Beyond its well-known hashtag, me too. International has remained at the forefront of sexual assault awareness conversations, especially among Black and brown folks who are more likely to experience gender-based violence. Recently, the organization launched the Survivor Sanctuary, a digital initiative with the ultimate goal of helping survivors feel supported, seen and heard.
“Survivors Sanctuary was born out of a desire to create intentional healing spaces for survivors,” says Shesheena Bray, MSEd, program director at me too. International. “We thought, ‘How can we meet survivors where they are, support them in their healing, but do it in a way that actually aligns with our capacity?”
The Survivor Sanctuary is an interactive platform that uses a methodology called post-traumatic growth, defined as "the positive psychological change that is experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances." Participants can work through 36 lessons from survivors and practitioners of color who share healing methods and self-paced prompts and exercises.
There are three distinct healing approaches designed to help participants contextualize their experiences, build emotional regulation, bolster confidence, and reexamine narratives. The 'Mind' section of the site helps users understand how the brain and body respond to trauma. The 'Body' section features various videos and techniques that encourage users to engage with their bodies. There’s also an 'Integrative' approach that benefits the mind and the body, though it is recommended alongside the other two methods. Ultimately, each approach features helpful self-soothing and grounding practices, whether you have 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 25 minutes.
"Survivors are not a monolith; therefore, our needs will not look the same.” — Dani Ayers, chief executive officer, me too. International
The Survivor Sanctuary also features an animated and interactive healing room with clickable elements, including a record player (that takes you to a playlist) and a cozy couch adorned with a slumbering cat and plush pillows that link out to grounding exercises and restorative writing practices.
Grappling with sexual assault and gender-based violence has gotten even more complicated in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the correlation isn’t obvious, pandemic restrictions were triggers for many dealing with gender-based violence and sexual assault, Karol Darsa, PsyD, a trauma psychologist and founder of Reconnect Integrative Trauma Treatment Center in Los Angeles, California, previously told Well+Good. "Being home, completely out of control, facing some form of a fear of death could be a replica of what a person felt if they were abused."
As we've moved through phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, time away from social networks has helped many survivors understand the benefits of healing. While online support groups and teletherapy are instrumental for survivors, the Survivor Sanctuary isn’t a substitute for those resources. Instead, the platform provides lessons, information and tools survivors can access and employ on their own. “We're inviting survivors to move into their healing,” Bray explains. “And to use these healing lessons to support them in ways that feel good for them.”
Before getting started, Bray recommends watching the five foundational videos that cover topics like handling triggers, which is an important step for staving off a negative response. One video is even a helpful somatic practice recommended for use while navigating the sanctuary. The goal of this exercise is to deactivate the nervous system.
Survivor Sanctuary centers Black and brown survivors; however, anyone can be a victim of sexual violence and might benefit from the platform. “We say all the time that survivors are not a monolith; therefore, our needs will not look the same,” says Dani Ayers, CEO of me too. International. “This is our way of saying that, as survivors, having the agency to decide what our healing looks like is a form of disruption.”
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