Using horses as therapy partners helps sexual violence victims

To help heal the psychological and emotional wounds of sexual violence, some are turning to some gentle giants.

Here's how an organization called "HOPE" uses the bond between horses and women to help start a healing process for those in need.

Hope stands for HOrses helping PEople and this specific group therapy is organized through Alachua County Victim Services.
Amy Cummings-Aponte works as a Victim Advocate Counselor for Alachua County Victim Services, she says any woman is eligible for help. "Horse empower is a support group for survivors of sexual violence and for this particular event we are focusing on adult females and we include transgender, gender non conforming and non-binary individuals as well."

It's two, 4-hour classes for 5 women with a focus on learning how to trust again by gaining the trust of a horse.
Cummings-Aponte said "for individuals who have been subjected to sexual violence their ability to trust themselves and others has really been interrupted. So one of the things learned in this group is how to trust yourself again to have the right instincts to know you made the right choices. Also allowing yourself to trust other people again allowing that vulnerability through."
Cindy Kiers manages the HOPE farm she explained way horses are such good therapy animals. "We mimic a lot of the qualities of the horse and they mimic a lot of our qualities, they are very feeling and have a lot of emotions just like we do."

Even if they're coming in with little or no expectations, most every woman who has taken the class before has left different than they arrived.

Cummings-Aponte said, "when they initially arrive they're usually very nervous they don't know anybody there they don't know what to expect and that's absolutely normal. By the end of the group the women are exchanging phone numbers, formed relationships and that's really part of the group is allowing them to learn to form those relationships again."

Anyone who identifies as a victim of sexual violence can apply for the therapy, the violence does not have to be reported to be considered.