Caryn Stardancer was a pioneer in establishing a grassroots network for survivors of sadistic ritualistic abuse. She co-founded Survivorship with Catherine Raggazzi, and served at the helm of that organization for a decade. During that time Caryn wrote and spoke both nationally and internationally, served as a mentor-counselor, taught professional service providers through UC Davis Entension classes and San Francisco General Hospital Grand Rounds, and exhibited her survivorship-inspired artwork in publications, galleries and exhibitions. She is currently retired to her rural home, where she is a proudly active grandma, homemaker and gardener.
Survivorship History Timeline
Late summer of 1989 - Catherine Ragazzi and Caryn Stardancer put together a first issue publication to speak to the specialized needs of ritualistic abuse at the request of Healing Hearts, a new group affiliated with Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR). They collaborate, apply for a sole proprietor business license, a bulk mailing permit, and go shopping for a mailbox service and a copy service. Paul Crissey, who was at that time an officer with the California Consortium of Child Abuse Councils, loaned the mailing list for the newsletter promotion
August 1989 - The first newsletter was 8 pages of an 11x17 bi-fold, contained a welcome editorial, a way to connect personally with survivors, to briefly discuss survivor concerns, survivor art as the centerfold, as well as poetry, black-and-white reproductions of original artwork, line drawings, a cartoon by L.J., drawn by Caryn which became a regular feature, and a news report of a survivor art exhibition by seven survivors of ritual abuse at a seminar sponsored by the California Consortium of Child Abuse Councils. There was also an article that was to become a regular feature, “Surviving a Survivor”, meant for family and/or friends of survivors, in an attempt to both address their concerns and hopefully help provide positive alternatives for support persons. There was also a Calendar of Events, a news report of survivor Memorial Services and a public meeting that was held on the subject of ritualistic abuse, and a prose piece that talked about the struggle within survivors to keep from perpetrating themselves. This issue was dedicated “to those who died as a result of the rituals” which became a regular feature.
October 1989 - The second issue of Survivorship and final promotional edition of the publication. Subscribers were relied on to keep the publication afloat. Survivorship was addressing the extreme sense of isolation, alienation and disenfranchisement in its victims who were left with no sense of community. Submissions from survivors were encouraged and professionals were asked to put copies of the newsletter in their waiting rooms and to distribute them to known survivors: articles, poetry, prose, art work and suggestions.”
November 1989 - The third issue of Survivorship and the big earthquake of San Francisco. Denial, loss of appetite, insomnia, confusion, impaired cognition, anger, and other such symptoms, unknown to non survivors, were very familiar and understandable to the abuse survivors and, even though the actions that were being taken were, in many respects the same as those that survivors need when experiencing the devastation of trauma, many survivors did not have a community to provide aid, support, compassion and the ability to rebuild, all necessary for recovery.
December 1989 - The first issue which focused on seasonal traumatic aspect and explained about the security precautions taken to protect the privacy of the growing subscription base, which by this fourth issue already reached ten of the United States. This Solstice issue talked about the fragility at this time of year and the nurturing process, with suggestions for dealing with the holidays.
January 1990 - saw an increase in the size of the publication, doubling from its first copy. Survivorship was unique, at this time, in addressing a broad-based definition and recognition of different forms of ritualistic abuse. Survivorship pioneered to include all forms of mind control and abusive religious indoctrination, abuse that was perpetrated under the guise of ritual or religion. While there was resistance from people who felt that Survivorship should only consider Satanism as a form of abuse (there was a branch of conservative Christians who wanted to capitalize on existing abuse to demonize other religious groups) Catherine and Caryn, as Survivorship’s stalwart representatives, maintained their steadfast determination to make the publication, which was later to become a membership organization, responsive and respectful to all.
February 1990 - saw an institution of two forms of donations: unencumbered donations used to help defray the expenses of covering conferences and interviews, and other non-publishing expenses and subscriptions for survivors who would not otherwise be able to afford subscriptions.
March 1990 - a Reprogramming Worksheet, which was to become a frequently requested behavior modification tool, was in the Survivorship news and was eventually included in the large welcome package for new members once Survivorship became a not for profit service organization, rather than simply a publication. Also published, for the first time, Mari Colling’s Reasons Not To Kill Yourself, which was to become a regular handout and the inspiration for the first full-color poster.
April 1990 - an April Fool edition of Survivorship, where humor was used to poke fun at PTSD foibles, as well as to express, through humor, frustrations with the clinical community, the media, and others. There was an 8 page insert called Survivin’ Shit, complete with a banner that lampooned the usual banner, and an editorial discussing the history of April Fools Day. Michael Moskowitz, M.D. posted on The Use of Humor in Psychotherapy and a recurring series called Insights From Multiple City by Catherine Ragazzi, focusing on Multiple Personality Disorder, which was finally becoming recognized as a legitimate disability common to survivors of severe repetitive childhood trauma.
May 1990 - had the first articles about self-mutilation as a common response to childhood trauma. Although this is a well-known phenomenon currently, in May of 1990 it was only beginning to be widely recognized and discussed.
July 1990 - brought the first issue of Survivorship compiled using a computer. Up until this point cut and paste photocopies and a video writer, a transitional machine between a typewriter and computer which allows one to save and edit to a diskette and to print, was being used. This issue contained a number of letters from survivors and clinicians.
August 1990 - This issue made a complete year of publishing. Survivorship had subscribers in 27 states and Canada.
September 1990 - Anniversary Issue, reaching 32 states and Canada. 20-page “Special Omnibus Edition” with a 4-page comic insert. Some article topics: Public speaking as a survivor, empathic approach to hostile alter selves, Son of a Survivor, addressing the need for a uniform lexicon of recovery phenomena.
December 1990 - Focused on feeling work in recovery and especially on the very difficult subject of our feelings about death. Articles included those that offered guidelines on supporting the abreactive, or feeling, process.
January 1991 - the New Year issue.
“Then I picked up Survivorship mail and slowly began to open envelopes, determining what response was requested and what category of energy expenditure was required. I opened a few and found, instead of a request, cards that expressed gratitude and thanks for me, for Caryn, and for all the contributors that have comprised the pages and essence of Survivorship. Again I wept, first at the irony that anyone anywhere could possibly consider us an inspirational example of recovery, then at the realization that Survivorship has succeeded at providing a forum, a place, where the topics and recovery issues of the survivor community can be voiced”.
February 1991- introduction to the Children’s Corner a feature for child alters and child survivors.
March 1991- Survivorship is a sole-proprietor publication run completely by volunteer labor.
May 1991- Brings a focus both on perpetration and perpetrators
June 1991- Teen Talk, devoted to teen issues and submissions, is inaugurated.
June 1992 - becomes a not for profit organization
July 1992 - Healing Hearts organization discontinues their newsletter and transfers their subscribers to Survivorship.
1993 - Jeannie Reisman joins the Board of Directors
1998 - Mid-winter conference Theme "Eye of the Storm"
1999 - Co-chair of Survivorship’s Board of Directors, Paul Crissey, was nominated by his son for ‘Father of the Year’ in contra Costa County in California. Jeannie Reisman/editor
2000 - Jeannie becomes the acting director, calling herself the Coordinator of Volunteers
2005 - Jan, Dan, and Dvora join the Board of Directors
2006 - Dvora takes over as chair
2007 - John, Neil and Shamai join the Board of Directors and Micci leaves
May 2009 - Journal focused on hope. Wanda Karriker/editor.
September 2009 - Journal focused on rescue, shame, healing. Wanda Karriker/editor.
November 2009 - Webinars are offered, with the ability to share ideas and chat
January 2010 - Journal focused on exposing abuse and advocacy. Wanda Karriker/editor.
May 2010 - Journal focused on opening doors, trauma resolution. Jen Cross was the editor.
January 2011 - The second message board comes to fruition as a place for survivors farther along in their healing who have made and are working on the transition into the outside world
June 2011- Journal focused on visibility and finding our voice. Jeannie Riseman/editor.
September 2011 - Journal focuses on the past and the present: looking back. Kitty Downey/editor
October 2011 - Survivorship begins to offer professional webinars in the hopes of becoming a support network for professionals
2011- The website goes multilingual via the addition of Google translator
Feb 2012 - journal focuses on Changing Times.
- Neil takes over as Chair
May 2012 - Conference in Oakland, California offering both a survivor and professional track, Keynote speaker is Caryn Stardancer. Micci returns to the Board of Directors. The Survivorship film takes form.
December 2012 - Janet Thomas becomes editor of the Journal
May 2013 - Conference in Oakland, CA brings the 2 tracks together, keynote speaker is Steve Frankel. Dvora leaves the Board of Directors to become Administrative Assistant
August 2013 - a chat room is added to our website
May 2014 - Conference in Oakland, CA, Survivors Supporting Survivors, marks 25 years of Survivorship. Keynote speaker is Jennifer Freyd. A 25 year look back at Survivorship’s history is offered to its members. Spence joins the board.