October 9-10, 2009
Honolulu Marathon, Honolulu, HI, December 9-12, 2009
Disney World Marathon, Orlando, FL, January 7-9, 2010
ING Miami Marathon, Miami, FL, January 29-30, 2010
Myrtle Beach Marathon, Myrtle Beach, SC, February 12-13, 2010
Little Rock Marathon, Little Rock, AR, March 5-6, 2010
ING Georgia Marathon, Atlanta, GA, March 19-20, 2010

If you visit the MCM booth at any of these events you may receive an entry code that is redeemable online at Only a limited number of entry codes are available at each event and they're bound to go fast.

Regular registration opens Spring 2010.

Have no fear - Team Heal Trauma will have bibs for all you late birds, too!