Making A Difference: #MeToo and Project HELP Naples
The #MeToo movement is impacting a local nonprofit organization, one that exists to ease the pain of those affected by rape, violence, crime or loss of a loved one while providing them with hope, empowerment and healing.
Project HELP Naples Inc. served 277 victims of sexual assault last year, but because of #MeToo, they’re experiencing an increase in requests for services and a hike in the number of calls received by their 24/7 multi-language Crisis & Referral Helpline at 239-262-7227 because now people are less fearful of speaking up.
A Project HELP volunteer, Sydney Marmon, feels that “Project HELP is providing an amazing service to the community by offering free individual counseling, group opportunities, medical examinations after a sexual assault and that 24/7 crisis line.”
Marmon adds that “having an anonymous helpline allows people to share their story with someone who truly listens, offers emotional support and brainstorms coping mechanisms or available resources.”
As for the medical exams, Project HELP operates Collier County’s only Certified Rape Recovery Center and in-house sexual assault forensic collection room which allows them to provide forensic services to survivors in a completely private and secure location.
According to Project HELP Executive Director, Eileen Wesley, “The examination for evidence collection is immediately followed by crisis intervention for the survivor, as well as family or friends who are present. This is the first step in the healing process,” she explains.
“Project HELP has the ability to assist victims of violent crime at the worst point in their lives by helping them find their voices and then be their voice when they need it,” Wesley adds. “We give victims a chance to reintegrate into society stronger and in a better place and to move forward with skills needed to deal with what we see as stressors and triggers.”
Project HELP’s licensed clinical director, Shaina Anderson, believes she is making a difference in her clients’ lives “by ensuring each client has a safe place to talk about what has happened to them, and to gain insight into how it has impacted their life as a whole while empowering their autonomy and independence and building their strength and resiliency.” Anderson stresses that “oftentimes, all the survivor wants is to be heard and understood.”
Amanda Youngsman, a licensed therapist, appreciates the opportunity she has to support her clients and teach them ways to be empowered, advocate for themselves, and grow to their fullest potential. “I have watched my clients venture through difficult journeys and arise transformed,” she declares.
A Project HELP client credits her therapist with being one of the most compassionate and kind people she has ever met. “It means so much to me that you stand beside me while going through this horrible time when I feel like there is no hope. I am grateful to have such a strong woman like you in my life,” she says.
Another client thanks her counselor for “not judging me and for allowing me to be me. You helped me find happiness, reduce stress, reduce anxiety, have more self-confidence and acceptance while teaching me to make better decisions.”
Project HELP’s Board President, Jennifer Johnson says, “I want people to realize that sexual assault and violence can happen to anyone.” In the event that it does, she emphasizes that Project HELP is standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help ease the pain and assist the victim in any way possible.
Recovery begins with a confidential phone call to 239-262-7227. And please visit www.projecthelpnaples.org to learn about the many ways you can support Project HELP’s mission by volunteering or donating to the cause.
Joe Landon is a communications consultant having retired as executive director of communications for the Collier County School District. Send suggestions for future columns to JoeLandon@Outlook.com.