Childhood sexual abuse makes its way into the “Me Too” movement with Rosenna Bakari’s remarkable story

Debut novel portrays a distraught mother’s search for her missing child.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – The Me Too movement has brought the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront, and a new voice is entering the national conversation. Activist, educator and poet Rosenna Bakari is releasing a stunning new memoir this spring that shares her personal experience with incest, growing up in a home in Philadelphia where family members abused her as a child and how she is now empowering fellow survivors to live openly and heal.

In “Too Much Love Is Not Enough” (April 12, 2018), Bakari writes with pure honesty, sensitivity and, last but not least, inspiring strength. She hides nothing from her readers — the good, the bad and the ugly. Her effort to love when there is much reason to hate is truly remarkable. The memoir, which marks Bakari’s fourth book, gives an intimate glimpse into what it’s like to live as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse and why she decided to break her silence.

“We were never supposed to talk about this, so we didn’t know how,” she says.

Bakari founded a nonprofit organization, Talking Trees, in 2010 as the first of its kind to encourage survivors of childhood sexual abuse and incest to live openly. The organization began as an online community and has since evolved to include an annual conference for members across the United States.

Rosenna Bakari earned her Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Northern Colorado in 2000, several years after receiving her M.S. in counseling from the State University of New York. She earned her B.S. in psychology from Cornell University in 1984. Her professional career includes drug and alcohol counseling, psychiatric technician, college campus therapist, and teaching at community and four-year colleges. Bakari is currently the executive director of Talking Trees, Inc., a nonprofit empowerment organization for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. As the founder, she has grown the organization to over 5,500 international followers that gather online daily to read her updated post for discussion. In addition to creating online resources to support survivors, Talking Trees, Inc. holds a National Safe Space Day Conference every April 15 to celebrate the resilience of survivors. Talking Trees, Inc. is the first organization to encourage and support survivors living openly to heal. Her newest book “Too Much Love Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Silence of Childhood Sexual Abuse” releases on April 12, 2018.


TooMuchCoverAbout the Book:

“Too Much Love Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Silence About Childhood Sexual Abuse”
Rosenna Bakari | April 12, 2018 | Karibu Publishing
ISBN: 978-0- 9971699-2- 8
$21.99 (hardcover) | $24.99 (paperback) | $9.99 (ebook)
Memoir | Biography

Rosenna Bakari’s memoir is a UV light that reveals the blood stain of silence – presenting irrefutable evidence that harm has been done in spite of the squeaky-clean surface. Rosenna’s effort to live as if the abuse never happened supported her approach to personal and professional trials, seeing them as obstacles to be overcome, rather than permanent barriers. However, all of the systems upon which she relied deepened her pain. To her dismay, achievements of marriage, financial stability and earning her Ph.D. continuously bumped up against her childhood trauma as she hid thoughts of suicide and accumulating health concerns. She weaved through bitterness and anger in a world that seemed hell-bent on breaking the spirit and believes others can too because trauma should not have the final word.


An Interview with Rosenna Bakari

Tell us about the title of your book – “Too Much Love Is Not Enough.” What does it mean?
I firmly believed that loving others would take away my pain. I had to learn that when you love too much, you hurt yourself, and that loving too much will never be enough to stop pain.

Why did you write this book now? Is this your response to the Me Too movement?
I actually began writing the book about two months before the movement started. The funny thing is that I started writing it because something inside me said that it was time to write it. I had come as far along in my advocacy work as I could without telling my own story. Sharing my personal experience is an open invitation for survivors to join me on this healing journey. There are not enough everyday survivors talking to each other about our challenges and hopes. Survivors need role models like everyone else, including validation of the pain and hope for healing. For too many years, I found neither. So, I committed my life to creating safe space for survivors to heal.

You start off your book by saying that “silence is not a quiet space.” What does that mean to you?
Incest survivors tend not to speak unless there is something about our experience that is newsworthy. So little is known, including the fact that there are approximately 40 million incest survivors. That’s a lot of silence. But there’s all kinds of noise in the head that creates the negative long-term effects of living with silence, including depression, addiction and severe medical concerns as well as relationship issues.

How common is incest? Is your experience typical?
Estimates for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in America today is more than 50 million. Like me, most of those survivors were not identified in childhood, had more than one violator, and the violator was a relative, with the abuse taking place within the home. So, my victimization is not unique. What is unique is my journey to healing, the fact that I escaped so many of the negative consequences yet experienced all the pain.

How can people protect children from sexual abuse?
We must be careful in our discussion about the vulnerability to childhood sexual abuse as if it is a virus. When we focus on child characteristics of vulnerability we take the focus off of violators. The only reason children are sexually abused is because a violator sexually abuses them, almost always a person known to them. Exposure to an abuser is the greatest vulnerability and predictor of childhood sexual abuse. We must start targeting violators for identification instead of victims. We must bring violators and their character to the light and give them less room to hide among the crowd as least likely suspects. We know too much to continue in denial. We know that parents, siblings, clergy, teachers, coaches, babysitters, neighbors and grandparents can be violators. Paying bills, having a charming personality or being in a relationship should not decrease suspicion. The number one problem that survivors encounter in healing is not being supported by family members. Too often the family chooses to focus on the problems caused by the survivor who wants to break the silence instead of the violator who committed the crime, thus perpetuating the problem.

What are some misconceptions that you face as an adult survivor of incest?
People refuse to understand how much childhood trauma can affect the adult life. You can’t just forget about childhood sexual abuse. There is so much dysfunction imposed on you as a child just to survive. And there is not a “thing” that you do to heal, like forgive, confront your violator, or let go. Healing is a developmental process, a life journey to undo the dysfunction and life free of the effects of trauma.

What does it mean to live openly as a survivor?
Living openly is not about telling everyone your history; it’s about not giving a darn who knows. It means that survivors no longer keep the secret. We allow natural consequences for what violators did in order to be free. Keeping the secret keeps violator intimately connected to victims. Each survivor decides how they live openly. I took seven years to write a memoir. Some survivors write a memoir to begin their journey of living openly. Most survivors will simply stop lying about their history and never engage in advocacy work. Others will participate in living openly forums. The only requirement is to drop the secret.

Did writing this book free you somehow?
Yes, but it is not like winning the lottery type of freedom where you can now live your perfect life. It is the type of freedom you feel like riding in a hot air balloon. You get such a beautiful view, but you have to ignore the sense of danger from being that high up in the air.

Have you forgiven the people who hurt you?
Forgiveness of violators is not really on my “to do” list of healing. I have forgiven myself. That’s what matter to me.

Why do most survivors wait until they are in their 40s to start dealing with the abuse?
Most of us come to the healing path kicking and screaming with resistance. We try to live our lives as if the abuse didn’t happen. We use all sorts of distractions, and we are in our 40s by the time those distractions stop working. The dismantling of the distractions lead us to the healing path. Divorce, children leaving home, parents dying, serious illness or something happens that excavates the pain of our past.

Tell us about Talking Trees, Inc.
Taking Trees, Inc. is an empowerment organization for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Through the organization I have created healing resources for survivors, including managing a website and publishing a monthly newsletter. Also I offer shared videos online, produced a theatrical performance, offered a catalogue of affirmation memes, published a book of daily gems, and held six conferences. Talking Trees has 6,000 international members through Facebook, and we dialogue each day based on my daily post.

Do you counsel other survivors in your organization?
No, I do not offer counseling services to survivors. However, I do make myself accessible through email or online chats to discuss brief issues. Sometimes survivors need a space to check in. Other times they just want to let me know how great Talking Trees is for their healing. The success of Talking Trees is largely contingent on my accessibility.

Are you healed?
I now live free of the harmful effects of childhood sexual abuse. But I think healing is a commitment to oneself to live with authenticity and transparency every day. That means I have to product healing within my life daily, like brushing my teeth so that I have good hygiene. I have great mental hygiene as long as I keep brushing off the grit every day.

What is Safe Space Day?
I created Safe Space Day in 2010 on April 15. It is a day to recognize and celebrate the resilience of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. At our Safe Space Day Conferences we hold a survivors only session at the end of the day so that survivors can find their tribe after a day of open community learning. For those who cannot attend Safe Space Day there are ideas and instructions on our website as to how to participate in the day.

Is it true that you are a poet?
Yes, my poetry collection includes over 150 poems, most are transformational poems, written to change the heart, mind or behaviors of the listener.

Where does your nickname, “Rogue Scholar,” come from?
Many Ph.D. professionals use their training to make money and advance their careers. They also tend to maintain the status quo. Unlike many of my peers, I use my training to challenge the systems that burden humanity. I also write poetry instead of journal articles. I yield to constituents that have been largely ignored. Most of the people I hang out with and try to impress are survivors, poets or do-gooders, much younger than me, less educated and less financially stable. Sometimes they are called “grass roots” people. I call them “my tribe.”

What’s next for you?
I’m hoping for an international platform that gives survivors validation and hope. Otherwise, I will be sitting with my tribe online every day creating safe space to heal.
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