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Tampa Bay Area assault survivor helping other victims with counseling

Tampa Bay Lightning donates to Heels to Heal
Posted at 2:59 PM, Mar 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-07 19:16:18-05

Melissa Mihok turned a tragic episode in her life into a mission to help women who have suffered like she did.

Mihok's life changed forever when she was attacked one night while working at a restaurant in St. Pete.

Arrests were made, but the trauma and fear haunted Mihok for a long time.

"I experienced a lot of post traumatic stress and the best thing for me was counseling," Mihok tells ABC Action News.

"I thought of all the people who couldn't pay for counseling," says Mihok, who set out to help those victims who couldn't pay for it the way she was able to.

Channeling her experience as a victim, as a recipient of mental health counseling, and then navigating the criminal justice system, Mihok started an organization that she hopes will help other women who have also suffered from sexual assault and domestic violence.

Heels to Heal is her Tampa Bay Area organization that provides life-saving counseling regardless of age, income or insurance status.

To help her mission, Jeff and Penny Vinik, the owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, gifted Mihok with a $50,000 check from the Lightning Foundation, naming her the 303rd Lightning Community Hero since they started the program in 2011.

Mihok says she plans to use the money to provide more mental health counseling to victims, especially younger victims of abuse, for which she says there is an increasing need for counseling.

"We have a counselor for middle school students now," Mihok says, whose organization pairs up with CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) of St. Pete to identify victims who need counseling.

Heels to Heal provides 12 free sessions per person, and then continues to help victims with group counseling and other healing sessions.

To date, this partnership has facilitated counseling for approximately 200 survivors. 

Heels to Heal is also holding its 5th Annual "Fashion Show to Remember" on May 11, 2018 at 7 p.m. in the Vinoy Renaissance Royal Palm Ballroom.

The Fashion fundraiser includes a Fashion Show featuring stylish women's and men's boutiques, martini competition, shopping, silent auction, live auction, heavy hors d'oeuvre, cocktails and more.