How Psychological Trauma Affects a Victim’s Healing Process


Imagine you get in a horrible car wreck. Your leg is broken in three places, the bones slightly out of alignment. But the doctors tell you that it is all going to be ok. They are going to make sure you get the best care possible and everything you could possibly need to support your recovery. You get medication for the pain, physical therapy to keep those muscles nice and strong, occupational therapy to make sure you can still work, and even some disability payments to make sure you keep your housing. The only problem is that none of it really helps. Even though it’s the best care out there, a key piece was missing; no one ever went in deep to set those bones back in alignment.

It is easy to see in this situation the need for going deep into where it really hurts rather than just providing support services. However, when working with victims of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) we somehow overlook how important that need truly is – to go deep to where it really hurts. We can provide job training and services, we can provide housing, we can provide community, but unless the woman gets help with the psychological trauma too the rest of those services never reach their full potential.

Psychological trauma creates a break in the foundation of the person. Anything else placed on top of that foundation is going to falter because the foundation needs repair. These breaks in the foundation often take the form of difficulty trusting, maladaptive behaviors, and distorted views of healthy living. The more breaks in the foundation, the more repairs needed.

Typically women who find themselves in CSE have experienced one or multiple traumas leading up to the trauma of CSE; and the majority of women in CSE were victims of sexual abuse and/or exploitation as a child. By the time a woman has exited CSE and is getting help she has likely experienced multiple traumas, and has many breaks in her foundation that need repair. As with a building’s foundation, the best person to help with those repairs is someone trained to do so – in this case a counselor.

Counselors trained in trauma-informed care know just how to repair that foundation. They know how to provide a supportive environment for that deep healing to take place. And they know it is going to take time. Probably more time than we would like it to.

Maybe you’re not a counselor, but you still have the opportunity to support a woman exiting a life in CSE and aren’t quite sure how to start helping her repair her foundation. Here are 5 ways you can support a woman who is healing from psychological trauma:

1.     Be patient with her. While we all want restoration to take place as quickly as possible, we also want it to stick. When we try to force our own timetables onto someone else’s recovery we are trying to control them. This only adds to the sense of powerlessness they already feel.

2.     Think outside your comfort zone. Her experiences are likely very different than yours. What seems abnormal to you may be familiar to her. Be open to new ways of thinking about things and don’t immediately pass judgment when it doesn’t fit with your worldview.

3.     Give grace. This is extremely important for these women as they have spent most of their lives disgraced and being taught that they deserve abuse, exploitation, and ridicule. Grace says the exact opposite. It says, “I don’t care what you do or don’t deserve or how people view you, I’m going to love you.”

4.     Be in touch with your own story. The more we are in touch with our own stories of trauma, the more gracious and patient we will naturally be. Being in touch with our own stories also gives us something to offer as we can share how we’ve been broken and repaired.

5.     Donate to help provide professional counseling services. Counseling can be expensive, and while many counselors are willing to work pro-bono with populations in need, they simply can’t afford to just work for free. Donating to provide professional counseling services means that the women can have consistent access to counseling services.

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

Want Your Wedding to Benefit a Cause? Now it Can!


You can now support women stepping out of the sex industry through your wedding invitations!

We are SO excited to announce a new design partnership with Mia Maria Design! We met the co-owners of Mia Maria Design (both named Maria) in October 2014 shortly after our acceptance as a vendor for this year’s Atlanta Big Fake Wedding! As veteran vendors of the Big Fake Wedding, Mia Maria Design had lots of tips for us on preparing for the event which led to our mutual realization that we should collaborate – we fell in love with their designs and passion, they fell in love with our paper and our mission.

Out of this meeting of creative minds, we are now pleased to offer letterpress print services for wedding and event invitations on handmade paper through That Grace Restored with custom design by Mia Maria Design!  We will have samples of our first collaborative wedding invitations available soon and you can contact us here with order inquiries.

In the meantime, enjoy these samples of the holiday card they designed for us and be sure to visit Mia Maria Design’s website for all your wedding design needs!

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4 Keys to Effective Communication in Conflict


Conflict makes most of us uncomfortable.  I would often rather stand in a long line at Wal-mart with two registers open than have to explain to someone why I’m upset with them.  I’m a fixer by nature, and I’ll do someone else’s work as well as my own rather than confront a slacking coworker.  Maybe some of you can relate.

Others of you may be the first to dive into conflict, embracing it with open arms.  There’s no other way to solve differences than to hash them out immediately, right?  Unfortunately, this method can also lead to unhealthy outcomes as it is easy to get heated and end up coming away feeling like no progress whatsoever was made.

The book Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler coaches the reader through ways to recognize the story you are telling when conflict arises, the ways that you interpret someone else’s story, and how to find the right story – resulting in productive outcomes all around!

This past year, we went through the book Crucial Conversations as a Serenity’s Steps staff and with the women employed at That Grace Restored.  Not only are conflict resolution and good communication skills necessary for establishing healthy relationships, but they also makes the difference between being deemed a short-fuse, a push-over or a respected, self-assured yet gracious individual.

So, using some of the tips we learned from the authors of Crucial Conversations, here’s how to be an effective communicator in conflict:

1.    Know what you want the result of your confrontation to be and keep that in mind.

Ultimately, do you want to be right, or do you want to work through an issue in the relationship and be stronger for it?  Do you care about your opinion being heard, or do you want your friend to make a healthy life decision?  It’s easy in the heat of a confrontation to lose sight of your real goal.  Talk to yourself before and during the conversation, recognizing your true desired outcome in the midst of the emotion you feel in the moment. This will guide the way in which you tell your story to the other person and keep you from common pitfalls like going into a conversation on the defensive.

2.    Understand your own story.

It’s easy to not only get confused about what outcome you really want when it feels like the other person is attacking you, but also to choose going into superficial defense mode rather than digging deep to understand your true feelings and beliefs about the problem. True recognition of your own story allows you to communicate more effectively and calmly with the other person rather than reducing you to cheap shots and trying to “win” the argument.

3.    Listen to where the other person is coming from.

Once you understand your story and goal, it is important to listen to the other person’s story.  How do they perceive the situation?  What is their motivation behind their actions? How are they likely to interpret what you are saying to them in light of this?  Understanding their story through humble questions allows you to respond in an appropriate manner with empathy and a clear knowledge of why they hold the position they do.

4.    Rewrite the story together. 

You’ve now gone through the steps needed to reach a peaceful resolution.   You know the end goal and you have shared your story. You have new information and fresh perspective to add after listening carefully to the other person’s story.  Now, you are together equipped to rewrite the narrative to create a full picture of the problem on both sides and the motivations of both parties.  Use this newfound understanding of yourself and each other to create an actionable plan for resolution.  One person may decide they were completely in the wrong.  On the other hand, you may both still have slightly opposing goals and a compromise will need to be worked out based on what is most important to both of you.

At the end of the day, intentional communication is always worth it in relationships and can be achieved by using tools like these to be effective in conflict scenarios.

What conflict resolution tactics have worked for you?  Share them in the comments!

By Kate McGaughey

Why we need healing in our relationships with other women

The quest for gender equality has been much in the media lately with the start of campaigns like He For She, Malala Yousafzai’s story and many other brave women standing up for women’s rights around the world.

Women everywhere are advocating for other women.  Isn’t it often the men we need to convince? Cultural stigmas that we need to change? 

But let’s dig a little deeper for a minute.  What about here at home? In our schools?  Our jobs?  The PTA meetings?  Our church small groups?

We as women have a pretty sordid history of not being very nice to each other.  A few months ago, I wrote a post called How to Not Be A Mean Girl.  Most of us have been the mean girl to another girl at some point in our lives.  Most of us have also been the victim of a mean girl. 

The Kind Campaign is a program used in schools that educates people about girl-on-girl bullying and empowers girls to tell their stories, forgive each other and come together in reconciliation.  We have a great need for programs like this that promote a mentality shift.

As women, we carry the hurt of our childhood and teenage years into how we treat women throughout adulthood.  Deep pain caused by mothers, sisters, friends and bullies deeply impacts a woman’s self worth and ability to trust others. 

We often find it easier to forgive men who wrong us than we do to forgive women who commit lesser crimes against us.

Why is this?  What can be done to change it?  Here are three things we can do to start reconciling women to one another and using our words and actions to uplift rather than to tear down:

1. Know when to apologize.

I have experienced the horror and shame of realizing that I did something that hurt a girl I considered to be a friend very much.  At the time, I justified myself, I refused to acknowledge how what I said or did could affect her and I allowed myself to wallow in self-righteousness.  Because my pride was so strong, it took a long time for me to be able to truly apologize to her for hurting her.  But it was worth it.  Being honest about where my heart was helped me to realize issues I was avoiding, and it started us on a path of healing and authenticity in our relationship that hadn’t been there before. 

2.    Always forgive.

Forgiveness may be one of the hardest things for the human heart to do.  We are prideful, stubborn and self-righteous by nature.  We crave apologies, even revenge, when someone hurts us.  However, it is our lack of forgiveness when we are wronged that ends up wounding us even more than the girl who caused the pain to begin with.  Forgiveness may take time, but the more we are able to let go of what someone else has done to us, taking the steps we need to in order to heal, but not expecting an apology, the sooner we are free to love other women.

3.    Learn to recognize what is really happening and what you are projecting.

We are quick to blame other women.  This happens for a number of reasons.  Maybe we have been hurt in the past and now look for similar patterns from other women – leading us to jump quickly to conclusions about their motivations.  Maybe we are unwilling to admit something that needs to change within our hearts, and it’s easier to blame another woman for our problems.  We frequently take our past experience and hurt and allow it to alienate us from other women simply because we are projecting something onto them that isn’t there.  The sooner we can learn to distinguish between our projections and reality, the sooner we will be able to look at other women as humans deserving of love and respect just like us.

As women, we have a wealth of knowledge, talent, beauty, drive, skill and intelligence.  Unfortunately, because we live in a self-made culture that encourages us to push everyone else down to get to the top, we have to fight hard to recognize the worth in each other.  But we need to – because when we do, we are empowered to love better, to achieve more and to make the world a better place.  

By Kate McGaughey 

3 Relationships We Should Resolve to Strengthen in 2015

‘Tis the season for resolutions.  Optimism is in the air.  The new year is just around the corner and after we’re done toasting with our champagne and hitting the New Year’s Day sales we’ll probably all see each other at the local gym signing up for memberships. 

Goals are motivating.  Change is hard.

So how do we stay strong and press on until we achieve?  How do we keep our resolutions from getting lost in the busyness of a new year? 

What I have found to be the most helpful thing when trying to stay motivated to make a change in my life is to have someone walking alongside me – encouraging me and cheering me on, participating in my journey with me.

Each day at Serenity’s Steps, we see women fighting to make changes in their lives.  Changes that seem nearly impossible after a life of trauma, poverty, struggle and survival-mode decision making. 

While we must all take ownership of the things we want to change, we cannot do it alone.  This is why we at Serenity’s Steps put so much emphasis on doing life together through authentic relationship, on walking alongside our women as they work to make hard changes. 

This is why we need help too.

Knowing of my acute need for community, I’ve come up with a short list of 3 relationships I’m going to work to strengthen this year.  I hope you’ll join me!

1.    Build relationships with people who have wisdom and guidance to offer.

The wisest person is the one who is not afraid to keep learning, no matter how much he or she knows.  We should be intentional about looking for people who have already been down the road we are now traveling.  Whether our goals or struggles are spiritual, emotional, mental or physical, seeking mentors to walk with us and encourage us along the way means the difference between giving up and growing as a person.

2.    Intentionally invest in people you would rather overlook.

Let’s be honest, our desires are frequently based in discontentment.  We are often tempted not to invest in other people because we know we are already busy, have people we would rather spend time with or maybe we just plain find the idea of giving of our time and love to “needy” people exhausting.  However, when we go out of our way to get to know and give back to people we wouldn’t normally spend time with, our eyes are opened.  We learn their story, we become grateful for what we have, and we become grateful for the things that person teaches us simply because their life experience is different than ours. 

3.    Actively participate in your current close relationships.

Relationships that have been around forever are typically those that we ignore first when we’re feeling too busy, too tired or too selfish.  Our spouse, children, siblings, parents, best friends and church family often get left to the wayside when life gets hectic because “they know I love them!” Our nearest and dearest do know we love them, just like we know they love us, but we can take it a step further.  I recently found out that a friend who has built into me for years was going through a tough time and no one was there for her to even ask her how she was doing.  People were so used to taking from her giving spirit, that they forgot she needed to be reminded that they care about her too. Be active and present, even in the little things in your close relationships.  Small kindnesses add up to make a huge difference. 

This New Year, I am resolving to work on strengthening these three areas of relationship in my life.  I know that with a network of caring, wise and honest people around me, making changes and reaching goals will be that much easier, because I have a strong framework of interdependent support.  Will you resolve to strengthen your relationships too? 

By Kate McGaughey