Denim Day strengthens our community response to sexual violence

On Wednesday, April 24, Aurora caregivers supported Denim Day, a campaign to raise awareness and support survivors of sexual assault.

In some locations, caregivers were able to wear denim in exchange for a $5 donation to the Aurora Health Care Abuse Response Fund.  View a slideshow of activities at multiple Aurora locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

Aurora Health Care Foundation President Cristy Garcia-Thomas and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Aurora Health Care Foundation President Cristy Garcia-Thomas and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Local leaders joined at Milwaukee City Hall for a press conference hosted by the City’s Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.  This year’s “Persons of Influence” campaign featured local leaders wearing denim in support of the 2013 event.

Aurora Health Care is a champion for sexual assault survivors through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs throughout our system, the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, and The Healing Center, where survivors receive free counseling, group therapy and bilingual advocacy.

The Healing Center provides services to more than 600 people annually, and the Sexual Assault Treatment Center has treated more than 1,200 people since 2010.

Through your gift to Denim Day, you can help The Healing Center and other Aurora Health Care services strengthen our community response to sexual violence.

Every gift can change a life. Consider yours today at http://bit.ly/XoHTU3

Spirited Souls- Britny’s Gift to The Healing Center

We’d like to recognize Britny for her generous donation to The Healing Center. Instead of birthday presents, she asked for money to help survivors heal. Britny raised $450 and we feel so grateful for her fundraising and caring heart!

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

What are you thankful for?

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

As Thanksgiving approaches I am reminded of the true reason we gather this Thursday. While I eagerly await the turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, I have to remember the meaning behind this holiday: giving thanks for family and friends and acknowledging the little things in life that allow me to feel gratitude.

This year I am thankful for the fact that my family can come together from all parts of the U.S. (Wisconsin, St. Louis and New York) and for all the healthy, happy new babies in my life (born and still on the way!).

For me, Thanksgiving is also a time to appreciate the simple things that make life precious: thoughtful friendships that still last even though we live miles and miles apart, the volunteers I work with each year who graciously give of their time and resources to help The Healing Center, my downstairs neighbor who continually rakes, shovels and maintains the yard we share (even though we really are responsible for the back!).

It’s easy to get caught up in all the negativity that surrounds us on a daily basis and forget about the big and little things that actually make our lives positive. Personally, I’ve found that by truly feeling thankful for all that I’ve been given makes me happier and feel a lot more control to tackle obstacles. Life isn’t perfect and I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It is a balancing act between good and bad, easy and difficult, giving and receiving.

I hope you enjoy this Thanksgiving with family, friends and all whom you love (and enjoy the pie as well!).

What makes you feel thankful?

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Honor the strength of survivors of sexual violence at the 4th Annual Hope Shining Gala

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

The Healing Center hosts its 4th annual Hope Shining Gala in honor survivors of sexual violence. The event will take place Thursday, December 6, 2012, at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Bradley Pavilion (929 N. Water St. Milwaukee, WI) from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Enjoy a silent auction, delicious food and drink, a wine/tea/coffee pull, live music by Frank Tarantino, emcee Kim Murphy, reporter from Fox 6 News and heartfelt words from survivors who wish to share their stories.

The 2012 recipients of Hope Shining Awards include Linda Davis and Sally Turner, founding mothers of The Healing Center and champions for survivors of sexual violence. Throughout the evening, The Healing Center will highlight the work and efforts of these honorees and the impact they have made in the community.

Maryann Clesceri, Executive Director of The Healing Center states, “We are honored to host this gala in recognition of all our strong survivors and hope to raise much needed funds to support the work we do in helping men and women heal from sexual abuse. All of our services are free, so we rely on our generous donors to continue counseling, group therapy and advocacy for those who are uninsured or underinsured.”

Tickets can be purchased online for $70 each at www.aurora.org/healingcenterhopeshining.

For more information about this event, questions regarding sponsorship or general inquiries about The Healing Center, please contact Stephanie Shabangu at (414) 225-4247, or Stephanie.shabangu@aurora.org .

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

How can a wellness retreat help you recharge and refocus?

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

The Healing Center’s staff and interns recently took a day off to relax and rejuvenate. We all headed west to a retreat center out in the country and were welcomed with warm food, massages and activities to promote spiritual healing.

The day was cold and grey, but we still managed to sneak in some nature walks, time around the fire and “soul painting” outside in the barn. It was nice to take a break from the daily routine and catch up with co-workers. Take a look at our day away from the office!

Why take a wellness retreat? Our daily lives are in constant motion, as we go from work to school to our home life. While routines help us function day to day, it’s important to take a break sometimes and relax our bodies and minds.

Retreats allow for this holistic time off and help us reconnect with our spirits. It’s also beneficial to spend time with others and experience nature, eat nutritious foods that we don’t always have time to cook at home and try out new therapeutic techniques like massage, Reiki or Tai Chi. Retreats also allow us to hit the reset button, break us out of the mundane and recharge so that when we do go back to “normal life” we’re refreshed.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

How can you de-stress with lavender?

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

Last week, I listed “making a lavender sachet” as one of the tips for beating work-day stress. So…I decided to follow my own advice and make one! This was an incredibly easy (and cheap!) project that I’m glad I took the time to make. All you need is:

1. One small cloth bag with a drawstring top. I found mine at Michaels in the jewelry section.

2. A handful of dried lavender. The Outpost near my house had a big bin, ready for scooping! In order to fill my tiny bag, the lavender cost about 75 cents.

After you have your two materials, just funnel in the lavender and breathe deep! These sachets also make a great gift to throw in a spa basket or toss one in each drawer at home for fresh clothes!

Lavender has been known to reduce stress, help with vertigo and calm nausea.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Reaching out in times of tragedy

On Sunday, August 5th, the peaceful Sikh community underwent a brutal attack at the temple in Oak Creek. This act of terrorism may have affected us directly or touched the life of a close friend or co-worker. Regardless of our connection to the tragedy, we can all come together and support the victims and their families.

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

The local media has provided some ideas for reaching out to those in need. In addition to responding in times of crisis, it’s important for us all to practice acceptance and take time to help and learn about others who may be different from ourselves on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s issues of segregation have forced great divides between the people of this city. By working to embrace all the unique cultures and religions around us, we can begin to mend the gaps that continue to keep us apart, and together, build stronger communities.

For more information on how to help those involved, check out these ideas from the Huffington Post below:

Help Cover Funeral Costs

Amardeep Kaleka, the son of Satwant Singh, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, created an online fundraiser “We Are Sikhs” to help cover funeral costs for victims. Singh died along with five other members in the shooting Sunday. None of the money will go to the Kaleka family, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Donations accepted here.

Support Victims
An Indiegogo fund will benefit the temple shooting victims, their families and injured police offer Lt. Brian Murphy. Donors’ contributions will be held in an escrow account until August 30, at which time the fundraiser’s organizers will allocate the funds to those in need, Fox News reports. According to the Indiegogo site: “It will take some time before the precise needs of the Milwaukee Sangat are enumerated. We plan to work closely with the local Sikh community and doctors to determine the best way to distribute funds.”
Donations accepted here.

Contribute to a Memorial Fund
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin has set up a victims fund, where people can send donations via mail to Victims Memorial Fund c/o Sikh Temple, 7512 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek, WI 53154.

Support advocates
Sikhs for Justice, a national human rights organization, vowed to make a $10,000 award to Lt. Brian Murphy, who was injured in the shooting. “Our government must take urgent steps to educate the country about the Sikh population and help put an end to these horrific and deadly acts of violence. Our organization, Sikhs for Justice, is proudly pledging a $10,000 award to Lieutenant Brian Murphy, the officer wounded in the incident.”
Support their work here.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

What happens when spirits are shattered by violence?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt mind, body and spirit long after the violence that caused it.  

 “These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past” (Ishmael Beah, former child soldier from Sierra Leone).

Most of us have heard of PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder and know it is often associated with soldiers who return from war or survivors of physical or sexual abuse. Have you ever wondered how it actually affects someone?

This is often a very popular topic discussed at The Healing Center, as we work with survivors of sexual violence. I decided to do a bit of research on the topic and this is what I learned:

When someone experiences something incredibly traumatic, the information processing system of the brain can become interrupted.

According to a New York Times interview of Dr. Francine Shapiro, sometimes “…an event is so disturbing that the [information  processing] system is unable to perform…natural functions.” She goes on to explain that these traumatic memories, along with the psychological and physical aspects and negative reactions of what happened are stored. These memories and feelings can come to the surface once again through current situations and alter the person’s present reality.

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

PTSD can affect some people more than others, depending on “…genetics, the intensity of the experience, length of exposure and earlier life experiences.” Dr. Shapiro also explained that people who have had positive life experiences may be more resilient than others. On the other hand, negative experiences with friends or parents at an early age can lessen someone’s self-worth, making them more susceptible to PTSD when a traumatic event does occur.

One kind of therapy that works with those who suffer from PTSD is called EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This type of psychotherapy helps people develop positive coping mechanisms to deal with traumatic events from the past.

Stay tuned for next week as I delve deeper into this process and interview a counselor who practices this type of therapy!

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Choosing the Path of Forgiveness

We’ve all been hurt from time to time, and this can easily lead to feelings of anger, resentment and sorrow.

Sometimes these feelings can take over and lead to anxiety towards the situation, group or individual that made you feel bad.

It’s ok, and actually very healthy to feel sad when someone wrongs you. The danger comes in holding grudges. Although very normal, grudges may start out small at first, but can build into something quite overwhelming and feelings of helplessness prevail.

Without forgiveness, you have actually allowed the other person’s wrongdoing to seep inside of you, causing pain from the inside out. Your life could become so wrapped up in the negativity that you stop living in the present and lose your healthy connections with others.

Forgiveness is not easy. It takes a lot of strength and courage to pardon someone that has caused you grief. Sometimes it is helpful to consider the situation from the other person’s point of view. Why did he/she react this way? What in the past could have prompted him/her to take insecurities out on you?

Personally, I find it useful to keep in mind that no one is perfect and that every individual has issues to deal with. Another suggestion is to think of a time when you may have caused harm to someone else. Learning to accept people’s shortcomings and understanding that the majority of people in the world are innately good can help as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic,

Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change.”

 Here are some of their thoughts:

  • Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
  • Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
  • When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
  • Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

What does spiritual wellness mean to you?

Spiritual wellness is a very personal journey of self discovery that allows for not only healing, but a life that exudes happiness, purpose and wellbeing.

Stephanie represents The Healing Center of Aurora Sinai, located in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood.

When I look at my own life, I think of “spiritual wellness” as a way for me to develop my beliefs, values and unique path. Some may refer to the spiritual portion of their lives as religion, while others feel a similar sense when interacting with nature, meditating or connecting deeply with those they love.

Personally, this part of my life is one of the most important. It allows me to walk this Earth in peace and fight for all that I treasure. My strong spiritual self helps me realize what is important and what I can let go. It fills up the empty spaces and makes room for thoughts, feelings and experiences that develop who I am.

In my experience at The Healing Center, I continuously interact with sexual violence survivors, trauma counselors and health practitioners. Within this space, I am reminded of the importance of spiritual wellness for healing from current and past abuse and taking care of one’s self as a caregiver. It can be pretty difficult to work in this field without some kind of self care.

Currently, I am a student, wife, daughter, sister and non-profit volunteer in addition to my 9-5 job. It is a great life, one that allows me to find constant joy, but also a hectic one. Oftentimes, I have to “…hurry up and relax” as Laura van Dernoot Lipsky says so eloquently in her book, Trauma Stewardship. I believe my journey of spiritual wellness helps me take time to reflect and keep discovering my true, authentic self.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services to adult survivors of sexual violence. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, has a right to heal from abuse. To learn more about our services, please visit our website