Annette Oltmans has made it her mission to help victims of “double abuse.”
By Ashley Burnett
For victims of abuse, revealing their abuse can be as traumatic as actually living through it. Oftentimes, a victim’s supposed support system—whether that be law enforcement, counselors, pastors or even family members—does not handle the trauma correctly, and can make coming out as a victim of abuse even worse. This is called “double abuse,” and it’s Laguna Beach resident Annette Oltmans’ personal mission, borne of her own struggles and countless meetings with spiritual advisers, counselors and victims, to curtail these traumatic experiences.
“Through my experience with abuse and trauma, I wanted to learn everything I could about what happened, not only to me, but to others with similar experiences,” she says. “This is what propelled my heart toward … compassionate education, advocacy [and] meaningful accountability.”
In 2016, Oltmans co-founded The M3nd Project (the 3 stands for the organization’s tag line: Educate. Equip. Restore.) to help victims. “What sparked my passion was noticing the patterns that emerged, the cultural biases and sociodynamics behind why victims are treated with disbelief or minimization, while those who perpetrate abusive behaviors were believed, supported and rarely had to face so much as the wind of resistance,” she says.
Here, Oltmans reveals more about her mission and what the project has in store for the future. For more information, visit themendproject.com.
Can you explain “double abuse” for those that may not know?
I created the term “double abuse” to describe what occurs when victims of abuse finally find the courage to speak up or reach out for help. Rather than being believed and supported, victims are often doubted, judged and even shunned by family, places of worship or [their] professional community. … Sadly, when abuse takes place within our own families, church or within the institutions we belong [to], victims are often silenced in one way or another. Family, friends and some first responders often choose the path of least resistance, giving preferential treatment to favored individuals who are also perpetrators or colluding in abuse.
What are your goals for the organization?
My primary goal is to raise awareness of the existence and dynamics of covert emotional abuse and double abuse. As long as covert emotional abuse remains hidden and confusing, and double abuse remains in place, we will be unsuccessful in putting an end to primary abuses.
What tools and support does The M3nd Project offer?
We provide narratives and multiple scenarios to help viewers find clear answers to their questions. [On our website,] you’ll find our Healing Model of Compassion for how to respond to victims, as well as our Accountability Model of Courage for ways to respond to perpetrators, and a glossary of terminology describing covert emotionally abusive behaviors. … Additionally, in the very near future, there will be [an] e-learning curriculum and videos that can be used to train people on a global scale, and there is also a book in the works. Our team also personalizes trainings for a number of nonprofit organizations, churches, the professional counseling community and [the] private sector.
What advice would you give to those suffering primary or double abuse?
Most importantly, if the abuse is violent, get help immediately by calling a domestic violence hotline. If the abuse is covert, tread with caution. Visit themendproject.com to educate yourself about what is taking place. Naming and defining the type of abuse you are experiencing is empowering in itself. When you feel like you have a solid understanding of your experience, find a safe person, whether it is a friend, family member or therapist. You are likely experiencing some level of trauma, therefore, it is imperative that you choose individuals who are good listeners and compassionate at heart.
Can you explain what “kintsugi” is, and how it relates to your organization’s goals?
Kintsugi is a form of Japanese art, which literally means “golden repair.” When a piece of pottery breaks, rather than discard it, artisans mend it back together using gold or precious metals. This meticulous repair method celebrates the value of each object, by emphasizing its fractures instead of hiding or disguising them. The art of kintsugi makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, reviving it with new life. Like the kintsugi artist, The M3nd Project seeks to bring about healing in the repair processes for survivors of primary and double abuse, resulting in a restored and beautiful creation.
How can readers help support The M3nd Project?
Donations are needed to help us meet [the] demands we are receiving from around the world for e-learning training materials and video tutorials. Gifts will enable us to develop print, media and downloadable coursework that will serve both victims and first responders. Connections to any groups who would benefit from training by The M3nd Project are also always welcome.