GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) — Survivors of sexual assault face many challenges, but finding resources shouldn’t be one of them.
Local agencies want more people to know there is support out there that is making a difference for survivors like Marie Franklin, who was sexually abused as a child.
“I was abused as a child for 8 years, from age 5 to age 14,” Franklin said.
During Franklin’s first and second year at UW-Green Bay, she used her past trauma to help other survivors by volunteering as a victim advocate at the Sexual Assault Center of Family Services in Green Bay. .
“I would say it was definitely a meaningful experience and I mean it gave me a lot of perspective that I didn’t have. I learned a lot about other kinds of experiences beyond my own “Franklin said.
Then in 2020, when Franklin was on a date, the unimaginable happened when her date sexually and physically assaulted her.
“I decided to meet someone from Tinder and it was an otherwise consensual encounter, and things went wrong and he got violent and victimized me in a lot of ways,” Franklin said.
According to the CDC, the number of women raped in childhood or adolescence, and then in adulthood, is more than twice that of women with no history of early rape.
“Having seen the process as a defender, I felt like I really had to do something. It was definitely different to be on the other side of that situation. It helped me, I guess, to m to get out of it and have some sort of anchorage throughout the process,” Franklin explained.
Franklin explained that she still suffered from trauma, PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks from both incidents.
“It’s really frustrating to continually feel helpless in a situation that everyone thinks is over. It’s a long process and there’s not necessarily an end,” Franklin said.
But survivors don’t have to go through the process alone.
This is where local sexual assault service providers come in, to help victims on the road to recovery.
“It happens to everyone, regardless of gender, age, orientation, race. This is truly a public health crisis, sexual assault,” said Noelle Fenwick, Head of Development and of marketing at Reach Counseling.
There is Reach Counseling in Neenah, an outpatient mental health clinic and Winnebago County’s only sexual assault service provider.
“You are not alone. We are here to support you on your healing journey, whether today, tomorrow or 10 years from now, whether you feel encouraged to pick up the phone and call, or walk into our office,” Fenwick said.
As well as the Sexual Assault Center of Family Services for survivors in Brown, Door, Oconto, and Marinette counties.
“The importance of awareness is so critical for survivors because often they feel like they won’t be believed. We want them to know they’re believed, that they have support,” said Chelsey Steffens, victims’ advocate at the Sexual Assault Center of Family Services.
CLICK HERE for links to local and national resources.
They all provide 24/7 services through advocacy programs, crisis calls and victim advocates who can provide culturally specific services to survivors from Latino, Hmong and indigenous.
Even lawyers who are also survivors, like Noelle Fenwick, a victims’ advocate at Reach Counseling.
“I have been doing this work for a few years and I have been a survivor for many, many years. There’s no wrong way to heal, there’s no wrong way to deal with an assault,” Fenwick said.
Coping mechanisms for Franklin involve therapy, creative writing, and anything that makes her feel good and happy.
“It could be just reading, or watching a movie, or hanging out with my dog. But basically living my life has helped me move on and helps me get through each day,” Franklin said.
Now in her 30s, Franklin continues to live her life through her writing career and hopes to one day write her own book to advocate for change regarding sexual assault.
“A lot of what I felt after my experience was that my life had kind of ended as I knew it, and it would never be the same again, and I was kind of stuck here. But I think, now, I’m actually back to where I was in a lot of ways. I’m in a better place than I’ve been in a long time,” Franklin said.
The Sexual Assault Center and Reach Counseling survivors to know they are not alone and that recovery is possible.
“There is an after. To the right? You can heal, you can improve and move on. It’s still there, it’s still a part of you, but it’s getting better,” Fenwick said.
“We want survivors to know that recovery is possible and worth it. Time doesn’t matter. We are still here,” Steffens said.
Copyright 2022 WBAY. All rights reserved.