Stettler’s Judi Beebe has another award to hang on her office wall, but for each congratulatory paper, there’s a horrific world of pain and suffering she’s had to endure.
On Tuesday, Jan. 3 Beebe was presented with an Inspiration Award from the Province of Alberta at a Town of Stettler meeting, with Mayor Dick Richards, presenting the award.
The Central Alberta Regional Vision for Non-Violence Coalition, of which Beebe is a member as executive director of Associations of Communities of Abuse (ACAA), was presented with the award in November. Beebe, however, was unable to attend and Mayor Richards, accepted the award on her behalf. He presented the award to Beebe at the Tuesday, Jan. 3 town council meeting.
According to Beebe, it is “always an honour to win an award,” though she wishes the work she does with ACAA wasn’t necessary.
ACAA was formed specifically to fill a need for long-term counselling of people who suffered childhood abuse in any form. While some of the clients seen by ACAA are children, many are now adults who are trying to cope with what happened to them as children. In fact, about 60 per cent of ACAA’s clients are adults.
“There’s not a lot of long-term resources out there for these people,” Beebe said. “There’s programs that deal with some of the problems, but not the root. A lot of our clients develop coping mechanisms that aren’t always healthy.”
Many victims of childhood abuse turn to substance abuse, cutting, eating disorders and other forms of self-harm to deal with the trauma. Even though those problems can be helped through counselling and programs, unless the problem that led the victim to develop these troubles as coping mechanisms is dealt with, the problem is most likely to resurface, Beebe said.
The coalition, made of people like Beebe who work in central Alberta, was nominated for their efforts to educate and support community organizations like ACAA.
“(The coalition) holds conferences, where we can discuss trends in our communities and discuss difficulties,” Beebe said. “They also help us in promoting the prevention of violence.”
The coalition exists to support the frontline groups dealing with victims of violence and abuse, rather than doing so itself, Beebe noted.
“We do a lot in the background,” she said.
It’s been 42 years since Beebe turned toward the dark world of child sexual abuse counselling, and she said she never expected to be at it this long.
“Most of us burn out long before now,” she said, explaining that some of the stories, and the cases where no matter how much help is offered, there’s no happy ending, break many people working in the field.
“What keeps me at it is the successes,” Beebe said, her voice becoming emotional. “Having a former client come to us and wanting to introduce his children to us, or receiving a letter talking about how much we helped, that makes it worth it.”
Beebe is training someone to follow in her footsteps, as she intends to cut back her hours as she draws nearer to retirement.
“Sometimes you know it’s time to retire, but it’s not just the right time, not quite yet,” she said.
Some of the programs run by ACAA also involve dealing with the abusers, who often enough are victims themselves.
“You see people come to us as victims, and end up back here as the abuser,” she said. “You can really see how its multi-generational.”
The program ACAA runs for abusers is often not sought out by the wrongdoer, but is instead mandated by the court.
“None of them ever think we have anything to offer,” Beebe, who does the intakes, said. “But by the end there are people who want to keep going and don’t want it to end.”
Ending the cycle of abuse means recognizing abusers are often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse them from responsibility for their actions, the consequences, or any blame, Beebe is quick to note.
“Sometimes their partners take them back. Sometimes it’s over and they know that,” Beebe said. “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen the next time.”