You are believed: The path toward healing for a survivor.

Posted on: Tue, 04/20/2021 - 15:05


The statistics are staggering.

Nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the U.S. have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault some time in their lives. While the effects of sexual violence are far reaching, many times taking hold of entire communities, it is the survivor who carries the trauma of their experience. Fortunately, they have options and services available to lead them on a path toward healing.   

Center For Family Services’ Services Empowering Rights of Victims (SERV) program is dedicated to helping victims become survivors. By providing competent, respectful, and empathetic care, SERV helps more than 600 survivors of sexual violence annually throughout Camden, Cumberland, and Gloucester counties.

Providing a safe space for survivors is at the forefront of SERV’s work. By offering confidential and culturally sensitive services, highly trained staff are able to build trust with survivors and help them focus on recovery, self-care, and ultimately, healing.

Healing looks different for every survivor; everyone heals in their own time and in their own way. For many, the first step in the process of healing is feeling believed. At SERV, staff center everything around the voice of survivors. They make survivors feel safe and validated by using active listening, assuring confidentiality, and always believing a survivor’s story because when a survivor is believed, their experience and feelings are validated. It allows them the ability to trust, feel safe, and begin to heal.

SERV recognizes that each survivor’s healing journey is going to be unique to the individual. With that in mind, SERV strives to create an environment to personally accommodate each survivor as they navigate the healing process by creating a safe space where individuals are encouraged to bring themselves to a state of good physical, mental and emotional health. Through counseling and therapy, survivors are given the guidance to believe that their experience is in no way their fault and that no challenge is too big to overcome. For some survivors this may be the biggest challenge they will ever face but with the support of SERV they regain power and control in their lives, two things often lost after a traumatic event, and begin to heal.

Not only does the navigation of the healing process present differently for each survivor but so does the severity of sexual trauma. SERV advocates are equipped to provide the emotional support to all survivors of sexual violence regardless of how their trauma is presenting; sexual trauma in children and adults is associated with severe psychological consequences. It is important to understand that SERV recognizes the unique ways in which trauma presents itself regardless of the stage in life a survivor is currently in or the stage in life the trauma occurred.

If the sexual trauma occurs during childhood, often times there is an association with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Those that experience this type of trauma at a young age also risk relationship difficulties later in life both sexual and non-sexual. Sexual trauma in adulthood is often times associated with short- and long-term psychological challenges. Short term meaning anxiety and fear for a set of time and then a sudden lack of symptoms from the trauma. Long term affects are often times extremely serious and could mean severe substance use, nonfatal suicidal behavior or threats, sexual dysfunction, depression, and the overall risk of developing mental health problem and perceptions of lack of control. SERV advocates help survivors access these trauma’s so that they do not go untreated and ultimately develop a continuum of care designed to recover so that these symptoms do not become a constant in their lives.  

In addition to providing support to survivors, SERV works within the community to raise awareness about sexual violence, promote prevention efforts, and change long-standing beliefs and attitudes about sexual assault, including the importance of believing survivors. When society as a whole believes in the survivor’s experience, others feel empowered to come out and speak on their experiences. It creates a cycle of education and awareness and a common understanding that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.   

During the month of April, communities across the country recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Join SERV in their mission to support and empower survivors and educate the community by committing to:

Stand against all forms of sexual violence

Speak out against violence and recognize and intervene in situations that could lead to violence

Empower others to support survivors and to create environments where sexual violence is unacceptable

By working together, and believing survivors we can put an end to sexual violence.


Learn more about SERV

Get involved with Stand.Speak.Empower Campaign

Make a donation in support of a survivor