The Faces of La Sala De Ayuda

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RAINN today launched a new peer-support service to support Spanish-speaking survivors of sexual assault.

La Sala de Ayuda is the newest in a suite of support services for survivors of sexual assault. La Sala de Ayuda (“HelpRoom” in Spanish) is the first online peer-support service for Spanish-speaking individuals who have been affected by sexual violence.

The technology driving this new online platform is secure, confidential, and easy to use—ensuring that survivors and their loved ones are able to find the help they need. But what about the faces behind the screens?

The support specialists who operate La Sala de Ayuda are specially trained to moderate online group chats that take place through La Sala de Ayuda. Meg Biallas, RAINN’s online communications manager, sat down with moderators Rosie Juarez and Josue Melendez, to discuss what it takes to run an online peer-support group and how they hope the service will help Spanish-speaking individuals.

Meg: How did you decide to get involved with RAINN and La Sala de Ayuda?
Josue: Sexual violence is an issue I care about because I understand how scary it can be to speak up about something and not have support. I want to be able to help victims of sexual assault and give them that hope and beacon of light that things may get better
Rosie: [The issue] is important to me because of a personal experience, where someone I love needed support and I saw what she went through. Having the opportunity to help someone in a similar situation is an amazing thing.
 
Meg: How is La Sala de Ayuda different from other forms of online support?
Josue: The benefit of peer support is that you are able to express yourself to others with similar experiences and be able to relate to them. It gives you space to speak about your experience and emotional state, and receive knowledge from other peers that could benefit your road to recovery.
Rosie: I believe that one of the greatest benefits of peer support is that participants have the chance to know that they are not alone in their hardships. They can have the knowledge that others are also making it through a difficult time, and they will have that chance as well. Meg: Who do you think would most benefit from La Sala?
Josue: If you want support from other people that have similar experiences as you, La Sala de Ayuda is the right place. La Sala de Ayuda is for anyone affected by sexual violence – and it gives you the space and freedom to connect with other individuals that share a similar experience.
Rosie: Exactly. It doesn’t matter what happened or when it happened – you can use La Sala de Ayuda at any point in your journey. I believe that this service is beneficial, especially for the Spanish-speaking community. A lot of times it is expected to suffer alone in your silence. Offering a service that gives Spanish-speakers the opportunity to converse with others can give them the motivation and the confidence to speak about their experiences.
Josue: I definitely agree. This service is critical for survivors who speak Spanish because sometimes the Spanish community may not have that support from family when it comes to sexual assault and feel alone.
 
Meg: Do you have any advice for survivors who are thinking about logging on to La Sala de Ayuda?
Rosie: I would say to just share what you are comfortable with. Do not feel like you have to talk about something if you are not ready.
Josue: I think a lot of people hide a lot of things and fear of the reactions of other people—they worry about how they may be perceived. I want survivors to know that La Sala gives you space to speak about your experience without judgement.
Rosie: And remember that you are not alone.
 

La Sala de Ayuda (Help Room) is a secure, online environment where survivors of sexual assault can connect with one another and offer support. It’s similar to a group chat where people who have had similar experiences can communicate without fear or judgement. La Sala de Ayuda is available 7 pm to 9 pm ET on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

About RAINN

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of "America's 100 Best Charities" by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. In 2015, the Online Hotline expanded to offer services in Spanish at rainn.org/es. The hotlines have helped more than two million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.

La Sala de Ayuda (“Helproom”) was created by RAINN under #2014-XV-BX-K005, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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