NEW ALBANY —
On a wall at the SOAR ministries house in New Albany, a painting of a tree hangs. Instead of bright green leaves blooming from its branches, painful words cover its bare limbs as its roots run deep into the soil.
Survivors during a retreat wrote these sayings in an attempt to deal with the enduring legacy of their childhood sexual abuse. Like the tree, the roots of many of their problems began with the molestation. Shame, anger and loneliness blossomed as its fruits.
For the past 13 years, survivors such as these have helped many uproot the remnants of this abuse. Naming the group Survivors of Abuse Restored, or SOAR, the organization has made an impact in the lives of more than 400 women in Southern Indiana. On Friday, March 1, the nonprofit ministry will celebrate these victories at its Healing Hearts Banquet, its major fundraising event of the year.
“What the public and what people don’t understand is that childhood sexual abuse is the root of a lot of women’s issues,” said president of the board and local counselor Cathy Jo Summers. “There are a lot of things that are the result of childhood sexual abuse.”
Statistics show that one in every three females has experienced some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18, the effects of which don’t end with childhood. As they age, these women have a greater likelihood of suffering from depression, antisocial behavior, anxiety and low self-esteem, not to mention other emotional and even some physical problems.
More than a decade ago, SOAR founder and abuse survivor Leslie Thomas was confronted with the fact that few resources were available for survivors in the area. Not many support groups existed that focused only on childhood sexual abuse. So she decided to found one.
After approaching Northside Christian Church about using its facilities to start a group, the leaders agreed and, as Thomas said, the rest is history.