Peninsula residents Eva Hompoth and Angelika Bendrich share a bond they’d prefer didn’t exist: both are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Born of that, they share a common drive: to do what they can to prevent other children from experiencing what they did.
“If I help one kid a week, she helps one kid – that’s 104 kids a year,” said Hompoth.
“I believe one person can make a difference.”
Hompoth and Bendrich met in February through Toastmasters, and Bendrich introduced Hompoth to the non-profit Darkness to Light organization’s Stewards of Children training – a child abuse-prevention program.
Participants learn about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, how to minimize opportunities for it to occur, how to talk about it – including to children – how to recognize signs of abuse and how to react responsibly when abuse is suspected.
“The scary news is 90 per cent of abuse is by someone the child knows,” said Bendrich, 49.
“It’s harder to talk about it after it happens.”
Bendrich – a Crescent Beach resident and two-time cancer survivor – said she came to Canada when she was 21, to get away from a situation where the men in her life “treated me… like a piece of furniture.”
“I was brought up to believe the role of a woman was to serve a man,” she said.
In the years that followed, Bendrich reclaimed her voice and is determined to use what she has learned to help others.
“The more I claim my voice and help other people claim theirs, I’m getting better and better.
“It’s not so much what happened, but what you do with what happened.”
Hompoth said it took her a long time to connect ways she was living her life to what happened to her as a child of about eight years old, when she was abused by a stranger in a park.
Now a grandmother to four, she says she only started opening up about that traumatic day about five years ago, after decades of blaming herself for what happened.
“I was very ashamed. I wouldn’t tell anybody,” she said. “I did not trust men for a very, very long time.”
Hompoth, 59, also believes the experience at least partly explains her passion for animals and children. With her dog, Lola, she volunteers for programs including Surrey Libraries’ Dog Tales (where children practise their reading skills by telling stories to an attentive and non-judgmental four-legged friend) and St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog Services (in which the pair visit patients to share the physical and emotional benefits of regular contact with a dog).
As a steward – she took a Darkness to Light course led by Bendrich in April – Hompoth hopes she can do more, including eventually take the program into schools as a facilitator.
“I love working with children,” she said. “Children are so innocent – they should grow up like that.”
Upcoming Stewards of Children training sessions are set for 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 5 and 2-4 p.m. June 8.
For more information on Stewards of Children, visit d2L.org or email Bendrich at firstname.lastname@example.org