STORY OF SURVIVAL: A woman sexually abused during childhood gets new lease on life

PEORIA, Ill. -

It's a place for healing and hope in central Illinois. The Center for Prevention of Abuse sees more than 5,000 survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence every year.

               

"I ran away from where I lived before just so I could find out what was wrong with me. And then I found out there wasn't anything wrong with me, but things had been done to me."

 

To know this fifty-year old survivor, who we'll call Cindy, you have to go back to her childhood, a place she herself didn't even remember until about 10 years ago.

 

"I came to the Center for Prevention of Abuse in 2007 and all of the pieces started falling back into place, the sexual abuse ... the physical abuse." Cindy says.

 

Diagnosed with ADD, anxiety disorder, anti-social behavior, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Cindy didn't remember about 90% of her childhood, until flashbacks and nightmares started to bring dark memories to the surface.

 

"I didn't understand with the memories that I had, I did not understand how all my odd behaviors made sense, I didn't look people in the eye, I couldn't touch or stand to be touched, I didn't talk, um, I definitely didn't laugh or smile." Cindy explains.

 

A chance meeting with someone who worked at the Center for Prevention of Abuse inspired Cindy's healing journey, in an attempt to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

"I didn't know anything about the center before then and as soon as I heard it, my heart just kind of said okay this is it... this is where you start." Cindy says.

 

Heidi Van Heuklon is the Clinical Director at the Center for Prevention of Abuse. She's sat across from clients like Cindy for more than 20 years.

 

“I guess my philosophy has always been and what I've learned over the years is that anything is possible and if we can help give that survivor a vision of where they would like to be or what they would like to see as the end result, then we can help them achieve that." Van Heuklon explains.

 

As is the case for Cindy, who says she doesn't know if she'd still be here had it not been for the place that helped her turn a story of survival into one of strength.

 

"I don't think I would have survived had it not been for the Center. I think I would have been totally social security dependent, in a psych ward, or dead." Cindy says.

 

The flashbacks and nightmares now gone, making way for new memories from a survivor whose character is not defined by her past, but the fight for her future.

 

The people here at the Center treated me like I was a human being, like I was somebody important, that I was somebody worth fighting for." Cindy says.

 

Almost all of the services at the center are free to clients. The center needs help to continue helping survivors in central Illinois live free from violence and abuse.

 

You can support the duck race, next Saturday, August 26th at noon at East Peoria's Eastside Center. Click here to buy a rubber duck.

 

Every single dollar raised stays local and supports client services.


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