Younique Foundation hosts annual gala to support survivors of childhood sexual abuse

ST. GEORGE — The Younique Foundation is inviting Washington County residents to dress up and donate at their annual Reclaim Hope Gala on Thursday.

An estimated 1 in 4 women are survivors of child sexual abuse. The Younique Foundation is raising funds to provide resources for women who have experienced sexual abuse as young girls or during their adolescence while also protecting other children from similar experiences.

Event proceeds go toward providing education to parents of young girls and sending women who have survived sexual abuse to a four-day retreat at no cost to them, said Ellen Guevara, the Younique Foundation director of communications.

There are two Haven Retreat locations, one in Utah and another in Georgia, that have welcomed over 3,000 survivors of sexual abuse. Each group of about 32 women receives support services in the four days they are at the retreat.

During the retreat, women are taught coping skills they can use to begin their healing processes through group psychoeducation, learning how trauma affects the brain and using activities like art, yoga and meditation as an outletSome women don’t address their trauma for decades, Guevara told St. George News.

Flyer with information about the Reclaim Hope Gala on Nov. 7, 2019 in St. George, Utah | Image courtesy of the Younique Foundation, St. George News

“A lot of women are validated for the first time when they attend these retreats,” she said.

Research on the effectiveness of the retreat found participants experienced a 23% reduction of PTSD symptoms, a 21% improvement in overall well-being and a 9% increase in their confidence in coping with their traumatic experience. 

For those who complete the retreat, and even those who are unable to make it, there are additional resources available for free. The Younique Foundation facilitates 39 online support groups that span the globe as well as an online education program.

These support groups are meant to help women who have lived through sexual abuse find a community of people with similar experiences who they can open up to and learn from.

The foundation also provides information to parents on how to prevent sexual abuse, Guevara said. Defend Innocence is a branch of the Younique Foundation focused on child advocacy and parent education.

The program focuses primarily on encouraging parents to have open and meaningful conversations with their

The 2018 Reclaim Hope Gala, Sept. 10, 2019 | Image courtesy of the Younique Foundation, St. George News

children about consent and body autonomy, sexual health, self-esteem, risk reduction, relationships and communication, and child development.

Defend Innocence also partners with local police departments and school districts, most recently attending a high school counselor conference to inform counselors on the warning signs.

“We really want to get it from both spectrums,” Guevara said. “We want to also help to do what we can to stop this epidemic but also help to heal these women that have really been already affected.”

A large part of the Younique Foundation and Defend Innocence’s work is starting the conversation. It can be an uncomfortable topic, Guevara said, but shedding light on the increasing prevalence of sexual abuse is necessary.

Musical group Gentri performs at the 2018 Reclaim Hope Gala, Sept. 10, 2019 | Image courtesy of the Younique Foundation, St. George News

“Epidemics thrive in secrecy,” she said. “It’s not political. It’s a human rights issue. If we can shed light on this, the shadows of this epidemic cannot live where the light is.”

The Reclaim Hope Gala begins Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Dixie Convention Center. Attendees will watch exclusive videos about the Haven Retreat, enjoy dinner and learn how to raise awareness.

Musical group Gentri will also be performing. Jan Broberg, the subject of Netflix’s “Abducted in Plain Sight,” is performing her duties at the master of ceremonies for the event.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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