From Roanoke Park Counseling’s inception in 1987, the nonprofit agency has made a meaningful difference in both the lives of countless survivors of childhood sexual abuse and in the community.
The insight of Sister Vera Gallagher
Shepherd's Counseling Services (now Roanoke Park Counseling) was created from the vision of a Good Shepherd sister, Dr. Vera Gallagher. Sister Vera spent 30 years as a principal for the Good Shepherd Schools for young women referred by the juvenile courts.
Sister Vera recognized that most of the youth she met had run away from sexual and/or physical abuse. Too young to provide for themselves, they often turned to life on the streets and came into conflict with the law.
Response overwhelming as word spreads
In 1985, when the issue of childhood sexual abuse was relatively hidden, Sister Vera wrote her book, "Speaking Out, Fighting Back.” In this ground-breaking book, which chronicled the experiences both she and Good Shepherd school staff nationwide had while working with adolescents who were sexually abused as children. In honestly portraying the challenges these girls endured because of their experience of abuse, she created a revolutionary book that broke the wall of secrecy throughout our communities and across the nation.
- The response was immediate and overwhelming.
- She received hundreds of letters, phone calls and requests for therapy from adults who were sexually abused as children.
A licensed counselor, Sister Vera began providing group therapy for women. She was invited to give workshops throughout the U.S. and internationally. Her work with adult survivors led to another book, "Becoming Whole Again", a discussion guide for use in group therapy.
Needs grow, launching the nonprofit agency
By 1987, it was evident that the need for help was more than one person could handle. Shepherd's Counseling Services was formed, contracting with additional therapists and creating a Board of Directors.
In 1993 the need to include services to male survivors was evident and Shepherd's hired its first male therapist to lead male therapy groups. Soon after, Shepherd’s began offering services to partners of survivors, to this day a rare and vital resource.
Sister Vera was a fearless and passionate advocate for survivors and for the need to bring awareness to this long-hidden topic. Sister Vera resigned from the directorship of the agency in 1996 but continued to serve as an agency spokesperson and to see individual clients until 1996 when she retired.
Sister Vera's vision lives on
Shepherd's has never wavered from its mission to offer scholarships to those who do not have the means needed for therapy. Thousands of individuals and families have been helped by the strength of Sister Vera's vision and commitment.
Like the clients it serves, the agency has shown remarkable resilience, always finding a way to get beyond the rough spots in continued dedication to the noble mission of its founder and visionary.