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ASTOP Today:  Susan’s Story

Years later, a middle school student approached ASTOP's Prevention Educator and asked if she remembered her. We’ll call her Susan. The previous year, Susan had disclosed sexual abuse while in imminent danger of going home to her perpetrator.

When she finally realized that it was never too late to tell someone, Susan told her mom that her dad had been sexually abusing her during her entire life. Mom immediately packed everything and moved the family into a shelter. Susan said it was one of the scariest things they had ever done, but her life was finally her own. For the first time, she wasn’t afraid anymore.

Ultimately her father was charged and sent to prison, and Susan began receiving ASTOP counseling. When her 13th birthday approached, she became excited because it meant she could finally join the ASTOP teen group.

The last thing Susan said before walking back to class was, “Thank you for saving my life. You have no idea the difference it has made.”

The Beginning of ASTOP: Victoria’s Legacy

In August of 1988, a heartbreaking event unfolded when an 11-year-old girl named Victoria, burdened by unimaginable suffering, took her own life. With a scarf around her neck, she uttered her final plea to her younger sister: "Get help." Tragically, aid did not arrive in time. Victoria, tasked with caring for her four younger siblings in a world rife with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, succumbed to the darkness that engulfed her. This grim reality, far from uncommon, underscores the urgent need for intervention and support in the face of sexual violence.

At ASTOP, our mission is clear: to ensure timely assistance reaches the countless others, both young and old, who endure the shadow of sexual violence and the overwhelming weight of unbearable stress.

Victoria's untimely death sent shockwaves through the community, prompting thorough research and a revealing needs assessment. A glaring truth emerged: a backlog of cases left those reporting sexual assault waiting 6-8 agonizing weeks for counseling. Susan Griffiths, a seasoned counselor and ASTOP co-founder, emphasized the critical importance of immediate support: "By promptly attending to victims, we can validate their experiences, ease their fears, and alleviate self-blame." She further noted, "The shame endured by these individuals corrodes their very being."

In 1992, a pivotal moment arrived with the establishment of a crisis intervention center in Fond du Lac, focusing on treatment, outreach, and prevention. This initiative prioritized swift access to professional trauma counselors, round-the-clock support for victims via phone or in-person visits, and comprehensive prevention education through programs like Protective Behaviors.

The history of ASTOP is a testament to the power of compassion and community action in the face of abuse-induced trauma. Responding to the silent cries of sexual violence victims who felt abandoned, the community rallied to provide vital, cost-free services. Through shared vision and unwavering dedication, ASTOP emerged as a beacon of hope and healing.

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