About Fighting For Me
Fighting For Me was founded to meet the nationwide need for sexual abuse aftercare and prevention. We believe free, professional counseling for people affected by sexual abuse is as basic a need as water.
Our mission is to make FREE sexual abuse counseling available to every man, woman, and child affected by sexual abuse (survivors and their loved ones). We’ve begun in Orange County, California.
Our vision is to open counseling and training facilities in Orange County, California (and eventually nationwide). We also plan to help decrease sexual abuse through education, awareness, and healing.
We plan to provide quality care to as many people as possible by hiring licensed therapists who will oversee and train compassionate psychology interns working toward their licenses.
In the Meantime...
As we gain funding and visibility, we are still offering free counseling! We’re finding licensed therapists to volunteer an hour or more a week to serve clients.
Meet our Team
Amanda Zarate, President and Founder
Amanda Zarate is a passionate advocate for sexual abuse survivors. As a survivor herself, she has dedicated her life to helping men, women and children affected by sexual abuse receive access to free professional counseling. Her efforts also include educating people on what sexual abuse is as well as raising awareness that sexual abuse victims are most likely to be hurt by people they know and trust. Amanda is best known for her grand inspirations and her fearless determination which she attributes to her strong Christian faith.
Click here to read her story and motivation behind Fighting For Me.
Sunnie Mills, Secretary
Sarah Ortiz, Treasurer
Sarah’s journey with Fighting For Me began when her good friend and founder, Amanda Zarate, shared her story and vision for helping victims of sexual abuse. Even though she had no real experience with abuse, Sarah was inspired by Amanda’s passion and determination, and she strongly wanted to get involved. Since joining team Fighting For Me, Sarah has organized several events and planned numerous fundraisers and social activities for all ages. As the treasurer for this organization, she hopes to aid in the gathering of funds to help make Fighting For Me something that can truly help the many victims and their families who have been affected by abuse.
Sarah is an Orange County native; her parents and grandparents were raised here as well. Sarah has been teaching high school Spanish for 15 years and recently finished her master’s degree in Spanish. She has an amazing husband whom she enjoys spending time with by going to concerts, sporting events, or just relaxing at home.
Jeriann Peters, Psy.D, LMFT, Clinical Director
Jerriann Peters is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Doctor of Psychology with more than 10 years of clinical experience working with individuals, couples, and families from various backgrounds. Dr. Peters received her MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and her Psy.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Alliant International University.
Dr. Peters’ clinical work includes facilitating a women’s support group at Pepperdine University Community Counseling Center (Irvine Graduate Campus) and meeting with clients in private practice. Dr. Peters also spent several years working at The Village of Hope where she developed a deep passion for working with individuals and their families who struggle with substance misuse. At the Village of Hope, Dr. Peters co- facilitated a men’s substance misuse group and also worked with diverse problems such as depression, anxiety, abuse, trauma, and child/family conflicts.
Dr. Peters’ supervision experience includes serving as the Interim Clinical Supervisor at Pepperdine University Community Counseling Center (Irvine Graduate Campus) where she periodically provides supervision to Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) trainees and interns as well as oversees daily clinical operations in the absence of the Clinic Director. Dr. Peters has also provided clinical supervision to MFT doctoral interns at Loma Linda University in the Medical Family Therapy program. In addition, Dr. Peters supervised MFT trainees and interns at California Family Institute, a local non-profit agency that provides affordable counseling services to members of the community.
Dr. Peters is adjunct faculty at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology (Irvine Graduate Campus) where she teaches a variety of courses including Couple and Family Therapy II, Practicum, and Preparation for Practicum. Dr. Peters has also given numerous presentations at Alliant University on the topics of Narrative Supervision, Narrative Practice, and Poststructuralism.
As a therapist, clinical supervisor, and professor, Dr. Peters aims to empower clients, new therapists and students by engaging in collaborative conversations where multiple points of view are valued and respected.
Deanna Daniels, LMFT, Executive Director
Deanna Daniels is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with 14 years of clinical experience. Her experience includes working at a university-based community counseling center, an outpatient facility for the chronically mentally ill adult population, school-based counseling for at-risk K-6 students, and private practice. Deanna also has specialized experience working with sexual assault and rape survivors providing crisis intervention, taking hotline calls and providing victim advocate services on hospital call-outs for a former sexual assault crisis agency.
In addition to serving as Clinical Director on the Board of Directors, Deanna has provided clinical supervision and training to FFM trainees and interns as well as clinical training to FFM’s network of therapists. Deanna is passionate about her work with clients and excited to be a part of the FFM family. When she’s not cheering on her kids at the soccer and baseball fields, Deanna loves to spend time at the beach or out on the ocean looking for dolphins.
Matt Lenton, CPA, Financial Advisor
Matt Lenton has more than 14 years of financial consulting and accounting experience, including several years as a partner with a national accounting firm. He has performed numerous financial statements as well as compliance, operational and performance audits for large and mid-sized local governments, not-for-profit organizations, and private companies (including manufacturing, professional services, software, construction, and more). He has also assisted in the implementation of advanced budgeting systems, accounting software and finance and accounting reorganizations. These engagements have resulted in improved operating results and enhanced efficiency for the clients he has served. When he’s not crunching numbers, Matt enjoys spending time with his two children. Matt is a welcomed addition to the Board of Directors.
Christine Schick, Director of Marketing & Communications
Christine Schick is passionate about the effective use of words and images, especially for a cause as dear to her heart as Fighting For Me. She has professional experience in marketing, social media, graphic design, and web creation. Christine currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Director of Marketing and Communications. She enjoys using her gifts to help bring hope and healing to the community.
Christine is also passionate about music and can be found writing and performing songs throughout Southern California under the name Christine Alicia. You just may see her at one of our events as she has become one of our go-to musical guests.
Kiersten Ellis, Creative Director
Kiersten joined the Fighting For Me team as a volunteer almost as soon as she encountered the organization. She is passionate about connecting sexual abuse survivors with professional help and firmly believes this is a cause worth fighting for. Kiersten has since become a board member and current serves as our Creative Director. She has provided countless ideas to help us connect with the community and further help survivors of sexual abuse.
Her contributions to Fighting For Me range from planning and creating the “Warpaint Campaign,” speaking at fundraising opportunities, and overseeing the big-picture creative vision for Fighting For Me.
When she’s not busy making Fighting For Me better she manages events, weddings, conferences, concerts, and more. She’s also training to obtain her private pilot license in the near future.
Today Fighting For Me has a growing network of volunteer, licensed therapists who are primarily located in the Orange County, California area.
Our volunteer therapists provide free counseling to individuals who request help through fightingforme.org. Potential clients send an email via our contact form or leave a message and a therapist returns their call to schedule their first appointment. All further appointments are scheduled directly through their therapist’s work email or work phone number. Our patient record software is web-based, allowing clients to easily switch to another Fighting For Me therapist for any reason.
In the future we will hire licensed therapists to supervise psychology interns from local universities who will care for Fighting For Me clients. This structure allows us to serve an immeasurably larger base of clients. For example, instead of seeing 8 clients a day, we could potentially see 50.
We also plan to work closely with the criminal justice system so they recognize the importance of immediate access to counseling. The deep wounds and problems caused by sexual abuse do not magically go away with time–they need to be addressed head-on, and usually as soon as possible. But–of course–Fighting For Me services are also available to the public without a court referral.
Furthermore, we anticipate our psychology interns to teach classes to local agencies, non-profits, and church groups to bring in additional revenue for Fighting For Me.
My Story, My Motivation
When I was 9 years old my father brought me into his bedroom to tell me that he and my mom were getting divorced. I spent the night in his bed to be comforted, and that was when my worst nightmare began. My dad sexually molested me. I was devastated. As the years went on, the abuse got progressively worse. When I was 11 years old, my dad told the congregation elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses that he was sexually abusing me. He talked to them first, and then I had to talk to them. I sat in a room with 3 grown men who asked me embarrassing questions about my nightmare. I felt relieved and hopeful that finally he would stop hurting me.
Eventually he raped me. After many meetings with different groups of congregation elders I lost hope. I was too scared to tell my mom what my dad was doing to me and I felt so ashamed and dirty for not saying anything to stop it. A couple of the elders would offer to let me sleep on their couch on the weekends that I was at my dad’s. My dad would drop me off at strange homes where I would sleep on a couch, and then he’d pick me up in the morning. It was very awkward.
When I was 16 I finally got the courage to tell my mother that my father had been sexually abusing me. She did
everything a good mother would do and called the police and Child Protective Services. I no longer had to go to my dad’s on the weekends and he was eventually charged with sexual abuse crimes and went to jail.
I thought my dad’s imprisonment would be the end of my nightmare, but it was just beginning. I was depressed. I hated myself. I hated my body. I felt disgusting and used. In my mind I had no worth. My emotional distress manifested itself as physical ailments. I went to my doctor and thankfully she was intuitive enough to know I wasn’t sick physically, but I was emotionally sick. She gave me a counselor’s card and told me, “Amanda, you deserve to be the woman you were meant to be.” Those words meant more to me than she could have ever known.
I began my journey of healing and quickly found out how expensive it was to see a counselor. I was going to need months or possibly years of counseling to unravel all the hurt and pain I was experiencing. I felt victimized all over again! I was sexually abused and now I had to pay to feel better! I did manage to pay for the counseling I needed but it was not easy.
Unfortunately, my nightmare was not something my family wanted to talk about, so we didn’t. It was as if nothing ever happened. I believe that if I had known earlier that I heeded counseling I could have avoided many destructive behaviors I got involved in in an effort to feel better.
I don’t understand many things that went on in my young life. For instance, how could all those grown men who had children themselves knowingly let my dad take me away while they did nothing? Why didn’t the Jehovah Witness elders call the police to help me? How could my father do this to me? I may never understand them, but I find comfort in knowing I am stronger than they are–I choose to use my voice to protect and help people.
Today, I am a Christian who is married to a wonderful man and has 3 beautiful boys. God impressed upon me to use my experience to reach out to others who are confused and broken hearted from being sexually abused. I knew I needed to help other survivors get the healing they need so they can hear when God calls them. This is my work that He has given me to do and I could not be more humbled or more honored. Through my foundation, Fighting For Me, Inc., I want to make it possible for anyone who has been sexually abused to get the counseling they deserve. I want family and friends of abuse victims to get the counseling and healing they need too. To me, FREE sexual abuse counseling is as basic a need as clean water.
May God Bless You and Keep You,