“Safer at Home” Isn’t Always Safer
April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, and normally that means our annual film festival, community events, and fundraising opportunities to show support for survivors and offer encouragement to those who are not yet ready to come forward and share their stories. This year, though, the COVID-19 pandemic and “Safer at Home” mandates around the world have changed the dynamic of life for all of us, including those who are being or have been sexually abused.
We all know quarantine is hard, and we are learning that social isolation is even harder. But imagine if you had no option but to be quarantined and socially isolated with the person who is sexually abusing you? Whether it is a family member, roommate, or neighbor, this time of ‘social distancing’ means that vulnerability is high and places to hide are scarce. As you can imagine, ‘social distancing’ can not only trigger victims but also perpetrators, for whom isolation can mean a lot more opportunity to abuse and a lot less chance of being discovered. According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, every 73 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, but only five out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison.
According to The Inner Truth Project Founder, Mindi Fetterman, “In just the past three and a half weeks, we have seen a twenty percent increase in requests for services.” Fetterman believes that part of the reason for the increase in demand for services is because this time of crisis has become a breaking point for many. In these situations, people who maybe didn’t feel like they had a way out before or were not ready to talk about what was really going on in their lives are finally reaching for a lifeline and contacting The Inner Truth Project. And because of technological advancements and the increased awareness of social conferencing and meeting apps like Zoom®, more survivors are finding their way to the programs and services provided at The Inner Truth Project.
“We have more survivors who are already homebound due to social anxiety or physical disability who are finally able or willing to participate in our programs for the first time,” says Fetterman, herself a survivor of rape and childhood sexual abuse. “Because online platforms offer the survivors the option to participate with their camera or mic off, they sometimes feel more willing to try being in the group for the first time.”
The Inner Truth Project offers a host of services, support groups, meeting, therapeutic, and healing opportunities for survivors of sexual assault and abuse throughout the Treasure Coast, and Fetterman says the organization has been able to not only reach more survivors in the area because of the COVID-19 shutdown but also to help individuals through a very challenging time.
“People who have experienced sexual trauma, sometimes find the loss of control, routine, and uncertainty very triggering,” says Fetterman. “No matter how long ago their abuse or assault was, times like this can be setbacks in mental health care without proper support. We have had clients who we have had to Baker Act because they are struggling with self-injuries, wanting to go back to using dangerous substances, and struggling with suicidal ideation, three common reactions to sexual assault. A crisis like this means constant support, love, virtual connect, and zero judgment.”
The Inner Truth Project serves everyone, regardless of age, gender or sexual affiliation, economic, religious, or political persuasion. The small staff and volunteers at The Inner Truth Project help to connect survivors with mental health services, access opportunities for support and encouragement, feel connected to their bodies, be creative, and have fun, something that many survivors never expected to experience again. The organization offers weekly yoga and meditation classes, a writing workshop, art classes with objects found around the home, interviews for inspiration, parent groups, and a group for the LGBTQI community, and new and innovative things are added every week.
Even though Sexual Assault Awareness month may look and feel different this April, and even though we all have to keep our distance from one another at the moment, the folks at The Inner Truth Project want to make sure everyone knows they are not alone and that whether you’re a long-time survivor who has never shared your story or someone who is currently suffering and is feeling even more alone and vulnerable than usual, we really are in this together, and help is available 24/7, even in a pandemic. The Inner Truth Project offers outreach to the community and services to survivors of sexual violence, allowing them to bravely share the truth about their experiences in a safe environment in order to actualize emotional strength, hope, health, and well-being.
To learn more about The Inner Truth Project or to make a donation to help ensure that services continue, call 772.200.4599 today, or visit www.innertruthproject.org.
While The Inner Truth Project continues to monitor the latest news from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) about the COVID 19, it's important to know what services are currently available for our community.
Although we have suspended all groups and activities at the center, know ITP is available during normal business hours by phone 772-200-4599 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also be updating and monitoring our Facebook page as well as Facebook Messenger throughout each day at facebook.com/InnerTruthProject. We are encouraging survivors of sexual trauma and their families to connect with us and receive the support that they need especially during this time.
Continued Services Include:
- Peer support (Spanish speaking advocates available)
- Private, online support groups for survivors
- Individual therapy & teletherapy
- Weekly support groups through remote conferencing
- Community resources for survivors, their families, and loved ones
- Online meditation, yoga, and workshops
Photos: Courtesy of Inner Truth Project
- Writer Ellen Gillette participating in the writing workshop
- Executive Director, Mindi Fetterman getting ready to interview survivor, Yolanda Berry
- Mindi Fetterman doing a check-in Zoom call with a new survivor
- Deb Pizzimenti leading the weekly yoga class online
- Local guest artist, Lisa Jill Allison, leading a "Found Objects" art class online