FRANKFORT — It’s Erica Brown Myers’ job to help those who have been victimized by sexual abuse. But helping others can take a toll on the helper as well as the victim.
Myers, 35, of Greenup County, is director of Clinical Services at the Safe Harbor domestic abuse shelter in Ashland. She works directly with victims and she works with young counselors, often telling them “to take care of themselves while they take care of the victim.”
She recalls the time she nearly broke down emotionally while listening to a little girl describe how “she vividly remembers the first time she was victimized by her step-father because it was her birthday.”
While being assaulted, the little girl heard her mother knocking at the door and knew she was bringing a birthday cake.
“She told me she just thought about the cake,” Myers said. “But I had such good parents and, when I heard that story, it was just very hard to control my emotions.”
That’s why it’s so important for Myers to work with young clinicians, telling them how to talk to victims so the victim won’t be “re-victimized and re-traumatized;” while not allowing themselves to be traumatized.
Myers isn’t alone in seeing the devastating effects on victims who are often powerless to prevent the abuse and frequently fearful of reporting it.
Deputy Ruford Abner, 53, is the Domestic Violence Officer in Rowan County. He sees every domestic violence order in the county; he investigates sexual assault cases; he’s the one who makes sure the frightened victims get to the hospital or get counseling.
Sadly, many victims blame themselves.
“A lot of victims feel like they ‘deserved’ what happened to them,” Abner explained. “It’s not their fault.”
And some are ashamed, fearful of retribution and reluctant to report the crime or identify their abuser.