In 1974 a group of dedicated women founded the very first rape crisis center in Lee County. From operating out of their homes to address the trauma women and children faced in our community, to in 1978 officially incorporating under the name of Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc. (ACT) and opening the first safe shelter for domestic violence, these women have changed the face of our community and saved countless lives.
Aiding victims of violence and oppression at the hands of their intimate partners-both male and female-was a 24/7 job for ACT’s founding group. Volunteers that worked tirelessly towards education, advocacy, and social change did so with minimal pay and much determination. In 1985, with the support of the community, ACT built a 35-bed safe shelter in Fort Myers to serve Lee County’s growing population. By 1998, the need had grown so much so that a 22-bed safe shelter was opened in Cape Coral. As the state’s population grew, the need for broadened services for victims of human trafficking became a priority.
In 2006, ACT not only specialized in domestic and sexual violence supportive services, but also comprehensive human trafficking victim support. With occupancy constantly being reached, the Fort Myers facility expanded in 2008 to accommodate a total of 68 beds along with additional office space for community education and victims’ counseling services. And in 2015, a 16-bed safe shelter was opened to meet needs in LaBelle for Hendry and Glades counties. With a total of 106 beds, ACT runs one of largest emergency “safe” housing facilities in Florida.
Today, ACT’s 24-hour crisis hotline rings more than 40 times per day, over 15,000 calls were received in the last year. Many times a whispered or secretive call. A woman in trouble. A young man afraid. Mothers needing a safe place to take their children. Rape victims panicked at their experience. Help begins with a listening ear, medical attention, shelter, clothing, food, transportation, and protection. It ends with education, esteem, confidence, self-reliance, friendship, and hope for the days ahead.
ACT is a vital force in our community, helping on average over 5,000 women, men, and children each year rebuild their lives free from abuse and fear. Those reaching out for assistance are people from all socio-economic backgrounds, education, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. To date, ACT has assisted over 75,000 women, men, and children in Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties.
Services are free and provided to everyone, including those who may have experienced sexual abuse as children and men in same sex relationships.
ACT is a private, nonprofit social service agency funded by grants and donations. Grant funding has changed significantly, along with government funding which has greatly been reduced or eliminated in many areas. So, we are counting on your help and generosity. Help that will keep our doors open and community safe.