Season 2 Episode 1

Stay in the Light: Surviving Trauma

Stay in the Light: Surviving Trauma

Season 2 Episode 1

About The Episode

Trinea Gonczar, a former gymnast and survivor of the Larry Nassar sexual assault case, shares her ongoing journey from trauma to healing and how she helps others find light in their darkest times. We discuss the importance of offering grace to oneself and others, and Trinea’s impactful work at the Avalon Healing Center, and the need for survivors to have support systems and plans in place to navigate their healing journeys. The episode highlights the significance of every individual's courageous choice to spread positivity and support those around them.

Please be advised that this episode contains content about sexual assault and the journey of healing. We honor and suggest taking the self care needed for any feelings that may arise during the listening of this episode.

Connect with Trinea Gonczar

"Every day I wake up, and it's a choice. If I'm asking others to find the light, even in the darkest time, I have to be responsible to do that also."

- Trinea Gonczar, survivor and advocate

Season 2 Episode 1

Episode highlights

00:26 A Word from Connie Fontaine and Harry Cohen
02:38 Welcome to the Podcast: Introducing Trinea
03:53 Trinea’s Life Story: From Gymnast to Survivor
06:47 The Turning Point: From Jane Doe to Public Advocate
08:42 Finding the Light: Healing and Helping Others
11:00 The Power of Choice and Positive Influence
15:50 The Power of Planning and Support in Healing
20:44 Offering Grace: The Continuous Journey of Healing and Helping
26:51 Look for Opportunities to Be the Light for Others
30:44 Avalon Healing Center: A Beacon of Hope for Survivors
37:52 Concluding thoughts: Practicing Positivity and Offering Grace in Daily Life

Key Links & Resources

RESOURCES FOR SURVIVORS:

 

REFERENCE LINKS:

Discover More

About Trinea Gonczar

Trinea Gonczar, a former gymnast from Lansing, Michigan, is a survivor and advocate for victims of sexual abuse. She is an exemplar of heliotropic leadership in the many ways she chooses to find the light, even in the darkest of times, for herself and others.

As a survivor of the disgraced doctor Larry Nassar, Trinea’s impactful victim statement reached a global audience within hours and was widely showcased, including on BBC, Al Jazeera, and World News Tonight. In her journey, she recognized the lack of resources for survivors and subsequently became engaged with Avalon Healing Center in Detroit, aiming to elevate awareness of their services before any trauma occurs. Currently serving as the Director of Engagement at Avalon Healing Center, Trinea actively works to increase public awareness of the available services regarding sexual assault and crisis intervention.

Trinea was also featured in the acclaimed HBO documentary “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal” which shed light on her experiences and her substantial impact. Her efforts have been recognized with esteemed accolades, including ESPN’s 2018 Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which inspired the name of her child, Ashton (Ashe). Additionally, she received the Humanitarian Award from the Foundation for Global Sports Development and Humura Award from the EDJA foundation. Trinea has been duly acknowledged in media alike – she was named one of Glamour Magazine’s 2018 Women of The Year and was included in the NPR podcast “Believed” as well as the Audible book “Twisted”. Notably, Trinea was part of the speaker panel “Sister Survivors Round Table” on ESPN. She was featured prominently in the book “The Girl’s” by Abigail Pesta and “Start by Believing: Larry Nassar’s Crimes, the Institutions that Enabled Him, and the Brave Women Who Stopped a Monster” by John Barr.

Trinea’s unwavering advocacy extended to global and national platforms and international medical forums. She participated in the United Nations Survivor Townhall with the group RISE in 2019 and 2020, actively working towards the World Wide Survivor Bill of Rights, which was adopted in 2022! Trinea has been a keynote speaker in numerous educational summits, congressional hearings, and prestigious events like the HBO Tribeca Film Festival, Women Sports Film Festival, and the University of Kansas Law. Trinea currently serves on the Michigan State University’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Advisory Board, further amplifying her commitment to supporting survivors of sexual violence.

Full transcript: Trinea Gonczar

[00:00:00] Trinea Gonczar: Every day I wake up and it’s a choice.. And if I’m asking others to find the light, even in the darkest time, I have to be responsible to do that also. And I will be honest , there are dark times, right? There’s always dark times but trying to find a light, even if it’s just that, like a glimmer of light is so important.

[00:00:26] Harry Cohen: Wow, the voice you just heard is that of Trinae Gonczar, one of the survivors of the Larry Nassar sexual assault case with 139 women. And the story that she tells is how she took that trauma and created a life for herself, to help other victims of sexual abuse. And it’s very, very beautiful.

[00:00:57] Connie Fontaine: Yeah, I think you’re right, Harry, that people know her for her impact statement, which was a turning point in the case. And yet what a lot of people don’t know, but they’re going to know after today is how she’s taken this healing journey, and she’s converted into this very important work at the Avalon Healing Center, which you can learn more about as we get through the show, but what a gift she’s given to all of us through her journey.

[00:01:19] Harry Cohen: And what I got, I got many insights, but one that I’ve taken since we did the interview, and I used it just this morning is this very simple and powerful reminder to give yourself grace. And give other people grace. If you can. I just used it this morning. I found it absolutely beautiful.

[00:01:37] Connie Fontaine: Yes. And so for us, I think that the discussion around sexual abuse and trauma is challenging. I’d like to point everybody to our show notes. If you’d like to look for some resources there, you can learn more about the Avalon Healing Center. You can learn more about other resources available as well.

[00:01:53] Harry Coehn: And one more thing before you hear Trinea’s story, she is using her experience to help others every single day in her current life and work. Just this morning, prior to this podcast, she took a call. She said it was one of the toughest calls she’s taken in a while, to help a survivor. And she spilled an entire cup of coffee in her car.

And after this podcast, she’s going to follow up with that person and see how she’s doing. So she is really using her experience to help others. And I really hope that she helps the listeners of this podcast to stay in the light. Without further ado, please welcome Trinea Gonczar. ​

[00:02:38] Welcome to the Podcast: Introducing Trinea

[00:02:38] Harry Cohen: So Trinea, it’s so wonderful that we have you on this podcast. We’ve been talking about this for quite some time.

[00:02:44] Connie Fontaine: We have.

[00:02:45] Harry Cohen: Connie and I are thrilled that you are doing this podcast. We had a great conversation with you beforehand and I was sharing with a friend, this morning, actually several friends, that making my motive clear and clean, one of the principles from “Be the Sun, Not the Salt” is that why we chose you for this podcast is that your story and your experience can help so many people. That’s why we chose you. You are an exemplar of what you would say is living in the light because you can very easily go to the dark and I want your story to help a ton of people who have experienced trauma and their life post trauma. And we all can get better having listened to you. So thank you so much for agreeing to do this. Connie, you want to add anything?

[00:03:33] Connie Fontaine: I think, not only thank you for doing this, but giving the opportunity and the voice that we can share with so many people. Our job here with the podcast is to share things that people have learned throughout their lives to make other people’s lives better. And we know you’re going to be able to do that for us today.

So thank you.

[00:03:51] Trinea Gonczar: Thanks for having me, guys.

[00:03:53] Trinea’s Life Story: From Gymnast to Survivor

[00:03:53] Harry Cohen: we’ll do an intro to you, but, just tell people your, life story in, 60 seconds. Okay.

[00:04:02] Connie Fontaine: Way too much!

[00:04:05] Trinea Gonczar: well, um, I am from Lansing, Michigan. I was a gymnast and I was one of the survivors that were part of the large sexual assault case through Michigan State University and Larry Nassar. But I spent the majority of childhood enjoying a sport that, I was really good at, but also, molded me as a human, and definitely changed an entire trajectory of my life, as a result. I went to school for journalism. I was into traveling. I lived abroad for several years and I never knew I was a victim. So at 37 years old, I lived in Puerto Rico. My husband I got married there and we decided to stay.

And we did a bunch of traveling and lived on the beach and did amazing things, and then I got a call and, realized that something bad was stirring. I’d heard about several things that have happened in the past, but this was more about me and, reflecting back and thinking there must have been a mistake. There must have been a misunderstanding. then I saw a video of Larry lying to the detective that he had never done this manipulation ever as in never, um, done it to anyone. And it was one thing I think before when I had heard that this was something that he was saying he only did for injury or that injury, but it was another thing to hear that he’d never done it, ever. And I knew that at that moment, then things were really going to change for me. And we decided to move from Puerto Rico. And, I was a I a Jane Doe Doe until about two hours before my impact statement. And then my impact statement happened. And before I knew it, I was on BBC News, World News Tonight, Al Jazeera, I was all over.

My face was everywhere. And at time I thought I was really I was speaking to teammates. And, it went differently than I had thought. So I went from thinking I was going to just be speaking to my teammates, to speaking to the world. And then I received thousands and thousands messages through my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter people saying things you like I didn’t kill myself today because of you, or I’m in Italy. Where do I go? Who do I connect with? How do I find an attorney? What do I do? And at that time I really didn’t know what to tell them. I was not trauma informed. I didn’t understand. And so now I work in sexual violence and have a completely different direction of my life.

[00:06:47] The Turning Point: From Jane Doe to Public Advocate

[00:06:47] Connie Fontaine: Trinea, was there a reason, was there something that triggered your willingness to go from being a Jane Doe to speaking out so openly and speaking directly, quite frankly, to him in "words matter," you made that not just the words you chose, but the way you chose to deliver them to the offender, I found was the most impactful part of what I heard and saw and cry over every time I listened to it.

So what, got you from Jane Doe? To that.

[00:07:17] Trinea Gonczar: So when I had arrived in the courtroom that morning, the Olympians were there and it was a media frenzy. And as I was watching the statements happen, I sat in the very back of the room for the reason of morning sickness. But I, as I was watching, even in the days leading up to that statement, I had written and rewritten that statement over and over again, because I had a lot of things to say to him So when I wrote my statement, even as a Jane Doe, I knew that I was going to speak to him directly. But how he was reacting to the others was very empty and minimal. And I thought if he reacts to me like that, He’s not really there. And so the prosecutor at the time had asked me she said a lot of your teammates aren’t coming forward, which we were the most, the significantly abused because we were within five days a week for about 14 years, versus like a Monday night clinic or one of the other MSU sports medicine type spaces. And so she had asked me to go as, as a closer, and I knew that if I went public my teammates that were going to be watching would have a voice, would have one of us that had come forward publicly. And so at that time, that’s what kind of directed me to doing that, to going from Jane Doe to me was for my teammates.

 

[00:08:42] Finding the Light: Healing and Helping Others

[00:08:42] Harry Cohen: So when we discovered who you are and met you and your work now with Avalon Healing and helping other victims of sexual abuse, you said something and it, struck me, which is that this mindset has helped you.

this idea of staying in the light because it’s easy to go to the dark. I want you to tell how this has helped you for our listeners. If you can,

[00:09:15] Trinea Gonczar: So for me watching so many people suffer. I found myself having to be the light for them.

And at it was a heavy weight to feel and a high responsibility to carry, but also choosing to stay in the light was a choice I had to make. And also a representation I wanted to show for my children and also to make sure that I was following the advice I was giving. And if I’m asking others to find the light, even in the darkest times, I have to be responsible to do that also. And I will be honest, there are dark times, right? There’s always dark times, but trying to circle back and find a light, even if it’s just that, like a glimmer light is so important to put one foot in front of the other, to just keep going towards the light because otherwise you can get so off track by all of the reasons to find the dark. But if you

[00:10:36] Connie Fontaine: Mm-Hmm.

[00:10:36] Trinea Gonczar: keep looking that at that glimmer of light and putting one foot in front of the other, your direction in your path to recovery is gonna be so much better.

[00:10:45] Harry Cohen: Your ability to keep that perspective and your mission and clarity to help others keep that perspective is one of, if not the reason that we want you on this podcast.

[00:11:00] The Power of Choice and Positive Influence

[00:11:00] Harry Cohen: I’m thinking of listeners who go how do you do that? How do you keep that perspective? How do you not go dark?

[00:11:07] Trinea Gonczar: Mm-Hmm. I’ll share a small darkness of a childhood memory that I had. My parents were getting divorced. We were young and my coach at the time, had pulled me aside and she said, Trinea, I’m to tell you something and I want you to hear me with love, but I can see that you’re angry. Every day. I can see that you’re coming in angry and I know it’s not that you’re at gymnastics or your practice, but I know that you’re angry and you can choose and I’m gonna give you the choice to choose to stay angry and you can take your aggression out in the sport and you can pound that vault as hard as you want or you choose to be not happy because it doesn’t, you don’t have to be happy, but you can be the light because the other girls look up to you. There’s so many here that look to you like a big sister and I am a big sister. And in that moment, as a 10 year old, I decided to be the the light. And as such a young child, I didn’t know what that really was happening, right?

But I knew that I felt angry. And I knew that if I started to try to find something not happy, but bright, and focus on that, it started to make everything feel better for me. And as a small child you’re trying to learn and how to navigate emotions and feelings and negative.

And as a gymnast, we’re constantly being critiqued, right? Constantly. That’s — you’re judged you’re for perfection. And it was a life changing moment for me And as an adult now you I’m trying to work on that with my children. Just instead of being angry at your brother for stealing his car, tell him that bothered you and then go find a different toy.

Let’s go redirect here. And so it was something that happened to me pretty early on that that I always think back to wow, that was such a life changing conversation for me. I don’t think the coach realized the gravity of my life that conversation had

[00:13:13] Harry Cohen: So I’m reminded we were, we had a podcast, which I know who, know her you know her well, Valerie Kondos Field, one of your heroes, another exemplar.

And she said, this is the UCLA gymnastics coach. And she said, we have a decision as to how we can react to circumstance. I’m reminded of what she told her, her kids, her students, and your point too, that I’m thinking of the, of listeners who can say, geez, I guess I do have a choice as to how I react in this moment to regain my composure. How can I be my best self? How can I take the high road? How can I decide what matters most? How can I do the next right thing?

Those, are decisions

[00:13:57] Trinea Gonczar: Oh, That’s right.

[00:13:57] Harry Cohen: that you’re voicing and again, for people who’ve gone through objectively horrible stuff. We’re not talking about toxic positivity, stuff. How can I say whatever I need to say to myself so that I that can live to fight another day and do some good and help somebody else?

[00:14:15] Trinea Gonczar: That’s right.

[00:14:15] Connie Fontaine: Trinea, I’m curious, it sounded, as a 10 year old, do you think that the metaphor of being the light for others, do you think that metaphor helped resonate?

[00:14:24] Trinea Gonczar: Yes, I think that I was always like a little sparkle. And I knew how people would react to me if I wasn’t that, which is the angry side of me. When I saw the light that it gave others to be the light, I really wanted to stay that because it made others brighter.

[00:14:45] Connie Fontaine: The reason I ask that, organically, we’ve found this. Teachers, parents are telling us that the use of the terminology and the metaphor about being the sun and not the salt has been really impactful and so easy for kids to grasp,

[00:14:58] Trinea Gonczar: Definitely.

[00:14:59] Connie Fontaine: to each other, to want to be around people that make you feel good.

[00:15:01] Harry Cohen: Yeah, to bring out the best in others and your motive for doing stuff is pure. You want to help others. The entire motive of Avalon Healing and your mission in life now is to give others the opportunity to take their trauma and turn it into something good. Your article about Simone Biles and the work that you have done is to help others, to see the light in the darkness.

And I just applaud you for doing that and I want others to be inspired by your life so that they too, in whatever small way they can, help their brother or their sister or their kid, or whomever. So again, thank you for that. If you could point out how you’ve done that so that others could do it. Maybe it would help others.

[00:15:50] The Power of Planning and Support in Healing[00:15:50] Implementing Support Systems and Plans for Healing

[00:15:50] Trinea Gonczar: Well, Well, I I mean, Even today I had a challenge. One of our survivors is, in the dark right now, and healing is a journey. There There is no end to the healing process, right? And triggers can come and triggers will come. And so really accepting that, is a piece that you’re going to have to navigate at any given time. Having a person or persons to be the light to help you navigate to the light is one thing that I’ve found is so necessary in healing. Even if it’s not a close family member or a family member at all, it could just be a friend, but having somebody that does bring light to your life, having that person, right?

And we, in our group, we did a code system. And when you call back to back twice, that means I need the light. If somebody calls twice back to back, you answer that call and tell them how minutes it’s going to take for you able to call them back or that they need to call the next person on the list. So if it’s me, I’m, I’ve got 50 minutes. I need you to call the next person and I’ll call you back in 50 minutes. But if you don’t answer in 50 minutes, I’m going to call the police and send them to your house to make you are okay.

So there was a system in place. And I think that’s something that is imperative for people to have is a conversation about a plan .

When things are really hard for me, if I call twice, I’m in a dark place. And then I’ll say I’ll call you back in 50 minutes. And if you can’t get through the next 50 minutes , call somebody else on your list that will bring light, right?

And so today, in my experience having somebody in the dark and really trying to help them find the light, I asked them to breathe. Right now I need you to just breathe, breathe in the air, breathe in the trees, breathe in the cold, because you are still alive, right? Like today, it it doesn’t feel like you can continue on, but you still are. And I just need you to breathe with me for a few minutes because just taking it back to grounding. Just put your feet on the ground, stand there and breathe.

And then let’s talk about what’s positive. Okay. Nothing seems positive right now. Okay. Well, you’re on the phone with me. So that’s one positive. Let’s think about something else that’s positive. The sun isn’t out today, but the clouds are there. And that means spring is coming. Anything that you can do to to turn. And again, a lot of times in my experience, you’ll find the negative. As soon as you put the positive, you’ll find the negative. They’ll find the negative. You’ll find the negative, right. So looking for things that are genuinely positive, whether it’s, I got dressed today because sometimes getting dressed really difficult thing and today I’m going to do yoga. And again, there’s people say these things like, oh, this will help you heal, journaling this, that, know there’s not, there’s no one right answer to your healing, right? But there is something to having a plan, to finding the light.

And for us as our survivors in my survivor group. Having a plan at least gave us direction when the dark came, because it’s so heavy it’s so overwhelming, but at least you have something to tell you. Okay. If nothing else, I’m going to tell my family members or my friends, if I call twice back to back, I need you to answer and I need you to bring the light, right?

So you have a plan. They have a plan.

The call that I took coming in today, was probably the heaviest call I’ve taken in six years. And I’m trying to reflect because I’m, I’m actually in a moment where I’m trying to bring somebody out of the dark.

I want them to feel one, that they’re heard. Two, that their feelings are valid. I can understand how they got there but there are things that are bigger than accepting the difficult things that are gonna come our way. Everyone’s going to have difficult things handed our way, right? We’re all gonna have those. We’re gonna have brain tumors. We’re gonna have loss of family. We’re going to have sexual assault. We’re going to have, loss of children, these things that are so just heavy. We’re going to have those.

[00:20:04] Connie Fontaine: Hmm.

[00:20:04] Trinea Gonczar: And with this particular person, I fully understand the gravity and the weight of the things that they’re facing.

[00:20:12] Harry Cohen: were you able to be helpful?

[00:20:16] Trinea Gonczar: I was, um because I’m going to call at 1 p m to check on them. They’re going to a therapy appointment and I’m going to make sure at 1 p m that we’ve recircled, we did a lot of breathing and if not I’m going to get in my car and drive there and go hold hands or sit on the couch or whatever I need do, kidnap them and put them in my car and take them and keep them in my house for a day.

[00:20:44] Offering Grace: The Continuous Journey of Healing and Helping

[00:20:44] Connie Fontaine: One thing I learned from listening, to you on another podcast was the whole idea idea of, closure is a fallacy. So many people we have in our own orbit, we might think have had closure, they’re survivors, they’ve survived. And yet in reality, I think you use finding the way, you’re still finding the way, it’s still a journey. And I think that was a really important learning for me.

[00:21:05] Harry Cohen: Your whole story and Connie’s point that this is ongoing and forever is again, I hope helpful for the listeners to know that wherever they are in the journey from whatever difficulty, trauma they are recovering and healing from that it’s a slow and important process. And your mission now in life is to help as many people as possible.

So to that mission of doing good, helping others finding the light, I applaud you for your work.

[00:21:44] Connie Fontaine: Yeah, I think the daily messages for us are about being our best selves. And often we talk about, it’s the little things for people. And it’s the reminder that being the light for people doesn’t always have to be in those big moments, but also those little moments because she may have been in the grocery store line behind me. She may have been the person that pulled that out and cut me off. There are reasons that we need to be our best selves with people every chance we get. And I think this is a reminder for all of us and all of our listeners of why we talk about it. You never know what people are going through .

[00:22:12] Trinea Gonczar: And it’s, it’s offering grace. My gosh, in my call today on my way here, I spilled my coffee all over the console of my car. So I’m going out to coffee disaster in my car.

And I sat there in frustration at myself because I just spilled my coffee everywhere. And I thought to myself, if this is the worst today, if this is the worst, then it’s not that bad because what they’re going through, right now, is really, really hard. And if I got to spill my coffee to stay on that call for five more minutes before I have to jump to my next thing, I’m going to spill my coffee. And I’m going to not care about that , even though I haven’t had one drop of caffeine today right?

It’s a choice because I didn’t expect that call today. It threw me into a different mindset. But at the same time, it reminded me why I was coming on this podcast because there are so many people out there that don’t have a person to lean on or to gather the light from. And I’m hoping if nothing else, I can be that for someone today.

For me everyday every I wake up and it’s a choice. I can be irritated with my husband. I can be irritated with my children. But if that’s my bad for me today, My good is going to be something important for somebody else. It’s going to be a bright space for somebody else.

Let me be their light because you deserve that and you need it and it and I want to be that for you.

[00:23:47] Connie Fontaine: I wish I lived closer. I’d bring you a coffee.

[00:23:50] Trinea Gonczar: And honestly it was a really, important reminder for me today of why this conversation has to happen. .

[00:23:57] Connie Fontaine: Keeping perspective.

[00:23:58] Harry Cohen: Keeping perspective, yeah, often you must have said on the previous podcasts I listened to that you were on plus we say it too, offering grace, that’s an expression that you’ve used, offering grace to oneself is as important as offering grace to others on the call or in the checkout line or in the, in traffic.

I love the expression, however we can do it, every one of us can do it a little bit more. So these principles of being the sun and not the salt is about offering grace. I like your term and it’ll me stick with me. Offer yourself some grace, offer somebody else some grace, no matter what spilled coffee or someone calling in absolute distress for a trauma that that, you need you need to be there for them.

I just hope everybody listening can take that away. Let’s go forth and offer ourselves some more grace and somebody else, some more grace in the tiniest way,

[00:25:06] Connie Fontaine: But yeah, and that plan, I love the recommendation of have the plan, be able to offer an idea to somebody in need, whether it’s if I call twice or I’ll stay out of your business until you reach out to me, whatever that plan is, but actually talk about it.

[00:25:20] Harry Cohen: Hmm.

Hmm

[00:25:20] Connie Fontaine: That makes sense.

[00:25:21] Trinea Gonczar: Even with our children, I had learned , too, about a code word.

My niece is 12 and spending the night at friends houses now with these days are, is a different world, right? Things are just a little bit different, so she’s at slumber parties and my mom used to say this to us when we were small, take no chances when the chance could end in a result of pain. Not that you don’t take the chance of dating, not that you don’t take the chance, but take no chances of getting in the car with the person that’s maybe under the influence.

And with that was like, What we learned early was having a code word.

[00:26:00] Connie Fontaine: Mm

[00:26:01] Trinea Gonczar: If I send or call a message my mom or my niece, so she calls her messages me and says, salted vinegar chips. That’s an urgent message to get either to go get her. She doesn’t want have to say, I don’t feel good. can you call my parents to come get me?

We have code words. And I think that having plans for trouble or trauma or spots of, concern even as adults, like with my husband, if things are going wry for me and I’m in a space where I need support, I can send salted vinegar chips and he knows to start calling me or come get me or at least to reach out and say, what can I do to help right now? Because otherwise when you’re in trauma, not having a plan only traumatizes you more. And it’s not like you can plan for everything, but you can plan for some things.

[00:26:50] Connie Fontaine: Right.

[00:26:51] Look for Opportunities to Be the Light for Others

[00:26:51] Trinea Gonczar: And I will say, just going back to the grace, space, I in the grocery store last week. And the checkout lady was, I was not patient. I was like trying to get baby food, trying to get candles for a birthday party, and she was just going so slow. And I’m just sitting here to myself like, Oh my gosh, I’m just ready to like lose it. And I got up to her and I just said, how are you today? And she said, I’m not good. And I was totally taken back by that. And she said, my my sister died yesterday. And I said, what are doing here? Like,

[00:27:31] Connie Fontaine: Yeah

[00:27:33] Trinea Gonczar: She said, if I sat at home by myself, I was just going to be sad. So I came here to work, but I’m just going through the motions today, just going through the motions. And I said, is there anything I can do? Can I give you a hug? And she said, you can me a hug. And so I went out to my car and I’m like, I don’t feel good about this like, I just was mad at her. Like I just put my own energy on her. her

What the heck, Trinea.

So I go back in the store. I through a different checkout, like one of the self checkouts and I get her a flower. and so I just go up to her spot And set the flower on her checkout and she turns and looks at me and I, and it’s one those things where you’re never I’m never trying to trigger anybody, even though I should have a

[00:28:23] Connie Fontaine: Right.

Ha.

[00:28:25] Trinea Gonczar: trigger warning on my face but I, I wanted her to feel just, just seen.

[00:28:28] Connie Fontaine: Seen

[00:28:29] Trinea Gonczar: And that flower she cried at first and I felt bad for that but at the same time like even that’s just going to sit on her checkout to give her a little bit of something That little bit, I don’t know what that did for her I hope it did something but I wanted her to feel it Yeah I wanted her to feel…

[00:28:49] Harry Cohen: So to me, that’s the whole point of it all. Which is, if we, all of us, can have our eyes open for those around us that might need how are you and be prepared for not doing well and to have plan to say what can I do for you, including can I give you a hug and then to take it upon ourselves to do the next right thing, whatever that might be, be anything, in your case it was that beautiful flower, boom shakalaka.

[00:29:24] Connie Fontaine: Yeah.

[00:29:25] Harry Cohen: That’s, let’s do more of that. I wanna keep my eyes peeled for opportunities to give grace in the form of a hug or a flower or a hand on our shoulder. And man, oh man,

[00:29:36] Connie Fontaine: It’s a great story. Everyone can relate to that. In the moment, you’re gritting your teeth. How are you today? Cause you really mean and then you changed the person’s morning probably for that. So that’s good

[00:29:50] Harry Cohen: Let’s do more of that. Trinea I can’t thank you enough, for your work. Your life, your generosity, and all we’re going keep on doing together.

[00:30:02] Connie Fontaine: I was just going to say, I’d to just do a quick shout out to Avalon Healing. So much growth and impacting so many people, men and women. I learned on another podcast that I listened to of yours. So thank you for

[00:30:14] Trinea Gonczar: Yes.

[00:30:15] Connie Fontaine: all that work and we’re glad you’re there doing it. Not glad how you got there, but glad that you’re there.

[00:30:20] Trinea Gonczar: It was time. It’s time for the change. For sure.

[00:30:23] Connie Fontaine: Yup.

[00:30:23] Trinea Gonczar: That’s for sure.

[00:30:24] Connie Fontaine: Yup. Yeah, we love your mission.

[00:30:26] Trinea Gonczar: You have the opportunity to end this any way you want, give advice,

[00:30:30] Harry Cohen: Yeah. So Yeah.

[00:30:33] Connie Fontaine: obviously, your mission is to, eradicate sexual abuse and that would be our ultimate goal and the vision that the center has is to take care of those who’ve already experienced it. But please share anything that, that you’d like to.

[00:30:44] Avalon Healing Center: A Beacon of Hope for Survivors

[00:30:44] Trinea Gonczar: I just say that I found Avalon Healing Center by means of accident. I did not come to Avalon Healing Center looking for myself.

I came here looking for one of our survivors who attempted suicide the night that she did her impact statement and then was put in a mental facility which was the worst place for her at 15 years old and not a place for sexual assault trauma. And then a week later, attempted suicide again. And as a 37 year woman, pregnant at the time, I kept thinking like, where is everybody? Like is there not support systems for survivors? Is there not a place to go? And so everyone kept telling me you need to talk to this woman in Detroit. And so I called up because I’m not sending somebody from the west side of the state all the way in with – at 15 -to a place that I’ve never been right. Like I’m trying to be responsible and mindful.

But nonetheless, I came in and met with Kimberly Hirsch. She’s the executive director and founder of what was known as Wayne County Safe. We were the Sexual Assault Forensics Examiners program out of Wayne County. And realizing what they did and what they do in the way that they support and that everything’s free. Which is another huge barrier for survivors, right? There’s the cost of transportation. there’s the cost of time off to go to counseling. There’s a cost of counseling, there’s cost of medication. There’s the cost if you go into the hospital and you’ve been assaulted and you need to get a rape kit, there’s the cost of continuational healing options. There’s just costs and there’s different places you have to go to get these services right. So you have to go to this place and then to that place. So when I came to Avalon, it was in search of support for this little girl.

And I want to just be intentional to talk about this part because I feel like looking for a place like this, isn’t your first thought when you’ve been assaulted.

So same thing with like breast cancer or any person that goes through trauma, right? You don’t know what you need to know until you’re in the middle of it. And so I came to this place, realized what they did, the services that they offer, and that everything is free was a life changing moment for me to be able to share with others because

I had no idea what support was like or what was necessary for me to heal as a survivor of sexual assault . I had no idea, none. And coming here, I said how can I volunteer? Can I, you guys do all this stuff? Like why doesn’t anybody know? And she said well, typically until now Uh, your guys case was a different case as far as going from John or Jane Doe’s to being faces and names to survivors of sexual violence. Right. And I said well well I’m screwed. So there’s no going back me. My name is everywhere. all over the place.

How can I bring a face to the work? How can I share my platform and my story and give awareness to those that are out there right now that are questioning, where do I go? Is there a place, how do I get to a place? Where is, does that exist? There is a place, it does exist and it is for free. And if you’re needing support in Detroit, if you’re needing support in Michigan, we’ll help you. If you’re needing support throughout the state, throughout the country we’ll help you still.

And we’re looking to replicate this model because it is a best practice model. The research and data behind it, everything that they’ve put into this model of care is something that we hope to replicate other places because the need is there.

[00:34:29] Connie Fontaine: Right.

[00:34:30] Trinea Gonczar: Even childcare. Like you can’t go to put a perpetrator off the street and take your child into the courtroom. So what what do you do with your child So all of these things we’ve been so intentional to think about when it comes to being trauma informed and also being intentional for the survivors and what they need and what a kind of place like this can bring to change the world for survivors of sexual assault.

 

[00:34:55] Harry Cohen: We will put all of this information and how people can support Avalon Healing and this mission in the show notes for the audience who are wondering, what can I do and how can I support this effort. It’s so good and so pure and so needed.

[00:35:12] Connie Fontaine: And any other resources that you can recommend to us, we’ll make sure in the show notes, some of your beautiful writing that you’ve done

[00:35:21] Harry Cohen: Yep. Yep.

[00:35:21] Connie Fontaine: to raise awareness. We, your beautiful written voice is important for people to hear as well.

[00:35:25] Trinea Gonczar: Did you read the one about my coach?

[00:35:28] Connie Fontaine: I did. I did not know. I’m, I don’t know if I should say I’m ashamed, but I had no idea for that part of the story. I was horrified.

[00:35:36] Trinea Gonczar: Yeah.

[00:35:36] Connie Fontaine: That a man would touch young women the way he did and violently and just not mess with just their bodies, but their minds the way he did. Scary.

[00:35:45] Trinea Gonczar: why when I talk about Miss Val and being like such a super fan of hers. One, as a gymnast, what she did for my sport.

[00:35:54] Harry Cohen: yeah,

[00:35:55] Trinea Gonczar: The way that she changed that culture. Some people don’t know, how big they are, right?

[00:36:00] Connie Fontaine: I was just going to say,

[00:36:01] Harry Cohen: We had her as a guest on the podcast and she doesn’t know that you think this about her. So we will make sure that to your point that some people don’t know what an amazing impact they have on the world. you will make sure that she knows. And you, too, are doing that.

[00:36:20] Connie Fontaine: Both of you willing to share so openly is what’s changing things for other people. Not just now, but exponentially as we share that voice and that message.

[00:36:32] Trinea Gonczar: I hope I said what you guys wanted I hope I

mindful.

 

[00:36:36] Harry Cohen: we wanted you to say whatever you said.

[00:36:39] Connie Fontaine: it? Right.

[00:36:39] Harry Cohen: We want to help as many people as possible. So our motive. Is to be as clear in this way, how can we do more good in the world? And I hope that we did.

[00:36:50] Connie Fontaine: Yeah, your metaphor, stay in the light is the one that will end this with. And I think, even walking into the podcast today, I personally had a tough morning too. And your be the sun, not the salt is always the metaphor I lean towards to feel like, is the sun glowing? Am I glowing for other people?

But staying in the light, I was having trouble and I just felt, even if I just stayed a little bit in. So my new staying in the light metaphor was helpful today too. So I hope that helps other people.

[00:37:18] Trinea Gonczar: I, I really hope I was reading the book last night and just looking over and taking the little clips even like, going to take screenshots for myself and put them up and around just because those are they are right It seems so simple but it’s also those little reminders It’s it seems so simple and that but there’s the tornado of life.

[00:37:38] Harry Cohen: I know

[00:37:38] Connie Fontaine: Yep. And

[00:37:39] Trinea Gonczar: the

coffee. It’s

[00:37:41] Connie Fontaine: takes practice and that’s,

[00:37:42] Trinea Gonczar: Oooh, it takes practice.

[00:37:43] Connie Fontaine: and that’s, we’ve got a little mug. There’s my little mug. I probably can’t reach it without my headphones coming off

[00:37:47] Harry Cohen: here’s mine

[00:37:48] Trinea Gonczar: gosh.

[00:37:48] Connie Fontaine: It says it takes practice.

[00:37:49] Trinea Gonczar: Yes.

[00:37:50] Connie Fontaine: Yeah.

[00:37:52] Concluding thoughts: Practicing Positivity and Offering Grace in Daily Life

[00:37:52] Connie Fontaine: It’s just every day is a practice for me assuming positive intent on the roads for sure. In the grocery store line and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but it does take work.

[00:38:02] Trinea Gonczar: You know what I say to my kids you can do a redo.

[00:38:05] Connie Fontaine: Yup.

[00:38:06] Trinea Gonczar: Let’s do a re-do.

[00:38:07] Connie Fontaine: That

[00:38:07] Trinea Gonczar: That didn’t go right this time. Let’s redo it. Let’s try. And honestly, even that was a gymnastics thing you practice and practice and practice for the same performance.

[00:38:18] Connie Fontaine: We always performance.

always say do the next right thing.

[00:38:20] Trinea Gonczar: Do the Do the next right thing.

[00:38:21] Harry Cohen: so

[00:38:22] Connie Fontaine: It’s

[00:38:22] Harry Cohen: yesterday was my birthday. So I’ve been starting this every morning based on the chapter. March 18th was do the next right thing. And I read and reflect on it for myself, but you’re now added to it, which is you get a redo. You can do the next right thing. you can do a redo.

I like that, which is to remind ourselves, Ooh, I get a redo. And it’s just so darn helpful to be reminded of what we already know. And that’s what we to do to do over and over again. So

[00:38:57] Trinea Gonczar: There’s other times to be the light for somebody, like it doesn’t have to just be then. I’m I’m glad I thought, when I got car, don’t miss this opportunity to go back in and give her a flower. but there’s still tomorrow

[00:39:13] Harry Cohen: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:39:14] Trinea Gonczar: somebody, there still is another opportunity, whether it’s a re-do review or whether it’s a give grace or whether it’s a

[00:39:19] Harry Cohen: Yeah.

[00:39:20] Trinea Gonczar: a, be the light. You still have another opportunity to do that for somebody.

[00:39:26] Connie Fontaine: Absolutely. If you’re curious enough about, you know, assuming positive intent and not judging others, it’s amazing what you can find out and the kind of impact you can have on people. And you did.

[00:39:36] Harry Cohen: And you did and you will

[00:39:37] Connie Fontaine: I love that story.

[00:39:38] Harry Cohen: Thank you guys.

[00:39:39] Connie Fontaine: love that.

[00:39:40] Trinea Gonczar: thank you for everything.

[00:39:41] Harry Cohen: Peace.

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