Nonprofit helps with healing by transforming rooms of child abuse victims

'She dropped to the floor. She couldn’t believe it was her room,' mother says

Nonprofit helps with healing by transforming rooms of child abuse victims

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – Child abuse and sexual assault create a huge ripple effect of trauma. A local organization is helping children recover in a unique way by transforming their rooms.

Children's rooms are often associated with their abuse.

“We actually found out about a year and a half ago that my daughter had been sexually abused. She’s been in therapy since we found out. She’s 12 years old, and this apparently started when she was about 4, but we had no idea. She told her therapist she didn’t want me to know because she didn’t want me to feel hurt,” said a mother who is choosing to stay anonymous for her daughter’s sake.

FBI program uses public’s help to fight child sex abuse

Their case is ongoing, but the mother wanted to share their story to help other children.

Both of her daughter’s abusers were extended family members.

“We didn’t realize some of the things in her bedroom were causing triggers. It got to the point where she would not even sleep in her bedroom. She was sleeping on the couch or another room,” the mother said about her daughter.

The mother then found the nonprofit Room Redux online.

Room Redux anonymously transforms the rooms of children who have faced physical or sexual abuse in one day.

“We get our referrals from counselors, CPS caseworkers, communities, schools, law enforcement,” said Room Redux CEO Susie Vybiral.

If a family is interested, the team assesses and measures the child’s room and asks the family a list of questions.

“What is her favorite color? What colors does she hate? What are his favorite hobbies? What does she want to be when she grows up? What is his favorite video game? Is there a particular religion in the home? Everything,” Vybiral explained.

It’s not just the child’s likes and dislikes, though. They also get in touch with the child’s therapist to talk about what therapeutic tools are being used to include them in the room design.

“We put squishies in children’s rooms who have anger issues. We put fountains because they are calming, very zen. We love to put original art,” Vybiral said.

“She loves anime, and she loves cherry blossoms. They put a cherry blossom tree in there that lights up. They put a TV in there. They put a brand new bed, Japanese fans. They put positive sayings on her wall. They even had a local artist paint a picture of my daughter with a cherry blossom in her hair,” the mother said.

The mother said she will never forget her daughter’s reaction when they surprised her with the room transformation.

“She came home to a completely different room, and she was flabbergasted. She cried, she screamed, she dropped to the floor. She couldn’t believe it was her room,” the mother said.

The mother said the room transformation has changed her daughter’s life.

“It has helped tremendously. She had been cutting herself. She has not cut herself since then. She goes to her room all the time, versus before she never wanted to be in there. Whenever she’s having a bad day, she’ll go in there, turn on her tree. They put in a fountain. She turns that on and she just mellows out. She likes to draw, so they put drawing pads in there, canvas,” the mom said.

The mother said one of the things she loves most about Room Redux is the option of anonymity.

“They don’t ask for recognition. They tell you it’s up to you whether you tell your child who did it. The family can take credit,” the mother explained. “I chose not to take credit for it because I wanted my daughter to know there’s people out there who don’t even know her but know her situation and wanted to come in and do this for her.”

“Sometimes, there is a damaged relationship. Maybe the child thinks the parent didn’t protect them. So that parent can take credit, and it might help repair that relationship,” Vybiral said.

Vybiral said the best part is getting follow-ups from families and seeing how she and her team have changed a child’s life.

“They come to realize there are people who care about them who don’t even know them and expect nothing back from them. We have no idea what’s been expected of these children. I think it increases their self-worth. It makes them feel worthy and special and loved,” Vybiral said.

The girl’s mother said they plan to stay involved with the organization, at her daughter’s request.

“She’s asked, ‘Hey, mom, can we go volunteer to help next time they do this?’ She said, ‘It’s sad how many kids they have to do this for, but I know how it makes me feel, and I can imagine how many more kids they’re going to help,’” the mother said, describing her conversation with her daughter.

Room Redux started in 2017 and now has chapters all over the country.

If you want to request a room transformation, sign up to volunteer or learn more about the nonprofit, head to the Room Redux website.

To report any form of child abuse and neglect, contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or visit their website for more information. You can remain anonymous.

Advocates say even if you aren’t positive abuse is happening, call anyway. You could save a life.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.