Remembering Employee Self-Care During Natural Disasters
By: Laura Kalt
Director, Alachua County Victim Services & Rape Crisis Center
The fall FCASV Leadership Summit was another great opportunity to learn about the trends, issues, and inspiring work sexual assault programs are doing around the state. Certainly one topic we found ourselves in agreement on is the fact that severe storms are no longer just a concern for coastal sexual assault programs. After Hurricane Irma, we’ve come to realize hurricane season preparations would be added to every program’s strategic planning with careful attention to insurance, budgets, and the staffing required to sustain our programs through a storm. These endeavors will require detailed thought and consideration, but as I found out this fall, one detail we must make sure not to overlook is practicing self-care during and after a severe storm.
As a County government program, Alachua County Victim Services & Rape Crisis Center was called on to open four of the eighteen emergency shelters for the public. The average time spent working in a shelter by an employee during the five-day period was 95 hours. Several employees never left the shelter once they arrived on Friday until the shelter closed on Tuesday. We were not alone; providers around the state that operate shelters for victims and survivors also experienced similar marathon shifts during Irma. The end result was emotional and physical exhaustion by most of our employees at a level we had not experienced before.
As the Director, I was not prepared for the intense stress that I felt in the days after the storm. Our front-line employees were suffering too, and yet we still needed to keep our services to survivors going. So, we had to be creative, flexible, and willing to make self-care practices a priority. I encourage all providers to consider these questions when preparing for natural disasters. Are we creating an atmosphere that honors the act of self-care as an essential tool in doing the work? Are we increasing our time for self-care in response to increases in stressors? Are we being creative with shift adjustments or allowing employees to work from home in certain instances? Do we practice self-care ourselves?
For me, self-care rarely means getting an expensive massage. Although, it can sometimes. Instead, I think of it as the small and simple activities that make up my day. It’s paying attention to how I feel and what I need and taking actions to care for myself in response. It’s remembering who I am at my core and not the “to-do list” sitting in front of me. We can lose sight of this when we do crisis intervention work, and even more so during natural disasters. My hope is that if we lose sight, it’s only temporary. And, that we will be open to slowing down and considering what we need to continue doing this vital work despite outside forces beyond our control.
A self-care activity that FCASV staff participated in last year.
Program Highlight: Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC)
Saving Lives Today and Tomorrow
In DeSoto County, sexual assault is often a hidden crime. Cultural norms, over-crowded living conditions, limited access to resources, and education barriers hinder the Hispanic, migrant community from receiving services and knowing their legal rights. A survivor of a sexual assault is likely to suffer in silence. To add to the problem and isolation, employers do not always inform migrants of their rights, which may also add to the likelihood of individuals enduring various forms of victimization and sexual harassment.
Implementing innovative solutions, SPARCC is addressing these barriers through its creation of “mobile office” and static offices. At these locations, SPARCC has positioned a trained advocate, who fluently speaks Spanish and understands the culture to offer resources, meet needs, and build trust.
This mobile office strategy strategically positions the SPARCC advocate to be available at community gatherings, such as the local housing development office and at local food banks. In a 6-month period, this rural advocate will share hope and healing to an average of 30 unduplicated survivors of sexual assault and conduct nearly 100 outreach events. Outreach is held consistently for incarcerated women, within local support groups and area schools, and at the Migrant Education Program for Agricultural Workers. A continuous presence is maintained within the community to foster trust, increase access to services, and build relationships with local agencies and providers.
SPARCC’s Rural Advocate Project has also encouraged the DeSoto County Hospital training of 6 Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), and 2 at the local health department, who provide forensic exams to reporting and non-reporting survivors. Through SPARCC’s participation with the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), law enforcement and prosecutors are responding to sexual assault survivors in a more consistent and compassionate manner.
Innovation is the introduction of something new; a new idea, method or device. It’s a willingness to try something different. Through innovation and collaboration SPARCC is influencing this often underserved population with healthy relationships tools and increased access to services that provide hope and healing. SPARCC is the only state-certified provider of free and confidential programs and services for primary and secondary survivors in DeSoto County. Services are available 24 hours a day.
Military Services Available for Survivors
By: Catherine Montfort, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
Sexual assault, whether the survivor is in the military or not, is a heinous crime and can be detrimental not only to them but also their family members and even coworkers. The Department of Defense has made the SAPR Program (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) a priority amongst all of the services. The first service to recognize that sexual assault was a problem amongst its service members was the United States Navy. In 1994, the Navy established the first sexual assault program for its Sailors. It was called SAVI (Sexual Assault Victim Intervention). In 2009, the program changed to SAPR and continually evolves, improving upon victim centered care and resources for victims.
So what does the military offer survivors?
Within all services there are two reporting options available, Restricted or Unrestricted. A Restricted Report allows the victim to come forward; receive any medical or mental health care needed; upon request, a victim advocate will be provided and their Commanding Officer will be notified that they have had a Restricted Report (no survivor identifying information will be given). Restricted Reports do not ignite an investigation by law enforcement. Having a SAFE Kit conducted with a Restricted Report is available, however, it will not be processed for DNA. Restricted Report SAFE Kits will be stored with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for up to 5 years. If within that 5 year period the service member decides to change their report to Unrestricted, the kit will then be processed and an investigation will begin.
Unrestricted Reports offer the same resources as a Restricted Report. Law enforcement/ NCIS will be notified if a SAFE Kit is conducted and it will be processed in accordance with state law. The Commanding Officer is made aware of who the survivor is and with this, the survivor has the ability to ask for a Military Protection Order and an Expedited Transfer. Expedited Transfers allow survivors of various crimes to be transferred from their current assignment to a new command.
Other key SAPR Team members include the Chaplain, which affords the survivor complete confidentiality. For Sailors, Marines and Airman, a lawyer (Victim Legal Counsel) is also available to assist with any legal aspects of the sexual assault.
Whether a military member is overseas or within the continental United States, they also have the option of calling, clicking, or texting the DoD Safe Helpline. This is a 24/7 service that will assist military members, their dependents, or DoD Civilian employees who are survivors of sexual assault.
DoD Safe Helpline contact information:
Text: 55-247 (inside the U.S.)
202-470-5546 (outside the U.S.)
For any further questions or inquiries regarding the U.S. Navy’s SAPR program, Mrs. Catherine Montfort can be reached at 850-235-5459 or via email Catherine.Montfort@navy.mil.
Recognizing the Vital Work of SANEs
During November 6-10, we celebrated Forensic Nurses Week. However, recognizing the work of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) goes beyond one week out of the year. SANEs ensure that patients who are affected by sexual violence receive expert, compassionate, and comprehensive care. We encourage you to take the time in acknowledging the SANEs in your area and encouraging RNs that you know to think about becoming a SANE. Once an RN takes the 40 Hour Adult/Adolescent SANE Training and has met the eligibility requirements set forth by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), the RN has the opportunity to take a board certification examination through IAFN. The eligibility requirements can be found in the IAFN SANE Certification handbook. Additionally, FCASV hosts various SANE training opportunities throughout the year, so please check the events section of fcasv.org to stay informed about upcoming trainings.
FCASV Welcomes Two New Employees
Adrienne Hillman, Criminal Justice Training Specialist
Adrienne received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati, where she majored in Criminal Justice and Child Abuse, as well as receiving a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Xavier University. Adrienne has worked as a legal and victim advocate for 13 years advocating for the rights of victims, training law enforcement and public officials, while also providing community engagement and involvement surrounding sexual assault. She is very data-driven and analytical – two strengths that have immensely constructed her ability to lead trainings and cultivate excitement for action to aid in a change for how sexual assault is investigated.
Christa Oralus, Program Specialist
Christa is a 23-year-old, Haitian-American originally from Fort Lauderdale, FL. She recently graduated from Indian River State College in May with her Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice. She plans to further her education, hopefully, by earning two Masters degrees in Public Administration and Criminology or Social Work. She took a leap of faith and moved to Tallahassee, FL to jump-start her career. Most recently she worked as a hotline advocate at FCADV. Christa knows she was created to help others. It’s been a part of her ever since she was a child. She didn’t know exactly what and how she'd be helping others; Christa just knew that this was her purpose on Earth. One of Christa's favorite quotes: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Upcoming Events and Trainings
Rural SARTS: Protocol Conversations Webinar
December 6, 2017
10:30 am EST
This conversation will be structured around providing context for rural SARTs and sexual violence protocols as just some of the strategies for working toward systemic change. It will be an opportunity for technical assistance and idea-sharing between rural sexual violence advocates and field professionals. This call is a collaboration between Dr. Johnanna Ganz, of the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI), and Eva Fiallos-Diaz, of FCASV.
For more information and to register, visit fcasv.org.
FCASV Legal: Live, Walk-in, Intake Hours
December 13, 2017
For more information, please visit fcasv.org.
Rural Immigration Webinar
December 11, 2017
This webinar is geared toward sexual violence advocates working with immigrant survivors in Florida's rural communities. The webinar will feature information about Florida's immigrant population, common terminology, the barriers immigrants face accessing services, safety planning considerations, legal remedies, and a Q&A session.
To register, visit fcasv.org.
Save the Date & Take a Stand: Reaching Out, Coming Together Summit
June 13-15, 2018
Are you committed to re-energize the movement against sexual violence? We challenge you to take a stand and join us at our Biennial Summit at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.
For more information, visit fcasv.org.
Save the Date: 40-Hour SANE Training
June 11-15, 2018
Check fcasv.org for updates with more information about this training.
This project was supported by subgrant No. COHK4 awarded by the state administering office for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.