Shepherd's Counseling Services is a non-profit dedicated to providing long-term, affordable therapy for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. To learn more about our mission and services, visit our homepage.
What a year 2016 was for survivors! Our hearts soared early in the year as Spotlight, a film about cracking open the clergy abuse scandal, won the academy award for best picture. In that same night, Vice President, Joe Biden clearly acknowledged both the reality of a culture in which sexual assault too often is allowed to exist unchallenged and the need for each of us to take responsibility to change that culture. Finally, under the bright lights of prime time, both the lasting pain and the reality of sexual assault were validated for all to see. Finally we dared to believe that we were witnessing the beginning stirrings of the political and social will necessary to make significant cultural change in our complicit acceptance of sexual abuse.
By the summer months, we had become painfully aware of just how long the long journey will be to changing the culture as Brock Turner, a lauded college athlete, received a 6 month jail sentence for brutally raping an unconscious woman and leaving her naked behind a dumpster. The public outrage and call for justice, fueled by a passionate and articulate letter from the victim, gathered media attention but no action. The judge who issued the diminutive sentence remains on the bench and Brock Turner walked out of jail in September after serving 3 months behind bars.
The tide continued to turn. By October, sexual assault was again in the headlines. Unbelievably, we watched a presidential candidate unapologetically minimizing and defending his sexual assault of women. And here we are, today, on the eve of inaugurating this very man to be the leader of our country. I know, because I hear first-hand from survivors, about the fear and despair that is arising. Our visions of a changing culture that we dared to believe just a year ago now seem like a mirage. Safety and protection seem far, far away.
In my position as Executive Director of a non-profit organization, I am well aware that it is unwise to express a particular political viewpoint. I am also aware and actually appreciative of the reality that there may be a variety of political viewpoints represented by the readers of this article and, in fact, I hope that’s the case. So let me be completely clear – I do not believe that the sexual assault of anyone, male, female, child or adult, is even remotely a political issue. Sexual abuse in any form is a violation of the most basic right of every human being – the basic right of every human being to be safe, to be treated with respect, and to know that his or her body is a sacred boundary.
In fact, it is precisely because I am the E.D. of this organization, Shepherd’s Counseling Services, that I do take a stand. For nearly thirty years, regardless of the sway of the cultural tides, Shepherd’s has worked tirelessly to Turn the Light On the problem and prevalence of childhood sexual abuse. Amid the shifting tides of cultural and societal sentiments, Shepherd’s is committed to not only turning the light on, but also keeping it on. We will continue to offer healing to survivors whose lives have been altered by the violation of childhood sexual abuse. We will continue to stand fast and to invite the community to join with us as we speak to the need to advocate for a culture of zero tolerance for any act of sexual violation of any person in any circumstance.
It’s impossible to know what this New Year will bring for survivors, but I can say with absolute certainty that for today and for every tomorrow Shepherd’s Counseling Services will uphold our promise to survivors and to our community to take an unwavering stand against any form of sexual abuse. This is who we are and this what we do. It is our commitment to survivors and to the community to not only keep the light on, but to keep the light of awareness burning brightly.
As a sign of my dedication to keeping the light on the topic of sexual abuse, I will proudly and respectfully wear my blue ribbon lapel pin, the accepted sign for sexual assault awareness, each and every day of this year. If you wish to join me in this small but profound act of commitment and to support the work and mission of Shepherd’s Counseling Services, I invite you to follow this link to order a pin to wear with pride. Working together, we will keep the light on and positive and lasting change will happen!
~Janice Palm, MA, LMHC, Shepherd’s Counseling Services Executive Director
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