A safe haven for sex abuse survivors

By Felicia Thomas-Lynn

Sept. 19, 2011

It was Victoria Olszewski’s pursuit of higher education later in life that led her to unlock the secrets of an extremely painful past – more than four decades later…

…”I was not able to concentrate,” said the 52-year-old, who said she was abused by her stepfather from the ages of 10 through 17. “I was having signs of depression, thoughts of hurting myself and enormous amounts of stress and anxiety. I wasn’t myself.”

Her cries for help led her to The Healing Center, a nonprofit organization that offers a safe and comforting environment to sexual abuse survivors, while giving them tailor-made supportive services to help them heal from their traumatic experiences.

One of its support groups, Adults Molested as Children, or A-MAC, is the most in demand, said Maryann K. Clesceri, the executive director of the center, which is under the auspices of Aurora Sinai Medical Center…

…The A-MAC support group meets weekly, as does the center’s six other support groups, which include: Survivors Toward Recovery, Adult Sexual Assault, Creative Healing, Sexual Wholeness, Spanish-Speaking Survivors and an open group for newcomers…

…The Healing Center’s newest support group is for male sexual abuse survivors, a service that had been a void in the community.

“Without The Healing Center, men wouldn’t have a group to go to. There are probably individual therapists, but not for free,” said Cathy Arney, vice president of clinical services at Pathfinders, an agency that offered those services for men before changing its focus to youth. “They provide the perfect environment for people to feel safe and comfortable.”

There are currently 30 men who participate in center’s programming, including Roy Czarnecki, 22, who is a member of the male support group…

…After unsuccessfully trying a variety of methods to heal from his past, including years of therapy, he said, The Healing Center has been the most effective.

“It is geared toward survivors of sexual abuse. They understand and know where you are coming from,” he said…

Read more at JSOnline

THE HEALING CENTER

611 W. National Ave., 4th Floor, Milwaukee, WI 53204

(414) 671-4325

www.thehealingcenter.org