Susan Friend

This past year has been quite turbulent. The world came a halt when COVID-19 hit, and we have all had to alter our lives and routines to keep ourselves and others around us safe and healthy.

Isolation seems to be one of the best words to sum up collective feelings of the past year — it is certainly a word that Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services staff have heard frequently from members of the community and schools we serve. You have all had to work hard to keep your distance from each other in communities that have historically come together in tough times. You have had to learn how to function in a new, virtual world and you have had to learn how to access the services you depend on in new ways.

Here at SAPARS, there has been no exception to this rule. We have had to challenge ourselves to creatively modify our services to meet the virtual and social distant demands that have become society’s “new normal.”

This altered daily lifestyle meant that many people had suddenly found themselves following stay-at-home orders and transitioning to remote work and/or school or quarantining for health reasons. Unfortunately, this variety of isolation meant that some survivors of abuse were isolated with their abuser or in an otherwise unsafe environment. We also see and hold space for our LGBTQIA+ community members who may have been stuck at home at any point in the last year with unsupportive or unaccepting family.

SAPARS has kept all of this in mind as we’ve continuously brainstormed new and innovative ways to continue supporting our schools and communities during this unprecedented time; and the beauty among these obstacles is that we have also discovered how truly determined and dedicated we are as a team and agency to the mission of eliminating sexual violence in our communities.

We have established safe and confidential virtual support that includes but is not limited to one-to-one advocacy, remote in-class prevention education, virtual support groups and remote hospital accompaniments for individuals seeking medical care after an assault.

As we all grapple with this past year and keep holding on strong together, our team is so very grateful for the opportunity to continue creating new connections and developing new strategies to deliver our messaging.

We listen.

We believe.

We care.

We are still here.

Susan Friend is a prevention educator with Auburn-based Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

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