I have been working in the field of sexual violence for over thirty years, starting my journey in a Rape Crisis centre in America.  I have always been struck by the resilience of survivors and how just being present with someone to hear, believe and understand their story can make a significant impact.  As the American social worker and social researcher Brene Brown notes “if you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive”. 

The work of One in Four is about breaking the silence and dousing the client with empathy.  All sexual violence is damaging, however when a child is sexually abused by someone they love and care about it can leave  lifelong struggles with trust and relationships.  Often when a child is abused they do not stop loving the abuser, they stop loving themselves.  This erroneous responsibility for the harm can stay with a survivor for their lifetime unless challenged.  Laying the burden of responsibility at the feet of the people who caused the harm can be liberating.

What drew me to work in One in Four is the agency’s commitment to breaking the silence and voicing the difficult topics in the field of sexual violence.  One in Four understands that working with offenders in an important part of stopping the cycle of harm.  If we spend our time pulling people out of the river (trauma) at some point we need to go upstream and question why are people getting thrown into the river and stop this pattern. 

One in Four is unique in that it works with both survivors and people who perpetrated sexual harm. This distinctive vista allows for the psychotherapists in One in Four to explore the challenging complexity of child sexual abuse and work towards interrupting the cycle by supporting survivors, but also challenging perpetrators, holding them accountable for their actions.  My work in One in Four combines my experience in working across all aspects of sexual harm.  This allows me to challenge the secrecy and encourage responsibility; working towards ending harms both on an individual and societal level.

I also admire that One in Four continues to raise difficult issues and confront what is causing people to fall into the river of trauma. One example being, questioning the impact of pornography on the development of our young people.  One in Four is brave enough to lead this conversation. 

Dr. Melissa Darmody

Psychotherapist with One in Four