Adapting To Digital Peer Support

To find any degree of healing is to find hope, lightness, and compassion you never thought possible.

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, The Gatehouse remains committed to the healing of adult survivors impacted by childhood sexual abuse. As any organization would agree, adapting to working remotely and without personal contact has had its challenges and yet we did it, are doing it and will continue to offer the programs as long as there is a need – and I assure you, we wish there was not a need and yet there remains a great need!

On July 28th, we sent out certificates to all participants who completed their program during the spring sessions, we also sent out a participant feedback survey. We wanted to share some of the findings; running sessions by Zoom seemed a near impossibility but with close monitoring and exceptional volunteer facilitators, participants reported that they really felt closer to their own healing and many groups couldn’t wait to meet each other in person.

Some of the feedback we received revealed that online experiences are not for everyone; we expected that. We didn’t expect that some would thrive in an online group. Participants shared that being able to attend a group from wherever they happened to be was really convenient and added another layer of safety to an often challenging experience. The fact that there was no lengthy drive to and from the location was also valuable as many participants commute from over an hour away. We also found that some groups were more inclusive; mobility issues were a non-factor and people could take a break when they needed it, ensuring self-care was a priority. Participants reported being able to learn to read the emotions on people’s faces since most participants were able to be in view of all. This allowed people to pause long enough to extend the emotional support needed before moving along.

Of course, there are challenges; there is no substitute for in-person compassion and signs of comfort such as a hug or passing the tissue box to wipe tears.  There are varying levels of comfort with technology and at times it was too easy for some participants to disengage from the group without the accountability which comes with being in the physical presence of others.  In addition, the absence of some healthy socializing and sharing of some of its pleasantries often enjoyed at break time was missed.

Even though our programs were required to go digital, we have seen incredible healing and we are so proud of the high level of commitment participants and volunteers have shown – a testament to the courage survivors of childhood sexual abuse have.

Moving forward; we will continue to offer all programs online until we can once again offer in-person groups at our Etobicoke location. At which time, we hope to offer the option of online or in-person or a highbred version. We also hope to expand the territory we can offer healing to as online sessions will make this possible.

If you have any questions about our programs or how we put your financial donation to work, please contact us. Thank you to everyone who takes on the incredible journey of healing and to all of our donors and volunteers who make it possible.