Helping Young Victims of Sexual Abuse Heal and Prosper
Among the most challenging issues facing society today are those that involve sexual abuse, especially in children.
Unfortunately, because the topic is considered taboo, cases all too often go unreported. And even when a victim or other witness does come forward seeking intervention and help, most communities are ill-prepared to address the situation.
Cleveland County is privileged to have an organization that tackles this life-shattering abuse head-on. Bethesda Inc. works with the young victims of sexual abuse and their non-offending family members, helping the children, and the family as a whole, heal and prosper.
I recently spoke with Travis Humphrey, executive director of Bethesda Inc., about the vital work they do.
Can you provide some background information on your organization?
Bethesda was founded in 1982. Bethesda focuses exclusively on the issue of child sexual abuse, providing therapeutic services, education and prevention.
Bethesda is honored to be a finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Nonprofits of Excellence Award. As one of only 24 finalists, Bethesda meets a high standard of excellence in service to all Oklahomans.
United Way of Norman and United Way of Central Oklahoma support the work of Bethesda.
What is your mission?
To heal the trauma of childhood sexual abuse through treatment, education and prevention.
What unique needs does your organization face?
Bethesda faces a growing demand for services with limited space. More children are speaking out against sexual abuse, and Bethesda is proud to be a resource for their journey of healing. Over the last two years, demand for therapy has increased 52 percent, and we are now serving over 700 clients yearly. We need to expand our facility to meet the demand.
Whom do you serve?
Bethesda serves any child, 3 to 18 years old, in Oklahoma. We also serve any non-offending caregivers with individual and group support. By serving both the child and their caregivers, Bethesda makes sure that the lessons learned during therapy are reinforced at home. Bethesda does not charge clients for its services. We ensure no barrier stands between a child and the opportunity to heal from sexual abuse.
How does one obtain referrals?
Bethesda typically receives referrals through Child Protective Services and area Child Advocacy Centers (e.g., Mary Abbott Children’s House). Referrals are also issued by law enforcement, schools, childcare centers and private therapists. Bethesda is fortunate to have a great relationship with the community.
If someone needs Bethesda’s services, they can contact us at 364.0333 or visit our website at BethesdaOK.org.
Most important, if you suspect abuse of any kind, it must be reported. Simply call the Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.522.3511.
What are some of the programs and services you offer?
Licensed therapists are trained in trauma-focused therapy and have over 30 years of combined experience. Children learn personal space boundaries and healthy coping skills to help process anxiety and other strong emotions. They learn the abuse was not their fault and that it does not determine their future.
Bethesda also includes a summer camp program designed specifically to give child victims of sexual abuse a fun, memorable week of significant growth and change.
Bethesda also equips children with the vocabulary, permission and courage to speak up about abuse through the “Stop, Go and Tell” education program. Children learn that no one should break a personal space boundary, and if someone tries, then they should tell a safe adult. This year, Bethesda reached more than 20,000 children in central Oklahoma.
What can people in the community do to help your organization?
When Bethesda has needs, we send out a notification to the Friends of Bethesda. It may be cookies that are given to clients during treatment, or a gas card for a needy family. You can sign up to be a Friend of Bethesda by emailing volunteer@bethesdaOK.org.
With both state and federal budget cuts looming, Bethesda is forever grateful for the generous financial support provided by the community. Donations can be made at www.BethesdaOK.org. A donation of $100 provides three group sessions for a child healing from the trauma of sexual abuse.