Helping Those Affected by Childhood Sexual Assault Find Hope

01/21/2016 12:34 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2017

Sue Mocker is a hope consultant. She sees the work she does as both a vocation and an avocation. After 30 years of being a teacher, she resigned when she felt her life heading in this new direction. She sees hope as the one thing everyone needs but some people possess so little of.

Mocker defines HOPE as "Have Optimism and Passion Every day." In her book The Hope Factor, Mocker lays out a blueprint for how people can find hope and light through their pain. Mocker knows how to do this from first-hand experience, and through her training while becoming a facilitator through Mending the Soul. From the age of four through pre-pubescence, Mocker was sexually abused by a family member. At the time, she felt a barrage of mixed emotions and told no one.

While in her 30s, she started having flashbacks and realized the impact the abuse was taking on her relationships. That is when she started to get the mental health help she needed and started the healing process. Mocker said in an interview with this blogger, "There's no other way I can think of where someone can hurt someone that can also be done in a loving way. No one would punch someone hard in the stomach in a loving way. Yet sexual acts can be done lovingly or can be the source of hurt and cause triggers and bad memories." Mocker knows that until one admits what has happened and starts talking about it, healing cannot occur.

And that healing can occur by a person working on his or her own with a therapist or in a support group or at a retreat designed for childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors. Last year, Mocker had the opportunity to go to the week-long Haven Retreat at The Younique Foundation, which was founded by Shelaine and Derek Maxfield to help adult survivors "who had suffered childhood sexual abuse," according to the foundation's website. Mocker was at the retreat with 10 other women who had been through similar situations. "Sharing stories and being authentic helps people realize what abuse is and what long-term damage it causes," Mocker said.

For years sexual abuse wasn't talked about. The first national survey of adults on childhood sexual abusetook place in 1988, and its results were in the 1990 issue of the journal Child Abuse & Neglect. Victimization was reported by 27 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men, but according to the National Center of Victims of Crime's website, "The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often not reported; experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities. CSA is also not uniformly defined, so statistics may vary."

To help people through these effects, Mocker offers private hope consultation, speaking, workshops, and retreats, including A Day of Brave and How the Divorce Stole Christmas. The work she does is complementary to the work of Dr. Bill Ronzheimer, whose research and doctoral dissertation is on the challenges of being a spouse of a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Ronzheimer, who is also a pastor, runs a program and a blog called Marriage Reconstruction, and the website says, the challenges of being a spouse of a survivor of CSA include "a sense of rejection, frustration resulting from unpredictable behaviors and situations, emasculation resulting from dysfunctional sexual relationships, rage, dealing with spouse's self-injurious behavior, fear over spouse's suicidal tendencies, and occasional dissociation."

Ronzheimer relates on his website how important it was for his wife (a CSA survivor) to get counseling and the process that made him realize he needed it, too, especially to strengthen their marriage.

Both Ronzheimer and Mocker help people connect to the resources and services they may need. And Mocker thinks that helping people find hope and resilience allows them to live in authenticity and have "realationships" with their loved ones.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline or 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.