Celebrate With Us at the Big Fake Wedding

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Hello friends and family!  We are so excited to be one of the vendors supplying letterpress invitations and menus on our handmade paper for this March’s The Big Fake Wedding Event in Atlanta!

The Big Fake Wedding puts on a mock wedding in cities across the country to showcase wedding vendors – complete with a ceremony (where a real couple renews their vows!), reception, food, dancing and decor!  This year’s Atlanta event will be held at the W Atlanta Midtown on March 29.  You can buy tickets now for only $25 at http://thebigfakewedding.com/events/atlanta-bridal-show-alternative-10/.

We would love to see you there and hope you will consider using our letterpress printing services and paper hand made by women stepping out of the sex industry for your wedding or next big event!  Don’t forget our partner design firm Mia Maria Design can work with you on all your design needs and donates a portion of their proceeds on our collaborative projects back to That Grace Restored!


Volunteer Spotlight: Carol Warren & Cathy Chrismer

volunteer spotlight

Every Thursday between noon and 1:30PM you can find best friends Cathy Chrismer and Carol Warren at 1376 Belmont Ave.  About a 20-minute drive from their homes on the north side of Atlanta, Cathy and Carol come bearing lunch – sometimes a creative quinoa salad, sometimes a steaming taco soup.  All are welcomed eagerly by our staff at Serenity’s Steps and the women employed to make paper at That Grace Restored.

Cathy and Carol started volunteering at Serenity’s Steps just a few months ago.  After Mike Warren joined our team as Chairman of the Board of Directors, it didn’t take his wife Carol long to get involved as well, asking her longtime friend Cathy to join her in serving women stepping out of the commercial sex industry.

How do they serve?  First and foremost, by building relationships.  They bring lunch each Thursday and are active participants with the women employed at That Grace Restored in their Lunch & Learn personal development sessions.

Lunch & Learn’s range from watching Andy Stanley’s “Ask It” series video and discussing wise decision making to taking personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs to better understand how each person processes and reacts to situations.  Most recently, we have started Northpoint Church’s Starting Point small group series centered around having honest conversations and answering questions about faith.

Carol and Cathy have built rapport with the women we serve through Serenity’s Steps by simply being present with them as they learn and go through steps to make changes.  They are open and honest about their own struggles, and offer support for each of the women without judgment.

When asked why each of the ladies wanted to start building relationships with women exiting the sex industry, all of whom are younger and come from different personal backgrounds, Cathy answered, “I was doing physical therapy somewhere and I met a woman and a man who were involved with an anti-trafficking organization.  I felt a nudge then to get involved.  Then when Carol and Mike joined the board of Serenity’s Steps they invited me to get involved and I just felt like it was a fit.  I have an urge to fight for the underdog.  These aren’t the young girls getting all the attention in the media, they’re older women.  I want to see them have dignity and to feel that we really care and see them in a dignified light.”

Carol added, “For me what touches my heart is thinking of mothers who can’t help their children.  I think about ‘If I was that mother…what would I do if I had no one to support me?’  I look at the women at Serenity’s Steps who are mothers, who could have aborted their children but didn’t and now they are struggling because of it.”

Both women feel they have not only been able to serve, but have been blessed greatly by the relationships they have built with our women.

“When you care about someone so much, you want to see them heal.  But you have to be patient and give them time and just build the relationship. We get more out of it than the time we give.  We are so humbled and blessed to be around the authenticity of the women and their care for each other,” said Cathy.

Carol added her thoughts on why it is so important to take a relational approach rather than simply giving items or money to meet physical needs for the women.

“There are so many organizations for children, but these women are discarded. Everyone wants to help a teenager or a baby.  Their lives, the cycle has been like this for 30 years for some of them.  To be able to break that cycle is so hard.  You have to have patience and do things a completely different way.  For them to know that we truly care about them we need to spend the time with them.”

To learn more about volunteering as a Side-By-Side Mentor or to view our other volunteer opportunities, please visit our Volunteer page.


10 Ways to be a Good Friend to Someone Who has Been Sexually Abused

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When we were nineteen my friend started having memories, flash backs, of her childhood. These memories were not very welcome as they brought with them pain, confusion, and shame. All of which were already there, but didn’t have a name. As she began to piece together these memories with what she already knew of her childhood, she began to realize and remember that she had been repeatedly molested around the time she was six years old. She was brave enough to trust her story to me and together we started figuring out how to help her heal. How to set her free from that shame. And how to integrate this newly remembered reality into her story.

Current statistics say that 1 in 4 women in the US have experienced sexual abuse and 75-95% of women coming out of commercial sexual exploitation have experienced sexual abuse prior to their exploitation. The likelihood that sexual abuse is part of her story for you or for a woman you call friend is sadly very high. So what do you do when a friend confides in you that they have been abused? What do you do if you yourself have been abused?

While each situation is unique and some situations will warrant the need for medical care or police involvement due to their recency, here are some things you can do or say to be a good friend to someone who has experienced sexual abuse.

1. Tell her your believe her: One of the major struggles for survivors of sexual abuse is that they are afraid no one will believe them, they are afraid people will think they are crazy, they are afraid no one will legitimize what they have been through. Saying I believe you helps undo all these fears. Saying I believe you builds a bridge of trust that is vital if you are going to be a good friend.

2. Do not minimize: No matter how small what she went through may seem to you, it was devastating to her. Do not minimize her experience or reflect that at least “insert something worse that could have happened here” didn’t happen. Going along with this, is do not tell her you understand, or that you know how she feels. Even if you have an experience of sexual abuse in your story too, your experience is different than hers. The time will come when telling your story may be helpful, but for now, all she needs to know is that you care. It’s about her story, her experience right now, not yours.

3. Let her decide: Now is not the time to take over and make decisions for her. Now is not the time to tell her what to do. She needs to know she is in control and gets to make the decisions about her. If you think she should file a police report and she disagrees, her decision is what you go with. You should encourage her to do the hard but healthy things like seek medical attention or file a police report, but do not try to force or control her. Be supportive and let her know that no matter what she decides you are there to help in whatever way she asks.

4. Be respectful of her story: Don’t ask for more details. Don’t discuss this without her present and without her approval. This is a case where your husband, boyfriend, mom, best friend, and whoever else you still tell everything does not need to know. Let her tell her story on her terms and to whom she feels safe to tell it. (Which I did with mentioning my friend in this blog)

5. Don’t be afraid of tears: 
or anger, or whatever other emotion she is feeling or not feeling about it all. She needs to feel the freedom to feel. Be honored that she feels safe to show you how she is feeling.

6. Be available: This is especially true of the twenty-four hours following her disclosing her abuse to you. Without being intrusive, text or call to check in on her. If she’s not reaching out still make sure she knows she is not alone and that you are available whenever she does need you.

7. Be a voice of truth: Remind her that it is not her fault, she did not ask for it, she did not deserve it, she is not dirty, she is not tainted, she is not damaged goods. This was not God’s plan for her. His plans for us are good and sexual abuse flies in the face of the beauty and good He intends for us.

8. Encourage her towards help: While I was able to be supportive to my friend and was the first person she disclosed her experience to, I was not her counselor. Ultimately the help of a trained and licensed counselor was the help that really got her the freedom and healing she needed.

9. Be patient: This process of healing is going to take time. Do not rush her. Do not give up on her. Be patient and allow her all the time she needs.

10. Educate yourself: This is a preemptive step so that you are ready when a friend comes to you with a story of abuse. Know the resources available in your area. Read helpful books like “Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb that can help you better understand sexual abuse and how to be a good friend. And get the healing you may need from your own story, if you haven’t dealt with your own story of abuse you may feel triggered by someone else’s and suddenly overwhelmed by your own experience.

By Leah Lesesne, Clinical Care Coordinator for Serenity’s Steps