In this issue of Frontline, we highlight the efforts of Walden-Sierra, Inc. of St. Mary's County and the services they provide to survivors of sexual assault.
1.What is your name, title, and how long have you been with your organization?
Kathleen O’Brien Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, 40 years
2.Why are you a member of MCASA?
MCASA is an important body through which the voices of victims of sexual abuse can be heard at every level. By advocating at the highest levels for changes in legislation, or through listening to the communities of Maryland, MCASA is a voice piece for some of the most vulnerable in society. Our membership allows this voice to be further informed by providers of care; a different perspective through which a full picture of this complex issue can be attained.
3.Tell us about your organization’s current prevention activities.
Walden was founded over 40 years ago, initially as a service to help victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Although our mission has broadened significantly over the years, our trauma services for those who have suffered sexual assault remain a key part of our programing. All of our services are trauma informed as is our approach to our clients and our physical settings. In regards to prevention, we invest heavily in awareness raising, with outreach activities a key enabler of this. We also offer anger management and abuser intervention programs to educate and directly influence the behavior of identified abusers and potential abusers.
4.What are some recent events you would like to tell us about? Any upcoming events?
On 15th October, we held our annual Block Party, hosted by our recovery and wellness community center, Beacon of Hope. This event is a fun, family-oriented event aimed at supporting those who have suffered any kind of trauma, addiction or loss. For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, (October), we mounted an exhibition in Lexington Park Library, showcasing works of art produced by survivors of domestic violence. For upcoming events, we have our free annual sober New Year’s Eve party on December 31st at our Beacon of Hope Recovery and Wellness Community Center.
5.One of MCASA’s top priorities is to advocate for additional funding for rape crisis centers. In 2017, the General Assembly passed the Sexual Assault Victims Resources Act of 2017, which provides dedicated and increased funds for rape crisis centers. What does Walden-Sierra, Inc. hope to do with this funding?
Walden believes there has to be a holistic, balanced approach to tackling sexual assault, as with any social issue. At the present time, funding is needed for the treatment and support of victims at the time of an assault, and to ensure their recovery from trauma. However, we believe this has to be coupled with investment in prevention and awareness-raising. Educating young people to recognize the pre-cursors and triggers of sexual assault, and helping them to stay safe is important work. In the future this investment in prevention will hopefully reduce the need for treatment services, but in the meantime, funding has to be distributed across the spectrum of services.