A brief history of ASCA and the Norma J. Morris Center for Healing From Child Abuse.
This page includes a timeline of key dates and two edited reprints of online articles.
- A Concluding Note, by George J. Bilotta, Ph.D., June 2002
- Preface to Soul Survivors, 2nd edition, by Jessy Keiser, December 2013
|1989||J. Patrick Gannon, Ph.D. published Soul Survivors. The three-stage, 21-step recovery program presented within the book formed the theoretical backbone of the ASCA program.|
|1990||Norma J. Morris and George J. Bilotta, Ph.D. began outlining an organization that would dedicate itself to the healing process of adult survivors of child abuse.|
|1991||The organization was founded and originally incorporated as the Adult Survivors of Incest Foundation to provide individual and group sliding-scale psychotherapy and low-cost educational and self-help programs for adult survivors of sexual abuse.1|
|Early 1990s||The organization provided group psychotherapy when it was difficult to find a psychotherapy group for adult survivors of childhood abuse.|
|1993||The name of the organization was changed to the Norma J. Morris Center for Healing from Child Abuse. An original Leadership Council, composed of Dr. J. Patrick Gannon as one of the founding members and volunteers interested in developing the new program, developed ASCA.1 In February, ASCA began with an advertisement in the San Francisco Recovery Journal (no longer published). The ad asked for volunteers from the survivor community to work with Dr. Gannon in developing a new, psychologically-based, self-help program for adult survivors of child abuse. Approximately thirty survivor volunteers responded to the ad. Program development meetings were held regularly over the next 3 months.4 In May, the first ASCA meeting was held at the University of California, San Francisco in a large lecture auditorium, with more than 85 people attending.4 Three months later, the first co-facilitator training workshop was held for interested members. Thereafter, meetings were soon established in Oakland, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, San Rafael, and San Diego, California.|
|1994||“Perceiving an increased need for cost-effective, easily replicable programs, The Morris Center shifted its primary focus to our ASCA support program and discontinued its psychotherapy program.”1 The center replaced group psychotherapy and our entire psychotherapy program with ASCA. In the early days of the Internet and the World Wide Web, the center was the first survivor organization to have a website.|
|1995||The Morris Center, in collaboration with J. Patrick Gannon, Ph.D.—The Morris Center’s former clinical consultant, created the Survivor to Thriver manual as part of its program of services for adult survivors of physical, sexual, and emotional child abuse.1 The manual was subsequently revised in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2006, and 2015.2|
|1999||The Morris Center embarked on a bold experiment to host all ASCA materials on this website, and continues to do so.3|
|2002||It was estimated that 20,000 individuals experienced some service from The Morris Center over the 12 years since its beginning in 1989; it was estimated that over 4,000 individual ASCA meetings had transpired since ASCA’s inception in 1993.|
|2013||There were 30 registered ASCA self-help groups in a dozen countries around the world.|
- Survivor to Thriver, “About The Morris Center,” 2015.
- Survivor to Thriver, Copyright page, 2015.
- This website, About.
- This website, FAQ.
2. A Concluding Note
Reprinted from ASCA News, June 2002, “From the Desk of George J. Bilotta, Ph.D.: A Concluding Note”.
In 1990, Norma Morris and I began dreaming and articulating the initial parameters outlining an organization dedicated to the healing process of adult survivors of childhood abuse. Through Norma’s philanthropic generosity and foresight, The Morris Center began taking shape and form. We incorporated originally under the name, Adult Survivors of Incest Foundation. The name was changed to the Norma J. Morris Center for Healing from Child Abuse in 1993, to express both our corporate expansion and to include physical and emotional abuse, along with sexual childhood abuse. In addition, the board of directors took that opportunity to honor Norma by deciding to name the organization after her.
I assumed the helm as executive director until 2001. After my relocation from California to Massachusetts in 2000, I shifted my position from executive director to consultant. In July 2002, I will shift again from a paid consultant’s position to a volunteer’s position. I will assume the designation of historian, as a result of my longevity and experience within The Morris Center. My new assignment will be informal, rather than formal. I will continue to be available to the board, as they assume more and more of the leadership and daily tasks that previously occupied my desk.
During the past two years, the board has developed and grown in stature and competency. The board is led by an industrious president, Jessy Keiser. Jessy has a history almost as long as I with The Morris Center. She is assisted by board members Dianne Whitney, Bob Roberts, Lane Arye, David Vandevert and Vlado Bradbury. As the board continues to refine directions for ASCA and other initiatives by The Morris Center, they will be calling upon your assistance.
Norma and I have also decided that at this juncture of the organization’s evolving history, it seemed an appropriate time to shift the financial responsibilities of the organization to members of the adult survivor community. Norma has been the primary financial support for The Morris Center since its inception some 12 years ago. If the organization is to have a long history similar to AA and other self-help programs, the membership will need to come forward with financial support. The present financial system is sound. The Morris Center has no debt. Sufficient working capital is in the bank to cover all existing commitments for the next financial year that begins July 1, 2002.
Over the past decade plus, Norma has donated over a million dollars. I am aware of no other person that has been more compassionate and generous, committed and visionary to the cause of adult survivors of childhood abuse than Norma. As an organization, we have truly been blessed and honored by Norma’s dedication to healing within the adult survivor community.
As I shift to an informal working relationship within The Morris Center, I tend to review the past 12 years with fond memory. If asked what I value most about the past 12 years, it would be our ongoing focus on being innovative, holistic and cutting-edged in our offerings to the adult survivor community. In the early 90s, we provided group psychotherapy, when it was difficult to find a psychotherapy group for adult survivors of childhood abuse. We replaced group psychotherapy and our entire psychotherapy program with ASCA, beginning in 1994. We have honed the ASCA program with a cutting-edge touch to recovery from childhood abuse. ASCA has always been in a process of evolution and change. I hope that ASCA will continue to evolve, as we grow in experience and awareness of the progressive ways to offer a self-help program to survivors of childhood abuse.
Some of the highlights of the past 12 years include 6 survivor conferences in San Francisco, San Diego and Santa Rosa; 3 international Whispers Art Exhibits in San Francisco and San Diego of survivor art. Many other organizations now offer this venue for survivors. Two survivor Waves Poetry Contests were also sponsored. We provided numerous in-service trainings to mental-health and social-service agencies. We were the first survivor organization to have a website back in 1994, in the early days of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Most of our services were offered free of charge, requesting only a donation. When we requested a fee at our conferences, for example, we always had an honors policy that permitted anyone to participate no matter what their financial situation.
I estimate that over 20,000 individuals have experienced some service from The Morris Center since we began in 1990, and that over 4,000 individual ASCA meetings have transpired since ASCA’s inception in 1993. I am aware that many people use our materials, which we offer freely on our website, for their personal growth and recovery. I am very pleased that last year people began ASCA meetings in South Africa—and recently in Chicago—by extracting the procedures and materials from our web site. I am also aware that many pseudo-ASCA groups exist. They use part of our protocol for their meetings, but not the entire process. Many psychotherapists use our materials with their individual clients, and facilitate therapy groups based on our literature.
I hope that everyone who has been associated with The Morris Center over the past years feels a sense of accomplishment, success, fulfillment, and joy. We have offered and will continue to provide a unique and valuable service to the adult survivor community.
The forthcoming years hold much promise for The Morris Center. The organization has strong programs and a talented board. The board will be calling upon past and present participants to help grow and sustain The Morris Center as the future unfolds. The future does not reside in the hands and hearts of the few, but rather in the hands and hearts of all who have received—and who may now be ready to lend a helping hand and an open heart.
I have been the recipient of the kindness and spiritedness of many volunteers over the years. I have been touched deeply by the unfolding stories of thousands of adult survivors of childhood abuse. I am particularly grateful for the help and assistance from hundreds of people who have assisted me to shape and form The Morris Center into what it is today. Without the valued skills and energy of volunteers The Morris Center could not have achieved one-tenth of what has been accomplished over the years. Thank you for your help and support.
Personally and publicly, I want to thank Norma Morris for her faith and trust in me to steward The Morris Center over the past years. Starting, growing, and sustaining The Morris Center has been one of the highlights of my professional career and personal life. It has challenged and stretched me in many ways that will continue to influence my life for many years to come.
3. Preface to Soul Survivors, 2nd edition
Written by Jessy Keiser, president of The Morris Center, December 2013; reprinted from the archived ASCA Wordpress blog.
Publishing this e-book edition of Soul Survivors: A New Beginning for Adults Abused as Children by J. Patrick Gannon, Ph.D., is a milestone for the Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) self-help program and its sponsoring organization, The Norma J. Morris Center. Soul Survivors—and the three-stage, 21-step recovery program described in the book—formed the theoretical backbone of the ASCA program when we launched it 20 years ago. Now, some 24 years after its original publication, we are bringing the book and program back together to create a new and revised resource for the global community of adult survivors. This new e-book edition integrates elements of the ASCA recovery program into the original text, allowing Soul Survivors to function as a textbook or “big book” for ASCA meetings and meeting providers. Most importantly, Soul Survivors is now available to survivors worldwide through the ASCA website and other online book distributors.
We are truly excited to collaborate with Patrick on this e-book publication. He is a respected therapist in the Bay Area and was one of the founding members of the original Leadership Council that developed ASCA through The Morris Center in 1993. By that time, Patrick had become a local leader in the adult survivor movement in San Francisco and a specialist in treating male survivors of sexual abuse. Soul Survivors was the culmination of his commitment to educate about child abuse and recovery on a wider level.
Prior to 1989, when Patrick first published Soul Survivors, the idea of a self-help program for adult survivors of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect was both revolutionary and unrealized. There were some professional groups for female incest survivors as well as an organization for perpetrators of sexual abuse (Parents United), but a program for both male and female survivors who suffered from one or more types of abuse did not exist.
Of course, there were a variety of legacy self-help groups based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many survivors, desperate for ANY support, attended these meetings because nothing else more specific to their particular needs was available. However, recovery from childhood abuse is very different from recovery from substance abuse. It was this core need for a clinically sound, customized self-help group that led The Morris Center to take action.
Looking back, I can clearly recall reading an ad in the free Recovery newspaper that invited adults who had experienced childhood abuse and who were interested in forming a new self-help group dedicated to the recovery needs of adult survivors to attend an organizational meeting. I remember feeling excited, hopeful, and a bit vulnerable about coming to the meeting and finding myself crammed into Patrick’s small office with about 20 other people! Some of us were therapists as well as survivors. Some of us had been in 12-step programs for many years. Some of us had been in therapy and were seeking a self-help program specific to recovery from abuse. Many of us who were not necessarily struggling with addictions had felt “left out” when it came to support groups, since the AA model was so dominant. All of us were eager to help establish a program that did not yet exist. None of us knew how much work lay before us. And none of us could have known how our efforts would unfold over the next 20 years to become what is today a worldwide recovery community.
We organized ourselves into a Leadership Council charged with building the program and doing it in a way that corrected the power imbalances, communication distortions, and hurtful interactions that characterized our families. As we continued to frame the structure of the program, we became aware that childhood abuse takes many forms, and most survivors typically experience one or more types of abuse. Physical and emotional neglect—abuse by omission—was often part of the family landscape, but typically not recognized next to the more egregious types of abuse. So, we made a conscious decision to make our program inclusive of all types of abuse.
Inspired by the power of our fellowship and fueled by our determination to create a new program based on the recovery principles outlined in Soul Survivors, we spent the next three months tirelessly discussing and developing guidelines, principles, meeting formats, scripts, and other recovery tools. We argued, we debated, but always in the spirit of our ultimate goal: to empower ourselves in the healing journey.
It was a long and, at times, tedious process. At last, in May of 1993, we held our first ASCA meeting at the University of California, San Francisco, in a large lecture auditorium, which the school had graciously provided free of charge. Nearly 100 people showed up for our first meeting. Three months later, we held our first training workshop for members who were interested in becoming ASCA meeting co-facilitators. This workshop was also filled to capacity! Soon, we had meetings established in Oakland, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, San Rafael, and even San Diego. ASCA was on the map!
Over the next several years, as ASCA became more established, changes in The Morris Center’s funding required a more cost-efficient service delivery model. With the advent of the Internet, The Morris Center decided to offer the materials free online. Giving away something that was so hard-earned and precious was a liberating experience mixed with concern. How would people run the meetings without the face-to-face support and guidance of the program founders? Would it work? Would it be safe? Would it grow and thrive? Consistent with the 12 steps and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, a self-governed self-help group creates its own force of nature. Yes, there were bumps along the way. But today, the proliferation of ASCA groups is a testimony to survivors everywhere who have a sense of what they need and how to achieve it. Mutual support is what makes ASCA so vibrant and empowering.
After we decided to put the meeting materials online, ASCA began to proliferate beyond the San Francisco Bay Area—extending the power of recovery to virtually anyone, anywhere in the world. Today, we are proud to report that there are 30 registered ASCA self-help groups offered in a dozen countries around the world—though there are probably many more meetings worldwide than those who have registered themselves. If you would like to learn about how to start your own meetings in your local area, please contact us. Visit our website at ascasuppport.org for a list of meeting locations, meeting materials, local contact people, and various informational resources. The Morris Center has developed a vital online community of survivors that provides support, training, guidance, and direction in running ASCA groups.
The Morris Center is indebted to the leadership of our founder and executive director, Dr. George Bilotta, and the work of Lisa Lindelef, our program director, who were instrumental in the early development of the ASCA program. And, of course, ASCA would not exist were it not for the generosity and commitment of our sole benefactor, Norma J. Morris, who had the vision to fund a foundation that addressed the needs of all survivors of child abuse.
Last but not least, this new e-book edition is dedicated to survivors everywhere—current ASCA members and past and future ASCA members who have faced their past and taken charge of their recovery to become the people they want to be. Use this e-book, pass it on to another survivor, and let the word spread that healing from childhood wounds and becoming an adult “thriver” is in your hands!