Abuse victims' partners offered a support group

NEIGHBORS

August 10, 1994|By LARRY STURGILL

The sexual abuse of children is a subject few people want to talk about. It has long been a social problem and, despite the fact it has been acknowledged and attacked on many fronts in recent years, it appears to be a growing moral blight upon today's society.

Mary Ellen Merrick, a Hickory Ridge resident, is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience dealing with the victims of rape, incest and sexual assault. Dr. Merrick, who has a private counseling service, IHM Consultation Services, is also a counselor with the Howard County Sexual Assault Center.

In recent years, she says, more and more adult survivors of childhood rape and incest have come forward, fighting through their anger to try to heal the wounds and ease the pain they have carried within for many years. And, more important, a growing number of treatment programs and support groups have become available to these victims.

But, she says there is another group of victims who have received little or no support, and until recently, were barely acknowledged at all. They are the partners of survivors -- the husbands and wives, the girlfriends, boyfriends and lovers -- who suddenly find themselves confronted with all the horrors of the survivors' ordeal.

The Howard County Sexual Assault Center is now responding to the need for a support group for partners that will be led by Dr. Merrick, who holds master's degrees in education and counseling and a doctorate in pastoral counseling. Other counselors also will help.

"We want the group to be a safe haven for the significant others, both male and female, who come to us for help. It is important that they know they are not alone," says Dr. Merrick.

The partners support group will meet at the Howard County Sexual Assault Center at the Crystal Heights Office Center, 10015 Old Columbia Road, in Kings Contrivance from 7 p.m. to 8:20 p.m., beginning Tuesday, Sept. 20. The meetings will continue through Nov. 8.

For additional information or to join the partners support group call 290-6432.

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Registration for the Columbia Association's fall semester before- and after-school care has begun. Registration forms are available at the association's Member Service Center in The Mall in Columbia.

In West Columbia, before- and after-school care is available at Bryant Woods, Clemens Crossing, Longfellow, Running Brook and Swansfield elementary schools.

School care space is limited, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

For additional information, stop by the service center or call 715-3167.

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Things will be hopping this weekend at the Harmony Hall Retirement Community, 6336 Cedar Lane.

On Saturday at 2 p.m., there will be a concert by The Good Timers, a top-flight band composed entirely of senior citizens who still have lots of rhythm left in them. This group will entertain both young and old with a variety of familiar tunes and melodies.

And, on Sunday at 6:30 p.m., fire dancers will highlight a traditional Hawaiian show, complete with costumes and hula dancers.

For additional information on both events, call Linda Spano at 531-6000.

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