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Friday, March 23 News

Church opens doors to heal sex abuse victims

After two members of Encounter Church confided histories of sexual abuse last spring, Pastor Landon Reesor, a father of five, decided he wanted to do more to help victims of sexual abuse.

Reesor reached out to Heather P. Wright, executive director of the Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal, about establishing a counseling program to help sex abuse victims recover. The center is a faith-based counseling center in north Greenwich and Wright is a licensed counselor.

“If two people come to me within such a short period of time and said sex abuse is part of their story I know it can’t just be them,” said Reesor, who founded the church 10 years ago.

Reesor said the more he researches the issue of sex abuse, the more he believes many victims are not seeking help that could improve their lives.

“Our sexuality is so deeply ingrained a part of who we are maybe even more so than what we do, or who we think we are,” Reesor said. “When it is abused you see the effects on people are so long-lasting.”

As a result of Reesor’s outreach, Wright will lead a confidential counseling group at the Post Road church for six Thursday mornings based on the book, “On The Threshold of Hope” by Diane Mandt Landberg. The sessions will be from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. from Oct. 15 through Nov. 19, and cost $150 for six weeks, plus $27 for materials, Wright said. Scholarships for the program are available, she said.

Wright said while the book and program does discuss moving past the trauma of sexual abuse and using faith to do so, the book’s scope is wide enough that being a Christian or even a person of religious faith is not necessary to benefit from the program. They hope to have a group no larger than 10 people.

“We think she does a very good job in the book from a counseling perspective on the issues but she also offers faith and spirituality as an option to enhance the healing process,” Wright said.

Without outside help, feelings of anxiety and powerlessness from instances of sexual abuse can leave survivors unable to maintain healthy relationships or have self-esteem, said Wright.

Wright said joining a group counseling workshop ideally provides a dynamic lacking in individual counseling sessions.

“I think taking part in the group can really achieve healing and help in terms of letting go of the past and moving into the future,” Wright said.

Wright has worked for the Center for Hope and Renewal for 10 years, and before that was an instructor at the Mars Hill Graduate School at Western Seminary, where she studied under Dr. Dan Allender, a Christian therapist and author focusing on sexual abuse recovery.

Efforts such as Reesor’s try to remove discomfort around seeking help with trying to recover from traumas.

“I really applaud Landon’s desire to be a help to people that many other people would choose to avoid he is courageously trying to let his congregation and others to know they support them through this, and provide a supportive community where they can heal,” Reesor said.

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Reesor said he hopes to offer similar sessions on a recurring basis if demand is there.

“Especially in a town like Darien where so much emphasis is put on status and achievement it might be a subject some people might rather not deal with,” Reesor said. “But if we can help some people repair and heal themselves and move forward with their lives it will have so many other positive effects.”

For more information about the workshop or to register contact Therapist Julie Hall at the Center for Hope and Renewal at 203-998-5460 or at julie@hopeandrenewal.org.