Sexual Abuse recovery minister helps here and abroad
By Nicholas Siegel | Photos by David Harrison
In February 2016, Joan Peyton traveled to the Dominican Republic. There, she met with a missionary group called Project Mañana. After hearing the mission president’s wife share her personal story of surviving sexual abuse, Peyton realized the potential for Southern Indiana’s SOAR Ministries to expand there.
Peyton is the board secretary of SOAR, which stands for Survivors of Abuse Restored. The group traveled back to the Dominican Republic in May 2016 to work with 15 women and plan to travel there again this upcoming May to conduct a training with two of the members of Project Mañana who want to start their own similar organization.
The main facets of SOAR’s work include support groups, mentoring, counseling, retreats, workshops, Bible studies, game nights and fellowship nights, where women in recovery can meet at the ministry center for support.
Located in New Albany, SOAR works with women in the surrounding counties, including Clark, Harrison, Crawford and Floyd. The ministry also includes women who travel from Louisville to seek counseling, and the nonprofit recently opened satellite locations in Seymour and Crawford, Ky. “They don’t have to live in Floyd county to come here. We’ll work with any woman,” Peyton said.
According to the American Association of Christian Counselors, one in every three women experience some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18. This abuse occurs across all ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and religious lines.
For women who have experienced sexual abuse, the care that SOAR provides is paramount. That’s how it was for Ginny Wiegleb, who first contacted SOAR for help seven years ago. She initially heard about the organization through Northside Christian Church, where the support groups were being held at that time.
“One of my initial thoughts was … I know that these things have happened to me, and I want to be a better mom, and I want to heal so I can see these signs in my own children if that ever happened,” Wiegleb said.
Last year, Wiegleb made the decision to leave The Mustard Seed, a local non-profit she worked with to homeschool her children. But, eventually this all changed. “God had different plans,” she said. “I actually approached SOAR a year ago in November and asked if we could help contribute financially and help connect folks to their services through (The Mustard Seed).” Now, after all this time, she’s involved in a different capacity where she has the power to help others who have undergone similar trauma.
“I think it is absolutely imperative that people get help and go into recovery, because there are things in your life you don’t realize,” Wiegleb said. “We were silent for so many years and this is a very hard secret to tell, and when you have people to share that burden and share that secret with that have the same kind of secrets, it gives you the courage to be able to continue to walk because other people are walking with you.”
SOAR holds two annual fundraising events. The first is SOAR Fest, which is held each September in New Albany’s Fairmont Park. “That’s more of a carnival type event with bounce houses and game booths,” Peyton said. “We have live music that we do and food. It’s more family friendly. The goal was to open it up to the area that the ministry center is in to work with the neighborhood here and draw attention.”
SOAR also holds the Healing Hearts Banquet each February. At the banquet, a nice dinner is served, and local artists work in a live setting for visitors to watch. At the end of the night, the completed pieces of art are auctioned off to raise money for the house SOAR rents, buying books for women in recovery, retreats and other costs. In the past, the event has featured potters, wood burners, quilters, jewelry artists, painters and sculptors. The event also features live music and a guest speaker.
Local businesses are encouraged to support SOAR at the Healing Hearts Banquet by purchasing tables. The organization also invites churches and other counseling groups. “Every year our demographic is a little bit different,” Peyton said. This year the event will be held Feb. 25 at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Floyds Knobs.
For SOAR Board President Cathy Jo Summers, the work her team does is vital because of the confidence it instills in women who once believed they were “too damaged” to move forward. “Women who said they would never get married have gotten married. Women have pursued their college degrees and master’s as a result of the self-esteem they have gained.”
Extending its reach from Southern Indiana to Kentucky to the Dominican Republic, SOAR is giving women the support they need to find their voices. “Survivors need to understand the affect that the abuse has had on their lives,” said Co-Vice President Leslie Thomas. “In support groups, this connection takes place, allowing truth and healing for the survivor. It changes their (lives) forever.”