How did #MeToo begin? Taranka Burke, American Social Activist and Community Organizer, started utilizing the “Me Too” phrase in 2006 on Myspace to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who had been sexually abused. In 2017, when sexual violence accusations were being made against filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, Alyssa Milano, an actress and survivor, started utilizing #MeToo to bring awareness and attention to sexual assault and harassment. Milano had an experience when she was younger and wanted to expose the magnitude and depth of this issue. People started using the #MeToo to identify themselves as survivors and make it known that sexual violence is pandemic in our nation.
#MeToo has opened doors for thousands of rape survivors to reach out for much-needed help. Some survivors have kept their trauma a secret for years, some were able to reach out and get help immediately. It is not uncommon for a survivor to not report sexual assault or harassment due to the fear of not being believed, feeling shame, who can they trust, and possible retaliation from the perpetrator. With the #MeToo campaign, more survivors recognize that they are not alone, that this was not their fault and that there is support to help them to start healing, report the crime and reintegrate into society – healthier, stronger and fearless.
Project Help has been serving survivors of Sexual Violence since 1986, and with the #MeToo campaign going viral, we have seen an upswing in survivors reaching out for assistance. Along with our existing advocacy, counseling, support groups, we have implemented a therapy program in 2017 where a survivor of sexual violence can receive the necessary trauma therapy at no cost as to not cause further victimization and delay in receiving these vital services.
Project HELP has embraced #MeToo within our social media campaigns, and welcomes survivors to our center to start their healing process, navigate the judicial system, provide a safe and confidential place to work through their trauma. We are also following all of the newer hashtag movements that are bringing awareness to those who might not identify under the #MeToo. #StartbyBelieving, #WhyIDidNotReport, #HimToo, are just a few of the hashtags that have started in the past few years and have broken the silence and taken away the shame from survivors.
The story you are about to read happens every day to someone. Every 53 seconds a sexual assault is occurs in the United States. Statistics show that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been the victim of sexual assault. Sexual assault is an extremely difficult topic to discuss. Fear, disbelief, and shame keep most people from talking about what has happened to them. So many people do not know where to turn or in whom they can place their trust. Project HELP is here to help you reclaim your life and to face the future and face the past with dignity strength and confidence. Click Here to read the story of Chellsey, an actual survivor, and how Project HELP helped her find the strength to talk about it, and guided her to recovery.
At thirteen, the only trouble I thought I would get into with my parents was coming home late after going out with one of my good friends, his cousin, and some of their other friends. Little did I know we were not going bowling as planned. The night quickly got blurry as the drugs they had slipped into my drink kicked in, leaving me with only vivid memories of my so called good friend since third grade and his older cousin raping me. They treated me as if I was a toy, there for their pleasure only. A year and a half later I finally let myself realize and recognize what had happened to me. I spoke up little by little as they harassed me throughout high school. Recently, six and a half years later, I told myself that I had to get help or I would never be able to be okay again. I tried to reach out to different “hotlines” and “support groups” only to feel worse and worse about myself with every person I spoke to. The moment I heard the woman’s voice from Project HELP on the other end of the line I felt relief. It has gotten better and better every day since. They have taught me I am not alone, it is okay to talk about it, it is not my fault, and I can and will be okay again. I am not only okay again seven years later, but I have also learned so much about myself and grown in such a positive way as a person. I could not have done any of this without the support, kindness and care from Project HELP. I am very thankful I found them. I can now proudly say “I AM A SURVIVOR!”.
Chellsey, age 20
Project HELP’s confidential Crisis and Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7. We are here to help you through the most difficult hours when crisis strikes. Call us ANYTIME at the Project HELP Crisis and Sexual Assault Hotline at 239-262-7227. When life hurts, you are not alone!
By: Vaneza Gonzalez, Volunteer Coordinator, Project HELP
“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” – Gordon Hinckle
The power of serving others have often been documented throughout time, but many studies now prove that volunteering has many hidden benefits. Some of the benefits include improving your social skills and even your health! It may be hard to believe that doing volunteering “work” would actually make you feel better and add years to your life! Volunteer work helps to advance the mission you believe in, and creates a feeling of gratitude and accomplishment. Volunteering also contributes to making the cause the best it can be. We urge everyone in our community to select a cause that is important to them and dedicate a portion of their time to the mission.
Here is a list of the amazing benefits that volunteering has for your health overall:
• Volunteering connects you to others!
o Making new friends and contacts with common interests
o Social and relationship skills that helps you build a support system
• Volunteering is good for your mind and body!
o Helps with stress, anger and anxiety by being physically and mentally active
o Combats depression by giving you a sense of self-worth, meaning and appreciation
o Makes you happy by helping others
o Increases self-confidence by feeling accomplished
o Provides sense of purpose by finding meaning on and direction by helping others
o Helps you stay physically healthy and lowers your mortality rate
• Volunteering can advance your career (if still in the workforce)!
o Valuable job skills
o Gain career experience
• Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life!
o Allows you to explore different passions/interests
Overall, volunteering is a great way to have fun, stay healthy and active and can contribute to a long and satisfying life. There are plenty of different organizations in your community that are in need of volunteers. Before you commit to volunteering, there are things to consider such as the amount of time you are able to commit, your level of physical ability, your skills, if you prefer being part of a team or working alone, if you prefer working with animals, children or adults, and most importantly what causes are important to you. There are many non-profits in your community and they all thrive on volunteers donating their time and commitment. Please take a moment and consider giving back to your community to a nonprofit that may fit the cause that means the most to you. Remember, volunteering is can contribute towards enjoying a long and healthy life, while helping others at the same time! A win win for everyone!
We are pleased to announce that we have recently received our second round of funding for 2019 in the amount of $15,000 from The Salah Foundation. Project HELP was selected in 2018 to receive a generous grant from The Salah Foundation totaling $45,000 over three subsequent years, providing funds for our in-house sexual assault forensic collection room. The Salah Foundation began donating after its’ then-Executive Director Noreen Burpee heard our Executive Director Eileen Wesley speaking at the Human Needs Awards Ceremony last year. Burpee was touched by the work that Project HELP was doing and wanted to join in fulfilling the mission. Project HELP was invited to apply for a grant in the amount of $15,000. The Salah Foundation Board was moved by Project HELP’s mission, and increased the initial grant out to three years.
In July 2010, Project HELP was fortunate to develop our first in-house sexual assault forensic collection room, which provides services to survivors in a completely private and secure location. These services include a forensic examination for evidence collection. This is coupled with immediate crisis intervention to begin the healing process for the survivor, family or friends who are present. Project HELP also provides replacement clothing for 98% of survivors who must relinquish personal items as part of the evidence collection process.
“The warm and private environment affords survivors their dignity during a grueling process of obtaining vital information and evidence pertaining to their assault,” states Wesley. “We are grateful for the funding from The Salah Foundation, which will allow us to increase our capacity to serve and to fund replacement items used during an exam, literature for the survivor and families, and the availability of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.”
Noreen Salah Burpee’s late Uncle, James Salah – the founder of the Salah Foundation – was known to say that “if you think small, small things will happen and if you think big, big things will happen.” At Project HELP, we are thinking big. We hope to make it possible for every person to receive free counseling and advocacy services after they have been affected by sexual violence, sudden death, and other crimes.
If you would like to join the mission, click here to learn about Volunteering Opportunities or click here to Donate.
We thank you in advance for your support!
Sarra Lashhab joined Project HELP in 2010 as a volunteer to create awareness and fundraise for those affected by sexual assault, violent crimes, and sudden death. Throughout the past 9 years, Sarra has consistently dedicated her time to nonprofit organizations to create awareness for mental health, human trafficking, domestic violence, and children’s wellbeing. She is continuing her education by pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work to become a licensed therapist. Recently, Sarra took the position of Victim Advocate Counselor for Project HELP to support and empower trauma survivors in their journey of healing. Project HELP is so very fortunate to have Sarra on our team!
Every year Project HELP grows its staff of caring people who are passionate about its mission. It is a hub for people who share the same commitment to helping victims of traumatic events. Project HELP is lucky and proud to welcome Vaneza Gonzalez who has an extensive background in helping individuals with her huge heart.
Vaneza Gonzales joined Project HELP in June 2018 after working for 15 years in the nonprofit sector focusing on education. She moved to Naples from New Jersey 15 years ago to pursue a Bachelor’s in Health Studies from Hodges University where she worked for 12 years in the Admissions Department. Her passion has always been in education, the nonprofit sector, and helping others. Vaneza is the youngest of 5 children and comes from a very close family. She loves to travel and when asked what places in the world she wants to visit, she will say “Anywhere. There are over 190 countries in the world and I want to see them all.” As the Community Engagement/HELPline Coordinator Vaneza believes in supporting and empowering the victims of traumatic events, and she hopes to spread the mission and vision of Project HELP with the rest of our community.
Project HELP is proud to announce that our organization was featured in the August/September/October issue of Life in Naples. The article, featuring our Executive Director Eileen Wesley, explains who we are and what we do to fulfill our mission. “Our therapists, counselors, advocates and case workers help local victims gain every advantage they can to jump-start their lives again.” states Wesley. We are the only certified rape recovery center in Collier County providing counseling and therapy to victims of rape and violent crimes. Our 24-hour Project HELPline is 239-262-7227 – please know we are always here to help…and you are never alone!
Our upcoming fundraising event, “A Night in Monte Carlo” fundraiser was featured in the article as well. As Wesley said, “There will be food, prominent guest speakers from around the county, a silent auction, and lots of gaming for a great cause”.
Thank you Eileen and Life in Naples!
Click Here to purchase tickets to “A Night in Monte Carlo!”
Save the Date for Project HELP’s “A Night in Monte Carlo” on Saturday, November 23 from 6pm to 10pm at Hilton Naples. Come for a Casino Night fundraiser featuring lots of gaming and great food! Tickets are $160 and include two drink passes and casino play money.
Our silent auction will feature gifts from a wide variety of categories such as golf and tennis, food and dining, wellness, fun activities, and more!
All proceeds from the evening will benefit Project HELP to help fund our team of professional counselors and advocates who provide hope, empowerment and healing to those in need.
To purchase a ticket, click here!
We hope you’ll join us!
The Community Foundation of Collier County has awarded Project HELP a $2,500 grant to create a Sexual Assault Survivor Empowerment Group for teenagers in the area.
Project HELP, a nonprofit that works to ease the pain of those affected by rape, violence, crime or loss of a loved one, applied for this grant with the hopes of furthering its mission and providing additional services for those that need it most.
“The need for this project is a critical part of the healing journey,” said Project HELP Executive Director Eileen Wesley. “After a sexual assault has occurred, whether a victim chooses to report to police or not, Project HELP offers each victim free and confidential counseling, therapy, advocacy and support groups. These groups are a next step in the process.”
The funding from this grant will go toward creating empowerment groups with the goal of helping affected teenagers deal with what has happened to them in a therapeutically guided peer setting, leaving with the skills to make healthier and better decisions.
Empowerment can be shown through art, music, clay therapy and yoga, all of which will be covered through this grant.
“These groups are not closed and they run continuously. They help victims of sexual violence become stronger and better off than they were prior to their assault,” Eileen said.
For more information about Project HELP and its programs, visit www.projecthelpnaples.org.
About Project HELP, Inc.
Project HELP is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1986 with the mission to work with dignity and compassion to ease the pain of those affected by rape, violence, crime or loss of a loved one. Project HELP is the only state-certified Sexual Assault and Rape Recovery Crisis Center in Collier County that provides advocacy and free counseling to individuals affected by sexual violence, crime and sudden death. Multifaceted counseling services include individualized, family, couples and group counseling for individuals who are dealing with similar issues.