Catherine’s story

Catherine’s story of starting an ASCA group.

I started the Raleigh, N.C. group because I couldn’t find a similar one already established. I had found The Morris Center the same way I expect most do, via Internet search engines with key words like “child abuse recovery.” There was a meeting in the area we moved away from in 1995 in Florida, but not in our new home of North Carolina. I kept looking for years, being far too busy with two children under age five and a small business to run to even consider starting one myself. By 2009, the children were much more self-sufficient and we’d sold our business so I could return to school. There was still no established support group for abuse survivors so I decided to initiate one. I had to go it alone because there wasn’t a single person nearby who I could even approach to help. However, if there is such a thing as an “advantage” to being raised in a neglectful, dysfunctional, violent home, it’s that I learned to fend for myself and work solo.

Of course, the first need was a meeting space. After checking on the feasibility of several public and private buildings, I located a suburban church that would rent a room for $25 an hour, a low cost compared to other places. The available space was in the back of the church complex so I obtained permission to place some temporary directional signs on the church property, attaching homemade posters between two straightened out wire hangers. I chose Saturday afternoons on the 2nd and 4th of the month so attendees could sleep in, but still arrive and depart in daylight. I scheduled the inaugural meeting two months in advance to have plenty of advertising lead-time. I placed ads on, paid out of my pocket to list the meeting on The Morris Center site and put posters produced on my home-based office computer on assorted community bulletin boards. After about three weeks, I finally got some inquiries with four people stating their intent to join.

The first person to walk into the inaugural meeting had driven two hours from Virginia, saying he’d been looking for a group like this for years. A total of six people came. Some positive RSVPs didn’t show up, while others who had not contacted me in advance were there. The group size seemed stuck for about three months, and I wondered if that was due to our location in a religious complex or in a suburb rather than more centrally located in Raleigh. I contacted the local Exchange Clubs, which designated child abuse prevention as their main cause in 1989. Since these are businessmen and women, it didn’t seem to be much a stretch to expect one of them might know of a small meeting space not otherwise occupied two Saturday afternoons a month. In one of those unexpected fortunes in life, exchange club president offered space in his Raleigh-based florist shop, which he always closes early on Saturdays. In return, I offered to pass the hat for some electricity money and to help his club with some of their child abuse prevention projects.

The first meeting in the new location attracted 20 participants. The old adage about success being due to “location, location, location” was borne out again. I eventually had to pull the ad because the group was getting too large. We’ve now been in the new place for over a year and still get new inquiries despite the lack of advertising except on The Morris Center web site. There are still three active members from the very first meeting, and another 12 who have become veterans. In total, about 40 individuals have participated for various amounts of time. A couple of members attended for a while, disappeared, and then turned up again after a two- or three-month absence.

We cover one healing step per meeting. While we have some serious business to conduct, an effort is made to keep the general atmosphere casual, soft and lighthearted. Most people leave the room feeling at least a little better than when they arrived so it appears as if we’re doing something right. I would like to very much thank The Morris Center board and staff for existing, thereby, allowing me to provide this service to my fellow abuse survivors.