Hi! My name is Abi and I would like to welcome you to The Thursday Group blog!

If you are looking for support and information about healing from sexual abuse, you have come to a good place. You might have come to this blog because someone you know has been sexually abused or you might be here because you’ve been sexually abused yourself. Either way, you could still have some uncomfortable, difficult, or scary feelings about what happened. It is wonderful that you are looking for more information and support. If you are like me, just thinking about the topic of sexual abuse can be stressful.You may want to take a few minutes right now and notice your breathing. If you are holding your breath, or taking quick shallow breaths, see if you can take a deep breath into your belly, letting your stomach go out as you breath in. When you breath out, just let the air flow out slowly and easily. Take another slow easy breath into your belly, and then let the air flow out slowly. If you want to, slowly take three or four more breaths, making your stomach expand like a balloon each time you breath in, and relax each time you breath out. Inside yourself, just say hello gently to your body and any feelings you are noticing. Look at some of the things that are around you wherever you are. Breathing, and noticing things around you like this, is something I learned about when I was in a support group with four other middle school girls in my town who had been sexually abused. I wrote The Thursday group to hopefully make things easier for others. This blog tells about the book (including messages from the other characters and sample chapters to read or listen to), and where you can order it. You will also find links to other good books and web sites. If you start to notice that your breathing becomes uneven or really fast, or your heart feels like it is pounding in your chest or you get dizzy or feel unreal; please, get up from the computer or iphone, look at the things that are around you, and go find or call that trusted adult. If you don’t have an adult in your life that you can talk to, please call a hotline number.

I am a fictional character, but I was created out of the very real feelings and experiences of the girls PeggyEllen and Kimber used to be, and the girls they have known.

We hope that this blog and book will help you heal.


Need to talk to someone or report abuse? Call: 1-800-4ACHILD or 1-800-422-4458

The person who answers your call can help you figure out what to do and how to get help. If you call from a land line instead of a cell phone, the call will be free and will not show on a phone bill.

Author Q and A

Why did you choose this particular format, weaving together Abi’s story about her family and the girls in her therapeutic support group with the text boxes of suggestions and information for the readers?
PeggyEllen:  Because sexual trauma impacts all the senses, healing requires the participation of all the senses. Sexual abuse is difficult to read about for most of us. The story is the thread pulling readers into and through a difficult topic, inviting them to look at the process of healing from Abi’s friendly, and sometimes humorous point of view.  But we didn’t want readers to just rush through, ignoring their own feelings. The information boxes and the illustrations are designed to slow readers down and make it easier to stop, take breaks, and practice some of the suggestions for finding comfort and support. It takes time to process confusing and difficult feelings. The characters in the book experience various types of support: individual and group therapy, family members, friends, and community members. We hope that readers will imagine those types of support for themselves and look for those types of support in their own environments. 
Kimber: We really wanted this book to be useful to the reader. Everyone is different, and each person heals in their own unique way. We thought that some people might want to read through the story and not look at the information boxes at first, and some might want to just flip through to see what the titles of the information boxes were without reading the story. It was also really important to us that the person who was reading the book had an opportunity to look at the book visually in a way that would help the brain process. When you look at a page and have to see the information boxes there, along with the pictures, which we hope are soothing and comforting, then the brain actually processes trauma as you read. It’s meant to help in a sort of unconscious way.

How did you come to work together on the book?
PeggyEllen: I had drafted Abi’s story, but I knew that I wanted the book to include non-fiction information for readers that would elaborate on and clarify the information in the story.  I had approached a number of therapists over several years about working together and had even worked a little bit with some of them on the book.  They either did not have the level of commitment that would have been needed to complete the project or they did not have the same vision that I had about how material should be presented.  I heard Kimber on the radio speaking about her master’s project which looked at homeless girls and child sexual abuse.  We lived and worked in the same small town at the time, and I kept hearing people talking about what a good therapist she was, so I contacted her and asked her to read my manuscript and consider writing the non-fiction portion.
Kimber: When PeggyEllen contacted me, I was kind of skeptical at first, because I have read and used so many different books and resources in the therapeutic work I do, and I didn’t want to be part of something that I didn’t feel good about. I took the draft manuscript home and sort of thumbed through it, thinking that I would get back to it later. But I was so captivated that I read the whole thing before I could put it down! I was impressed with how well PeggyEllen had captured the feelings of the characters, and how she had included all the parts of healing that I feel are so important. Then, when I talked with her more about how we could work together, I was just so pleased to hear how passionate she was about this subject. I couldn’t have done this kind of work with someone who didn’t have a heart, but that is just so much of what PeggyEllen is about that I knew right away I wanted to work with her.

Are therapeutic support groups like the one described in The Thursday Group likely to be available to readers of The Thursday Group?  How common is that sort of treatment model for pre-teen and teenage girls?
Kimber: I have used this type of group with young girls, preteens, and teenagers. Every time that I have facilitated this type of group, the girls have said that they really enjoyed the time they spent together and the healing work we did. The smaller the community you live in, the less likely this type of group is to be available. Groups like this are most often available at Community Mental Health Centers. In close knit communities, it is often important for the people within the community to define how healing should take place, what is culturally and geographically appropriate in their community, and what type of therapy or healing is needed.

Why did you exclude stories about boy victims of sexual abuse in your book?
Kimber: A friend once asked me what I thought about working with men’s issues. I told him that I have a son, and I want him to grow up to be happy and well adjusted and to be able to have good relationships with other people, so I have to care about men’s issues. We would have loved to have added more about boys and how they experience and heal from sexual abuse. It was just too much to include all the things we wanted to address in one book. We have talked about writing another though!
PeggyEllen: While none of the main characters is a boy, one of the girl’s brothers has been sexually abused. The girls talk with Carol, their support group therapist, about how both girls and boys can be victims.  The text boxes and appendices include ideas and information about special challenges that male victims face as well as information helpful for any person healing from sexual abuse. I guess, I’m saying that I think that male victims may find the book helpful even though it was written mainly for girls.  Looking at the book now, I see that I created a story about the support that I wished for myself as a child.

That brings up the question of whether there might be readers in addition to girls who have been sexually abused who may be drawn to the book?
PeggyEllen: Yes, absolutely.  We hear from three groups in particular, family members of child victims, adult women abused as children, and partners of adult survivors.  How family members respond after a traumatic event has great power, and can significantly ease the impact of the trauma on a child’s development. The book encourages empathy, and also gives clear advice on how to be helpful.
Kimber: When we were writing the book, we asked many different people to review it for us. Some of these were adult women who had been abused as children. Their feedback was that the child part of them, the part that was abused when they were 6 or 10 or 12, was much more open to reading this book than it had been to reading books that were written for adult women abused as children. Books written for adults can be too complicated or clinical for adults who were abused as children. When they read that kind of book, their child part that was abused gets confused or overwhelmed, and can’t take the information in. Reading a story, and reading information that was specifically written for youth helped these women to heal in a way they hadn’t been able to before. Adult men who were abused as children have also told us that the book spoke to them in a way that they were surprised by-in a way that was healing for them, or allowed them to talk about or disclose abuse when they hadn’t been able to before. Partners and family members of children and/or adults who were abused as children may find helpful suggestions in the book as well.
Wasn’t it hard to write about this subject?
PeggyEllen: Yes. And yet, I felt compelled to work on it.  When it got too difficult I put it down for a while.  Eventually I would have to come back to it. I knew on a deep level that it was important and that I needed to see it through to completion and get it out into the world, somehow. When I started working with Kimber the whole process became easier and more gratifying.  We both have a strong drive to present this important information clearly and respectfully. It was exciting to me to have an ally.
Kimber: Yes, it was hard. And it was also healing. Writing has always been healing for me. I used it to help keep myself from going crazy when I was in junior high and high school. In the end, every time I wrote, and every time PeggyEllen and I met and talked through how we wanted to present this book, I worked through more of my own old stuff in a new way. Even though I have done lots of my own healing from sexual abuse, and have helped others to heal through their abuse for many years, writing and publishing this book really brought the healing to a different level.

Are any of the characters modeled on the authors or on people that you know?
PeggyEllen: Many of Abi’s confusing thoughts and feelings about child sexual abuse come from the creative worrying I did alone in my bedroom, growing up. The characters’ personalities are not based on any one person and the abusive events they experienced are realistic, but not real.  The terror that Danielle struggles with is similar to the terror I felt as a child.  The therapist, Carol, is named after a woman I worked with at the Women in Crisis abuse shelter in Fairbanks in the 1980s, Carol Demientieff.  She was not a therapist, however, but was the building manager and expeditor for the shelter.
Kimber: PeggyEllen developed the characters, and already had their stories mostly fashioned when I became a part of the project. None of the people that I have worked with, or their stories are a part of this book. 

What can parents do to protect their children from sexual abuse?
Kimber:  We need to hear the evil, see the evil, and speak the evil. In other words, we must believe that sexual abuse happens, believe our children when they tell us about it, and do something about it. For too long, we have denied that abuse happens, or believed misinformation about abuse and how to stop it or heal from it, and we have allowed children and adults to suffer because of our fears of seeing what is really happening, and because of our strong need to believe that it isn’t happening. We absolutely must talk with our children about their bodies, and tell them that their private parts are special and sacred. They need to know how to say ‘no’ and how and who to tell if something bad or scary happens to them.  Most adults are afraid or nervous about talking with their children about sex and sexual abuse, so it’s important to learn fun and easy ways to do this. Darkness 2 Light (see www.Darkness2Light.org) has a curriculum that teaches adults that it is their job to protect children, rather than the child’s job to learn how to say no and tell someone.  We have many other suggestions in the book section titled, For Parents, Therapists, and other Adult Helpers.
PeggyEllen: Parents and other adults can take steps to help children be safer, such as asking about, supervising, and dropping in on, and making policies about one on one situations between children and adults or older children. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it is currently possible to keep all children totally safe from crimes such as sexual abuse and assault. Adults can certainly practice behaviors that will make it easier for children to ask for help if they are abused.  If you listen carefully and attentively and believe children in everyday things, they are more likely to trust that you will listen carefully and believe them when it’s as important and scary as disclosing sexual abuse. We can support organizations that work to treat and prevent child sexual abuse. We are pleased that the profits from our publisher, NEARI Press, go to support the New England Adolescent Research Institute’s work with at-risk adolescents.