Ritchies IGA Ballina manager Adrian Rigby hands over a donation of $1000 to Heartfelt House executive director Vicki Hamilton.
Ritchies IGA Ballina manager Adrian Rigby hands over a donation of $1000 to Heartfelt House executive director Vicki Hamilton.

Message of healing across the seas

Heartfelt House executive director Vicki Hamilton recently visited the United States to enhance her skills in working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Heartfelt House, a non-profit organisation based in Wollongbar, offers a program called Taking the First Steps which helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse begin the journey to healing.

The trip was sponsored by an American-based organisation called Project Pathfinders that works with perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse. Vicki was invited to visit the Minneapolis-based organisation after they heard, through the recently released National Child Protection Framework put out by Health Minister Jenny Macklin’s office, of the unique work Heartfelt House is doing with adult survivors.

Vicki spoke to the approximately 20 clinicians about Heartfelt House’s very successful Taking the First Steps Plus program. Vicki said they are currently in the process of developing Taking the First Steps to the licensing stage so as to make it available to suitable agencies nationally and internationally.

She was also given the opportunity to gain insight into the mind of a perpetrator.

“In our workshops that we run for non-offending parents, spouses/partners and community leaders we are often asked, ‘How does a perpetrator of childhood sexual abuse think? What is going through his mind?’,” Vicki said. “After speaking to many clinicians, sitting in on an interview with a perpetrator, and visiting the labs where perpetrators are assessed, I now feel more equipped to answer these very tough questions.

“Whilst it was fantastic to see what work is being done in the States, I came away believing that our program would be a great asset to many of these organisations, and received many enquiries,” Vicki said.

Heartfelt House is currently in the process of developing Taking the First Steps to the licensing stage to make it available to suitable agencies nationally and internationally.

First and foremost though, Heartfelt House needs to secure long term government funding as the funding received from the government in 2009 has now expired. Vicki said she hopes to meet with Page MP Janelle Saffin shortly to discuss immediate and future funding possibilities.


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