From victim to counsellor

When in 1997 Vicki Bernadet founded FADA, an organisation that provides support to adults that were sexually abused during their childhood, she knew what she was dealing with. From the age of about 9 she had been abused by a close member of her family till she was 17 when she got a boyfriend and left home; only then did the abuse stop. During all those years she had been wishing that a ‘fada’ (Catalan for ‘fairy’) would come and carry her away to a safe place.

It took her nearly twenty years before she could talk about it; at that time she lived separated from her husband and was raising a daughter herself. For some years she had been writing poems in which she was able to pour out her heart. One day her niece discovered them and was touched by the pain they conveyed. Little by little Vicki could relieve her mind telling her niece what had been done to her. From that moment on it was as if a burden had been lifted and she felt that she could act more freely.

What she did not and could not find at her age was counselling. All the institutions she visited merely worked with children and did not help adults. To fill this gap she and her niece decided to found FADA. A couple of years later the association was turned into the Foundation Vicki Bernadet so that they could work on a larger scale and take a more official and consolidated form. First they put in their own savings, but later on financial assistance was given by public and institutions, savings banks and private foundations.

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Their task, however, remained the same: supporting victims who had suffered sexual abuse as a child in the broad sense of the word. This means that they also stand by any person who experienced this kind of abuse in a direct or indirect way, for example a sibling that witnessed the mistreatment. The ultimate goal is to change society so that abuse can be pushed back and victims are able to speak openly about their experience and its consequences fighting the taboos and secrecy that surround the issue of molestation. Creating awareness and supplying information are some of the instruments used by the Foundation. ‘Prevention’ is also high on the agenda.

Vicki’s work has not gone unnoticed. In 2006 she was awarded the distinction of Ashoka Changemaker and became a Fellow. This global movement, a non-profit organisation created by Bill Drayton, supports ‘social entrepreneurs, innovators, business leaders, policy makers, and activists’ who are seeking to achieve fundamental changes in society with respect to social issues using innovative tools.

The Foundation Vicki Bernadet, that only employs professionals, now boasts two centres of assistance where they have already tended to thousands of people: one centre in Barcelona and another in Zaragoza; their method has become a model that is being used widely by organisations working in the field of sexual abuse of children. For example, some Latin American countries have turned to Vicki for consulting and advice about founding organizations similar to FADA.

For more information about the Foundation and its work, click here for English and here for Spanish.

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