'A rewarding ministry for each church': Crabtree speaks out for domestic violence survivors

'A rewarding ministry for each church': Crabtree speaks out for domestic violence survivors

In 1995, Gayle D’Ambrosio Crabtree was raped at her job in Chattanooga. As she searched for resources to aid her recovery, she found them lacking. She created a web site where she could share the information she collected, in hopes of helping others to heal, too.

Today, Crabtree is an advocate, speaker, author, director and founder of Hope for Healing.org. She is also a Holston Conference pastor’s wife.

Holston pastors saw Crabtree in action at Clergy Gathering in October. She was one of several speakers, including Bishop James Swanson, sharing personal experiences with domestic violence.

“You’re not called to fix it. You are called to represent Christ,” she told clergy, explaining that helping victims of domestic violence requires caution and expert aid.

On Nov. 14, Crabtree took her message of hope and healing to the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She was accompanied by youth from three Holston churches who also shared their gifts. Alexandria of Caryville UMC, Oak Ridge District, played the flute. Alicia of Jacksboro UMC, Oak Ridge District, played the guitar and sang. Charity of Strawberry Plains UMC, Morristown District, read a poem.* (Charity also volunteers at Pleasant Hill UMC, Knoxville District.)

The rally was organized by Friends and Family Against Child Sexual Assault. The purpose was to “begin a discussion that encourages survivors of child sexual violence of all ages to find courage,” Crabtree said.

“There are long term survivors of sexual and domestic violence in every community,” she said. “Reaching out to them can be a rewarding ministry for each church.”

The rally lasted more than four hours and included 16 presenters from across the U.S., Crabtree said.

“If we know a child victim, it is time to pick up the phone and call our state hotline,” Crabtree said during her speech. “There are protections in place. We need to reach out for those protections. We need to report. We need to protect our neighbors’ children, and we need to do this for the benefit of our communities.”

“There are programs in place where we can go online and search for the locations of sexual predators,” she continued. “How many in this crowd regularly visit their state sexual predator websites to look up the information?” (Read the speech.)

Alicia, age 17, played her guitar and sang a song she wrote herself, “Blind Eyes.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who was sexually abused,” she said. “It was really awesome to hear the stories of people who have. It touched me and made me think a lot,” she said.

Although the ministry still exists, the Hope for Healing.org Ministry Center in Strawberry Plains was closed in August due to lack of funding and building disrepair, Crabtree said.

“We helped victims of domestic violence and changed the lives of juvenile offenders through our internationally recognized website and locally giving Bibles, clothes, food, household items to help them rebuild their lives,” Crabtree said.

“Despite challenges, we continue to change lives,” she said. “Online services continue through a home-based office. Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church allows us to meet with juvenile offenders in their church fellowship hall, and speaking services are more in demand.”

Crabtree has published two books and hosts an internet radio show for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Hope for Healing has received grants from Change for Children and the Youth Service Fund as well as donations from Holston churches. Crabtree’s husband  is the Rev. John Crabtree, pastor at Jacksboro-Caryville UMC, Oak Ridge District.

She requested that church members pray and give financially “so we can reach more survivors with God’s love.” Make checks to your local church and write "Advance Special #577" on the memo line.

Sponsors may also give specifically for the website at hopeforhealing.org, the internet radio program at www.blogtalkradio.com/hopeforhealing, or provide shelter copies of the book, “Does God Still Love Me?” E-mail gayle@hopeforhealing.org for more information.

It is also possible to support the ministry by using a Yahoo-powered link (www.iSearchiGive.com/hopeforhealingorg) to do internet searches.

“We receive .02 cents per search,” she said. “So far, four active registered users have raised more than $100.”

* Full names of minors are withheld to protect their privacy