Helping those impacted by sexual violence is a core part of our mission at Safe Harbor.  April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it’s a time to reflect on this issue as well as honor the many individuals that are impacted by this form of violence. 

One of the many ways that Safe Harbor helps is through our regional collaborative — RHART (Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team) — which is comprised of Hanover Safe Place, Safe Harbor, and the YWCA of Richmond.  Through RHART, victims of sexual violence obtaining care through local emergency rooms receive a 24/7 response by a trained volunteer or staff member.  While an RHART advocate is dispatched, they provide advocacy, emotional support, and resources to those suffering from the immediate trauma of a sexual assault.

Last month, 29 individuals in local emergency rooms received advocacy services through RHART, and 17 of those responses came from Safe Harbor volunteers or staff for a total of a 58% contribution in the month of March.  Recently, while one of our advocates was on an RHART call, the forensic nurse commented on how “compassionate and respectful” she was. The work that our volunteers and staff do to help those in their darkest moments is truly needed and appreciated by those we serve.   

Quality services to victims of sexual assault do not stop at the hospital however.  Safe Harbor follows up personally with any Henrico county victims that are interested in a follow up call.  Follow up services can include individual and group counseling. 

Vanessa Durrant, Director of Counseling and Advocacy adds, “Follow-up services for victims of sexual violence is critical, as it sends the message that we are here to help.  Many survivors  think they are alone and are overwhelmed by the effects of sexual trauma. Individual and group counseling by our skilled counselors can provide the support they need in order to begin their healing process.”

Recently, a survivor of sexual violence who completed one of our therapeutic  groups had this to say about her experience: “By the end of my group experience, I realized I had made more progress in the twelve weeks we attended our support group than I have in the past eleven years since I experienced my sexual trauma.”

Another survivor also provided this feedback: “I am grateful to have made substantial progress in my healing from sexual violence as the result of this group. The group facilitator created a very safe space to build trust. She is knowledgeable about progressive and gentle methods of healing from trauma. The loving support from other group members has been vital. I unreservedly recommend this group to other survivors on their journey toward wholeness.”

On an average week, Safe Harbor provides counseling to 50 people through our counseling program, many of those being survivors of sexual violence.

As April has ended, let us honor all those affected by sexual violence and the courage it takes to reach out for help. We are constantly amazed at the strength of our clients in their darkest moments.  Please support Safe Harbor as we work to erradicte sexual violence in our communities.