Helping Abused Children Recover

first_imgBy Marion LynchThere are nearly three confirmed incidents of child sex abuse every day in New Jersey. These are not crimes committed by strangers, but by parents, guardians, family members or others who have custody or control of children.When a child is violated by a trusted friend or family member, there can be significant and long-lasting effects.But recent research has found that with the proper therapy and support, these young victims can become survivors, recovering from their trauma and living healthy and happy lives.The Monmouth Family Growth Program of Catholic Charities helps children who experience sexual abuse at their main office at 145 Maple Ave., Red Bank and in satellite offices in Keansburg, Neptune, and the Child Advocacy Center in Freehold.Program director Jane Meyer says the staff has training in evidence-based treatments for children who have experienced trauma or abuse.Most of their patients are referred by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office or the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly DYFS)“It’s really critical that children receive help,” said Meyer, citing studies that link traumatic childhood experiences like sexual abuse with long-term health consequences. “Conditions such as diabetes, obesity and alcoholism are very closely linked to childhood trauma.”According to a report by Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, researchers have found that children who experience sexual abuse suffer from sleep disorders, eating disorders, behavior problems, depression and difficulty in school.When they become adults, victims are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. They also face increased risks of alcohol and drug abuse, mental health issues and marital and family problems.The program employs Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Trained therapists teach the children coping skills and give them an opportunity to tell the story of their abuse in a safe, child-friendly environment, Meyer says. They also work with parents or caregivers so they can learn how to care for their child as the go through the healing process.“A lot of times children will go to a general counselor or therapist and not get trauma treatment, “ says Meyer. “Because we use these evidence-based treatments we’re able to show the efficacy.”As a result of the effectiveness of the treatment, she says, “We know that children are going to be resilient and get through this and experience fewer effects later in life.”Therapy often begins with the young clients learning coping skills and relaxation techniques, Meyer says. Then the children are encouraged to tell their story in “whatever way they find comfortable.”“They may make a drawing or a collage, or they may dictate it while we type it,” Meyer says. “Some use an IPad and make a movie – whatever medium they want. We reach them wherever their interests are.”The importance of this process, Meyer says, is that the children get comfortable with telling their story. “They get comfortable with the words, and then they share it with their caregiver.”Many caregivers are hearing the details of the child’s experience for the first time, and therapists work with them so they can respond with support. “We make sure that they are going to be able to hear it so that they can respond in a way that’s comforting to the child.”The program employs five full-time therapists and a number of part-time counselors, treating approximately 400 clients a year. Their clients range from age 3 to young adulthood. They also work with adults who are survivors of childhood abuse.“It’s hard work, and we hear so many heartbreaking stories,” Meyers says.But the proven success of the program is encouraging to those who are working to help the children heal.“Even though we see a lot of sad things, we also see that kids get better.”“We see that they’re happy, that they’re doing well in school,” she says. “We see the change in them. It’s really rewarding work.”For more information about services offered at the Monmouth Family Growth Center, call 800-360-7711 or visit www.catholiccharitiestrenton.orglast_img

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