A Survivor Perspective
By: Danielle Sullivan, Sexual Assault Survivor
One of the many things I’ve learned looking back at my time as a client of the Victim Service Center of Central Florida, is that in reality, its name is a misnomer. Yes, they serve victims in Central Florida – they do so much more than just “serve.”
When I first sought their services over 3 years ago, I was scared, confused, and not sure if I was doing the right thing. I had been assaulted a year prior and wasn’t sure how to begin the healing process. The first interaction was with a trained, Masters level Advocate. She made me feel safe, important, and in control of everything that was happening. Now, I recognize how important this is to a sexual assault victim. She let me know what my options were, and that regardless of what I chose to do, it was OK.
A year later, I started attending the weekly Adult Sexual Assault Therapy Group. The therapy group offered me a way to begin the healing process. As I reflect on my journey, I now realize how important this step was. It allowed me to see I wasn’t alone and it was OK to get help. Additionally, I also attended a specialized workshop facilitated by the VSC Lead Therapist. At one point, I had an eye opening revelation and realized there were so many previous traumas in my life, not just the sexual assault, which all needed to be healed. The VSC staff wasn’t just concerned about the sexual assault, that initially brought me to them for help, but they cared about healing all of the parts of me that had been hurt.
During especially bad panic attacks, I can recall several times I needed help and reached out through the VSC hotline. The Advocates felt my pain through the phone and they experienced it with me. They talked me through it and gave me all the time I needed.
About a year later, I decided to started a legislative initiative to change the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault for Adults in the State of Florida, called the 43 Days Initiative. I reached reach out to the VSC for their expertise and support, and I was not only given access to research and information, but I was fully supported by the leadership and staff. When I walk through their offices, I’m often greeted with “How are you doing?”… and it’s a sincere question!
Throughout my journey, as a client who transitioned to a partner for legislative change, I have always felt supported, important, loved, encouraged, cared for, and worthy. This is how a family treats each other, and this is how the Victim Service Center treated me – like family.