Making sure survivors are not alone

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and fostering support for survivors. In this blog post, we shine a spotlight on The Sexual Assault Advocacy Program at The Domestic Violence Shelter—a beacon of hope and healing for survivors of sexual violence.

About the Sexual Assault Advocacy Program
The Sexual Assault Advocacy Program (SA Program) goes above and beyond to support survivors on their journey of healing and recovery. Led by a dedicated team of trained professionals and volunteers, this program focuses on the needs of survivors. 

The program director explains, “Our program is committed to empowering survivors within the community through comprehensive support services. We offer crisis intervention and immediate assistance during critical moments, ensuring they have the resources they need to heal and move forward. By providing early intervention, we can help to mitigate long-term negative consequences and promote a healthy recovery process.”

Every survivor’s story is unique, so the SA Program ensures that there are services available for everyone. One of the cornerstone services of the program is our 24/7 Hospital Advocacy. Whenever a survivor reports to a local hospital for a SANE (also known as a Forensic) Exam, a trained advocate is available to support them. This ensures that survivors don’t have to go through this experience alone. In addition to emotional support, the advocate can also assist the survivor with safety planning, resources and crisis intervention. Even after a survivor leaves the hospital, the SA Program provides ongoing support through the 24/7 Crisis Line (419-774-5840) and follow up support.

In addition to hospital advocacy, the crisis line and follow up support, the SA Program also provides community support and education. Advocates facilitate support groups for agencies such as the Volunteers of America and New Hope. They also provide free workbooks to assist survivors as they work through their healing journey. Advocates will also attend community events in order to get the word out about our services and share information about sexual assault, consent, healthy relationships and more. The SA Program even has a dedicated Campus Advocate at The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College to provide services tailored for college students!

You Are Not Alone!
Survivors of sexual assault often share that they feel alone in their experience. It can be difficult for survivors to speak about their experiences, and they might feel like no one understands what they have been through. Our culture often minimizes the experiences of survivors and may even tell survivors that they are to blame for the violence they experienced. Our advocates work to ensure that survivors know that abuse is never a survivor’s fault!

In the words of one of our amazing volunteers, “You are not alone. There is no right way to handle what has happened to you.”

No one should ever have to go through their healing journey alone. Advocates are always available to talk on our 24/7 Crisis Line. Survivors can call 419-774-5840 at any time to be connected with a trained advocate for safety planning, resources or just someone to talk to. Advocates are also available to accompany survivors throughout their experience with the criminal justice system. Advocates can attend court hearings, law enforcement interviews or other meetings that may be intimidating for survivors to have to face on their own.

Empowerment through Advocacy
Advocates work to empower survivors to take control over their lives, make decisions for themselves and explore all the options available to them. The SA Program can work with a survivor to address each concern and choice they are faced with.  Survivors are faced with so many decisions! Some of these decisions include whether or not to go to the hospital, report to the police, get a protection order, tell others about the assault and more. The goal of advocacy isn’t to tell a survivor what to do, instead it’s to help survivors make informed decisions for themselves.

Advocates help to empower survivors through safety planning. Safety planning is a collaboration between an advocate and survivor to discover ways to increase safety after experiencing violence.

One advocate explained the ways she has assisted survivors with safety planning: “We often assist survivors with feeling safe again. We have assisted with protection orders, getting phone numbers changed, moving out of the county, moving out of the state, hooking up security cameras, installing new locks on doors and windows, etc. Whatever it takes to help ease their fear, even if just a little bit.”

Reaching out for Support
Advocates recognize that reaching out for support can be a very difficult decision to make. But we want all survivors to know that we are here for you, no matter where you may be on your healing journey!

One advocate explained, “Survivors can experience significant benefits by collaborating with a trained advocate. These advantages encompass empowerment and support, access to knowledge and resources, enhanced safety planning and long-term healing.”

To connect with an advocate, call The Shelter’s 24/7 Crisis Line at 419-774-5840. Advocates also provide in-person support for survivors who report to local emergency rooms for a Sexual Assault Nurse Exam (SANE) or forensic exam.

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