Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Path to Healing
By Dianne Anderson
Wendy Gladney tackles topics that most people would rather avoid, like violence against women that is usually rooted in child sexual abuse and molestation.
Some of it, she draws from personal experience.
In the coming months in Orange County, Gladney is helping women learn to heal hate through forgiveness, probably one of the victim’s hardest lessons in life.
In the long run, she said it can lead to victory.
“Often those of us who have been betrayed, we hold on to it while the person who was the victimizer has moved on. It doesn’t affect their lives and yet here we are caught in this trap not being able to move on with their lives,” she said.
Through her nonprofit Forgiving for Living, hers is one of the several African American programs recently awarded a grant from the Orange County Community Foundation. She is reaching out to local Black nonprofits and churches to start those difficult conversations to gain understanding of something that could save a life.
The outreach is never more timely.
Numerous studies show a sharp increase in Black teen suicide, with Black girls at the highest risk.
At last count, one study exploring the “Changing Characteristics of African-American Adolescent Suicides, 2001-2017,” researchers show the rate of Black male suicides increased by 60% and for Black females increased by 182% from 2001 to 2017. The study shows that suicides were the second leading cause of death for African American adolescents.
Gladney said that one of their board members is a Kaiser psychiatrist, specializing in suicide prevention, and also teaches a class with Forgiving for Living.
“We work with young people on how to recognize the signs if you have a friend that may be contemplating suicide. Or, if you’re really dealing with depression where you’re not sure where the next step may lead,” she said.
This month, she is also partnering with Kandee Lewis of the Positive Results Center for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic violence and child sexual abuse is hard to talk about, but young lives and minds are at stake.
Gladney said they are expanding their circle of healing in Orange County. She is especially interested in connecting with local Black churches, nonprofits and sororities to raise community consciousness.
Forgiveness is a choice and a lifestyle, but she also emphasizes that it is not condoning or accepting crimes against humanity.
“I believe in retribution that if someone does a wrong and act of violence, and sexual abuse that they should be held accountable. For the [victim] to become free, they have to be able to forgive,” she said.
Forgiving For Living was founded 20 years ago to serve at-risk low income girls. In Orange County, she also partners with groups to help Irvine college goers, some are first generation in their families.
Through her Ambassador Leadership Program and youth development programs, she is reaching out across Orange County to help Black girls and youth to learn how to be leaders.
In her outreach, the girls understand boundaries and they emphasize knowing what is inappropriate touching of young girls, which has increased since the pandemic. The program focuses on life skills, and identifying the signals.
“The first thing is to recognize that sometimes when you’re very young seven years old you don’t know a good touch and a bad touch. It’s hard for you to define that, the younger you are,” she said.
But girls and youth can learn to protect themselves to block an attack. Younger children should know that they can scream out for help to get an adult’s attention.
“When you start yelling no and help, stop don’t hurt me, it will make some predators leave you alone,” she said.
As in her case, many adults around her missed the signs of sexual child abuse. But kids that grow up with abuse or molestation have a high risk of tolerating domestic abuse as they become adults.
For them, she said it’s important that women understand and connect to the proper channels, to coping therapy, counseling and learn about what is acceptable behavior or bad behavior. Coming up next year, they expect to provide a full calendar of events and resources for the community.
Through her personal journey, she wants everyone to know that child abuse, which also impacts boys, or domestic violence, and other atrocities can be healed with the right help.
“You want to go from victim to victorious. Don’t stay with a victim’s mentality. Do what you can to change your life,” she said. “We may not be able to control what happened to us as kids, but we control how we let it control us for the rest of our lives”
To get help or RSVP events, contact Ms. Gladney at firstname.lastname@example.org
or see https://www.forgivingforliving.org/
For 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Hotline, call 800-273-8255 or see https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/