This week during our $100,000 in 100 day campaign, I am excited to have a guest blogger, Melissa Herrmann, share with you about the importance of our work. Melissa was the former Courage House Executive Director here in Northern California and in Tanzania, Africa. After we changed our age group here in the U.S. from minors to over 18, Melissa started her own consulting business, bringing her expertise and experience to the global community providing training and practical encouragement for those who work with the vulnerable population of victims of trafficking, foster youth and other high risk populations. Melissa has continued working with “courage” training our staff and providing counseling to our residents – she is a part of our “courage family”.
Time has a way of making you more grateful for the seasons before. As I reflect on the past eight years I see the faces of every single girl that came through Courage House. I know them all. I love each and every one. And almost a decade later, I am still in contact with the majority of them. Some have started college, others are working 2 jobs to make ends meet, some are mothers, they have had both accomplishments and struggles, and all of them continue a healing journey that simply isn’t over yet.
I just had a conversation with one of our first girls to ever come to Courage House. “Melissa, I’m still having bad dreams. When will it stop?”
Another one finds me on social media, “Melissa, what is the name of those vitamins I took at Courage House to help my brain? I’m still anxious and I remember that those helped me.”
“I’m not even trying to think about that life. Why does it keep coming up in my mind?”
“Melissa, when I have to take my daughter to daycare I just think, ‘if anyone does to her what they did to me I might kill them. I’m terrified to leave her and now my memories won’t stop. I thought this was over.’”
As adulthood gave them a newfound freedom, it came with a lot of unexpected punches.
I find myself repeating the same phrases over and over to the girls, “Time its self is NOT a healer. You have to deal with the trauma or the trauma deals with you, and even then….the process does not typically happen quickly when you are talking about such significant abuse.”
Their words echo in my mind… “It’s just so hard now. Can I come back home?”
For most parents, that answer is much easier. But for us at Courage, we have not been able to say yes to all of them. In fact, we most often have to say, “We only have space for 3 and they are filled.”
Our society is so driven by quick results, wanting immediate answers and solutions – “the best bang for our buck.” In that haste, our traumatized children are often left in the dust.
Trauma frankly just doesn’t respond to the timelines of our “microwave” society. For the sake of survival, trauma victims have had to find a way to keep the depth of their pain very securely hidden, until there has been consistent safety, basic needs are met, and relationships have passed some hard tests.
The way trauma is stored in the brain can literally leave a victim speechless, as the “language” center of the brain goes “offline.” They are inundated with pictures and memories, nightmares, and somatic sensations in the body. Yet their brains cannot find a way to articulate the torment. Neurons in the brain have created some pathways due to the trauma that result in impulsive behaviors and habits; and while the brain can heal and create new pathways, it won’t happen in the 6 months or 21 sessions the government will pay for (as minors).
Healing takes time — intentional time and focus. The brain has a lot of work to do to recover. The body has to learn that it is safe. Emotions have to be experienced and processed. And the spirit of the girls have to be re-ignited with purpose.
And that is why our commitment to our girls is simply not finished.
They have basic needs of housing, transportation, regular groceries, and diapers for their babies. They desire the healthy relationships that were modeled to them within the home, and when those are in place and they are keeping up with work, school, or parenting, they still find a deeper wrestling taking place deep within them – the residue of their trauma.
And as I sit in reflection over the past 8 years, I am incredibly grateful for the foundation they received at Courage House, but I can’t escape the yearning to see something secure built on that foundation.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a new mom – and as I watch my infant daughter sleep, I cannot fathom turning her away in her time of need, even when she is “grown.” Or maybe it’s because one of my clients that I’ve been doing counseling with over the past 2 years, was never able to get past the torment of her own sexual abuse and trafficking. And although it happened over 35 years ago, she couldn’t manage the intensity of her pain, so just a few weeks ago, at the age of 54, she committed suicide.
She became a victim of trauma itself.
We don’t want to stop at just helping them build a strong foundation. We want to see them securely established in their sense of self and in their understanding of their God-given purpose. That is the heart of a mother and father. We told these girls we would be family. And that is what they still need.
So we continue reaching out and answering their calls. We provide all the resources we can. But the truth is, what they still want and need is a home.
They still need Courage House.
As we are entering the final month of 2018, we are asking that you would prayerfully consider financially giving to our mission and vision to build homes and call these young people family as they continue on their long and often lonely journey of healing. Thank you!
Courage Worldwide, Inc.