Hard Work and Healing
Healing is hard work. Ask anyone who has suffered from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse and they will tell you it may take years of consistent work. Cathy [not her real name] started receiving services from Reach Counseling nearly four years ago. Cathy underwent intensive individual therapy weekly for over three years, and when she hit a rough patch, she would often speak with her counselor numerous times a week. Today, at age 71, she still participates in a weekly support group to continue her recovery and is a source of support to other group members.
As a young child, Cathy was both physically and sexually abused by her father. The abuse was so awful that she blocked out much of it, unable to recall some of it until she was much older. At her father’s hands, she was beaten with a belt, leaving marks that were both physically and emotionally painful. Due to the visibility of the marks, her mother would keep her out of school so others wouldn’t see them. In her words she frames the abuse, “I thought being hit by my dad was normal. I thought all kids were hit with a belt.” Cathy’s father wasn’t her only abuser. At age 18, Cathy was gang-raped at a party by three boys. Until she sought counseling from Reach Counseling, she blamed herself believing it was her fault because she had been drinking.
The pattern of Cathy’s abuse started when she was a child and stayed with her into her marriage. She was a young mother when she left her abusive husband and was forced to move into her parents’ home (the same abusive home she grew up in) while she filed for divorce. During this time, her father would expose himself to her, telling her that he wasn’t charging her and her young daughter to stay with them, so she owed him. After her divorce, it wasn’t until her ex-husband moved to a new state that Cathy finally began to feel safe in her own home.
Although she acknowledges that she wasn’t at fault for the abuse, it took her a long time to fully understand it to be the truth. Cathy is aware that the abuse has left scars emotionally. These scars have sculpted her to be a loner, not easily trusting other people, especially men. She has lost contact with much of her family and this makes her sad. She states, “Babies have been born, families have grown, and I never see them.” However, now, she does have a few very close female friends.
Cathy is a survivor. Cathy is a success. Cathy is not her past. Now into her retirement, she has turned her attention to helping the elderly. Reach Counseling was there for her. The services provided to her by Reach have helped her move on with her life, to rebuild, and develop new and renewed relationships.
For over 40 years, Reach has provided services to people who are victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Their clientele ranges in age from a four-year-old child to those in their senior years. The effects of abuse can stay with a person for a lifetime, and Reach seeks to heal these wounds for their clients. They work to educate the communities they serve on the subject of abuse and advocate for victims. Collaborating with other agencies, law enforcement, the judicial system, and area school systems, Reach is able to increase awareness and change how abuse is viewed and addressed.
Reach staff has witnessed changes in defining what abuse is, and who the perpetrators are. They welcome the recent spotlight on the #MeToo movement, human trafficking, and the dangers of sexting among minors.
The Oshkosh Area United Way helps to support Reach Counseling as they work to better the lives of abuse victims, and hold perpetrators accountable through innovative programs in education and outreach, victim advocacy, outpatient therapy, counseling and sex offender treatment.
The Difference You Make is evident in Cathy’s story. Your donation to the Oshkosh Area United Way will help others like her to survive and thrive.