What do I think of when Rachael Maddox comes to mind? Generosity, radiance, joy, and truth - for starters. The way she can cut straight through to the truth - in the most loving and supportive way possible. How she has the keen ability to see you (the real you) - and continues to pour love your way. Her ability to create a safe and sacred container - through the words she writes, in her coaching sessions, with her online tribe. Unwavering passion and deep purpose. She's magic.
Rachael is a life coach and trauma specialist, as well as a teacher at the Courageous Coaching Training Institute. She's also the author of SECRET BAD GIRL, a deeply healing memoir and trauma resolution guide for women who've suffered secret rapes or sexual abuse--and want both stories and instructions for being set free.
Today we're exploring that important and vulnerable topic: Sexual Trauma.
Rachael is an absolute lighthouse for this work that often gets swept under the rug as she dedicates her days to helping women who’ve experienced sexual trauma understand and heal from its stronghold so they can move through the world with confidence, joy and success.
Sink into Rachael's words - I know they'll inspire you (as they have me) - and please, if you know anyone who might benefit from reading this, share it with your people.
Tell us more about you: who are you and what are you all about? (Your story, your truth)
I think at my core, I'm an experiential living and learning junkie. Growth and understanding are two of my deepest values, as portals to truth, healing and ecstasy.
Because of my insatiable love for embodied development, I've done all kinds of wonderful things in my 29 years on earth, including:
- toured the USA on a bicycle for 8 months while living in a tent
- married young, divorced young
- spent months learning from Lakota elders on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
- took 3 trips to Burning Man, letting the dust and soul of 60,000 freedom-seekers alter my ideas of what's permissible
- lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, swinging from trapeze bars, cruising the sunset roads
- worked in inner-city DC schools with some of the most "behaviorally challenged" kids, loving them with all my heart
- resolved years of sexual trauma through many different embodied healing techniques
After years of adventuring (and getting tired of constantly having $17 in my bank account) the call for stability and service grew louder, as well as a new edge of learning for me: staying.
I'm now a devoted healer who helps women transcend time and release traumas that have been controlling their lives for years. I also love to create. Songs, words strung into sentences like macaroni necklaces, safe intimacy. All kindsa good stuff.
Your book, Secret Bad Girl, is a memoir and trauma resolution guide centered around helping women heal from sexual trauma and be set free. What was the inspiration behind Secret Bad Girl and who did you write it for?
Initially, when I sat down to write this "book", I was actually creating a multi-media resource guide for coaches and therapists who didn't know much about trauma.
You see, as a woman who's experienced sexual violence, my story's not so uncommon. I lost my virginity to statutory rape at 13 years old. And while I had a number of really terrible sexual experiences following that initial trauma, I still thought of myself as having totally normal brain functioning, physiology and psychology. I had no idea that my nervous system was moving through the world as if the violations I had experienced in the past, were still present. I had no idea that the anxiety I was consistently feeling, the boundaries that were always breaking, or the ways in which I felt chronically stuck with my self-expression and professional development, had a lot to do with the way my body was still wired for emergency.
After working with a trauma specialist for a few months, and experiencing truly life-changing regenerative transformation (immense improvements in the realms of confidence, boundaries, sexual freedom, general feelings of joy and ease, etc.), I knew this information needed a megaphone. And I knew that perhaps, if I told my story, rather than just regurgitating the science, more and more people would see that they've been needlessly suffering under what I call a "trauma spell", and know where to go to break it.
What is sexual trauma? What are the biggest misconceptions about sexual trauma?
My definition of sexual trauma is really simple. Sexual trauma is an embodied violation hangover. In other words, trauma is the residual energy that’s stuck in one’s body long after a violation, shock, or a dangerous experience has ended.
The only difference between a violation hangover and a substance hangover, is a violation hangover can last much, much longer; weeks, months, years, decades—even intergenerational periods of time.
Hmmmm... Biggest misconceptions? Here are a few I often hear:
- I thought I was supposed to be able to get over this by now. It happened so long ago!
- Trauma's something I can think my way out of. (Remember: trauma's embodied. As in, it lives in the nervous system and is triggered by the reptilian subconscious mind. Resolving it truly requires deep embodied awareness and completion of unfinished emergency responses.)
- I only got raped once. I shouldn't have trauma. (Not so.)
- Getting raped means you definitely have trauma. (Not so.)
- If you have sexual trauma it must mean you don't like sex and/or are sexually broken. (Hell no.)
- The biggest biggie misconception of all: Sexual trauma is permanent. Once you have it, you're stuck with it. (I'm living proof that this is absolutely untrue.)
What was the catalyst for your own trauma resolution and healing?
Like most people who've experienced sexual violence, I was very very ashamed and secretive about it for quite a long time. However, for a few years during my mid-twenties, I had consistent pain in my vulva, and would tell my best friends (kind of chronically) that "I needed to do something about my vagina problem."
Still, it felt like hugely scary territory to enter, and too expensive, and unsafe, and and and... I just didn't want to deal. (I mean, I went to ecstatic dance and acupuncture... I secretly dealt. But I didn't do the thing I needed to do. Talk to someone who knew what the hell they were talking about.)
Until the day after my 28th birthday, when I discovered a spot on my vulva that turned out to be pre-cancer and needed to have it surgically removed. The pain from the surgery was so triggering that I spiraled. Hard. Really hard. And I finally made the call. I met a woman named Brigit Vikisins, who changed my life forever through her trauma resolution modality called Alchemical Alignment.
How do you define a trauma spell? If you're unaware that you're under a trauma spell - how would you uncover it?
The reason why I call trauma a "spell" is because it's a totally subconscious experience. It's your brain and body's security system still looping in response to past emergencies, and it can show up really subtly. If you're not looking for it, you really might not know it's there.
So, if I were you, and you were trying to figure out of you have trauma, or not, I'd say here are some of the common conditions:
1. You've experienced some kind of interpersonal violation that, at the time, felt bigger than you and out of your control.
2. You now currently experience any of the following things:
- Insatiable sex-drive or an allergy to sex
- Boundary issues
- Consistent violations of the same variety (always meeting manipulative people or energy vampires or people who expect you to be their mother, or... etc)
- Chronic pain
- General anxiety or hyper-socialization (the desire to always please everyone around you, as a way to actually stay safe, yourself)
- Consistently over-riding your desires for health and wellness (physically, emotionally, mentally)
Look for these things as clues that you might possibly have trauma. Or take my free quiz! -- That might be easier: bit.ly/secretbadgirlquiz
The starting point is terrifying. Knowing you want to heal but not knowing where to begin because it can feel so monumental. What are your suggestions to someone feeling this way who has a yearning to heal their own sexual trauma?
Start slow. Start where it feels doable. Start where your body whispers for you to go. (TWEET THIS!) (To dance? To massage? To yoga? To a trauma specialist? To sisterhood circles? To circus camp?--Wherever it is that you feel compelled in some silly mysterious part of you--that's where I'd say to go. Wholeheartedly. Your subconscious holds the answers. Promise.)
Also, read some books. Learning about the way trauma works is, in and of itself, tremendously healing. People tell me all the time that even reading my book released major stuck energy for them.
I'd also recommend Peter Levine's Waking the Tiger as a starting point.
If you could say anything to the Secret Bad Girls out there, what would you say?
You're not bad if you've experienced sexual violence and you're feeling achingly stuck in your life.
It's not your fault.
You didn't deserve it.
This shit is so majorly fucked up.
And, healing happens.
I swear to god, there is opportunity to reunion with some young or ancient or vital version of yourself in the most profound and beautiful ways. She's in there. Waiting. Take one tiny step toward her if you can.
Lastly, what does living life on your own terms mean to you?
Being as big or as small as I'd like, in any given moment.
There are a million people and expectations constantly pulling at me to be a certain way or follow a certain standard.
Living live on my own terms, for me, is actually about listening to my two most critical guides: my body, and spirit. And choosing every single day, according to those two guides.
Where would my body have me go? What would it have me do? What would it have me say, and to whom? Where would spirit have me go? What would it have me do? What would it have me say, and to whom?
If I actually pause and listen for answers to these questions, I am guided to living a life on my own terms--terms that insist on creating more health and love for all.
Want to know more?
Rachael's running a class called EXCAVATE: A Secret Bad Girl Sacred Journaling Course for women who want to give themselves the gifts of sane boundaries, deep understanding, finally moving past grief, sexual healing, and knowing that there's nothing wrong with them. Join her for 8 weeks of educational videos about trauma resolution and prompts for writing yourself free: rachaelmaddox.com/excavate-class
Rachael Maddox is a trauma resolution educator, coach and guide who dedicates her days to helping women who’ve experienced sexual trauma understand and heal from its stronghold so they can move through the world with confidence, joy and success. She recently published her first book, SECRET BAD GIRL, where she reveals her own sexual trauma experiences and offers up some wise guidance on resolving that trauma. To learn more about Rachael's work and the sexual trauma resolution revolution, head to rachaelmaddox.com.
Let's give Rachael some mad love in the comments! If you know of anyone who would benefit from reading this interview, please share it with your friends. Thank you so much.
And don't forget to grab her book right here: SECRET BAD GIRL