Child advocacy center helps children heal from abuse
Jan. 13, 2018 at 9:30 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2018 at 6 a.m.
Standing outside her counseling office, Jasmine grips a piece of paper in her hands and reads aloud the details of her traumatic experience.
Her close family members listened intently and watched as the 12-year-old set those words on fire with the flick of a lighter.
She had completed the main part of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and would soon be on her way to recovery.
Jasmine is a victim of sexual abuse and was referred to Hope Child Advocacy Center for free therapy.
Last year, the center in Victoria provided services to 400 children and their families and expanded in September to serve the counties of Jackson, DeWitt and Goliad.
The child advocacy center is one of 13 in Texas that offer services to families regardless of their ability to pay.
At the age of 11, Jasmine was getting into trouble and told her middle school principal about the sexual abuse.
This is what advocates call an "outcry of abuse."
"I knew something was wrong because of the way she was acting," her mother said. "She was a wreck."
She asked not to be named in this story to protect her daughter's privacy.
Jasmine kept the abuse a secret because she feared the fallout that could happen if she said anything.
For several months, she struggled with post-traumatic stress, and she couldn't tell any of her friends or family.
Her mother recalled checking in on her every single night just to make sure she was still breathing.
But everything changed when they started going to Hope Child Advocacy Center for a structured short-term therapy program.
The sessions helped Jasmine learn about relaxation, stress management and healthy ways to express her feelings.
"At the time, I thought it was my fault that it happened," Jasmine said.
Although she still wonders why the abuse happened, Jasmine said she's feeling better since she completed therapy last spring.
Allison Besio, director of education services at Hope Child Advocacy Center, said this kind of therapy has been helpful for her clients.
The trauma narrative part of the therapy seems to stick with her clients, she said.
Some kids opt to shred the paper or tear it up, and now there's a kind of graveyard behind the office.
"It's a burial of sorts," she said. "This is how we move forward. It's not easy being that vulnerable."
Besio said another big part of this kind of therapy is working with the parents so they can help their children at home.
The mother and daughter said while they are still angry about the abuse, they choose to focus on Jasmine's ongoing recovery.
Jasmine's mother said while the family has always been close, she often makes an extra effort to get the teen out of her room.
She encourages her to make pancakes for the family's breakfast or to go outside to play with her siblings.
She said she wants her daughter to stay busy and not spend that time thinking about the trauma.
She also makes sure to take the time to ask Jasmine after school how she is really doing and what's on her mind.
"Jasmine is doing really good," she said. "Her attitude has improved a lot. She's more open."
Jasmine also started playing sports in school.
Her mother said because of the therapy, Jasmine never had to take medication to cope with the trauma.
Jasmine said her mother tells her every day before school, "I love you. Think positive!"
The Victoria Advocate does not identify victims of sexual assault or abuse.