Toni D. Rivera, founder of Helping Hand Youth and Adult Services well knows the grim roots of true leadership having transformed the stigma of poverty into fuel to help others. Rivera’s childhood forced her to confront the toxicity of sexual abuse and the destructive cycles of trauma that followed as a direct result of profound betrayal.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, “child sexual abuse is [unfortunately] not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. 1 However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.” The moment Rivera launched her mission, she debunks the myth that survivors never recover.

Although Rivera’s trauma first lead to years of hopelessness, insurmountable grief, drug-addiction, and sexual exploitation she hit rock bottom after being kidnapped. Rivera, now a mother, wife, and a proud medical professional, has surpassed recovery, having become a pillar of support for kids and women in crisis battling similar circumstances, and, sadly, sometimes worse. Helping Hand Youth and Adult Services helps, “to establish housing, establish jobs, help to find a safe place for at-risk teens. Giving a safe place for battered women and abused kids who the system has pushed out due to age.”

Rivera, who attributes her success to faith in God, dedicates practical resources so she can assist young men and women facing sex, drug and addiction problems. The real gem is the face-to-face time Rivera invests in supporting her clients to foster healing. By leading with empathy and emotional intelligence, Rivera fosters clients in beginning the recovery of those walking in shoes she once walked in so they, to, can have their feet firmly planted in healthy, safe ground because on the other side of recovery is relief.

Rivera’s non-profit allows her to offer face-to-face services, hence beginning the recovery of those walking in the shoes she knows too well.

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