By Betsy Kanarowski, Ph.D., LCSW | Chief Program Officer
Compassion. The desire to alleviate others’ suffering is a binding force of our shared humanity and an integral part of our community. But what about providing that same non-judgmental love, support, and kindness to ourselves when we are hurting? Self-compassion is compassion turned inward, and it is often much more difficult to practice. However, it is just as important and is a key component of navigating challenging or traumatic experiences. At Saprea, we are committed to liberating individuals and society from child sexual abuse and its lasting impacts. One way we do this is through bringing compassion and self-compassion together to provide healing services for women who experienced the trauma of child sexual abuse.
One in four women is a survivor of child sexual abuse. This trauma is not just something that you get over or put behind you when you reach adulthood. The effects are real and can have long lasting impacts on the brain, body, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Many survivors struggle with lifelong shame associated with both the abuse and its effects, and incorrectly believe that they are inherently broken or unworthy and that these feelings of inadequacy will never change.
This is where the role of compassion comes in. At Saprea, compassion is woven into everything we do. Saprea’s free retreats for adult female survivors of child sexual abuse are funded by compassionate donors who generously set the stage for healing with their selfless desire to relieve the pain of people they have never met. At the retreat, clinical therapists and supportive staff provide a safe and nurturing environment where women learn that despite what they may have believed, there is not something fundamentally wrong with them. In fact, they have been responding in a normal way to a very abnormal and traumatic experience.
Through evidence-based educational and experiential classes, retreat participants explore practical and accessible steps that support their healing journeys. Self-compassion, which includes treating yourself how you would treat a close friend who is hurting, is introduced as a way to combat overwhelming shame. Women build community and make emotional connections not only with each other but also with themselves. Education and community don’t stop after the four-day in-person retreat. An online course consisting of self-guided and live classes provides participants a welcoming space to further explore healing concepts and practice new skills.
If you have a loved one who is a survivor, or if you wish to channel your compassion into action, please go to saprea.org to learn more about ways you can provide support. If you are a survivor who is struggling with the aftermath of child sexual abuse, I encourage you to learn more about our no-cost healing services. Please take a moment and give yourself the compassion that you so easily bestow on others. Think of what you would tell a friend – and believe that you too are deserving of love, respect, grace when you make mistakes, and healing.
Betsy Kanarowski, Ph.D., LCSW, is the Chief Program Officer for Saprea, a nonprofit with offices and retreats in Utah and Georgia, that exists to liberate individuals and society from child sexual abuse and its lasting impacts. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Violence Awareness Month. Learn more at saprea.org.