In the face of violent trauma, the cleansing warmth of a simple shower can be a small comfort.
People come to ASSIST Indiana for help following sexual, domestic, and physical violence. The organization provides a wealth of services and resources, from rape kits to counseling to long-term services such as case management and victim advocacy.
But in the immediate aftermath of such horrible experiences, the group has not been able to offer the one thing that many victims desire — a hot shower.
“Yes, it’s a shower, but it’s so much more,” said Jenny Lee, nurse practitioner and founder and CEO of ASSIST Indiana.
That will change this spring. A local group of leaders-in-training has partnered with ASSIST Indiana to make that simple yet impactful addition a reality. Participants in this year’s Leadership Johnson County program have raised funds and helped recruit contractors to install a shower facility, in addition to creating more welcoming “soft spaces” in the initial trauma intake and exam rooms.
The vital work that ASSIST Indiana does made it important to do anything they could to support it.
“It’s a resource. I hate that we need it, but it’s a resource. We’re able to be a very small piece of the puzzle that, for better or worse, someone is going to need,” said Blythe Potter, one of the Leadership Johnson County team members.
From its downtown Franklin headquarters, the staff and volunteers at ASSIST Indiana offer a refuge for individuals suffering trauma following a violent attack.
The nonprofit organization works with people who have been directly or indirectly affected by sexual, domestic and physical violence in the community. The group serves people of all ages affected by violence by providing trauma therapy, support groups and community resource referral.
People can access crisis intervention, victim advocacy, case management and prevention education through the organization as well. All services provided are free and optional.
“We really offer services on any gender-based crime along the lifespan,” Lee said.
ASSIST Indiana is also the local rape crisis center for Johnson and the surrounding counties. Starting later in the spring, the group will start providing forensic medical examinations for victims of rape, where medical professionals can look for injuries and take samples that could be used as evidence in a police investigation and any subsequent prosecution.
“We’re closer to creating that wrap-around model that we had planned on from the beginning,” Lee said. “We offer advocacy, we can do those forensic exams from pediatric, adolescents and adults. And from there, we can provide counseling or other things that the client might need.”
But despite its resources and abilities to help, ASSIST Indiana leaders always need more to serve people in need. As six team members from Leadership Johnson County learned about this need, they felt compelled to step forward.
Leadership Johnson County is a community program that prepares area residents for leadership roles. The core of the organization is its Signature Program, in which members accepted into the program meet once a month to focus on a different aspect of leadership.
At the start of the program, participants break off into small groups, with each one team required to envision and enact a project that would benefit the community. Past examples of projects that have endured include the Soup Bowl, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, and a memorial tree-planting program with Franklin Parks and Rec.
Potter and team members Jamie Jo Hampton, Lorrie Garrigus, Ashley Ferrell, Janeen Bostick and Jeremy VanAndel paired together and were searching for a meaningful cause to support.
Hampton was the one who brought ASSIST Indiana and its mission to the group. During Leadership Johnson County’s annual volunteer fair in September, she met Tracy McQueen, a victim advocate with the organization.
“Once we heard what ASSIST does, it changed my life,” Hampton said. “I can never unlearn this information, and never not be affected by the lack of resources given.”
She discussed what she had learned with the rest of the group, who were confounded that they had never heard of ASSIST Indiana’s work before.
“I don’t think any of us knew ASSIST existed, which is a huge problem,” Potter said. “We had no idea they were here.”
They decided that they would help ASSIST Indiana in some way, received approval from Leadership Johnson County and met with Lee and others within the organization to get a sense of what they needed. When the team learned about the need for a shower in the facility, that became their focus.
“There were several things that we wanted to do, and several things on our list. But when it came down to it, that was their biggest need with the money we could raise,” Potter said.
For ASSIST Indiana, the offer seemed too good to be true.
“This group specifically is so passionate and engaged,” Lee said. “What they’re doing is ironing the pathway for victims and how they’re able to receive services.”
The project, which will cost about $14,000 total, will be completed by Blackwell Construction, which offered to do the work installing the shower at cost. The hope is to get work started as soon as supplies come in, with a finish date in March.
JCREMC awarded the effort $5,000 in funding through its Round-Up Community Grant Program, and donors have raised an additional $3,000 through social media outreach and a donation by Potter’s business, Bargersville Wellness.
Still, organizers are reaching out to the community to help with the final half of funding the project, Potter said. People can go to ASSIST Indiana’s website, assistindiana.org, and donate using a PayPal link on the site.
“Anyone that donates towards the shower project specifically can hashtag it ‘#shower’ or mark it ‘shower’ in the comment box,” Hampton said.
The group is also looking for donations of items to help with the project. They envision outfitting ASSIST Indiana’s office with items such as plush chairs, lighting fixtures with adjustable brightness/color, a vanity for toiletries, a washer and dryer, large bath towels, hand towels and a supply of laundry detergent.
“If they have a shower, they’re going to need shampoo, conditioner, towels, laundry detergent, all of these things as well,” Potter said. “If we can get more funds donated than we need for the shower, it will trickle down to these other things.”