During the 23 years I spent in therapy recovering from the brutal abuse I suffered when growing up, there were many times I mentally crawled out of my therapist’s office and sat in the waiting room. It wasn’t uncommon for me to sit there for 15-20 minutes so that I could stabilize long enough to safely drive home. I often said to my therapist, “I wish there was somewhere safe to go where I can be in a comfortable environment, do fun things, and be around people who understand what I am going through.” I made a promise to myself that one day I would work to make such a place available to other survivors. That day has come.
The E. Diane Champé Institute (EDCI) will be a place where survivors can congregate, learn life-skills training, and have fun. There will be no therapy, but it will be therapeutic because there is no therapy. As survivors struggling with the aftermath of our trauma, we live it 24 hours a day. There has to be downtime to relax, engage with others, and grow.
Let me paint a picture of what my Centers will look like.
- The environment will have soothing but inviting colors. A survivor will be able to bring their laptop, book, knitting, or whatever else they want and can comfortably relax—either alone or with friends.
- In one part of our Centers there will be a big-screen TV. Friday or Saturday night will be movie night with free popcorn.
- We will have a book club and other types of clubs that survivors are interested in.
- Our life-skills training will focus on communication and relationship skills; we are partnering with PNC Bank to teach financial management classes (everything from balancing your checkbook to opening a savings account and investing); and we will partner with other businesses in the community to provide services.
- There will be no fees to survivors.
In building EDCI, there has been a lot of strategic planning to ensure that we will be responsive to survivors’ needs in a healthy way. This is about you, the survivor. Breaking down the isolation and shame that has been associated for so long with abuse survivors can change. Our Centers will be a catalyst for that change. I hope you will join me.