“I need someone to talk to., I don’t know what to do.”

Success HELPline Story: (names have been changed to protect survivor)
It’s 3 am and the phone rings. A kind voice comes on the line “Crisis and Sexual Assault HELPline. Sara speaking. How may I help you?” The caller (whom we will call Jane) says, “I need someone to talk to. I don’t know what to do.” Sara calmly states “Let’s see what I can do to help.” Jane shared that she was on a date the night before and started to feeling funny. Her date offered to drive her home. The next thing Jane remembers is that she woke up with most of her clothes on the floor, feeling as if something wasn’t right, like something had happened to her. Sara’s compassion and reassurance allowed Jane to talk openly and freely about her emotions and feelings. Sara and Jane discussed whether or not Jane believes she was sexually assaulted. Sara reassured Jane that she called the right place and explained that the sexual assault was not Jane’s fault.

During this call, Sara took the time to explain the options that are available to victims of violent crime and helped empower Jane to be able to make important decisions. Should she report the crime to law enforcement? Should she have a forensic exam done? Could the sexual assault response advocate come with her to the exam? Coping skills were shared with Jane so she could help herself during this stressful and emotionally painful time. Sara also discussed the Project HELP’s counseling options. Free of charge and confidential, the counseling could be the start of Jane taking back the power and control that was taken from her.
After exploring all of the options, Jane is empowered to make a plan. With Sara’s kindness, explanations, and support, Jane decided to report to law enforcement and have a forensic exam. Sara started the process by calling the Sexual Assault Response Advocate on call and connected her to Jane.
Calls like this are common for our HELPline and Sara provided immediate crisis intervention. Like many of us, Jane would not have known what to do, how to do it, and where to go for help. In the end Jane received all of the services that a victim of sexual assault will need to begin the healing journey. With a fully trained sexual assault advocate by her side to help navigate the path from victimization through prosecution, Jane is on her way to becoming a survivor. With survivor focused crisis intervention counseling and support groups, people like Jane do not have to feel as if they are alone with unanswered questions and the fear of the unknown. Project HELP empowers victims to become survivors.

Violent Crime… is there help after the fact?

When a violent crime happens, and the police have left the scene, a victim is often left alone to wonder “why did this happen to me?” and “what did I do to deserve this?”. Project HELP has been helping victims of violent crime with crisis intervention and crisis response for more than 33 years.
A violent crime is an act in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon a victim. The United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice lists the following five categories as violent crimes: Murder, Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, and Simple Assault. Violent crimes are committed with and without the use of weapons.
Project HELP has a 24-hour HELPline that is always answered by a live advocate so that victims of violent crime have someone to talk to, work on coping skills and find information and referral. Our volunteers undergo extensive training to help victims — day or night — through one of the most horrific time of their life.,. Project HELP has the most resources available in Collier County to provide survivors find the help they need…even if that’s just someone to listen.
Our fully-trained staff of advocates have the ability to work with individuals from victimization through prosecution. A victim can meet confidentially with a counselor in our facility and receive services free of charge Our counselors help them deal with the crime committed by offering crisis intervention techniques, coping skills, support groups, and referrals to other agencies for matters that may arise during their counseling sessions. Fully-trained advocate located at the State Attorney’s office to assist with orders of protection, answer questions regarding their case, and provide accompaniment to all of the arraignments and trials associated with their victimization.
Our advocacy program also offers assistance in filing for Victim Compensation. When a victim reports to law enforcement and the investigation is moving forward, a victim may be eligible for Victim Compensation. This is a fund set aside by the State of Florida to assist victims of crime in certain monetary compensation. Our advocates are available to determine if this fund relates to the losses that occurred and can assist in the filing of the paperwork and follow up.
Violent crime can happen to anyone and Project HELP wants the community to know that we are here and will help in any way that is needed. We also provide services not only to the victim, but to the victims’ family, friends, or anyone that may have emotionally been affected by the crime. The statement, “time can heal all wounds” can be true in some cases, but in the case of a violent crime, victims could greatly benefit from the additional help and support from an organization such as Project HELP. If you feel you want someone to talk to, need help coping with your situation, navigation of the judicial system, or information and referral, Project HELP is willing and ready to assist. Call our office at (239) -649-1404 during regular business hours or you can contact our HELPline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (239)-262-7227. When life hurts, Project HELP is just a phone call away.

3 Reasons why Every Person Should Take a Self-Defense Class

We at Project HELP firmly believe in the power of self-defense. While it is important to learn how to defend yourself from perpetrators, it is equally important to seek help if you have been a victim of a violent crime. Project HELP offers support groups, individual therapy, assistance with victim’s compensation/relocation, forensic exams, and much more for survivors. Starting within the next month, Project HELP is offering a healthy relationship support group for survivors of violent crimes that examines red flags and how to identify what is and is not healthy in relationships.
Some of the many benefits of taking a self-defense class include:
1. Building confidence!
When someone has been sexually assaulted, he/she typically feels that they are not in control of their body. Learning self-defense can give that survivor the sense of being in control of their body again. This is an empowering feeling and helps survivors understand that their trauma does not define them.

2. Being more aware of your surroundings!
Being mindful of where you are and what is around you is a powerful tool to have. When self-defense instructors talk about the moves that you can use against an attacker, they also discuss where and how people might attack you. So, when you are in certain places, you automatically become more aware of what is around you. For example, instead of walking through a parking lot using your cell phone, someone who is aware would be walking head up, shoulders back, and scanning the parking lot. An easy victim is the one who does not know what is coming and is not aware of their surroundings. Ways to not be an easy target is to learn more about red flags, be aware of your surroundings, and attend self-defense classes.

3. Physical fitness!
This is a great way to get physically fit! Self-defense classes are usually an hour long and not only teach you how to protect yourself, but it is also a full cardio work out. Cardio work outs do not always seem that fun, but when you are working out with people who motivate you to be better, it can be. It is also a great way to alleviate stress.

If you are interested in any of our services or need more information about self-defense, visit our website ProjectHELPnaples.org or call us at (239)649-1404.

Grief Counseling at Project HELP

Our lives have the potential to change in an instant. It can happen to you, it can happen to me, it can happen to all of us. In the moment of a tragedy, such as the serious injury or death of a loved one we will likely be faced with a world of challenges and fear about the life that is ahead of us and questions about the life we had before. Transitional tragic life events and the subsequent feelings of grief and sense of loss are a scary time in anyone’s life. If you have experienced the trauma of a sudden death of a loved one, some of the commons symptoms of grief you might experience include: mental confusion, lack of concentration, memory loss, depression, irritability, anxiety, anger or rage, guilt, insecurity, physical exhaustion or illness, loss of energy, lack of motivation, sense of vulnerability, withdrawal, helplessness, hopelessness and loneliness. You are not going crazy! You may ask yourself why a hundred times over, searching for some rationalization for why your loved one is gone or why this has happened to you…but remember this too is a part of your healing journey. Coping with crisis, is impacted by the way in which we can adapt. It requires a strong support system and adequate life and coping skills to help us survive. We at Project HELP specialize in this type of support. Click Here to learn more about our grief counseling services, and how we can help navigate this scary for family members and anyone else close to the victim(s).
Grief work, or bereavement, can be defined as the period of time or stages one may go through after a tragic life event, or loss of someone significant, during a process of integrating the change and/or loss into one’s life experience. One must consider all the many ways this tragic event has impacted their life and the multifaceted changes they are now faced with. Rather than viewing the grieving process as a series of stages that one must pass through, the work is conceptualized as different tasks with which one must cope or reconcile with. The process of mourning identified for adults includes: acknowledging the tragedy and/or death that has occurred, understanding the feelings related to it, and accepting the accompanying changes. This can be the most difficult time for any of us, as it seems almost unnatural to accept the loss and/or tragic event that has changed our life. Experiencing and facing these difficult feelings rather than avoiding them allows one to cope and manage the feelings in an effort to move beyond them. If left unaddressed, difficult feelings can lead to physical ailments and further emotional difficulties. Furthermore, individuals face not only the challenges associated with everyday changes in routine but also changes in responsibilities and roles. Coming to terms with these changes encourages active control rather than passive avoidance. Whereas, a wife, whose husband dies, may need to take over the family finances, a son may reach out to a teacher at school to bond with, as a male role model. Gradually, as days and months pass, the intense emotional focus and feelings become less prominent as balance is restored in life and memories are reinforced.
Each person grieves in their own way, feelings change with time, but the bereavement process goes on throughout life. There can be a roller coaster of emotions and situations that trigger new thoughts and ways of thinking about the way our lives have changed, the person who has died and one’s life without the person. Coping immediately means taking one minute at a time, maybe even one hour at a time. Verbalizing our thoughts and feelings no matter how crazy they might sound to others and identifying a strong support system are important points to remember during this time. Remembering and forcing ourselves to drink water and eat food, sounds ridiculous, but necessary. Journaling, writing lists and asking others for help are coping skills we can use to manage our thoughts and overwhelming feelings. These acts of self-care that will lay the foundation for healing.
The gut retching pain experienced deep within our bodies will not be there forever and trying to instill a sense of hopefulness is in some cases the only helpful support one can offer during this tragic time in one’s life. You don’t have to be alone. With the support and guidance of one of the counselors at Project HELP, Inc. we will be there to walk with you through this journey.

The Meaning Behind the #MeToo Movement

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.

Project HELP in Action

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.

“My Story”
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!

Why should you volunteer? By: Vaneza Gonzalez, Volunteer Coordinator, Project HELP

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!

Project HELP Receives Second Round of Funding from the Salah Foundation!

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!

Congratulations Sarra!

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!

Meet Vaneza!

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.