GREEN COVE SPRINGS – We are lucky to have someone so passionate and unrelenting running Quigley House. It’s clear CEO Jennifer Rodriguez doesn’t view her role as a job. It’s a calling. And we should all be happy she’s here.
And mad that we need her.
But as long as people are sexually and domestically abused, we will need Rodriguez. And she needs us. It should outrage all of us that people are subject to so much physical and emotional. What kind of person hurts a woman or a child?
Quigley House is a secure home for people who are trying to escape abuse. It’s a place where bruises can heal; survivors can get counseling and find support to chart a new course in life.
Going to Quigley House is a difficult choice. It often requires severing a relationship and financial support. It means working through uncertainty and rebuilding a sense of importance.
Rodriguez and her staff and investigators joined with the Clay County Sheriff’s, State Attorney’s and Clerk of County Courts offices Tuesday to remind everyone April is Sexual Awareness Month. The group stood shoulder to shoulder, both symbolically and literally, to assure survivors they could help break the vicious cycle of abuse.
“I promise you we will be here for you,” Sheriff Michelle Cook said. “You know, working together, we can hold those responsible for sexual violence accountable. I said it before, and I’m gonna say it again: the Clay County Sheriff’s Office will continue to take action needed to prevent these crimes, support our victims and hold violators accountable.”
It’s difficult to understand why survivors – abuse centers don’t use the word ‘victims’ – don’t just walk away. It’s not that easy, Rodriquez said, because some don’t know what services and support are available. More important, many aren’t aware others care.
“Cultural norms have contributed to misunderstanding and confusion around sexual violence,” Rodriquez said. “This makes it difficult for survivors to wrap their minds around their own personal experience, often leading to shame and guilt. At Quigley House, we work to educate survivors on the dynamics of sexual assault and provide intervention to heal. So survivors can rebuild their lives and have a healthy and safe future.”
Cook said a month-long to bring awareness to sexual assault wasn’t enough. It should be something everyone should commit to every day.
Rows of colored T-shirts were hung from a line and along the fence at Quigley’s management headquarters Tuesday. They were a sad reminder of the torturous pain inflicted. Survivors were encouraged to write a message against their aggressors and for their recoveries as part of the healing process.
Tiny hands wrote some of the messages. Others were painted on smaller shirts. You quickly realize this behavior must stop.
“We recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress in children, families and caregivers by providing education on trauma, increasing coping skills and incorporating these skills into programs and policies. In other words, we
are here for survivors,” Rodriguez said. “Today, we stand together, hoping that survivors who are in need will call our helpline (904-284-0061) to learn more about programs and services and the options they have after an assault.”
We must stand with Quigley House, law enforcement and prosecutors as a community. It will take all of us to end this madness. We can reach out to a victim and let them know we are willing to help. We can hug them and tell them we love them. But they must take the biggest step by contacting Quigley House or the sheriff’s office.
And when they do, they will be comforted by a fortress of support, protection and compassion.