Sarah, a counselor in the Boise area, reached out to us to see if she could be a part of the Speak Your Silence counselor network. We make in-person, one-on-one counseling accessible nationwide for those personally affected by sexual abuse and assault, so we asked Sarah to share about the transformative power of counseling.
I am the keeper of many secrets. For the past 16 years, I have been a counselor and social worker in the Treasure Valley (that’s in Southwestern Idaho, for you non-Idaho folks). Because of the ethical and legal obligations that come along with my profession, I am bound to keep confidential what is told to me. I am the keeper of secrets that people have not told their loved ones, their friends, even their significant others. As I reflect back on my years in this work, keeping these secrets, trying to help individuals process their pain and promote healing, I think about the commonalities. I have worked with diverse groups, in a variety of settings. However, those who are hurting often have a thing or two in common. One of the biggest common denominators that I have found in those who are suffering, whether it be with addiction, mental health issues, in their relationships with others, even medical issues is that they have experienced sexual abuse and assault.
I sometimes joke that my profession is the only one where we try to put ourselves out of work. We try to give the good fight so we can stop the pain that gets passed on from generation to generation. We work hard to make the cycle of violence, addiction or mental health issues stop, so the next generation can have a fresh start, live healthy and fulfilling lives. We try hard to help people find ways to heal, get healthy and live the life they hope for. I sometimes spend a lot of time daydreaming about how we can make this world a better place, a safer place, a healthier place. And in that daydreaming, I am given a magic wand where I have one wish to accomplish this goal. What would I do and where would I start? It’s usually an easy answer for me. I would find a way to stop the incidence of sexual assault and abuse.
How could this be done? When you think about how pervasive this issue is, where would one even start? This is why I reached out to Speak your Silence. I believe that the work being done by this organization begins the transformative process of ending this epidemic. The more these secrets come into the light, the more we can get help to the people who need it. There are so many reasons that those who have experienced sexual assault and sexual violence keep this secret. But the more we destigmatize these experiences and encourage individuals to speak out, the more we can work together collectively to end this epidemic.
I previously mentioned the commonalities of the clients I have been honored to work with. The other commonality that I have witnessed and that has kept me passionate about this work all of these years later is the resiliency of the human spirit. The ability of people to rise up and live each day, despite the trauma and hardship of the past. The ability of people to say “yes” to life, to persevere, to overcome and to thrive. I believe that therapy is a vital component to help get people to this place. I am constantly in awe of the courage, the tenacity and the determination of the clients I have been honored to serve. I encourage anyone who has secrets that they feel they need to share, to reach out and get help and start the process of healing. There is hope and there is help, thanks to the community of providers and support that Speak Your Silence has created.