Center Highlights

Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center

Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center is pleased to be offering an equine-facilitated psychotherapy group for adult female survivors of childhood sexual violence.  The ten week group is led by Dr. Marilyn Sokolof, President of HorseMPower, a pioneer in developing the field of equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP), and a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH, Int’l) Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor.  Having just finished their third session, participants are raving about the progress they are making in their recovery.  They have held sessions exploring how to find their voice, how to set and enforce boundaries, and how to stay present and grounded in the moment.  Each has asked for and been assigned a therapy horse to work with throughout the group, based on their needs and the traits and backgrounds of the horses.  Horse-knowledgeable volunteers prepare the horses before each group, handle the horses during all interactions to keep participants safe, and help Dr. Sokolof observe the horses’ reactions to their participants.  In EFP, horses serve as co-therapists, and their reactions provide clues to the therapist as to the state of mind and issues of participants.  The philosophy behind EFP is based on the horse as a responsive participant, whose feedback, personality, and reactions offer the client valuable personal information and corrective experiences.

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy is experiential in nature. This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, treatment facilities, and human development courses around the world. But EFP has the added advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic and powerful living beings.

The focus of EFP is not riding or horsemanship. The focus of EFP involves setting up ground activities involving the horses which will require the participants to apply certain skills. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, taking responsibility, teamwork, relationships, confidence, and attitude are several examples of the skills utilized and developed by EFP.

EFP is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals. EFP addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral issues, dissociation, substance abuse, eating disorders, victimization and abuse issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs.  The HorseMPower group activities are designed to address acute trauma and post-traumatic stress issues, and provide the opportunity for resolving them, through verbal processing with the therapist and/or further experiential exercises with the horse. For sexual violence victims, the opportunity to address issues of fear, control, physicality, etc., can be particularly empowering.

Palm Beach County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center (PBCVS)

In September, Palm Beach County Victim Services Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) worked in conjunction with one of their TA providers, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) to hold a full day Strategic Planning day. They had 30 in attendance and openly discussed issues, gaps and identified goals towards addressing those needs. It was a positive experience that will help their team keep moving forward and staying on target in meeting the needs of the victims of Palm Beach County and the SART member agencies who serve them. While growing their representation on their SART is one of their goals, PBCVS already have an impressive team which includes 211, SANE, Law Enforcement, Chief of Police, Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation, Survivors, Victim Advocates, Domestic Violence Agencies, State Attorney’s Office, Veterans Affairs and Fire-Rescue.

PBCVS’s top goals are to increase first responders knowledge towards victims needs and rights, continue education and training of first responders in the treatment and interviewing of victims, address and improve upon the difficulty in obtaining evidence where victims are impaired by drugs and alcohol and to remain victim centered when alcohol, prescription, recreational drugs, substance abuse, prostitution and mental illness are involved.

While these two goals only touch the surface of the work and goals they identified, it has generated definitive tasks with SART members taking leading roles in finding solutions and making improvements to our services.  PBCVS is excited to share this information as we feel that we operate as a unit of the greater state-wide SART and are all here to support each other’s SART.

The Palm Beach County SART also hosted a Regional SART Meeting for Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties. Eight representatives from each county comprising victim advocates, survivors, medical personnel, lab personnel, district attorneys, and law enforcement were invited.  The meeting had approximately 60 people from all counties representing. The goal was to improve forensic evidence collection, treatment, case outcomes for survivors, efficiency and communication between agencies. They learned from other regions, shared ideas, and improved the process from first response to judicial proceedings. It was designed as a roundtable, with each discipline represented and given the time to share their thoughts and concerns. Discussions differed from Emergency Room procedures, to SANE process and scheduling to trainings, public outreach and how we could continue to share information with each other. Jurisdictional lines and issues were discussed and the idea of a secured website is being considered.

Finally, one of PBCVS’s SART members, Julie Weil, was featured along with Palm Beach County Victim Services SART in an award winning article. The 2013 Suncoast Emmy Awards happened in Hollywood, Florida and WPTV News Channel 5 was one of the most honored television stations of the evening.

The Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences celebrates the best of television news in markets throughout the state of Florida, as well as markets in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

For the "Feature News Report - Serious Series", WPTV's Shannon Cake, Jim Sitton, and Lynn Walsh won for the story " Julie's Fight for Change ."

That same story scored Shannon Cake an Emmy for "On-Camera Talent - Reporter - Feature/Human Interest."

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Women’s Center of Jacksonville

The Women’s Center of Jacksonville (WCJ) was recently awarded funds from the United States Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) for the Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women Later in Life program. WCJ, the certified rape crisis center for Duval, Baker and Nassau Counties, was one of nine agencies in the country to be awarded this grant.

The focus of this three-year project is to enhance training and direct services to elder abuse survivors, including survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking later in life. This project will have a significant impact on Northeast Florida, an area with a growing elder population. Although often overlooked as a vulnerable population, Adult Protective Services investigated over 1,183 reports of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in Jacksonville in 2010. Nationally, 18 percent of women raped are aged 60 or older.

The project will be strengthened by the support of multiple community agencies that have engaged in ongoing support for addressing sexual violence against elders. These partners, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Hubbard House, ElderSource and the Office of the State Attorney, will also receive specialized training to enhance the community’s response to elder abuse.

Duval, Baker and Nassau Counties have a history of supporting efforts to address elder abuse. In 2004, the City of Jacksonville received a two-year grant from OVW. The Women’s Center of Jacksonville and Hubbard House, the certified domestic violence center, were both partners on this grant. This project, which continued through 2009 with support from private funders, culminated in an innovative training CD used to assist law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and Adult Protective Services in recognizing, investigating and prosecuting instances of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, with emphasis on domestic and sexual violence. 

Later in 2011, a grant was awarded to WCJ by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence to initiate a Stop Sexual Violence Against Elders (SSVAE) program for victims ages 50 and older. This grant allowed WCJ to rekindle the partnerships, start providing specialized advocacy and review and revise educational materials.

Now, WCJ is thrilled to continue this important work with the support of OVW and the National Clearinghouse for Abuse in Later Life, which will serve as the technical assistance partner for the project. With funding from this grant, the WCJ and its partners will:

1. Create a comprehensive approach to elder abuse through the enhancement of a Sexual Assault Response Team for elders and a Stop Sexual Violence Against Elders Task Force/CCR. 

2. Provide training to criminal justice professionals, governmental agency staff, victim assistants through the trainings offered through OVW and our own local efforts.

3. Provide cross training opportunities by all of the partners to the workers in the elder care field utilizing a curriculum specifically designed for this purpose. 

4. Provide enhanced direct services for victims.

WCJ will share the resources developed as a part of the project with the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence and Florida rape crisis centers in an effort to support other communities that wish to advance training and services for elder survivors.

Refuge House

Refuge House would like to acknowledge the tremendous dedication that their 25 Sexual Violence volunteer Advocates provide to the SANE program.  These women are incredibly dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence and strongly advocating for their rights. Refuge House advocates are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Not only do they provide support through advocacy and crisis counseling, they also provide survivors with comfort bags that contain clothing and toiletry items in the case where the survivor’s clothing is collected through the forensic evidence process or they simply wish to change out of their clothes and take a shower. These comfort bags are a generous donation from the Tallahassee Zonta Club, a strong supporter of the Refuge House SANE program.

Refuge House would also like to send out their appreciation to their 3 SANE-A nurses who dedicate their time to provide their medical attention and expert knowledge to all survivors in the hospital setting. These wonderful nurses are dedicated in helping survivors through collection of evidence, and testimony in a courtroom setting.

Refuge House’s SV advocates and SANE nurses are the core of their SANE program and they would like to recognize how exceedingly dedicated and hardworking these individuals are in helping eliminate sexual violence through community education and public advocacy.