Some of you may know; some of you may not, but April is sexual assault awareness month. Did you know that every 2 minutes there is a sexual assault in the United States? 1 out of 6 American women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 80 percent of women were under the age of 30 at the time of their assault. This seems grim, overwhelming and hopeless, but with organizations like Phynyx Ministries, there is sunshine, encouragement, and hope.
Phynyx Ministries is a Christian-based nonprofit organization which was started by Mrs. Angela D. Wharton, who is a three-time sexual assault survivor. Phynyx’s mission is to provide a pathway to healing for female survivors through: love, support, advocacy, education, and empowerment. It provides a safe space for survivors through a multitude of programs such as their healing support group which is held every other Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Empowerment Temple AME church in Baltimore, MD. There, survivors talk about what the word of God says for different issues such as feelings of suicide, anger, fear, and depression. A therapist is also invited to come and sit-in on the meeting as some of the women haven’t shared their stories in years or never shared their story at all. Phynyx also has the S.H.I.N.E. Project which focuses on the outer survivor by giving women confidence through hair, makeup, style, yoga, and self-defense tips. There is a prayer call once a month where survivors dial into the call from all over the world.
Typically the media and society label people who have been affected by sexual assault as “victims”. However, Wharton calls people who have been affected by sexual assault “survivors”. When asked why, this is what she said:
A victim is a person who is still wallowing in story and under the heaviness of their circumstance. She allows what happened to her to overtake her life and keep her in prison/bondage. But a survivor understands that this has happened to me but I won’t let it destroy me. They take back control; they take back power. To me, you’re survivor because you’re still here; the Lord allowed you to still be on this earth. I dislike the word victim because we are survivors and we are also rising” (hence the name Phynyx which comes from the mythological Phoenix bird rebirthing itself and rising from the ashes more beautiful than ever).
Wharton started Phynyx because the second time she was assaulted, she was raped in the woods at gunpoint. She continuously asked God “Why”? One night in prayer, God gave her the vision of Phynyx, she wrote it out, but never did anything about it because of fear. She thought, “I can’t do that God; not little ole me”. But in 2012, she decided to go after the vision God put in her heart 15 years prior and Phynyx has been changing lives ever since.
There are challenges with running a nonprofit, especially funding. “Because we are a small, grassroots organization, we are doing everything on our own so we have to find many partnerships because we want to reach out and help more survivors; many of us are wearing two to three hats”. This can get overwhelming at times, but what helps Wharton to keep going knowing that there are so many women out there who need help. “They need to hear my story and the story of members who have reached the place of healing and are not afraid to share and be the face of hope for someone to know they do not have to stay in darkness and fear”.
What’s next for Phynyx?
On June 10, 2016, Phynyx will be hosting their bi-annual Red Tape Gala fundraiser to raise money which will fund their programs and services. There will be a silent auction, dinner, dancing, and a red carpet (more information here). Phynyx will also be introducing “SAFE in the shop” and “SAFE in the salon” where they will place information about Phynyx in the restrooms of the several barbershops and salons in the Baltimore metropolitan area so that people can take the information card and get help without people knowing.
How do people get involved?
If anyone is interested in making a tax-deductible donation they can go to http://www.phynyxministries.org and click donate. Phynyx is always in need of volunteers who are passionate for the cause. Currently, they need content mangers, graphic designers, event planners, project managers, social media content developers, and an administrator. To get involved, you can go to website and click on the volunteer link and complete the form which will go directly to Wharton to review.
Wharton leaves survivors with these words of encouragement
“It is not your fault; abuse, sex trafficking, rape, incest… anything that you suffered is not your fault. You did nothing to cause that person to violate you in that way. Secondly, you are not alone; help is available. We can help you; we won’t blame or shame you. We won’t take your power away from you. We are all sexual assault survivors connected by a common thread. You have to reach out and get the help; we won’t know if you don’t. You don’t have to stay in the shameful place where you have been, feeling like no one understands. Healing is available. All you have to do is reach your hand out.
“I am what the other side of sexual trauma looks like.”
Ladies, please reach out and get the help you need. If you or anyone has been sexually assaulted, please get help and empower yourself because you are a survivor; you are still here. Let’s make this issue known not only in April, but every month.
Nothing but love,