Free and Confidential Counseling
Our counselors assist victims in their healing process and empower them to make healthy life changes and decisions.
Children ages 4 and up are taught body safety, choices, self-esteem and empowerment through art and play therapy, puppets, healing stories, and sand tray therapy.
Adolescents are encouraged to write journals describing their feelings and to express themselves through art and sand tray therapy. They are guided to set goals and discover their strengths, in service of developing positive self-esteem and self-image.
Adults are encouraged to write journals describing their feelings as they go through the healing process. Via supportive and informative counseling, survivors experience validation of their feelings, and set goals for the future. Feelings are validated and goals are set for the future. Survivors learn to recognize their strengths and develop coping skills.
Partners and family members may also receive counseling to aid them in supporting their loved one’s healing and in dealing with their own feelings resulting from trauma.
Crisis Intervention / 24 Hour Hotline
Staff and volunteers monitor the hotline at all times to provide immediate connection, information, assistance, and support to victims and significant others.
Groups are an important part of the healing process for all ages. Group work allows individuals to express their feelings, to receive validation, and to learn they are not alone in their experience. Through group work, survivors learn positive self-care, and gain new skills in relation to others.
Please contact the office for further information about support groups.
Medical and Legal Advocacy
Advocating with other systems can be a challenging process, since most institutions have objectives which go beyond solely supporting the victim. At Growing Strong, supporting victims is our focus. Our advocates provide information and emotional support for survivors while acting as a liaison between the survivor and the police, hospital staff, and the states attorney throughout the court or hospital process. If a survivor presents at the hospital an advocate will always arrive in a timely manner and discuss survivors’ rights, medical procedures and options, and discuss an evidence collection kit. An advocate can also explain the criminal justice process, sexual assault laws and assist the survivor in filing for crime victim’s compensation or protective order.
(Out of respect for confidentiality, the advocate is not present during the police officer interview, if there is one)
SASETA: Sexual Assault Emergency Treatment Act
SASETA is an Illinois state law which mandates that patients receiving services in the Emergency Department for sexual victimization should never receive a bill for any hospital charges, medication, emergency ambulance transportation or follow-up exam to check for STD’s, pregnancy, or other complications as a result of the assault. SASETA also states the survivor is the only one who can decide if they want an evidence collection kit to be done or released to be analyzed.
Laws Regarding Evidence Collection
The process used to collect evidence of sexual assault is called gathering an “evidence collection kit.” Although gathering this evidence can feel uncomfortable, especially because the victim has already been through so much, it can be a good idea to have this evidence collected, as it keeps the victim’s options open regarding their legal path.
- A sexual assault survivor only has seven days after the crime to have an evidence collection kit completed. After the seventh day evidence will no longer be available to collect and preserve. The earlier a survivor completes a kit, the better the likelihood of obtaining strong evidence.
- the sexual assault survivor is the only person who can authorize evidence collection via the evidence collection kit. If the victim does not want evidence collected, nobody can force them to have it done.
- If the survivor is 13 years of age or older, they are the only person who can sign for the release of the kit to be analyzed.
- If a survivor does not want to report to the police, they can still complete an evidence collection kit. The kit can be held for up to 10 years, preserving evidence, just in case the survivor changes their mind on reporting to the police.
- Although there are 10 different collections to complete a full evidence collection kit, the survivor gets to choose which, if any, parts of the collection they would like to complete.
- The evidence collection kit does not have to be completed in order for a survivor to have a medical exam done or be seen in the emergency room.
After a police report has been made, the legal advocate provides information and emotional support for victims with the police and the state’s attorney. Throughout the court process, the legal advocate is the liaison between the victim and the legal system. Legal Advocates:
- explain the criminal justice process, sexual assault laws and victim’s rights statutes
- assist the victim in filing for crime victims’ compensation
- ensure that the victim is treated in a fair and respectful manner by criminal justice personnel
- keep the victim informed about key dates and stages in the criminal justice processing of the case
An Order of Protection is a court order which prohibits continuing threats or abuse by restricting an offender and is only available to family or household members. A Civil No Contact Order (CNCO) is a type of protective court order that requires a sex offender to stay away from the person they sexually assaulted or sexually abused. A Stalking No Contact Order (SNCO) is a stay away order for victims who have been caused emotional distress due to 2 or more acts of stalking. A SNCO and CNCO are options for those who did not have a relationship with their offender and need protection. Any person, regardless of age, who do not have a relationship with their offender can file for a SNCO or CNCO. To file a protective order you may go to the circuit clerk’s office or website to obtain and file the forms or one of our advocates at Growing Strong can help you. For more information on protective orders please contact our office.
Sometimes our clients have needs outside of the scope of services we provide. In an effort to help our clients focus on their healing our case manager helps fill in those gaps so clients don’t have to.
Growing Strong’s prevention education program strives to educate children and adults about bodily autonomy, consent and protecting oneself and others from sexual abuse. We provide the sexual abuse and grooming prevention education lessons required by Illinois Board of Education under Erin’s Law and Faith’s Law. At no cost to the organizations which host us, we break the silence which so often lurks around these issues, offering information which helps learners to build respect for themselves and for others. We equip learners to make informed decisions around telling people in authority when someone’s behavior makes them uncomfortable, avoiding or leaving risky situations, and conducting their own relationships respectfully.
Some statistics that parents, and adults need to be aware of:
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
- Only 1 in 10 children disclose child sexual abuse.
- Over 90% of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are people the victims know.
- As many as 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older, or more powerful children.
We work to empower children to keep themselves safe, and to call for help from adults when they need it.
Growing Strong offers multiple prevention education lessons to each grade (Preschool – 12th grade) but can compress our offering to a single lesson which fulfills the Erin’s Law/Faith’s Law Requirement if time is at a premium.
Primary and Intermediate Grades
The focus for younger children is on teaching them that they get to decide when touching is welcome, and when is not. Because these children can be targets for much older children and adults, we offer strategies for navigating the power differential and for trusting their own gut when a situation feels uncomfortable. Growing Strong presents videos carefully tuned to children’s developmental levels using language which is friendly and empowering.
Erin’s Law / Faith’s Law
These are lessons designed to prevent sexual abuse and grooming. We focus on 4 themes:
- Children are the bosses of their own bodies, especially of their private areas
- Children do not deserve to be abused, and it is never their fault if abuse happens
- Children need to tell a trusted adult when they experience abuse, and if the first adult is not helpful, to continue to tell others until someone steps up to keep them safe.
- Touch requires consent. We all should be asking for permission before we try to hug, hold hands with, or tickle another person, and we all have the right to say “yes” if we want the touch, “no” if we do not, and we also may change our minds at any time.
When we have a second opportunity to meet with young students, we offer these lessons. we cover the “Golden Rule” – the importance of treating other as we would like to be treated. We teach that nobody deserves to be bullied, and encourage students to enlist the help of a trusted adult in getting the bullying to stop (and to persist in telling adults until somebody helps.)
When we are able to meet a third time with young students, we have a range of offerings which cover anger management, doing our best, and an animated introduction to human trafficking. School officials may choose from among these which fits the needs of their school
In middle school, the curriculum shifts as students are beginning to negotiate the complexity of romantic interest among their peers.
Erin’s Law / Faith’s Law
We discuss what sexual harassment looks like, how consent functions in the way we treat people, how to deal with sexual harassment whether it comes from another student or an adult, and who and how to tell about abuse if it happens. We reinforce that nobody deserves harassment or abuse, and that it is never the victim’s fault
For middle schoolers, we talk about bullying online as well as in person. We cover ways that bystanders can intervene to end bullying.
Middle School students are beginning to spend significant time in social media and other Internet venues, so we offer lessons on managing one’s digital presence, the dangers of sexting, and recognizing signs of human trafficking
The high school curriculum is structured differently. Because presentations each year are often made to assemblies of students from all grades, Growing Strong has a 4 year set of different programs which rotate each year.
Erin’s Law / Faith’s Law
In high school, our focus is on teen dating abuse prevention. We teach that consent for any sexual activity must legally require a verbal “Yes” at each step from a partner who is enthusiastic and unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs. We discuss the nature of rape, and the increased danger alcohol adds to potentially abusive scenarios.
Understanding the difference between healthy and toxic relationships, and how to extricate oneself when a relationship no longer feels healthy, are covered in additional programs we make available.
In these lessons, we cover the way friends can look after one another in situations which begin to feel uncomfortable, whether it be unwelcome romantic attention, unintentional over-consumption of drugs or alcohol, or potential human trafficking. The unexpected costs of sexting is also offered.
Growing Strong also offers our sexual violence prevention programs to colleges, parent groups, church groups and other community organizations. For more information about our offerings, please call us at 217-428-0770
Growing Strong programs are offered at no charge.