Vickey became a full-time parent again when her three young grandchildren, ages 3, 5 and 7 came to live with her. They were angry, distressed and out of control, and she discovered they had been abused in multiple ways by people close to them. So Vickey brought the children to The Women’s Center, and their healing began. “If I hadn’t come here, there would be so much devastation and tragedy. I even thought suicide was an option. The saying on the wall in the lobby (Inspiring the Courage to Hope, Teaching the Skills to Cope) is so true. The Women’s Center teaches people how to thrive in spite of the devastation. They teach you more than just surviving.”
Steve’s story was a newspaper headline… one of those tragedies that is unimaginable. It was August 5, 2005. Steve arrived at his estranged wife’s home to pick up his daughter, Kelsey, as part of their joint custody agreement. But Kelsey, at 11 years old, was dead… her mother had just strangled her, then tried to kill herself as revenge against Steve. The wife lived – Kelsey never had a chance. And Steve came to The Women’s Center with such huge grief he didn’t know how to live his life.
“The Women’s Center helped me so much in understanding what happened. My counselor stayed with me through the whole trial. She helped me write my Victim Impact Statement, and sat with me when the verdict was read and sentence given. The Women’s Center helped me grieve and manage the different milestones that must be faced every day. Their compassion saved me.”
To honor his daughter, Steve began running and raising money for The Women’s Center’s annual Victory Over Violence Walk/Run, many times winning one of the top prizes for most money raised. And each year, he raffles the prizes to provide a scholarship in Kelsey’s name. “Kelsey’s goals and dreams will never be realized. But this way she is always remembered. And it is because of The Women’s Center that I have the strength to keep going”.
Twenty-two years ago, The Women’s Center created Tarrant County’s first and most comprehensive counseling program exclusively for victims of child sexual abuse. It is here that hundreds of children each year feel safe and heal from the violence that they have suffered:
- Speaking very little English, a 9-year old girl who was sexually abused by her step-father created artwork to express her feelings of fear and loneliness and help her recover. Her drawing on the walls of the old play therapy room is a testament to her growing trust and recovery.
- A 4-year old boy, whose life was filled with abuse, neglect and loss was so scared of new situations that he spent every session in the old Women’s Center building picking up toys and asking, “Is this toy going to be in the new building?” The therapist patiently reassured him that the things he cherished would not be lost. He now feels secure to be in the new play therapy room as he continues his healing journey.
- A 14-year old girl was raped by a trusted family friend. Using the expressive tools and the safety provided by the new teen therapy room, she has learned to share her emotions. Her work with the sand tray, painting, and t-shirt art has allowed her recovery to blossom.
Megan was a five year old child, terrorized and sexually molested by a family acquaintance. She was mad at the world, afraid to be examined in the hospital and frightened of being around people. “I remember coming to Play Therapy [at The Women’s Center], and hitting the punching bag over and over again. It really helped me deal with the anger.” Megan remembers her delight when her therapist gave her a scrapbook of her artwork from therapy. And she was so proud of the letters her counselor and others wrote to remind her how well she was doing! By the time she had to testify in court against her perpetrator, she understood that he was the “bad guy” and it was not her fault.
Years later, Megan came back to The Women’s Center as a young woman who had just left a physically abusive relationship. “I needed help to get my life back together…and The Women’s Center was the place for me.”
It worked. Megan is strong and confident. Recently she was asked to speak with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at Cook Children’s Hospital to give them insight on the trauma that a child faces while being examined. Megan’s unflinching account of her experience is helping them to better comfort children who must deal with a terror no child should ever have to face.