CHIPPEWA FALLS — Since 1983, Family Support Center has provided free and confidential services to people of all ages and genders affected by domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. “Sexual Assault Awareness Month has, historically, been an opportunity to connect with our communities, and make sure more people know about what we have to offer,” says Amanda Schumacher, Sexual Assault Program Director at Family Support Center, which has offices in Chippewa and Eau Claire counties. “But in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic really challenged us to come up with new ways to reach out, especially with so many experiencing increased isolation. We definitely saw a lot of compounded trauma and worked to meet that need in creative ways.”
Whereas last April, planned in-person SAAM programming had to shift, with little notice, to virtual versions or be abandoned altogether, the past year’s lessons are translating into a much more thoughtful and resourceful SAAM in 2021. “On one hand, we were made aware of the limitations of technology for some populations, and have been careful about navigating that,” notes Schumacher. “But we have also gotten feedback that online events and ‘teleadvocacy’ can be more accessible for others. So we’re striving to strike a balance.”
One example of this is the Sexual Assault Program’s SAAM Webinar Series, in which advocates will highlight areas of their work that have everyday applications for sexual assault survivors as well as caring community members who want to learn more. Kenzie, who recently undertook FSC’s new Human Trafficking Case Manager position*, will present on some of the nuances of this role. “As an agency, we’ve always served people who have experienced human trafficking.” But, with this dedicated position, and a survivor-focused philosophy accommodating the needs of those who are involved in the criminal legal system and those who are not, comes the opportunity for more concerted attention. “It’s so important to take cues from the populations most affected about what is actually needed,” Kenzie adds.
Grace, the advocate for CASA (Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault), FSC’s satellite program on the UW-Eau Claire campus, agrees. “I’m located at UWEC so I can be more available to students, who we know disproportionately experience sexual violence. What I do is really driven by the folks who utilize CASA services. That’s the case for all Family Support Center advocates,” says Grace, who also notes the agency has been taking tangible steps to center other, highly impacted groups, like survivors of color, and LGBTQ+ survivors, and are better equipped to serve everyone as a result.
For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities, or Family Support Center services, visit www.FamilySupportCenterCF.com, follow our Facebook page at @FamilySupportChippewaValley, or call our central office at 715.723.1138.
* This position is funded by a Victims of Crime Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) grant