"One effect (of trauma) is that our sense of being safe in the world is violated, and that digs down into our sense of having a father who loves us and takes care of us," he said. "Victims of trauma have to make sense of that - how can you say that there's a father in heaven who loves me when this happened to me? So having a psychologist who can walk through that with somebody, and help wrestle with that reality, and learn how to accept suffering as part of God's will is an essential element to healing."
Sue Stubbs is the director of the Victim Assistance Office for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia. While her office was originally created to respond to the clergy sex abuse crisis, as were many diocesan child and youth protection departments, Stubbs said that her office has become a catch-all, and now provides resources to a wide variety of victims, whether they were assaulted by church personnel or not.
Besides helping connect victims with counselors, Stubbs said the office also puts on retreats every year, two for women and one for men, that help address both psychological and spiritual components of healing after sexual assault.
Stubbs said it was important for victims to seek spiritual as well as psychological healing, because the two areas often overlap, and because recognizing God as an all-good and all-loving creator helps victims make sense of their experiences.
"You have to believe that someone bigger than you cares about you, and created you a certain way, to really understand that nothing...that happens to you and nothing that you do can change the way God made you. (Your worth) stays the same no matter what."
Her office also facilitates trauma recovery groups for victims that are usually put on once or twice a year, for nine sessions each. The groups welcome people who have suffered all kinds of trauma and sexual assault, whether in childhood or later in life.
The benefit of a group, Stubbs said, is that people can get a sense that they're not alone.
"You don't feel alone, you don't feel different. (Victims sometimes) feel like a freak and they realize they're not. Someone in the group is saying the same thing that they've thought a million times," she said. "And it provides a safe connection, because these people get it, they're not afraid to reach out because they know that this person has had something similar."
Stubbs said that she often tells other people in Church leadership that the Church has to start seeing victims of sexual assault as people who are on the peripheries, to whom Pope Francis has called the Church to minister.
"The people that come to church oftentimes are the periphery, you just can't see it," Stubbs said. "People who've been sexually assaulted are the periphery and they could be sitting right next to you and have no idea, because they don't talk about it, they hide it, it's an invisible secret that they're afraid to show anybody."
"There's a part of them that feels broken, they perceive themselves as something sinful, but it isn't their sin, it's someone else's sin that has affected their life, and it's confusing," Stubbs said.
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"And I think that's where the Church can help to untie those knots - I think we could add the spiritual piece" that is missing from other community resources, she said.
College campuses are unfortunately a place of increased risk for sexual violence - especially for women. RAINN - the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, reports that women ages 18-24 are at a heightened risk to experience sexual assault, both on and off college campuses.
In order to prevent and educate students about sexual assault and other harmful situations, The Catholic University of America (CUA) has created PEERS - Peer Educators Empowering Respectful Students - a group that seeks to educate other students and help foster a more respectful environment on campus.
Stephanie Davey is the Assistant Dean in the Office of the Dean of Students at CUA and oversees much of the work that PEERS does. She said that PEERS helps students understand what sexual assault is, and how to either intervene to prevent it from happening or what to do if sexual assault has occurred.
Davey said they especially want victims to "understand that we are a supportive place and they don't have to be fearful or ashamed about seeking support," whether the incident occurred with another CUA student or not.
The university just concluded observing October as Sexual Violence Prevention Month, during which the school has participated in several national campaigns that raise awareness of sexual violence and encourage increased conversation about the issue.