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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Is Your Church Safe?

By Beth Healey

Sexual assault is a contemptible crime. Children and adults—male and female alike—continue to be traumatized by it. One in four females is sexually abused by her 18th birthday. For boys, it is one in six.

Sexual assault is a rampant crime. We will never forget the shock of the Sandusky scandal nor the public outrage over the Brock Turner verdict. Countless sexual assaults—those exposed to the public and those that are silently hidden—occur over and over again.

Educational programs, law enforcement, background checks, prison sentences, psychological counseling and other concerted efforts exist to address this dark brutality. Yet, it continues to ravage innocent victims in our schools, churches, streets, community organizations and—disturbingly—in our homes behind closed doors.

Sexual assault is a preventable crime. Despite everything that has been done to impede and punish, it is obvious that there is much more to do. When I learned about the Brock Turner case, I felt as though efforts to seek justice for rape victims (and respect for women) had been set back to square one. But I quickly realized that this horrible circumstance has taught us that more action is required.

Samaritan Centers across the nation are taking action. Here, in our region, the Samaritan Counseling Center of Western PA and the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute are partnering to offer their second annual training program to address child sexual abuse and the healing of adult survivors—the SafeChurch Project—which is set to begin on September 10, 2016.

SafeChurch empowers faith communities to become leaders in the prevention of child sexual abuse. The training includes the development of policy to protect children as well as education on recognizing the signs of abuse, inappropriate behaviors and intervention. These principles are applicable not only in a church setting, but also in the greater community. Additionally, SafeChurch teaches how to foster a culture within the church that promotes the healing and ongoing support of adult survivors.

"Safe church was such a blessing! It enabled us to talk through so many of the realities of childhood sexual abuse and gave us the framework to create a meaningful policy and approach to change our church's culture to an ongoing space of safety for children." - Lori Bass-Riley, Director of Children's Ministry at Cross Roads Presbyterian Church

Last year, 45+ representatives from 11 Western PA churches completed SafeChurch training. Click HERE for more details and how to register, or call Samaritan at 412-741-7430. Download SafeChurch BROCHURE. Check us out at www.samaritancounseling.net.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How Important Is Forgiveness?

– by Hannah Perry, Administrative/Marketing Assistant

When the word forgiveness is used, many of us think back to the playground as children. We are taught to say “sorry” if we push someone (if caught by an adult) and then the victim responds, “That’s okay, I forgive you”. This is a scripted conversation to so many pains of childhood. But, once we enter adulthood this script is a million times more complicated, with hidden motives, malicious behaviors, and selfishness. People are not as likely to voluntarily apologize and forgiveness is never offered. Or someone may apologize but forgiveness is not always readily given and expressed. Yet, if you call yourself a Christ follower, then forgiveness is crucial to how you should live, and it can also play a big role in your mental health.
The Bible tells us to forgive, and “not just seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). And this isn’t a casual suggestion but a command (Matthew 6:14-16). The reason we forgive is because we’ve been forgiven by our creator. We are told to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
Forgiveness is not always a feeling but a decision that we must make, sometimes without an apology at all.  Each individual’s timeline for dealing with a hurt and offering forgiveness will look differently, but many people seek psychotherapy for assistance. Therapists work to reduce their clients’ anger, bitterness and vengeful rumination but many studies have found that therapy needs to go beyond just reducing the feelings, it must include forgiveness. Several therapeutic models have been developed to promote forgiveness and a study done in 2013 summarized them all together and found the following:

“Participants receiving explicit forgiveness treatments reported significantly greater forgiveness than participants not receiving treatment…or alternative treatments. Forgiveness treatments resulted in greater changes in depression, anxiety, and hope than no-treatment conditions.” (Wade et al., 2013).
For some, forgiveness is easy, and for others it may take days, months, weeks, or even years. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, or loss of hope and don’t know why, then examine the hurts in your life and if there is forgiveness that needs to occur. It may not be simple so we suggest meeting with a faith based counselor at Samaritan Counseling Center and start on the road towards healing.
Wade, N. G., Hoyt, W. T., Kidwell, J. E., & Worthington, E. L. (2013). Efficacy of psychotherapeutic   interventions to promote forgiveness: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical        Psychology, 82(1), 154-170. doi:10.1037/a0035268