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Aurora Health Care hosts 10th Hope Shining Blue event to support, celebrate survivors of violence & abuse

Candace Sanchez (left) and Sharain Anderson (right)
Audrey Nowakowski
Candace Sanchez (left) and Sharain Anderson (right)
You are so much more than what happened to you. You are so much more. You are worthy. You are loved. I see you. I hear you. I believe you. And there is this space of healing that's offered to you.

- Candace Sanchez, 2023 Thrive Award Honoree to survivors of sexual and domestic violence

Aurora Health Care has been a local resource for survivors of sexual and domestic violence for more than 35 years. Services were first offered at the Aurora Healing Center and have expanded to Aurora Healing & Advocacy Services and Aurora hospitals throughout Wisconsin at no cost to clients.

This year will be the 10th that Aurora Health Care has celebrated survivors and advocates through their Hope Shining Blue event on April 26th, Denim Day, which brings international attention to the impact of sexual violence.

Sharain Anderson, vice president of Well Community at Aurora Health Care expounds on the event and what it celebrates along with Candace Sanchez, this year’s Thrive Award Honoree. The award recognizes a sexual assault survivor who is healing and thriving in life, and whose work in the community benefits survivors and promotes awareness of sexual assault issues.

Anderson explains that the goal and purpose of the event is to celebrate survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence while also raising funds to continue to provide free resources and support for survivors. "Survivors get their hair done [and] their makeup done. They get to work with a design person to choose an outfit that really speaks to their personality ...and get celebrated this evening. To really put their best foot forward and have an opportunity to step out looking great on our runway," says Anderson.

The center provides assistance for victims of any intentional violence including sexual assault, domestic violence and strangulation among other types. They offer a 24-hour hotline in addition to a text option for people who don't want to directly speak to someone. They also provide an advocate who is available to assist victims in reporting to law enforcement or find general support services as well as a long-term counseling program.

As Sanchez explains, "Not everybody wants to talk about their trauma, but it’s very important that getting those services is what can shift you from that victim state, to survivor mode, to then thriving status."

After experiencing the trauma of sexual abuse earlier in her life, Sanchez recalls that she began her healing process when she first started working in the healthcare field. Through her provided benefits, she was able to see therapists that ultimately helped her to shift from a surviving state to a thriving one. In 2017 during the height of the "Me Too" movement, Sanchez began depicting her story in a book titled Unspoken. After a three year writing process, the book was published during the pandemic in November of 2020, and Sanchez started a podcast called Unspoken Conversations with Candace.

"One of the reasons why I think it's important to acknowledge Candace and the journey that she's been on, is there's so many people that are out there watching. There's so many people that are saying 'That was me.' And it's important for us to normalize talking about these difficult conversations," Anderson notes. "We should be able to look at one another and say this is what has happened to me and I want to heal from it and not be embarrassed."

Sanchez adds, "That's the power of relationship. The power of connection, the power of story, and that's how we change lives."

The 10th annual Hope Shining Blue event is the evening of April 26 at The Eagles Ballroom. You can find more information on the event here. If you need help or more information about available services from Aurora Health Care for survivors, you can call their 24/7 hotline at 414-219-5555, or connect via our confidential text line. Text 414-219-1551


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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