Society's pillars - its institutions - are not immune to its horrors.

This is a fact that in some ways helped form Survivors of Institutional Abuse, which is committed to increasing "national awareness about these deceptively practicing, indoctrinating, exploitive, mentally/physically/sexually abusive and spiritually harmful facilities." Not every institution is bad, but many times victims of such abuse have little idea where to go to get help, organizers said.

"It was formed based on a need from survivors of institutional abuse," said Jodi Hobbs, founder and president of SIA.

The abuse could come from any number of cultural institutions like church, school, juvenile hall, foster care or residential treatment.

"I am actually a survivor myself, and in my research to try and find help for myself, there just wasn't much help out there," Hobbs said.

SIA will host its first major event this weekend at the Queen Mary, which is free to the public but requires preregistration. The theme of the event is United With One Voice. Together We Are Strong.

Hobbs said her search for help and answers allowed her to encounter others who had been effected by institutional abuse. She found several other social networking groups that had the same goals as she did - eventually she formed SIA to try and bring all the disparate groups and resources together under one umbrella.

"We kind of went on this journey alone," she said. "But we discovered it was better to do this together.

The weekend's event will bring panels, movies and speakers onto the Queen Mary in order to discuss the many different topics that touch upon institutional abuse.

"This is the first one of its kind ever - it's kind of a history-making event," Hobbs said. "We're looking to help through actions like mentorship and we want to help through the journey of healing."

Generally, the people who come to SIA for help have been adults who still are dealing with the issues that an institution put them through as a child, Hobbs said.

"They're the children who lived through it and now they're adults trying to find their way, and we want to help them do that," she added.

The weekend event will include movie screenings, several speaker panels, a dedication ceremony and the SIA People's Choice Awards. Hobbs said the choice of using the Queen Mary was an obvious one for her.

"Water is very healing and calming," she said. "We wanted this to be by the beach. The Queen Mary kind of provides that perfect atmosphere."

SIA is a nonprofit group and Hobbs said it tries to cater its counseling and help to people based on individual needs of each personal story. The convention website has a complete agenda and people can preregister there. The website has more information on the organization itself.


WHAT: Survivors of Institutional Abuse Convention

WHEN: Friday-Sunday, Feb. 24-26 (varying times)

WHERE: Queen Mary

COST: Free (require preregister)


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