Positive Aging Thought Leader: Maria Olsen
So many of us are walking wounded.
We have traumas we tamp down, only to have them pop up and affect our lives in unexpected ways.
I recently attended a women’s retreat that changed my life. I was sexually abused as a child and raped as a teenager. And I told no one for decades. I pretended these things did not happen, but they continued to affect me in subconscious and conscious ways. Most of us soldier onwards without really dealing with the impact of such a happening upon our lives.
“The experience changed my life.”
I could not fully process my anger and my grief. I was filled with self-loathing. Moreover, I lashed out like a hurt animal when triggered.
That changed when I allowed trusted women to bear witness to my pain. Therapy helped, as well. I found out this year about a retreat available to women who had been sexually abused during childhood. The experience changed my life.
Overcoming Childhood Sexual Abuse:
I thought I had processed what I needed to process. That was simply a story I was telling myself. It seemed the easier way. But I was deluding myself. A unique women’s retreat for survivors of abuse helped me immeasurably to continue to heal.
Saprea retreats were started by the founders of Younique Cosmetics. They donated their large mansion outside Salt Lake City, Utah for four-day retreats throughout the year for women who had been sexually abused before 18 years of age.
According to Saprea, 1 in 5 children in the U.S. is sexually abused before the age of 18. The impacts of this trauma last long after the abuse has stopped. Saprea is leading the charge against child sexual abuse using proven, practical methods for confronting and overcoming child sexual abuse. All of the services and resources are free thanks to the generosity of donors.
“We created the Saprea Retreat because we saw various services for survivors in crisis..”
Sexual Abuse Treatments:
The Saprea Retreat is a free, clinically informed four-day experience followed by a self-guided online course for adult women who were sexually abused at or before age 18. The retreat is led by a team of licensed therapists and case managers who are eager to help survivors heal.
In addition, the retreat teaches survivors about the impacts of trauma, provides opportunities to apply healing tools, and builds a community of support. The subsequent online course builds upon that foundation for deeper understanding and application of healing principles.
The Saprea Retreat was created because they saw various services for survivors in crisis, but virtually nothing for survivors who, years or decades later, still feel the effects of the abuse. If you have been managing the impacts of child sexual abuse but continue to find it difficult to cope, the Saprea Retreat may be for you.
Four Days Of Healing:
However, the Saprea Retreat is not a crisis intervention program. They encourage women who are struggling with significant untreated mental health symptoms, active drug, and alcohol addiction, or homelessness to seek other professional help prior to applying.
The retreat was one of the first educational programs of its kind made available to survivors of child sexual abuse. Prior to its launch in 2015, most child sexual abuse treatments were administered via individual or group therapy. Since then, more than 4,300 survivors have attended the retreat and benefited from the uplifting experiences it provides.
“We were completely taken care of and nurtured in multiple ways.”
I thought there had to be a catch. What in life is ever free? But this actually is totally free. A participant only needed to fill out an application, be interviewed, and get herself to the Salt Lake City or Atlanta airports on their scheduled arrival date, where she will be picked up for four days of healing.
The retreat is “best suited to survivors who function well across multiple areas of their lives, can safely live in a social environment for four days with a group of other survivors, can abstain from drugs and alcohol for four days without withdrawals and are still affected, often deeply, by their past.”
I am a big fan of the Utah location. There also is a location outside of Atlanta, in a woodlike setting. The Utah site is built around a lovely vacation home to the owners, and is beautifully furnished and decorated. While it was a grand mansion, it felt warm and welcoming. I cried when we pulled up to the house. I wondered if I deserved this treatment.
Part Of The Experience:
The house is nestled in a gorgeous valley, with a lake and walking trails. I saw multiple deer on the property and marveled at the picturesque mountains surrounding the estate.
The address is not given to the attendees, and there is no cell phone service. There is a landline, however, if one needs to make phone calls. The property is gated, and I felt safe and protected.
“We had time to ourselves, to reflect, to rest, to journal, and to bond with other participants.”
We were completely taken care of and nurtured in multiple ways. We were fed healthy, gourmet meals. Exercise was part of the experience. I got to try Muay Thai, which is a form of Thai boxing, for the first time. I got creative with fun art projects, including the Japanese art of Kintsugi, whereby we mend broken pottery with gold.
Multiple Helpful Workshops:
In conclusion, we received personal notes from other retreat attendees, and gifts from generous volunteers. We attended multiple helpful workshops, from nutrition tips, to healthy communication, to how to set appropriate boundaries with people in our lives. And we had private consultations with staff therapists. We had time to ourselves, to reflect, to rest, to journal, and to bond with other participants.
Most of all, I developed relationships with incredibly supportive women with whom I continue to communicate, heal and grow in recovery. My roommate quickly became one of my most trusted friends. Saprea offers continuing education online and support groups. Our cohort formed our own texting group and use the Marco Polo app to record video greetings and messages. I believe these women will be part of my life for a very long time.
Check out the website, Saprea.org, and please reach out to me if you would like more information. You can continue to heal, and you are worth it. Overcoming childhood sexual abuse is possible.
About the Author:
Maria Leonard Olsen is an attorney, author, radio show and podcast host in the Washington, D.C., area. For more information about her work, see www.MariaLeonardOlsen.com and follow her on social media at @fiftyafter50. Her latest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life, which has served as a vehicle for helping thousands of women reinvigorate their lives, is offered for sale on this website.