Give DeKalb County

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When I was in college, I had a roommate who would wake up at 3 am to watch tennis.  No watching replays for her.  Who cared if I had a test the next morning?  The match was on in Australia!  The only thing worse in a teeny room than a tennis-obsessed roommate was a teeny room with a tennis-obsessed roommate who also played trumpet.

Now I’m far from perfect and I’m sure she could tell you some horror stories from the days of living with me, but the point is we were both two privileged, nontraumatized strangers who managed to drive each other crazy in communal living.  We had the best opportunities for being able to peacefully coexist and it was a rough year.

Imagine now, that my roommate and I were both fleeing abusive relationships.  She has two children under the age of 5.  She and I have been living with abusive partners and I grew up in an abusive household.  I’ve learned to lie to get what I need to survive and I’ve learned to yell if I want my voice to be heard.  She struggles with a substance use disorder.  Now imagine that we had to share a room in our emergency shelter.  She and I and her two children in a room not much bigger than our freshman dorm.  There’s two bathrooms in the entire building for all 25 of us to share and one communal kitchen.

Imagine trying to heal under those circumstances.  Imagine trying to move on from an abusive past and face your trauma.  Imagine how much easier it might seem to just give up and go back home.  Imagine how difficult it would be to take the time to invest in your own mental health and healing.

For many of our clients, they don’t have to imagine.  This is our reality.  Our shelter, while it provides incredibly important and necessary emergency care, is still set up for just that: an emergency.  It isn’t designed to be a place of healing and wholeness.  Our staff have done so much with the limited budget we have, but we know there is so much more to do.

This year on May 3, Give DeKalb County is hosting the 5th annual community fundraiser for DeKalb nonprofits.  Please consider visiting www.givedekalbcounty.org on May 3 and make a life-saving donation.  Your donations ensure survivors continue to have access to emergency shelter, counseling, and advocacy, but also give us the flexibility to invest in projects to improve the emergency care we provide and ensure every survivor is given every chance to not only survive, but thrive.

le consentement

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France has recently proposed a new sexual assault law which includes a provision for the country’s first ever minimum age of consent.  Set to go into effect next year, President Macron and other leading French politicians hope to see the law establish the minimum age of sexual consent at 15 years old.  This would mean that any adult caught having sexual contact with a child younger than 15 would be charged with rape, regardless of if the courts were able to prove that violence or threats were involved.

A number of recent court cases involving adult men preying on young girls have prompted the recommended changes.  Adult men have been been acquitted of sexual crimes against children or convicted on lower charges due to the ambiguity in current laws.  Many sexual predators have had their relationships deemed consensual, even with children as young as 11 and 13.  When the courts can’t prove that physical violence or threats were involved, they cannot currently convict an adult of rape.  This planned legal change is obviously long overdue.

We know in cases of child sexual abuse that many abusers do not use threats of violence or physical violence to facilitate abuse.  Many abusers trick their victims.  Many abusers groom their victims into believing that they have a special relationship that allows that abuse.  Many abusers use bribes or gifts.  Some children may not know that what happened to them was abuse.  Some children may believe they are too blame for the abuse because they allowed it to happen or because they didn’t fight back.  Some children will crave that attention and affection, no matter how unhealthy.  None of these things make it a child’s fault when they have been abuse and none of these things make that relationship consensual.

It is important to educate children on their rights, especially their rights to safety and bodily autonomy.  It is also important to have a legal system that can adequately protect and provide justice for these children.  We applaud France in these initial steps and look forward to seeing new laws that protect and promote child safety in every country.

If you’ve been a victim of child sexual abuse or if your child has been affected, there is help and support available.  Call our 24-hour crisis hotline at 815.756.5228 for more information.

If you’d like information about our educational programming for children, contact our Prevention Department at 815.756.5228, x106.

If you’d like to know more about this story, consider listening to the NPR interview from December 18th’s Morning Edition (LINK) or reading the recent article on the BBC (LINK).

I Don’t Need Counseling!

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Many people are hesitant to meet with a counselor because they don’t really know what counseling is.  We know going to counseling or being in therapy can seem scary or negative.  It may feel like something is wrong with you.  In truth, the opposite is true!  Reaching out for help can be one of the hardest, bravest, and most healing things you can do. A counselor isn’t going to shame you, judge you, or bully you into changing.  They are your support system; someone you have in your corner to help you process, understand yourself, and start healing.

If you’ve ever wondered if counseling is right for you, read on.  This description is meant to explain what counseling is and isn’t and to outline what clients can expect when meeting with a Safe Passage counselor.

Most counseling appointments are made through our 24-hour hotline.  Hotline staff will ask whether you would like domestic violence or sexual assault counseling.  If you need to talk about your situation with the hotline worker when you call, you can do that and they will listen, validate, and guide you in the right direction.  You will then be scheduled with the appropriate counselor for an intake appointment.  At this appointment, you will be greeted by your counselor in the lobby.  The counselor will introduce themselves and walk you to their office.  Once there, the counselor will allow you to share what brought you into counseling.  You are allowed to go at your own pace and the counselor will never pressure you to discuss or share anything you are uncomfortable with.  The counselors at Safe Passage are committed to being client-centered and trauma-informed which means that you, as the client, get to direct the course of counseling.  At some point during the first session you will be asked to complete some intake paperwork.  Again, you don’t have to share anything you are uncomfortable sharing.

It is up to you how long you stay in counseling and even if you want to return after the intake.  The initial process of seeking help can be overwhelming and Safe Passage staff recognize that.  If you don’t feel ready, we will still be here when you are.

All sessions with your counselor will be collaborative.  Your counselor recognizes that you are the expert on your own life and they are there to guide and support you on your journey.  After a few initial sessions you and your counselor will begin developing specific counseling goals.  As sessions continue, your counselor will help you to move forward on your goals.

Safe Passage staff do not ask clients “what is wrong with you?”  Our staff ask “what happened to you?”  We know you are here because you have experienced some trauma and that you are seeking help because you are struggling with the aftereffects of that trauma.  Our counselors are trained to help clients recover from the trauma they have experienced, whether the trauma occurred recently or in the past.  People of all ages can access counseling at Safe Passage.  If you have any questions about counseling services, the hotline staff can answer those questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 815-756-5228.

We know it can be difficult or scary to reach out for help, but when you are ready, know that we will be here!