It is a topic that makes many people feel uncomfortable: child sexual abuse. However, statistics show that 1 in 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18 years old.
Fortunately, Children's Center for Hope and Healing is facing the issue head-on and offering counseling services to victims of all ages.
The nonprofit is located on Main Street in downtown Gainesville, but serves 13 counties in Northeast Georgia.
"There are no organizations within the immediate 13 county area that we serve that do what we do," said Cindy Wilson, director of Development and Finance for Children's Center. "It's so crucial for these kids to get counseling because if they don't address the trauma that they suffered from the sexual abuse, their lives tend to go down the wrong path. They turn to substance abuse to get over the pain they suffered, and then as an adult it just sometimes leads down the wrong path."
Counseling is one of the most common ways Children’s Center helps young sexual abuse victims overcome their trauma. These services come at no cost to the victim and are available for children age three to 17 years old.
During these counseling sessions, Wilson said trained professional counselors use Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; this therapy is designed to specifically help victims dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse.
Counselors also help the victims through play therapy and art therapy. Much of the latter decorates the walls of the center.
Staff at Children’s also understand that untreated trauma can cause a child to act inappropriately. As a result, the center offers programs that address these behaviors in teens and adolescents.
Wilson said two of these programs, the boundaries program and Project Pathfinder, address different levels of behavior.
"The boundaries program is for someone who maybe was just acting out improperly in school with his or her friends, and it's a shorter course, it basically just teaches them boundaries like don't touch other children inappropriately, don't act inappropriate," said Wilson. "Project Pathfinder is a lot of times the kids have been adjudicated and mandated by the courts to go through the program...that's an 18 month program and it's curriculum."
While the center is called "Children's Center", staff are open to helping adults who have experienced sexual abuse through the Adults Services Program. Similar to the children's services, this program assists grown men and women still struggling from the effects of sexual abuse.
Wilson explained that sexual abuse is often a cycle, and sometimes parents who bring their children to the center are survivors themselves.
"A lot of times, unfortunately, we have kids come into our program and it's uncovered that the parent was also abused as a child and never addressed it," said Wilson. "A lot of times that comes from the child being here and then we discovered that mom needed some help. And there's men that come as well."
The center has recently returned to offering its counseling sessions in-person instead of virtually, but still has a waiting list for services. Anyone who is in need of services can learn more on the center's website.
On the flip side, members of the community who want to get help can do so by attending the center's annual wine tasting fundraiser on November 19 at Montaluce Winery in Dahlonega. The center is also looking for snack donations to give kids when they come in for counseling sessions, as well as art supplies.
For Goodness Sake is a monthly series highlighting non-profits in the North Georgia area. Have a non-profit that you would like to see featured? Email the author at [email protected]!