by K. A. Nash
The email was short—just one question. “Do you know of any support groups for victims of sexual abuse?” However, the effort it took Amber to type those words was almost more than she could muster.
Anyone looking at Amber would see a business owner, wife, mother, church member, and dedicated volunteer at her local pregnancy center. So, the question she asked was a surprise to the director of that center. The next time they spoke, Amber learned that there was no local support for her. However, the director handed her what she did have—a dated curriculum—and asked Amber to pray about leading a group.
It took several months to get through the curriculum. It wasn’t easy dealing with the pain, but as her healing began, Amber knew she was called to help others. Her first group of girls was from her church—a sort of pilot class of trusted friends. Later, a group started through the pregnancy center. Eventually, a new group met through another church, and the concept of HOPE (Healing Our Past Experiences) was born. Amber’s life became a whirlwind of leading groups and supporting those affected by trauma—helping women of all ages realize that NOT dealing with your pain allows the trauma to influence every aspect of your life.
After years of leading small groups, more people began asking for help–women’s groups, churches, and social workers asked Amber to hold one-day conferences to teach about the effects of sexual trauma. Ultimately, supporters of Amber and of HOPE realized the time had come to create HOPE video curriculum. Facilitators across the country lead groups through the lessons of healing. Women who do not have a group near them, can get an Individual set and begin healing at home. “Facilitators are needed to lead groups,” Amber says, “if I could personally help each and every woman in the world heal, I would. That’s not possible, so I want to train people around the world to be the help that is so needed.”
Amber’s “HOPE girls” include girls from as young as twelve to women in their seventies. Women in abusive relationships, young girls afraid to open up, ladies dealing with trauma from decades ago, and those caught up in sex trafficking have been helped by HOPE. “It is so beautiful to see healing in the lives of these women! Healing isn’t easy. It is hard work, but it can change the lives of both the survivor and her family,” Amber shares.
Who needs HOPE? Women who have survived sexual trauma and women who want to help them. We need to change our perception of what a “victim of sexual trauma” looks like. She is not a bruised, frightened, beaten down woman. She is the woman next door in your neighborhood, down the hall at the office, and in line at the supermarket. They are our mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends, and students. Victims of sexual trauma are SURVIVORS of sexual trauma. Many have not had healing yet, and that is what HOPE is all about.
If you would like more information about HOPE or would like to start a HOPE group in your area, please contact Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amber’s trauma started early, and she is not alone. The 2018 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System reported over 47,000 victims of child sexual abuse nationwide–these are only the REPORTED cases.1
Part of the mission of HOPE is raising awareness–the topic of sexual trauma can no longer be a subject we avoid. If we acknowledge the problem, we can work toward a safer world for our children.
Amber, like many survivors of sexual trauma, kept her experience a secret. Unfortunately, in the U.S., as the rate of sexual assault and rape increase, the reporting of these crimes to the police has declined.2
When Amber started sharing her own story of pain, she discovered how prevalent it is in our nation and around the world. Sexual violence is all too common. In a U.S. study, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes.3