Pasco-Hernando Community College North Campus Hosts Outstanding Event

More than 175 students, medical professionals, mental health therapists, child protection workers, law enforcement officials and members of the community attended the Symposium on Childhood Sexual Abuse on Friday, February 26, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the Brooksville campus.  The event was sponsored by the Pasco-Hernando Community College North Campus Psychology club and Psi Beta chapter, along with BayCare Behavioral Health Services and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Hernando chapter.  The symposium featured guest speakers who discussed the effects of childhood sexual abuse on society, as well as current efforts in education, advocacy, investigation, and treatment and prevention of this serious problem. According to Kristy Thomas, LMHC and clinical manager for BayCare Behavioral Health, the symposium was “a fantastic opportunity for the community to get together and teach each other about an important topic that affects everyone from all walks of life.”

The keynote speaker was Marcie Estes, LCSW, author of the book Secrets, Silence and Sessions, who spoke about her own abuse as a child and her experiences in the mental health field as both a therapist and a patient.  Ms. Estes was the keynote speaker for the Psi Beta and Psi Chi Synergy Conference, held in Venice, FL in November, 2009 and was invited to PHCC by Dr. Kathleen De Sousa, advisor of the North Campus Psi Beta and Psychology Club and Vice President of the Southeastern Region of Psi Beta. (PHCC sent over twenty students to the Synergy Conference, which had a profound impact on all who attended!)  “From the moment that I met Marcie, I knew that I needed to bring her on my campus so that others could hear her story,” De Sousa said.  She added that she was “moved by Marcie’s story and her heartbreak and strength and believed that more people needed to hear her presentation.”

When the group returned from the conference, De Sousa enlisted BayCare and NAMI to work with her psychology club to put together the symposium. “It started out as a guest speaker presentation but when we were done with our planning, we had created a full day event with guest speakers covering all sides of this important issue. We could not have done this without an amazing group of psychology club students, wonderful college staff such as Patti Rocco, Sandre Lyons and facilities director, Scott Aldrich and his team. We are also thankful for the support of college administrators like Dr. Giannet, Edwin Goolsby, and Bob Bade.”

Ms. Estes’ keynote presentation and her subsequent break out session where she discussed the various treatments that she experienced (ECT, DBT, EMDR, etc) were standing room only events!  Students talked about Ms. Estes for weeks and have invited her back on campus later in the year. Ms. Estes said that she was very happy to participate in the symposium and that she was impressed with the psychology students from PHCC. “From the advertising, to the registration, meals, and the myriad of speakers and guests, all aspects were accomplished with a high degree of professionalism and obvious enthusiasm. When I walked on campus Thursday afternoon, I was immediately greeted by several students who attended the Synergy Conference at SCF in Venice. These students made me feel welcomed and appreciated.  From that moment forward, I felt as if I had a ‘home away from home’ at PHCC.”

Other breakout sessions were held throughout the day with presentations from Pasco Kids First, Child Protections Investigations, BayCare, NAMI, the Florida Advancement of Child Welfare Practices, The Dawn Center, Dr. Cheri Kittrell, and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office- Victim Advocate department.  Registration, lunch and refreshments for the symposium were offered at no cost to attendees who were asked to bring donations for the Haiti Relief initiative being coordinated by NC students.

Ms. Thomas summed up the importance of the symposium when she said “Education is so important. We have resources in our community that many are not aware of.  If we are able to get this information out to someone who needs some guidance and direction then it’s all worth it, whether it’s someone directly impacted by child sexual abuse, professionals or future professionals such as PHCC students.”  The day was a great success and planning is already underway for next year’s symposium, which will likely focus on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

By Kathleen Hughes De Sousa, Ph.D.

Southeast Regional VP of Psi Beta

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