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NOTA Conference: The Journey of 5WAVES From My Perspective




Maria Socolof, Jane Epstein, and Liz Roberts


Emails and Slack pings cluttered my screen. “When is the NOTA conference again?” I glanced at my calendar, and my heart sank. Wednesday, May 1 through Friday, May 3. And I had forgotten entirely about the Compass Dinner Committee I was a part of, organizing a dinner back in the States on May 5 where my kids would receive awards. I sighed, conflicted, and thought, “I’m not sure I can make it happen with everything going on at home.”



But the desire to attend was intense, especially since all the co-founding members of 5WAVES were planning to meet in person for the first time. This opportunity culminated in our virtual collaborations, a chance to present our collective voice at a major conference. 



After a quick discussion with my ever-supportive husband, I took a deep breath and searched for flights. With a bit of schedule juggling, I could make it work. Miraculously, within hours, all five of us—Maria, Brandy, Hope, Fiona, and myself—had our travel and accommodation booked.


The preparations were intense. We only had 15 minutes to share our vision, yet there was much to say. Given their expertise in research and editing, we decided that Maria and Brandy would lead our presentation. Hope, our tech wizard, crafted engaging slides on Canva while Fiona infused the presentation with insights from her experience as a therapist in the UK. I took on the logistics of creating a detailed spreadsheet of the speakers and sessions to optimize our time at the conference.


However, a familiar insecurity crept in as I perused the list of researchers and academics. With a history that had me barely finishing high school because of my reckless years and a stint as a stripper, how could I measure up in such a learned crowd? It was a moment of doubt, quickly replaced by the realization that my past brought a unique perspective to our group.



Traveling internationally for the first time since my twenties, I was nervous but determined. Leaving San Francisco filled with anxiety, I arrived about 20 hours later at the conference hotel, jet-lagged and disoriented. A cheerful shout stopped me as I approached the check-in desk.



“Jane!” It was Maria, Brandy, and Hope, their faces beaming excitedly. The hugs that followed felt like reuniting with old friends. “Let’s grab dinner downstairs in ten minutes,” we agreed, our stomachs as empty as our agendas were full.



At dinner, our conversation flowed effortlessly. Our laughter and familiar interactions showed our bond was not just virtual but very real and profound.



The following three days were a blend of stress and synergy. We kept calm despite the technical hiccups and debates over our presentation’s content because we had to shorten it. The unique strength of 5WAVES lies in our diverse backgrounds—five women from different time zones and life stories, each supporting the other. 


As we rehearsed our presentation, I held back tears. It was real, vulnerable, and raw. But during the actual presentation, I froze. I had to disassociate from the feelings. The quotes from survivors and parents showed the complexities of sibling sexual abuse and trauma and all its layered impacts.


As we wrapped our presentation to warm applause, I knew this was merely the beginning of something greater. We had just presented from lived experience and made an impression. 


I have been home for several days but am still processing the event. I want to thank Stuart Allardyce and the NOTA team for hosting such an impactful event. I am thankful to those who gave their time to sit down with us and let us share our thoughts and experiences, and thank you to those who consented and let me snap a photo with you! So many of you have been faces or connections on LinkedIn, but there is nothing like an in-person meeting. My heart is full of joy for all of you working so hard to raise awareness and create prevention tools and those who continue to engage in more and more research. 


This adventure has made me more passionate about what we’re fighting for and strengthened my faith in what can occur when we unite and work together. Many survivors and advocates are coming together, and we can create more awareness and change by listening to each other’s experiences and perspectives.

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Membro desconhecido
09 de mai.

Jane, it is a privilege to work with you and a blessing to call you a friend! Your energy is contagious and your passion unwavering. "...our stomachs were empty as our agendas were full." SO TRUE! NOTA was a whirlwind, but we went and accomplished something great - and the in-person time and hugs were worth the trip in and of itself. Thank you for chronicling and sharing your thoughts and feelings. -Hope Sittler

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