“Never give up. Never give up. We all have broken hearts, but the pain is never the point. The point is to heal and reclaim true self… Childhood sexual abuse is extraordinarily survivable. And healing is an inside job. Stay focused on your aliveness – it’s always a sign of health.”
– Nancy Biros Derdul
There are many incredible people who are responsible for creating WINGS and ensuring its long time legacy. The first is WINGS’ clinical founder, Nancy Biros Derdul. We’re delighted to tell you more about this incredible person and innovative leader.
Nancy Biros Derdul was born in Ohio and graduated from Notre Dame College in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Social Work. Nancy moved to Denver in 1974 and pursued training as a counselor at the University of Colorado Denver and a three-year intensive program at the Denver Counseling Center studying under Warren A. Baker, MD, psychiatrist, and Jules Roth, PhD. and Helen Roth, MSW. She accomplished this while she, herself, underwent therapy to heal from childhood sexual abuse, specifically incest. As she looked around, Nancy recognized that there were so few resources for other women like her, and she decided to create a support group especially for them.
She called the support group WINGS, an acronym for “Women Incested Needing Group Support,” coining the verb “incested”.
Nancy wrote the first WINGS handbook – by hand – in the middle of the night. She advertised the first WINGS support group on S. Pearl Street in Denver, going against the consensus at the time. Her colleagues did not think people would come – but they did.
In fact, there was a high demand for WINGS’ support groups and this made Nancy recognize the need to incorporate WINGS Foundation. She secured the help of WINGS’ first Executive Director, Mary Shannon, to manage organizational operations.
Soon, it became clear that “WINGS” was positioned to help, not only victims of incest, but all types of childhood sexual abuse. And it wasn’t just women who needed these services, but men, too. It’s now more well known that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced childhood sexual abuse and could greatly benefit from services in adulthood.
So in 1993, to accommodate the broadening of its mission to include male survivors, WINGS dropped its acronym, but maintained its name and symbol of a bird in flight, a universal representation of transcendence.
In 2000, WINGS made the decision to have all WINGS groups be therapist-facilitated and survivor driven.
In 2009, WINGS began serving survivors in Spanish and also recognized the need to have a support group for the loved ones of survivors.
In 2012, WINGS recognized a need to make its services more inclusive, and welcomed LGBTQ survivors.
In 2013, WINGS hosted our 1st conference focused on supporting adult survivors in partnership with The Kempe Center.
And in 2014, WINGS stood with The Kempe Center and with Denver Health, to host our 2nd annual conference – where we honored Nancy Biros Derdul with the “Nancy Biros Derdul Award for Vision, Innovation and Clinical Excellence.” Her daughter, Bethann Derdul Bell, accepted the award on her behalf.
Nancy has important messages for those embarking on their healing journey and those who support them:
To survivors, she says, “Never give up. Never give up. We all have broken hearts, but the pain is never the point. The point is to heal and reclaim true self. So don’t be afraid to go to the depths of the pain – to heal it as best you can. Childhood sexual abuse is extraordinarily survivable. And healing is an inside job. Stay focused on your aliveness – it’s always a sign of health.”
She also addresses an important point, regarding confronting one’s perpetrators – whether in person, in writing, or through a therapeutic activity. She says, “Confronting the perpetrator is important – so your insides grow up and now you can be in the world and not intimidated by power or authority. Not that they will change or validate – because they rarely do. But so you can heal.”
To therapists, she recommends becoming trained in the issue of childhood sexual abuse and how it may be affecting your clients’ current challenges. She says, “Therapists need to ask the difficult questions and be ready for powerful feelings to emerge!”
WINGS will continue to celebrate the many dedicated women and men who have worked so diligently to offer WINGS’ services. Stay tuned for more stories about these remarkable people.
For now, we are excited to celebrate our clinical founder – a survivor and clinician, Nancy Biros Derdul, who had the courage and the vision to create a gift of healing and hope that would go on to change the lives of so many survivors and loved ones, on their ways to rebuilding extraordinary lives.
And WINGS is proud to announce that we are honoring our long standing history of serving survivors and loved ones by building capacity to expand our services nationwide. We are in the very early phases of the capacity-building process. We invite you to join us in this vital work!