LOCAL ORGANIZATION SERVES SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

SERVICES HARD TO FIND Marcie Rey Landreth, MSW, Executive Director of Set Free Refuge, tells the story of a friend who was trying to find services for her daughter who had experienced a sexual assault.

“There just wasn’t any support or services available anywhere in this area,” Landreth lamented. “But now there is.”
Landreth, who has her Master’s Degree in Social Work and extensive experience working with survivors of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking offers therapy specifically for women who are survivors of sexual assault. She says working with survivors of sexual trauma is a special niche among therapists.

“It’s a difficult issue for many therapists to work through with their clients. If the therapist is uncomfortable with the topic, the client will sense that and avoid talking about it all together.”

Landreth says she has worked with clients who have a history of going to therapy but never before opened up about what they experienced because they were not comfortable doing so.
Landreth says she discovered her passion of working with sexual assault survivors while working at a rape crisis center in New Mexico, near the Mexican border.

“I could truly empathize with what these women had experienced. Working with them didn’t make me the least bit uncomfortable and I wasn’t afraid to listen to the stories of the trauma they had been through. It built in me a passion to see the women get healed from what they have been through.”

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO SEEK HELP
Landreth says most survivors never get the therapy they need to help them process what they’ve been through and come to a place of healing. There are a number of reasons for this. First, a survivor may not know where to look for help or if they do look, it’s very likely she may not find anything available. Or, she may assume she is supposed to be strong and just “get over it” on her own. Shame, guilt and embarrassment are other reasons for not seeking help.

Landreth explains the importance of seeking help to overcome the emotional effects of experiencing trauma “Healing from sexual trauma isn’t something that typically happens on its own, most of the time you need someone to guide you through the healing process.” She compares the emotional injury of trauma to a compound fracture.

“You need to go to someone who can set the broken bone in place so it can properly heal,” she added.

Landreth explains that the effects from experiencing sexual trauma can take many forms and last a lifetime if not dealt with. The effects of trauma can include anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, substance abuse, sleep and eating disorders as well as many others.

Landreth says the root cause of many mental health diagnosis is trauma.

“A lot of people who have a mental health diagnosis and are being treated, are addressing the symptoms of past trauma that has never been addressed. However, it’s never too late to begin the healing process,” Landreth said.

THE PATH TO HEALING
Landreth says that when she works with survivors of sexual assault, it’s done from a trauma-informed approach.

“We understand from scientific research that when a person experiences a traumatic event or repeated trauma, those events literally re-wire the brain. The brain is reset to be in a mode of constant vigilance to protect us from being hurt again. Experiencing trauma can cause us to always be on the edge of a fight or flight response. Our brain is now re-wired to always be on guard, always trying to anticipate the next threat. Because own brain is always on alert, it never allows us to rest, and we become exhausted. Even at night when we try to sleep, the brain doesn’t want to shut down and rest because it still wants to stand guard to protect us,” she said.

Landreth says “For the person who has experienced a traumatic event(s), the brain now assesses everything we encounter, from the way people interact with us, to everyday sights and sounds, from a perspective of safety. If the brain interprets the slightest thing as a potential threat, we may experience a degree of a fight or flight reaction.

Another name for that is a trigger response”.

Landreth says the goal in the trauma-informed approach is to help a person understand how trauma has affected their brain and body. Once they understand how the brain has been reset to be on guard all the time, they can then start to incorporate ways to help the brain stand down from its constant state of vigilance and implement tools to help manage how their brain interprets their everyday environment.

HOW TO CONTACT MARCIE FOR MORE INFORMATION
Marcie provides services for survivors of sexual assault through Set Free Refuge, a nonprofit organization here in Navarre. She says the main goal of Set Free Refuge is to see women healed from past trauma and fees for her services are based on income, so they are accessible to everyone who may need them.

If you’re interested in getting more information about the services Marcie offers, you can visit setfreerefuge.org or email her at marcie@setfreerefuge.org.



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