We’re not doctors, spiritual leaders, lawyers, or counselors. We’re people like you: survivors of abuse. We’ve walked the path you’re on, and have made some sense of the terrain. We struggled, we learned, we got better, and we still trip up sometimes. All we want to do is share what we learned so we can make your healing journey easier. We want to give you all the handholds, encouragement, and validation you need to make substantial, lasting changes to your life.
In the words of SwanWaters team member Aubrey Cole: “There’s nothing so special about me that you can’t do this, too.”
In the section below you can learn a little more about each of us.
I’m one of the founding SwanWaters team members who—back in 2013—started dreaming up this website with other survivor friends. But we’ve grown so much since then, and I’m excited to be part of such a beautiful organization.
While I may technically be the Director here at SwanWaters, my unofficial title is Healing Cheerleader!
I’m a survivor of childhood emotional abuse and workplace bullying. And believe me when I say that I’ve walked the walk when it comes to healing from trauma. I firmly believe that we can undo some of the damage that abuse has done to us, and learn the necessary skills to handle life and all it brings us.
I have two degrees in the field of Language and Education, and I worked in many public sector organizations, like the Dutch AIDS Foundation, AIDS Action Europe, Youth for Understanding (YFU) and for a development aid agency of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. All this experience, combined with my passion to see people go from survivors to thrivers, has culminated in the creation of The Healing Academy that I can’t wait to share with those who want to allow the SwanWaters team to assist them on their own healing journeys.
Healing is a never-ending process, but it does get better—I promise! I’ve been on this path since breaking contact with my family in 2012, and I really want to share the things I learned and experienced since.
My personal motto? Bring it back to yourself.
Some random facts about me:
- I once won a prize singing the national anthem (it was a bag of wine gums, but still).
- As a teenager, I was a volunteer DJ at a local radio station.
- My dog, Hebe, is named after the Greek goddess of eternal youth (but not by me).
- I was once almost killed by a life jacket. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
- I love cooking and baking. The kitchen is my happy place!
I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, religious abuse, homelessness, no support from family, no job, nearly became a sex worker to survive, entered into a relationship that led to intimate partner sexual violence, and was assaulted by a stranger in 2014. Our society is geared toward rewarding those who are “productive”. So people who experience mental illness as a result of trauma are seen as a burden. And I carried the weight of that with me as I tried to rebuild my life (without much success)—at least until Mags hired me as her assistant, and Wanda generously began paying my wage. Having this kind of material stability has allowed me to heal so much of the trauma I experienced, and it has been a combination of the dark, painful, and scary with the beautiful, joyous, and loving. I just survived for five years, but for the last year I’ve had the opportunity to thrive, and thrive, and thrive.
Since joining as an assistant to Mags, I’ve become more involved in operations, and contribute regularly to the Pint-Sized Healing Podcast, live video chats, and our archive of helpful articles for survivors of abuse on the site. I’m passionate about using the lessons I’ve learned to inspire and encourage others to fight for their lives until they get the breakthroughs they need. And I’m so grateful that none of my painful experiences are going to waste because I get to help others.
My personal motto? Come back to your breath.
Here are some random facts about me:
- I’m writing a sitcom, and am going to begin working with an acting teacher soon!
- I have a cat: my perfect little ginger boy, Ferdinand.
- Mags is often confounded by my Aussie tendency to abbreviate things. Want to come over in the arvo for a sanga, anyone?
- I practice the African Traditional Religion called Ifa
- I get fake acrylic nails every month because your girl’s gotta have claws, yo!
Since beginning the process of rebuilding my life, I’ve found an amazing job, married my soul mate, and—if my daughters are any indication—successfully stopped the cycle of abuse.
These days I focus most of my time enjoying the life I have, but I’m never too busy to reach back and help my fellow survivors out.
My personal motto? There’s nothing so special about me that you can’t get out and find real happiness, too.
Here are some random facts about me:
- I once sang on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as part of an invited choir
- I have 4 dogs, 1 cat, and possibly a slight “rescue problem”
- Since my escape, I buy myself one gift every year for Christmas: I order two cheesecakes from Junior’s in NYC which are packed in dry ice and sent by air
- I’m an only child, my mom is an only child, my dad was an only child, and all of my dad’s first cousins are only children
- I love medical reality shows, the ones where they show actual surgeries and live trauma treatment
SwanWaters was born and has now grown into a place that survivors can become thrivers. I’m so proud to be a founding member, and have found healing for myself in this space, too.
And while I’m not directly involved in day-to-day operations, it’s so rewarding to know that my financial input is helping our on-the-ground team do what they do. I sometimes joke that the start-up capital my husband and I invested into this organization has been the most effective therapy I could’ve ever paid for!
My personal motto? Just because you have been served a turd, doesn’t mean you have to nibble on it.
Here are some random facts about me:
- I own 2 dogs, both under 10 pounds
- I am an avid mineral and crystal collector
- I like to paint with acrylics and oil
- I love peacocks (and swans) and my home décor shows it
I joined the SwanWaters team in 2017, and I can honestly say that if I hadn’t, I don’t know where I’d be today. I was in the middle of a breakdown, losing my hair, and experiencing extreme ups and downs as someone who experiences Borderline Personality Disorder and C-PTSD. While I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to heal myself since escaping a Christian cult in 2012, I just couldn’t hold down a job because of how much damage had been done after a lifetime of abuse.
Before joining the SwanWaters team, I had my own website called Emotional Abuse Survivors Network. I’m proud to say it helped thousands of people internationally throughout the two years I ran it. Just as I started to wind this work down, Mags got in touch and invited me to join the SwanWaters team.
I was in an abusive relationship for 25 years, but eventually got out and started my healing journey. I chronicled the whole experience, and you can read all about it in my book ‘Bodies in the Basement‘.
I’ve wanted to be a businesswoman for as long as I can remember. So that’s what I became! I’m the CEO of a company in the energy sector in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. And while this job keeps me busy, it hasn’t stopped me from helping my fellow survivors heal.
My search for peace amid the chaos of being the daughter of an abusive mother led me to develop friendships with Mags and a few other women in an online forum that eventually shut down. So we decided to start our own website.