You Have the Ability to Change

by Kim Hemmert

Carlee was raised on a ranch with her three younger siblings. She learned how to brand cows and helped move cattle. “We worked as a family, and everyone was connected,” she says. She liked the feeling of hard work and belonging. When she was 17, her world turned upside down. Her parents got divorced which resulted in feelings of disconnectedness, and Carlee experienced sexual assault from a peer.

From the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 40% of sexual assault occurs by an acquaintance and one in three females experience it for the first time between age 11 and 17. It can be very difficult to talk about sexual abuse because it is traumatic. “There was a lot going on and it was a pretty dark time for me. I didn’t want anything to do with the CAC because I didn’t know what it was,” Carlee says. The ‘CAC’ or Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center is where Carlee met Kimber and Ashley. Kimber and Ashley worked with Carlee through her darkest hour. Over time, Carlee began to develop a relationship with Kimber and Ashley and saw them as “Courageous and strong women. They are very accepting. They listen and are super supportive.” These women set a positive example for Carlee and modeled what healthy relationships look like. They helped her increase her confidence and self-worth and understand how to set boundaries.

Carlee’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were mitigated by the protective factors of resilience and social connections she built through her relationships with staff at the CAC. Carlee was able to use her difficult experience for her good and to help others. Carlee is not just a statistic but a survivor. “I love the staff at the CAC and now I work there through AmeriCorps.” She knows the resources the CAC offer as well as its history and background. Carlee has learned a lot from her life experiences and offers her advice and hope to others. She says, “Don’t let the past control you. You have the ability to change the negative in your life to positives. The CAC is not the place to feel scared. It’s an open arms place to find support and love.”

We at Idaho Children’s Trust Fund (ICTF) believe that HOPE, Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences, Conquers ACEs and when individuals thrive, communities thrive! We are grateful for Carlee’s willingness to share her story of resilience and social connections, and to the staff at Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center for the work they do to mitigate the effects of ACEs by building protective factors. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or rape, and wants to talk about it, there is HOPE and healing. Contact the UVCAC or ICTF to connect you with resources near you. If you would like more information on preventing child sexual abuse, please contact ICTF for more information.

-Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center is an ICTF annual grant recipient