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Gainesville center to provide counseling for abused boys
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Children’s Center for Hope and Healing

What: An organization dedicated to ending the cycle of child sexual abuse

Where: 226 Main St. SW, Gainesville

Contact: 770-532-6530

More info: www.hopeandhealingga.org

Nearly one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18.

Betty Guilfoile said nearly as many boys are sexually abused as girls, but free counseling and therapy for abused men have not been readily available in Hall County.

The Children’s Center for Hope and Healing wants to change that.

Guilfoile, executive director of the center, said the United Way of Hall County recently provided $25,000 in funding the center will use to pay for therapists for adult male survivors of child sexual abuse.

“We’re an organization that’s been around for 30 years and we provide counseling to children who are victims of child sexual abuse, ages 3-17, and to adult women that are survivors,” Guilfoile said. “This is a way that we can expand our program to include men, which we’ve not had funding for in the past.”

The new service is free and confidential and will be provided by licensed male counselors who have specialized training in trauma issues.

Guilfoile said the center previously referred men to some private practices in town and hoped they would receive the help they needed.

“At least once every couple weeks we’d get a call from men who are survivors or others asking us if we serve this population,” Guilfoile said.

Guilfoile said child sexual abuse of boys is more prevalent than people might realize and it occurs at almost the same rate as abuse of girls. The center is able to provide survivors with specialized training they might not get at other practices.

“We do a bunch of things that are sort of state-of-the-art type of evidence-based practice treatments for survivors of trauma,” she said. “We use them to provide those services for the people we serve.”

The center served 1,700 individuals last year, and

Guilfoile said that number is likely to increase now that the center can serve adult men.

She said the center also hopes to help parents understand how to protect their children from child sexual abuse. One common misconception, according to Guilfoile, is that sexual abuse is “all about stranger danger.”

“Parents do a lot to protect children from that, but they need to be aware someone in their life already is more likely to be a predator to their child,” she said. “That’s a scary thing, but there are things they can do to keep their children safe.”

According to a report from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. The office also reported 42 percent of rape victims in the state are under the age of 18, and more than 22 percent of men in Georgia have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

Guilfoile said anyone who’s experienced or survived sexual abuse deserves help and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.

“Everything is free,” Guilfoile said. “So this is a great opportunity for people to come forward if they’ve never received treatment in the past.”