Learning how to heal from deep, traumatizing childhood wounds can take years, even a lifetime. For Cecilia, she had a scar so deep, she hadn’t spoken it to anyone. Not ever. It took a relationship as an adult, that was sexually, verbally and physically abusive to bring that trauma back to the surface.
“I hit rock bottom after he threatened me with knives. Finally, things were triggered from my childhood and I decided to get help,” she says.
Cecilia shares her story with the help of her counselor, Erika Riobo-Gomez, who also serves as her translator. Cecilia speaks Spanish, and her English is not very good. Once she knew she needed help, she was referred to The Healing Center. The Healing Center is a Well-Community program of Aurora Health Care, and Wisconsin’s only free center dedicated to helping abuse survivors recover and thrive. It is also the only place that offers such services, in English and in Spanish. Cecilia has been seeing Erika for over two years.
“I was having panic attacks and these memories were coming to me. And at first when I met Erika I thought, ‘Could it be possible that she is really able to help me?’” Cecilia explains.
Cecilia says she was sexually assaulted as a child, first by a neighbor, when she was 6-years-old, then by her two brothers. She has been able to confide in Erika, who has helped her see how that trauma impacted her, not just as a child, but also as an adult.
“The worst thing is you learn to be quiet, to be silent. It’s very difficult to know your own family hurts you. It creates a lot of shame,” Cecilia says.
Erika is a Licensed Professional Counselor who started at The Healing Center in 2011 as an intern and worked her way up to being the Center’s first full-time therapist for Spanish-speaking clients. She currently sees 21 survivors and runs a group conversation with eight others.
“I’ve been very busy; clearly there is a need for this in the community. Many of my clients are very desperate to talk about things, so they open up right away,” Erika says.
Cecilia says she no longer feels afraid to tell her story and say to others, she is a survivor. “With the work I have done at the Healing Center, I learned exercises that have helped me control my anger. And I’m okay sharing my truth because I know I didn’t cause it,” Cecilia says.
The Healing Center offers opportunities for healing through support, advocacy and community education. These services are possible, in part, thanks to donors to Aurora Health Care Foundation. If you would like to make a gift in support of survivors, go to give.aurora.org/hopeshiningblue.