Support of sexual assault survivors shifts, but continues, in this time of crisis.

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Support of sexual assault survivors shifts, but continues, in this time of crisis.

Categories: News

Adapting Our Care for Survivors and Victims

By Laurie Schacht, director of YWCA Clark County’s Sexual Assault Program

People have asked, ‘How are YWCA Clark County programs continuing to provide services during this time of isolation?’

Because we are committed to supporting the people who depend upon us for help, we have developed a new service model so that our support is uninterrupted.

For the Sexual Assault Program, the challenge is this: How to continue providing meaningful support services for victims of sexual assault while protecting health and safety of victims, volunteers and staff? Here’s how we are meeting that challenge.

Delivering care to the hospital

We have switched from in person  to mostly phone advocacy for the hospital calls we’ve had. What is a hospital call? When someone is sexually assaulted and they go a hospital, in pre-corona days, an advocate with the Sexual Assault program would get a phone call and go to the hospital to provide one-to-one counseling and care. Now, we must provide that service over the phone. While it feels a little less familiar than in-person hospital advocacy, victims are still given caring, victim-centered support and information to let them know that they are not alone in this isolating time.

Meantime, we are still available for sexual assault survivors 24/7 through the hotline. This service has not changed. We recently received a call to the hotline from a person who was in extreme crisis. Through phone advocacy we were able to help the survivor take some breaths and calm down, then moved forward with safety planning.

The survivor also needed a safe place to stay where her abuser could not find her. While there was no available housing locally, the advocate made some calls and found some safe shelter for the person. We were able to telephonically provide a safe calming presence for the victim to figure out their next best steps.

Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing

During this crisis our Sexual Assault team is reaching out to survivors who we have supported in the past. We want to make sure they are doing well, and are meeting whatever needs of theirs we can given the circumstances.

Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. Our advocates have made the shift from in-person to telephone service delivery smoothly, and continue to guide survivors through the process of recovering from trauma. Our youth advocacy personnel are in touch with their participants by phone and text, making sure they are okay.

As we hear from our survivors, current and past, many say that, in the current crisis, others in the community can perhaps understand what it is like to be a victim. Now other people have lost their sense of what the world feels like. Victims understand that feeling of the uncertainty and the not knowing what will come next. But no matter how long this lockdown lasts, the Sexual Assault team will be there for those who need us.