For Alison Foley-Rothrock and the Red Tent Initiative nonprofit she founded in Lakeland, #metoo and #timesup are more than hashtags; they prompt activism to assist victims of abuse and exploitation.

“The title timesup is really aprospos,” said Foley-Rothrock, whose organization’s annual fund-raiser is scheduled for March 31.  “The time has come. Society is ready. It’s time for change. It’s long past due. The social pressure is building. It can’t be just about wearing black dresses and pins. How do we harness the energy? Now, what are we really going to do about it?”

Foley-Rothrock, an immigration attorney, decided to do something about it several years ago when she discovered gaps in social services for her clients who had suffered abuse.

As a result, she founded the Red Tent Initiative to support, advocate and find temporary housing and other services for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking.

“We’re a network of survivors working against abuse and exploitation,” she said. “We help people transition from victims to survivors to activists.”

Red Tent Initiative became a 501(c)3 non-profit last summer and is run entirely by volunteers and supported by donations.

A typical client is a woman and her children who have fled a domestic violence situation. Red Tent volunteers help them find clothing, food, shelter, furniture and other necessities, Foley-Rothrock said: “Our main role is the stand alongside them and respond to their needs.”

Organizations that Red Tent works with include the Peace River Center, Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, Women’s Resource Center and Repurpose Art Studio.

At this year’s Red Tent Collaborative fund-raiser, local artists will “come together to take the stories of survivors and communicate them in a way that motivates people to get involved,” Foley-Rothrock said.

Red Tent Collaborative 2018 takes place at LkldLive Studio B, 202 N. Massachusetts Ave., March 31 at 6:30 p.m.

Featured visual artist Kimberly Campbell Wyant will speak about her artistic inspirations and her personal story, Foley-Rothrock said. Other visual and performing artists participating at Red Tent Collaborative include:

  • Connie Lutter, Repurpose Art Studios
  • Dining for Women Lakeland Chapter
  • Dessy Maravilla, fashion director
  • Amber Grubb
  • Victoria Anastasio
  • Ric Coburn
  • Amanda Justice
  • Vincent Paolillo, Jr, Women’s Resource Center
  • Kasey Brown
  • Chad Gaffney
  • Patricia Kenoly
  • Anisette Mayer
  • K.D. O’Hair
  • Florida Dance Theatre
  • FrediDANCE Project

The event is held annually on March 31 to mark the end of Women’s History Month and the beginning of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This year, Red Tent is sponsoring its first 5k run and children’s fun run at Lake Hollingsworth, also on March 31. The $35 adult registration includes a T-shirt and admission to the evening Red Tent Collaboration. T-shirt orders go in Thursday and registration fees increase on Monday, according to a recent Facebook post. Kids’ fun run registration is $15.

Red Tent Initiative’s immediate goals, Foley-Rothrock said, include:

  • Creating support groups led by survivors who are trained by professionals.
  • Securing funding for more legal services.
  • Provide training on things like how to get a restraining order and working with the Clerk of Courts to explain how the system works.

Long-term goals:

  • Create a central hub for services in a safe space.
  • Work with Habitat for Humanity to create a plan for short-term housing that provides clients with a transitional plan to work toward their own housing.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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