Social distancing doesn’t mean support stops. Thanks to a partnership with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), YWCA Dayton’s newest offering is an online HelpRoom that provides weekly opportunities for survivors of sexual violence to receive virtual support.
Entirely text-chat based, participants can enter the group “room” through any Internet-connected device and speak with trained facilitators and fellow survivors. It is free, confidential, and anonymous, and monitored by trauma-informed staff to ensure safety for all who join.
Megan Garrison, sexual assault program educator, says HelpRoom was in the planning stage well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Originally, we saw this is an incredible resource to reach survivors who are often not willing to receive support in person or to openly identifying themselves as survivors. This platform allows for such anonymity that those who might have been anxious about coming to a support group have a space to still receive valuable support,” she said. “Now, with social distancing part of our everyday, having support groups that you can attend from home are incredibly valuable.”
Isolation brought on by PTSD is common for survivors of sexual violence, a trauma response that might be exacerbated by shelter-in-place orders.
“This sense of isolation and lack of connection is even more prevalent,” Garrison said. “It’s exactly why the YW sexual assault program continues to implement support groups, prevention courses, and touchpoint calls with clients – even if they can only be virtual right now.”
Participants can join a HelpRoom by visiting https://affiliate.rainn.org/helproom/ywcadayton. Six groups are held every week for survivors and their family, friends, and/or loved ones:
- Survivors of Sexual Assault Support Group
- Mondays @ 10-11 a.m.
- LGBTQIA+ Identifying Survivors Support Group
- Tuesday @ 10-11 a.m.
- Friends and Families of Survivors Support Group
- Friday @ 10-11 a.m.
- Sexual Health HelpRoom
- Wednesdays @ 10-11 a.m.
“No one survivor reacts the same to trauma, or to the healing process,” Garrison said. “Survivors need a safe space to sort out the conflicting emotions they feel without being labeled or having their identity displayed.”
If you, or someone you know, has experienced sexual violence, help starts with a call. 24/7 Crisis Hotline: 937-222-SAFE (7233).