Providing a healing space for children who have witnessed or been impacted by sexual and domestic violence is an integral part of Safe Harbor’s mission. Witnessing violence can have a devastating effect on the developing child. A recent survey of American households revealed that 15 to 17 million children, nearly 30 percent of children in this country, live in homes where there is some form of intimate partner violence (McDonald, Jouriles, Ramisetty-Mikler, Caetano, & Green). Furthermore, we know that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. These statistics help us to understand the scope of this problem. We are so glad to play a role in helping children heal from the effects of sexual and/or domestic abuse.
Safe Harbor receives referrals for children and youth services from a variety of community members and programs. We provide both individual and group counseling — with the goal of providing a safe environment that is built upon trust and comfort. Through a variety of therapeutic approaches like play, art, music and sand trays, Safe Harbor’s counselors help make meaningful connections so that children served may eventually process and express their hurt. This process also allows for them to learn healthy ways to cope with their hurt on a cognitive and sensory based level. The non-offending caregivers also receive trauma education and parenting support so they may best support their children’s healing. Programs like ours are making a true difference in the lives of those served.
Recently, one of our younger clients expressed this to her mother and counselor at the end of her counseling with us:
At Safe Harbor I learned I am safe and I am not scared anymore.
When this child first came to counseling she was always afraid and was “stuck” in her trauma — reliving the time that her dad took a knife to her and her mom’s throat. With counseling, she was provided a safe place through play and sensory based activities to express her feelings and gain ways to cope with her memories. She became so empowered in this process, understanding that she was safe and her dad could not hurt her or her mom again, because now her mom was protected and knew how to call police for help. She also learned to breathe through her scared feelings. In the last few sessions together she put a book together about her life and at the end she wrote:
I’m glad I feel better now, I can grow up to be a happy and strong grown up.
She read the entire book to her mother in their last session together. Her mom felt comforted to see her daughter’s confidence and growth. At Safe Harbor, we know a child has reached a point of resilience when they look forward to the future with hope and optimism. The end goal in our services with these strong individuals is to see them obtain that state of resilience and growth. This is how we help transform lives.
Both the mom and child received services at Safe Harbor and we are happy to see that as a result of the services provided they both became stronger in their relationship and confident that they could handle anything that came their way. They are both much calmer now. They are moving forward in life and their horrific experiences have shaped their grateful attitudes in what life now has to offer.
Please support Safe Harbor as we work to eradicate sexual and intimate partner violence in our communities.
Written by: Vanessa Durrant, MSW