Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

The Survivors Healing Center is organizing a donation drive so that it can continue to offer its services to survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

“People are coming in constantly, requesting help,” said Moriah Fey, a member of the center’s board of directors, “and we’re in a position right now where we’re requesting help financially.”

The center, located at 2301 Mission St. in Santa Cruz, offers different therapy groups designed to promote healing and discussion. The specific groups reach out to a variety of demographics — women, men, children and Spanish speakers. There are also groups geared to help people express themselves through art and other creative modes.

The Healing Center is looking to raise $50,000 by Feb. 28 in their donation drive. So far, they are halfway there. Although the Survivors Healing Center begins this drive every year in November, this season’s drive began with particular urgency.

The City of Santa Cruz, City of Watsonville, and Santa Cruz County have all reduced their funding to the organization. Personal donations are also down, and a grant they received from the Juvenile Probation Department is due to end in March. In total, they have lost $30,000, approximately 20 percent of their total budget.

Although the budget crisis is recent, there is nothing new about sexual violence. According to a 2002 study by the the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in the U.S. are affected by childhood sexual abuse by the age of 18.

“When you’ve been sexually abused as a kid, it affects your entire life until you start to go through the healing process, and the healing is about learning to love yourself,” Fey said.

The center’s staff and volunteers are optimistic that the organization can raise the rest of the money it needs before their drive ends in February. If the organization fails to raise the money, executive director Dottie Jakobsen worries that there are not many other places the money could come from.

Much of the work is already done by a dedicated group of 22 volunteers.

“We have a very small staff, two part-time people and an intermediary, and we have an office that’s pretty basic,” Jakobsen said. “So our overhead is not gigantic, and there’s not a lot we can cut back on. But we’re really determined to keep the services available.”

The Survivors Healing Center began providing services in 1988 when Santa Cruz poet Ellen Bass noticed how many young women in her writing workshops were struggling with the scars of sexual abuse. She teamed up with friend Amy Pine, a local therapist, to start the center.

Today, the Healing Center offers a variety of services, ranging from one-on-one attention to many outreach activities, but the therapy groups remain a core feature of the organization. The groups encourage people to be open about their pasts, which helps them discover their situations are nothing to be ashamed of. They also learn steps and tricks, like accepting their innocence and building a support network.

Interim executive director Kathy Riley worries that without the proper support, victims — as often happens — will suppress their difficult memories or resort to drugs, alcohol and self-medication.

“In our culture, I think it happens a lot, and I think that often people don’t realize that sometimes some of their adult problems are connected with things that could have happened a long time ago,” Riley said.

The Survivors Healing Center facilitates groups targeted at people of all ages and backgrounds still grappling with sexual abuse, often from their childhood. The organization collects donations from its recipients on a sliding scale based on how much they can afford to give. They try to make up for that every year with money raised from government grants, private donations and donations from businesses.

Most donors give about $100, but some have given up to $10,000. Board of directors member Fey said that the money benefits all of Santa Cruz by creating a safer, healthier community. She added that while the organization hopes to finish the donor drive with a large figure, they appreciate every cent.

“We don’t take anything lightly that we get, because every [cent] that we get is put to total use for our clients and our friends and the population here in Santa Cruz,” Fey said. “We’re very appreciative of everything we get.”


For more information on how to donate, visit