As it works to help survivors of sexual assault on their journey to recovery, a local organization is taking an expanded approach to mark May as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Recovery Speaking Initiative (RSI) in Guelph is set to host a series of online and in-person events from May 14 to 20 with guest speakers, online video presentations, a musical performance and opportunities to meet individuals and organizations in the community involved in outreach and support.
Lisa Browning, chair of the board at RSI, says the series will highlight the strength and resilience of survivors, as well as recognize the accomplishments of individuals and organizations working to support victims.
“This is the first time we are doing this. It was a little spur of the moment. We thought of things we could do this month, and then it just blossomed into something bigger with a full series of events coming up,” Browning said.
“I am very excited because empowering others is my passion.”
Founded in 2020, RSI offers spiritual, emotional, and physical support, advocacy, education and financial resources to assist survivors through their journey to recovery.
Browning began planning for the May series with the support of RSI founder Robert McCabe.
After his own experience with clerical sexual abuse, McCabe began RSI with the goal to support those with limited means recover from the trauma they experienced, whether it was from abuse or addiction.
According to the Province of Ontario, one in three women and one in eight men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Women are three times more likely to be stalked and four times more likely to be a victim of intimate partner violence.
Browning says Recovery Speaking Initiative is all about giving hope to victims.
“Even if you have not been abused, sometimes trauma can bring on alcohol or drug addictions. It’s all trauma. Coming out and seeing what other people are also going though it, this may offer hope," Browning said.
On May 15, singer-songwriter Lisa Hartt will perform her new single, Tell the Truth, at Silence on Essex St. in Guelph.
The concept for her new album began 40 years ago when Hartt made the decision ‘to become healthy, heal her mind, body and spirit, and begin her own recovery journey’.
“I reached out to Lisa to see if she could do a concert for us, and she jumped at the opportunity,” Browning said.
On May16 at Harcourt Memorial United Church in Guelph, artist and author of The Women Who Picked Up Her Child, Pamela Frey, will host a workshop and discuss her own personal journey after childhood sexual abuse.
“Pamela will talk about her recovery and how creativity was a big part of that. This workshop is about giving people tools, hope and the sense of knowing that you are not alone,” Browning said.
“There is always someone there to support you, and that is what RSI is all about.”
On May 19, at Harcourt Memorial United Church, participants can hear how equine-assisted learning can help with sexual trauma.
“According to studies, equine-assisted learning can help children in their recovery from sexual abuse,” Browning said.
“Two other facilitators who practice equine therapy will be there as well as the main facilitator who has used equine therapy in her journey of healing.”
Online presentations will also be offered throughout the week.
“The Messages of Hope video includes two male and two female survivors who share their journey of healing,” Browning said.
“This video is not so much about their past, as much as it is about who they are at the end. They talk about how they got there and what they did to get there. So, it shows others that there is hope and that they are not alone.”
There is a charge of $30 for in-person events which will support services at RSI.
“Our last community day event is on May 20 at Harcourt Memorial United Church and it is free of charge. It will sum up the whole week so that people know there are supports in the community,” Browning said.
Browning says the series can offer hope for survivors of sexual assault.
"We want to bring people together because that is what it’s all about,” she said.
““It’s about giving people who have gone through trauma, a light at the end of the tunnel."
Although events are planned to raise both funds and awareness, RSI says it does not want any costs to be prohibitive.
To preregister for an event, and for more information, visit here.