Leslie Holt is the founder and director of “A Child’s Light,” a non-profit organization that funds the access of mental health treatment for children who were victims of sexual assault or have experienced domestic abuse.
The organization supports Chester County children and adolescents between the ages of 2-18 years old. Holt is a vocal advocate for children. She has made it her life’s work to ensure that children who are abused receive the necessary resources that help them develop a path towards recovery and healing.
Leslie shares that she does this work, because she lost her daughter Lana to the trauma of a childhood experience. Leslie says, “It is a fact—trauma kills people—that’s what took Lana’s life.It was not a chemical overdose, but her experience of being raped at 14 years old by someone that she knew from four years old and implicitly trusted; that actually took her life. The rapist was a family friend, five years older and we did not know he was a predator. He even went on family vacations with us.”
Leslie continues: “After the rape, Lana took on the responsibility of this vile act and carried the shame and fear that went along with keeping it to herself. By the time we learned of the incident, she was smoking cigarettes and pot and using alcohol to help dull the pain.”
“When we discovered much later about this rape incident, we took Lana to counseling. At that time, even with excellent counselors, the therapy practice didn’t start from the trauma-informed perspective that all therapy currently engages. I believe if Lana was living today, this perspective would have saved her life. They never counseled her at the level to get to the bottom of her pain and shame with her childhood trauma.”
The CDC reports that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the US experience sexual abuse. It also reports that, “Someone known and trusted by the child or child’s family member perpetuates 91% of child sexual abuse.”
Leslie became an advocate for abused children soon after learning of her daughter’s situation. She and a colleague co-created The RADAR Project (Rape And Domestic Abuse Report), which is a database that allows victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse to record on a map where their abuse occurred. It provides them with a safe space online to share their personal stories without giving their names.
In August, 2018, Leslie pivoted from the RADAR Project. The website was up and the App was built for victims from around the world, who were dropping pins and telling their stories; it was successful! Leslie wanted to focus on childhood trauma since she saw the devastation that it wrought on her daughter, Lana.
Lana was actually instrumental in helping craft the model of “A Child’s Light” which was going to help abused children in a significant, focused way. Lana was poisoned on November 2nd, 2018. Leslie is continuing what they started.
As unpleasant the topic of sexual assault may be, Leslie promotes keeping this an open topic for discussion and educating youth about not accepting inappropriate physical touch at, starting from a early age. Leslie’s perspective is that the focus on this important awareness has declined in our culture because of protecting so many high profile men, who are being accused of this sexual crime.
In 2021, Leslie was recognized for her work with a Blue Ribbon Champion award. Following are the presenter’s comments: “Leslie has been a fierce and tireless advocate for Pennsylvania’s children,” said Angela Liddle, President and CEO of the PA Family Support Alliance. “She understands that when abuse is perpetrated against children, the impact can be often unseen—that is why she works to get them the support programs and clinical services they need. Leslie personifies what it means to be a champion for children.”
“A Child’s Light” will have an Open House on Friday, September 15, 2023 at 1440 Phoenixville Pike, West Chester, PA 19380 from 2 to 5:00pm. Phone: 610-405-2928. Leslie invites the public to experience the location among the “tree house world.” It is a feeling of home and not a therapist’s office and accommodates therapy sessions for the recipients of “A Child’s Light” funded services.
In summary; Leslie says she does this challenging work because, “I take all the love that I can’t give to my daughter now and share it with those who are dealing with the same pain.”
The Story of Kennett – Shaping the future one child at a time” Joan Holliday and Bob George’s book on Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap. You may contact Joan at: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Daily Local News, August 15, 2023