Projects & Programs
Serving Rape & Sexual Abuse Survivors
Pandora's Aquarium Online Support Group
Pandora’s Project operates an online support community located at www.pandys.org/forums called Pandora's Aquarium. Since its inception, more than 20,000 users have registered accounts. The core of this community is the message board, which consists of fifty forums where sexual violence survivors participate in healing discussions. The message board is carefully monitored round-the-clock by moderators, who lead discussion, ensure that every community member has support, and enforce community guidelines. Survivors can also create a blog to journal about their daily struggles and triumphs.
A popular feature of the support community is the chat room, where survivors can discuss healing-related issues in a safe and supportive atmosphere. It is moderated by volunteers who facilitate conversation and host chats on relevant topics, such as pursuing legal action, facing panic attacks, and seeking therapy.
It is important to note that Pandora's Aquarium provides peer support only. We believe peers are an essential source of support for those healing from sexual violence and group interaction is an invaluable complement to therapy and traditional sources of healing.
Expert Judith Herman writes that, "[t]raumatic events destroy the sustaining bond between individual and community. . . [B]ecause traumatized people feel so alienated, groups have a special place in the recovery process." The volunteers who staff the message board and chat room do not provide professional counseling services, and all members are encouraged to seek therapy and face-to-face support. However, we believe interaction with peers, for many survivors, is an integral part of the healing process.
Guest Speaker Chats
Several times a year, the Pandora's Aquarium chat room hosts guest speakers who provide information and field questions about their areas of expertise. These popular chats are geared toward sexual violence recovery, and speakers have included healing inspirations, authors, and activists. Recent speakers were Wendy Maltz, MSW, a therapist and author of The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Patti Levin, PsyD, an expert on trauma therapy and EMDR. You can read transcripts of past chats on our website.
Providing this service via an online medium is highly cost-effective and encourages participation from survivors who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact with experts and professionals.
Books and other resources about sexual assault and recovery play an important role in the healing process, but they can be hard to access. In a 2008 survey of Pandora's Aquarium support community members, 64% had been unable to locate such materials within their library's lending system and almost 40% cited cost as a barrier to buying books. Even if a library or bookstore has an extensive selection of material about sexual assault, 31% of respondents were too embarrassed to borrow or order the books.
To meet the need for resources, Pandora's Project holds over 100 books and DVDs relating to sexual violence in a lending library, found at SexualAssaultLibrary.org. Free to eligible survivors and supporters, volunteers ship the first book without charge but patrons pay shipping and handling fees for subsequent books. The lending library launched in June of 2008, and this project is in its pilot phase.
Healing Retreat Weekends
We believe community is important to the healing process, and many of those who have been the victim of sexual violence lack local resources and connections. Pandora's Project will host its first sexual violence recovery retreat in October 2009. The weekend will be professionally facilitated, and promises to be healing for 35 women who will benefit from community support and workshops on topics including stress relief and building intimacy in relationships.
Articles & Essays
Pandora's Project maintains an extensive library of articles and essays, written by survivors for survivors. Topics covered include developing coping skills, conquering self-blame, and much more.
While there is no way to compensate for an atrocity,
there is a way to transcend it, by making a gift to others
- Judith Lewis Herman