While sex trafficking has become a more widely discussed issue, Stillwater native Elizabeth Sullivan wants people to remember another issue can affect children — childhood sexual abuse.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood sexual abuse effects one in four girls and one in six boys by the age of 18. Sullivan is the founder of EmpowerSurvivors, a Stillwater non-profit that supports and educates survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

“There’s a whole population out here that needs support,” she said.

On Saturday, Nov. 3, EmpowerSurvivors will host the third annual Giving Voice - EmpowerSurvivors 2018 event from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Grand Banquet Hall, 301 Second St. S. in Stillwater. General admission costs $55.

Sullivan started the organization online in 2013 and moved to in-person support groups at the Stillwater Public Library in 2014. The organization became a non-profit in 2016. Sullivan said the non-profit serves people from all over the metro-area as well as western Wisconsin.

The day-long Nov. 3 event includes speakers, a Q&A, survivors’ stories and vendors.

“I’m a survivor myself and it’s important for me to provide a safe space for survivors,” Sullivan said. “It helps them to maybe find some healing,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the first speaker, Stacy Coulter, offers a different perspective than previous event speakers. Coulter, author of “Blindfolds and Pitchforks: Don’t be a Child Molester’s Flying Monkey,” will talk about what happened when she learned her partner molested her daughter and reported him. The other featured speaker is Jody M. Goldie, a therapist who will discuss how early trauma affects basic neurology and ways to heal.

Sullivan expects about 55 people to attend, she said.

“This is a really taboo subject. For a survivor to actually show up at an event like this is really scary,” Sullivan added.

This abuse can come from relatives, coaches or others, Sullivan said. In fact, the widely read Glamour magazine named the “Army of Women who took down Larry Nassar” as women of the year honorees with a piece published Tuesday, Oct. 30. Nassar is a former USA gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who was convicted of sexually abusing more than 150 women and girls in January.

Similar to some of Nassar’s former patients who spoke out at his hearings, Sullivan said many people who experienced childhood sexual abuse don’t come forward until well after it occurred. Internalizing that experience can lead to illness, poor relationships and various medical issues, Sullivan said.

“It’s still kind of the last taboo in our society,” she said. “Now, it’s easier to talk about sex trafficking.”

EmpowerSurvivors hosts peer support groups every Wednesday morning 10-11 a.m. and Thursday evenings from 6-7:30 p.m. For questions or further information, contact Elizabeth at empowersurvivors@gmail.com or call 651-300-9180.

“It’s never too late to start your healing journey,” Sullivan said.

Contact Kim Schneider at kim.schneider@ecm-inc.com

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