Since the end of September, the client list has doubled at Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services (MPSSAS) compared to last year. That means twice as many women have come forward to report incidents of sexual assault, a sure sign that the #MeToo movement has impacted this neck of the woods.
“Women tend to feel guilt and shame,” explains Jeanine Spring, coordinator of the MPSSAS survivor to survivor program. “But more women are coming forward and they are finally getting the courage to say, ‘Yes, it happened to me. I was sexually assaulted.’ They are realizing it wasn’t their fault. They didn’t ask for it.”
And that itself is having a positive impact. By acknowledging and accepting their traumatic experiences and having the courage to seek help, these women can begin their journey toward healing. It’s a huge stepping stone, says Spring.
It’s like a pressure cooker; it keeps building up and building up. But once you let some of that out, it takes away some of those feelings and emotions that are attached to that thought. A lot of people don’t get it. You have to been sexually assaulted to get it. These women don’t want to tell anyone. They have to feel safe, and to them, our agency is that safe place.Jeanine Spring, coordinator of the MPSSAS survivor to survivor program
Spring notes that confidentiality is paramount at MPSSAS. From the moment a woman makes the call, a file is made. If they’re in a crisis situation, they can see a crisis counsellor. Essentially, that gets the ball rolling for the woman getting the help she needs.
“Most of the women who come to us are middle-aged,” Spring adds.
What MPSSAS aims to do through its programs is end the isolation “which is women thinking they are alone,” says Spring. MPSSAS offers four programs at different levels to women who are survivors of sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Integrated Living program is 16 weeks long and requires women to come once a week and receive special support from a certified therapist.
Women can also utilize the mentoring program, which is run by Spring, where they get the opportunity to team up with other women who are survivors of sexual assault. The survivor to survivor program is similar to the sponsorship program in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).
Because it works so well, they [sexual assault survivors) get it. It makes all the difference in the world to have somebody understand what you’re going through. There’s also other courses and sessions that women move through on their journey to healing. Basically, it allows them to gather information and know they aren’t alone and it wasn’t their fault.
Spring adds that with more and more women coming forward, the need to hire another therapist is greater than ever. However, MPSSAS does not currently have the funds to hire one. Donations made to MPSSAS, whether they come from individuals or businesses, are always graciously accepted.
In the past three years, MPSSAS has hosted fundraising shows The Good Body, The Vagina Monologues and, most recently, Hex in the City. Last year’s The Vagina Monologues, which played at Huntsville’s Algonquin Theatre as well as Parry Sound’s Stockey Centre, was a huge success and the sold-out shows raised $12,000 for sexual assault services. Hex in the City, featured at the Algonquin Theatre less than two weeks ago, raised close to $2,000.
“We are in desperate need of another therapist, which is why we put on our shows,” says Spring. “Those are major fundraisers for us. We can’t thank the community enough for supporting us.”
Anyone who wants to learn more about the programs offered by MPSSAS or wishes to make a donation can call 705-646-2122 or visit www.mpssas.com
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