It can happen to anyone by Deborah Tensley-Jones

Judy considered herself to be a pretty smart lady and felt she had her stuff together.  She held a MBA and ran a successful business of her own.  She was in her late forties and a divorcee.  She hadn’t dated in over five years after her divorce and felt confident with herself that she was ready to get back in the game.  She felt it would be safer to use an accredited dating site where the candidates went through a screening and she didn’t want to feel like she was meat shopping.  Through the online site Judy had met Craig.  Craig was about the same age, well-educated and a successful businessman.  The chatted online and on the phone for weeks before she finally agreed to meet him for coffee.   Being a first meeting Judy decided to be safe and they met at the local coffee house and engaged in great conversation and shared some laughs.  She was so comfortable with Craig that she agreed to have a “real date” so they made arrangements to meet for dinner a week later.  After dinner Craig drove Judy home and she invited him in for coffee.  Long story short Craig raped Judy.  “How could I let this happen?” she asked.  In truth it was not her fault at all.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month when we can all use our voices to change the culture to prevent sexual violence.   Prevention means addressing the root causes and social norms that allow sexual violence to exist. Sexual assault is an umbrella term that includes a wide range of victimizations that can include completed or attempted attacks when a person is forced, coerced and / or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity.  Sexual assault is part of a range of behaviors that offenders use to take power from their victims.  Anyone can be a victim and everyone is affected either directly or indirectly.  Every 98 seconds an individual experiences sexual assault, which means everyday hundreds are affected. There are many organizations that can assist.

RESOURCES FOR YOU:

Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence in Topeka, Kansas

http://www.nsvrc.org/organizations/197

MOCSA -Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault

website: http://mocsa.org/info-resources

MOCSA Crisis Line: (816) 531-0233 or (913) 642-0233

Both organizations provide information, training and expertise to program victims, family and friends and anyone whose lives have been affected by sexual assault.

RAINN – www.rainn.org or 800-656-HOPE – Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.  RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE, www.rainn.org/ ) in partnership with over 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country.

There is prevention and training on how to reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted:  www.sexualassault.army.mil/prev_reduce_victim.cfm

In most incidents the victim is somehow acquainted with their attacker and many people are afraid or don’t know how to seek help when involved in such an assault situation.  Usually the victim will not see red flags because they may know or trust the person.  Let’s be more aware and informed about sexual assault because it can happen to anyone. 

How to Care for Yourself After Sexual Assault

saam - women 3By now you probably know that GateWay of Hope is honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). In our first blog post this month we looked at who is affected and how it affects them. (Click here to read the previous post.) We also examined how to help prevent sexual assault/abuse. In our second post, we explored how both individuals and churches can offer support to survivors.

Before we consider today’s topic – caring for yourself – I want to add three more suggestions for walking beside a survivor of sexual trauma:

  • Acknowledge your own inadequacies – to yourself AND your friend. You don’t have to have the answers or solutions. You are not called to make everything okay. You are simply called to be there and offer love. It’s okay to feel weak and not know what to do. Now you know how your friend often feels.
  • Be willing to witness intense pain, multi-layered anger, and unanswerable questions. The kind of evil your friend has faced will be hard for you to hear and look at. You may be uncomfortable at times. You may also be triggered if you have your own unresolved pain. If that happens don’t ignore it, but take care of yourself. Know this will be hard for you as well as her.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray. This woman is in a battle for her life. She needs your prayers. But always ask her permission before you pray in her presence. She may be angry at God and not want to have anything to do with Him at this time. Don’t force God on her, but keep praying for her anyway.

Today’s blog post is for the woman who has survived the tragedy of sexual abuse or assault. If you don’t happen to be one of those women, thank God…but please keep reading. You too can learn something.

In our first blog post we learned sexual abuse affects our entire lives: bodies, emotions, relationships, thinking and spirits. In today’s post, I want to encourage you to take care of yourself in all of those areas! I know this will be hard because some of you may not think you are even worth taking care of. But that just isn’t true. You are valuable. You have worth. It’s time to take care of you.

  • Physically – Be kind and sensitive to your body. It has been through a lot and needs your care. But first you will need to acknowledge your body. For many of you who have faced sexual abuse/assault, you have disconnected yourself from your body to such an extent you hardly know it’s yours. Or if you do know, you may hate it. Some of you may be rolling your eyes or shaking your heads, but please hear me out. You know the basics such as: get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, but I want to go beyond this to include your attitude toward your body. Reconnect to and appreciate your body. Embrace yourself.
  • Emotionally – Acknowledge how and what you feel: rage, grief, fear, numbness, helplessness, discouragement. These emotions are normal. You don’t need to act on them; just accept them. Many survivors are adept at pushing emotions down, trying to bury them, deny or ignore them. It doesn’t work…at least not long term. Until you acknowledge how you feel, you can’t do anything about it. Try journaling or talking with a trusted friend or counselor. Do some artwork that expresses your feelings. Here’s an exercise for you – identify what you are feeling and then assign a color that represents that emotion.
  • Relationally – So many survivors of sexual trauma find it difficult to trust – men, women, God, anyone. They also find it hard to say “No.” They want to be in relationship, but to do so feels unsafe. They must take a risk to be in relationships. So it is very important to learn how to know whom to trust. Take small, very small, steps. Not everyone is trustworthy and safe; but neither is everyone unsafe. Consider reading “Safe People” and “Boundaries” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Or sign up for a Boundaries class at GateWay.
  • Cognitively – Lies, lies, lies. So many lies develop when you face trauma. Healing comes when you replace the lies with truth.

        In her book “On the Threshold of Hope” Diane Langberg writes, “All of our thinking has been shaped by the experiences and people in our lives.”  

Sexual assault impacts the way you think. Find a friend, pastor or counselor who can help you sort out the lies and then replace them with truth. Here at GateWay, we are ready to help you. And don’t forget to ask God to speak truth into your heart so you can displace the lies that are controlling you.

  • Spiritually – When scripture is twisted to sanction abuse, it keeps us from trusting God. Or when your father (or father figure) sexually abused you it seems impossible to trust God as your “Father.” But know that your heavenly Father is so very patient and, unlike your earthly father, God NEVER forces Himself on you. He will wait until you are ready. Be honest with Him because He can take your anger. Write out your prayers and questions to Him. He’d much rather have you be angry and honest than pretending to love and worship Him when you really just want to shake your fist and scream. I promise you, He loves you, even if you don’t love yourself. Please allow Him to comfort you in your fear, grief and pain.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, take care of yourself. At GateWay of Hope we are available to help you in any way. Please call 913.393.GATE (4283) or email (deborahs@gwhope.org). We are here for you.

©2016 Deborah Simon, LCPC – Director of Counseling – GateWay of Hope Deborah Simon

 

How to Stop Pretending and Start Helping

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).saam-2

In the post for April 7, we looked at what sexual assault is, how it affects its victims and how to prevent it. We admitted that we don’t like to talk about such an uncomfortable topic.

Yet we agreed that we needed to get the topic on the table and stop pretending it doesn’t happen to women we know. If we don’t, we can’t help those who have been victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault, incest, rape, molestation, trafficking or pornography.

But understanding sexual assault isn’t enough. We can help survivors of abuse and offer them support and hope. Below are some practical ways to help:

  • Listen to her.  Support her. Let her tell you her story over and over. Every time she tells her story she processes it in some small way.
  • Never blame, judge, or condemn her. She is probably already doing that herself. So are other people. It is NEVER the fault of the victim. And remember she will be reading your body language. Even if you never say a word, but still judge her, your non-verbal ques will convey your judgment.
  • Don’t try to fix her or make her be okay with what happened. Though it is sometimes helpful for her to focus on fun activities, don’t try to make her get active in hopes she’ll “forget” what happened. It won’t work and will cause further harm to her.
  • At times she may be overwhelmed with memories and become overly depressed or anxious. During those really low times she could use your practical help: childcare, meals, errands, etc. These may not be long-term helps, but at times they may be just what she needs.
  • Refer her to a professional counselor who is experienced in trauma. She needs you to be her friend, mentor, or spouse. But she also needs a counselor. She is not likely to tell you the whole story. She may not want to “burden you” and to be honest, she may be too ashamed to tell you the details.

Though she may be afraid to seek professional help, you can encourage her to find a counselor who understands. GateWay of Hope can help. Give her our number – 913.393.GATE (4283).

Maybe you are a pastor, elder or women’s ministry leader. You don’t think this affects the women in your church. Please remember that 1 in 3-4 girls will suffer sexual abuse before the age of 18. And 1 in 6 women will face sexual assault or attempted assault as a teenager or as an adult.

Now picture the women in your church. Do the math. How many have been abused in your church alone?

As leaders, you have tremendous influence in your congregations. You may already understand sexual assault, but you can also offer hope to survivors. Here are some concrete ways to help:

  • Pastors and church leaders can address this delicate topic from the pulpit. Let your congregation know the statistics. Educate them. Let them know help is available. When preaching on topics such as forgiveness, be especially sensitive. Give her time to process the abuse and then begin the forgiveness process.
  • If you are a male pastor, know it will often be difficult for a woman to tell you details about her abuse or rape. She may need a woman to talk with, but not just any woman. Please refer her to a female professional counselor who understands sexual trauma.
  • Conduct background checks on all staff and volunteers, particularly those who work with children. Educate your church staff and key leaders – both paid and volunteers. Your church leadership may not know how to “diagnose” abuse, but it is imperative that they be aware of any abusive behaviors.
  • Finances can deter some women from seeking counseling. Consider establishing a scholarship fund for women who otherwise could not afford counseling. This is a big commitment, but it can go a long way toward a woman’s healing. Knowing that her church values her enough to help can be life-saving for an abused woman.This is especially true for women who experienced spiritual abuse along with their sexual abuse. Scriptures were twisted to make the abuse not only okay, but “God’s will.” That seems impossible, but we know it happens. When the church provides financial assistance for counseling to sexual abuse/assault survivors, it will help them on their spiritual journey.
  • Most importantly, be a safe church. If your church commits to all of the above, it will be well on its way to being a safe place. Most importantly, think of how Jesus would behave toward these women and follow His example.

Some of you already know the above suggestions and you’re already doing them. But for others, this information is new and your heads are spinning. We recommend two books by Christian counselors: “On the Threshold of Hope” by Diane Langberg and “Door of Hope” by Jan Frank.

If you would like to learn more about sexual assault or invite GateWay staff to come and educate your church or organization, please give us a call at 913.393.GATE (4283). We would love to talk with you.

Women who have experienced sexual assault need both their church and the professional counselors at GateWay of Hope. Together we can offer hope and encouragement to survivors of sexual abuse/assault.

©2016 Deborah Simon – Director of Counseling

GateWay of Hope

What We Don’t Like to Think About

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).saam_logo_1

Sexual assault is not a topic any of us like to think or talk about.

Some of us are uncomfortable because we don’t like unpleasant topics. Or maybe we feel embarrassed.

Some of us don’t really believe sexual assault happens that much. We try to pretend it only happens to a “certain kind of woman.” We don’t believe it would ever affect us, our daughters or our friends. And it certainly couldn’t find its way into the church!

But that is not true. Sexual violence affects ALL genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Still others of us know entirely too much about “sexual assault.” We’ve experienced it up close and personal. Those words bring up terrifying memories of rape, fondling, incest, sexual harassment, being trafficked or filmed for pornography.

We were threatened to never tell. As children we were told it was our fault and no one would believe us if we told. As adults we were afraid to report it because we didn’t want to be humiliated or blamed.

Statistics may be something that make you yawn. But think of this: One in three to four girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.  One in five adult women will experience rape or attempted rape sometime in their lives. Now think of the women in your life. Those statistics apply to them…to you.

The effect of this sexual violence impacts the victims long-term and in many ways. Diane Langberg in her book, “On the Threshold of Hope” identifies many ways sexual abuse damages us.

 

  • Sexual abuse damages our bodies. It can cause personal injuries, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. It also affects the way the victim perceives and thinks about her body.
  • Sexual abuse damages our emotions. Fear, guilt, shame, self-blame and anger become all too familiar companions and affect every area of the survivor’s life.
  • Sexual abuse damages our relationships. Trust and boundaries become skewed. Survivors may withdraw from others including spouses, family members and friends.
  • Sexual abuse damages our thinking. Lies abound: “It must have been my fault. I’m damaged goods. Now I have no value or worth. No one is safe.”
  • Sexual abuse damages our spirits. We question God’s goodness and love. We demand to know “Why?” And if the abuser is a father-figure, as is so often the case in childhood sexual abuse, it makes it especially hard to call God “Father.”

From a mental health perspective, sexual assault can cause PTSD, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Sexual violence, sad to say, is not a new phenomenon. We can even find stories in the Bible. King David’s daughter, Tamar, was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, and then thrown out of his house. Her full brother Absalom basically said, “Don’t worry,” and then her father ignored the offense. See 2 Samuel 13 for the full story.

One of the worst stories of gang rape is found in Judges 19. When the men of Gibeah wanted to have sex with the visiting (male) Levite, their host gave them the Levite’s concubine/wife instead. The men of the city raped her all night and in the morning she was dead.

So, what can we do to help stop sexual assault?

“PREVENTION IS POSSIBLE” is this year’s theme for SAAM. Here are their suggestions as to how you can make a difference.

  • Intervene to stop concerning behavior
  • Speak up when you hear rape jokes or harmful comments
  • Believe and support survivors
  • Create prevention policies at your workplace or school
  • Coordinate a community event to raise awareness
  • Talk with neighbors about ways everyone can get involved
  • Email legislators to gain support for prevention and services

Visit www.nsvrc.org/saam for more information.

And one more: Call GateWay of Hope at 913.393.GATE(4283). We understand sexual abuse. We can help educate your church or place of work. If you are a survivor of any kind of sexual violence, our counselors are here to walk beside you.

Call today. We can’t help you if you don’t reach out.

In next week’s blog post, we’ll take a look at how to support someone who has been sexually assaulted.

©2016 Deborah Simon, Director of Counseling

GateWay of Hope

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Have you been wondering…exactly what do they do over there at GateWay of Hope?Gate on purple

Well, let us explain with 8 simple points:

1. Many women are stuck behind their pain or within a problem. They can’t move forward in life and they can’t be the women God created them to be, because they’re stuck in the past or blocked in some way from moving forward.

2. For example, 1 out of 3 women experience some sort of sexual trauma or assault during their lifetimes. 1 out of 2 women experience divorce. Every woman experiences a loss of some kind and every woman struggles with stress. These are some of the issues that discourage women and keep them from becoming all they can be.

3. Women need a safe place to vent their stress, to share about their losses, to move past their pain.

4. GateWay of Hope offers services to help transform the lives of hurting women. We offer counseling, support groups, coaching and prayer.

5. Since we opened our office in 2006, GateWay of Hope has helped over 500 women. We give women a safe place with a uniquely beautiful atmosphere where they receive individual help from professionals and build safe relationships with other women in groups.

6. Women cannot share their deepest hurts with a male pastor. They often do not want their secrets known to friends and/or family. GateWay of Hope gives them a place where their secrets will be handled with confidentiality and compassion.

7. Some of our GateWay women say it like this:

* “A compassionate voice answered the phone and I felt immediately comforted.”

* “My life has been transformed by the counsel, resources and groups at GateWay of Hope.”

* “God saved my soul, but you helped change my heart. I’m not as broken as I used to be.”

* “GateWay has made a huge impact on women.”

* “I was consumed by fear. Now I know I am not alone.”

8. At GateWay of Hope, we help to transform the lives of hurting women and empower them to become all that God created them to be.

If you have questions, check out our website at: www.GWHope.org or call us at 913.393.GATE (4283).

©2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Best and Worst

It was the best of times:

• Playing with her dolls and the dollhouse Grandpa made for her

• Running freely through the back yard, her blonde hair streaming behind her

• Finger paints, chocolate doughnuts, silver jewelry

• Hugs at night and a lullaby from Mommy

• Fighting with her older brother, yet loving him with her whole heart

• Dreams about growing up and having her own family

• Barbie, kittens, chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven

It was the worst of times:depressed woman

• The uncle who rubbed himself against her

• A cousin who sodomized her

• Screams she heard and then realized they were her own

• A church leader who refused to believe her

• Rape, molestation, shame

• Dreams that merged into nightmares

One out of three women will experience some type of sexual trauma during her life. It may be a childhood experience that shadows every moment; it may be assault and rape as an adult. Often, the perpetrator is a family member or “friend.”

At GateWay of Hope, our counselors and staff meet with women and listen to their stories about abuse.

We know they are telling the truth.

As women, we understand. We are here to help these hurting women find a way out of shame and the false guilt they may have carried for years.

Help us help these hurting women by donating to GateWay of Hope Ministries.

Help us make a difference so that the worst of times don’t have to define these precious ladies.

Help us encourage them as we point them to the Truth, to embrace the wonderful women they were created to be.

2013 GateWay of Hope Ministries – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

It’s Not Your Fault

So many of us women have been taught, “It’s your fault.”

But that’s a lie.

depressed womanWhile Jamie endured the sexual abuse, her perpetrator whispered, “It’s your fault. You’re so pretty, you lured me into this.”

The guilt and shame traveled with Jamie all her life. But it was a lie.

It was the abuser’s sin and his weakness. It was not Jamie’s fault.

Marcy’s mother-in-law blamed her for the miscarriage of her grandchild. “It’s all your fault, Marcy. If you hadn’t been so active and exercised every day, you would have kept that baby.”

Marcy grieved her unborn child and believed her mother-in-law’s words.

But they represented a lie. The miscarriage was not Marcy’s fault.

Throughout the early years of married life, Sandy listened to the rage of her husband. “You burned supper again,” he screamed as he beat her. “You can’t do anything right. It’s all your fault.”

Sandy believed the lies as her husband destroyed her self-respect and scarred her body. But everything he said was a lie.

Honorable men don’t beat their wives nor do they verbally abuse them. It was not Sandy’s fault.

Jesus reminded us that “the truth makes us free” (John 8:32).

Of all the religious leaders in history, Jesus was the one who respected, admired and cherished women. He spoke kindly to women, he included them on his ministry team and he healed them.

Jesus knows it is not your fault.

2013 GateWay of Hope Ministries – Offering Help to Hurting Women

Learning to Trust

Trusting is hard to do, especially when you don’t know the outcome or when you can’t see any hope in the situation.

As a child of sexual abuse, I grew up doubting that God really cared about me. The only one I trusted was me. I couldn’t trust the people who were supposed to love and protect me. It seemed no matter where I turned, people either didn’t care or they joined in the abuse.

I tried to fight against the pain and the hurt, but sometimes that was worse than just accepting what happened.

So I created a world I could live in, on the inside. My brain created a safe place to be. That is where I felt in control of my life. No one could get to me there. I became numb to what was happening on the outside. Others called me a loner, day dreamer and rebellious. Little did they know that I was free inside because I felt threatened in their world.

I grew up in church and read the Bible, but I believed it didn’t pertain to me. I felt and was told that everything was my fault. If that was the case, then I was in such sin that even God hated me. At church, I sat by myself, all alone, silent, trying to be invisible, not interacting with anyone. There was a lot of growing to do and a lot of lies to reject.

For six years, God has been trying to help me understand who He really is. He has been so merciful and patient with me.

Slowly I began to trust and talk to people. Trusting didn’t happen right away, but as I volunteered to work in the church office—I began to learn how to trust. Still feeling intimidated, I opened up a little more to the ladies in the office and tested the waters for quite a while. I didn’t want to be hurt by anyone again, so I avoided anyone touching me. Thankfully, I grew beyond that, because their hugs are now so awesome. Living alone, I don’t get the good physical touches, so it helps when I can squeeze one or two at work.

I have even learned to trust the men in the office. I enjoy the times that I am listened to and not treated like an idiot. In my home, the men either put us down verbally or used us. At church, I feel respected by the men and women. This is a huge difference for me.

Because of everyone God has placed in my life, I have learned to trust Him. I no longer think of myself as a throw-away. Now I believe that Jesus’ love is real. He loves me and calls me His princess. I know now that I am special to Jesus and that all the times I was hurt, He held me in His arms and cried with me. He rocked me and nurtured me when no one else would.

I don’t always make the best choices. So do I put a big “Failure” sign on my head, or do I pick myself up and try again? I choose to get up again and give my heart to Jesus. This is a daily commitment for me.

In time, I will learn to trust with all my heart. Maybe someday there will be a second chapter. Until then, I will stand on the promises of God, my Savior.
– a GateWay Woman