Local News

Fayetteville nurse planning retreats to help sex assault survivors

Posted February 3, 2020 7:55 p.m. EST

— An estimated 360,000 women are sexually assaulted nationwide every year, but less than a third of them report the assaults to law enforcement.

A Fayetteville nurse who has helped countless victims in the emergency room and is a sex assault victim herself is trying to offer another option outside of the justice system to help women heal.

"I myself am a sexual assault survivor, and I know how devastating it can be," said Michelle Sines, who is a trained sexual assault nurse examiner, or a SANE nurse.

"My assault was something that was beyond traumatic, something I wasn’t even sure I was going to survive, said Sines, who was raped by four men while on vacation in Florida three years ago.

Even though she was a SANE nurse, she didn't go to the police after her attack. Instead, she withdrew.

"I knew all the right things to do, according to lawyers and police, but I don’t think you ever know what you’re going to do until you’re in those situations," she said. "The only thing I could think of for days was just surviving, just getting from one second to the next."

What saved her, Sines said, was attending retreats for sexual assault survivors in Colorado and California.

"It was a long journey of healing and getting to this point, learning to find my voice again and actually use it," she said.

Now, Sines, who still works in an emergency room but hasn't been able to work as a SANE nurse since her assault, is using her voice to help others.

"Those retreats have been life-changing for me, but there were none on the East Coast that I could find," she said.

So, Sines is launching a retreat in North Carolina that will include everything from yoga to therapy dogs and horses to bonding with other survivors.

"I’m hoping that, by getting the word out, we can share with those who have maybe never disclosed that there’s a whole tribe of us that believe you and support you and are rooting for you," she said.

The first retreat is scheduled for Sept. 24-27 in Asheville. Women who want to attend can register online, and anybody who wishes can donate money. Sines said the goal is to raise enough in donations so that attendees need to pay only a modest fee.

Sines said she wants to help victims understand they aren't responsible for what happened.

"You lose control, and you want to find it again," she said. "You change something – you change where you go, you change how you act and the things that you do – [and] you think that it won’t happen again. ... It's not what you did or what you were wearing or where you were, rape is caused by rapists."

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