GAINESVILLE Fla. (WCJB) - Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center is offering adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse a place to speak up about their struggle.
"I think any time we struggle with something personally that's very private very wounding, we can isolate very easily," said director Laura Kalt. "It's still very difficult for survivors to come forward. There's still a lot of stigma."
The CDC estimates that roughly 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused in the U.S. before the age of 18 (as of 2014).
"Sometimes they've never told anyone," Kalt said.
The county is home to one of the longest-running rape crisis centers in Florida, open since 1977. Victim Services offers resources to Alachua, Bradford and Union counties. This week Victim Services opened its registration for a free support group for adult survivors trying to heal. The 10-12 week session is offered yearly and is typically made up of four to ten people of all backgrounds.
"We see UF students, Santa Fe College students," Kalt said. "We see people who are in their seventies."
The mission is support survivors of abuse at any stage in their healing process, give them tools to process what they've survived and help relieve the stigma.
"More often we have people who are coming many months, many years later to seek counseling services," Kalt said. "We recognize support groups are very beneficial to have validation from other people who have experienced similar abuse."
Victim Services also offers other counseling throughout the year in groups for women, men and sexual violence survivors in the LGBTQ community.
"They can come in person, they can call us on the phone, to just be able to unload some of what they've been carrying and know that they're going to be believed and they're going to be supported," Kalt said.
The support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse is expected to begin in July and will be held every Thursday afternoon or evening for ten weeks. To register or for more information, contact Victim Advocate Counselor Katie Allen at 352-264-6765.