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WRC Forms New Survivor Support Group

Asst. News Editor

Published: Monday, January 31, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

HEAL, a support group for survivors of sexual assault, had its first meeting last night. The group will hold meetings biweekly on Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Irish Windows Room of Bapst Library.

Survivors were coming into the Women's Resource Center (WRC) and asking if a group existed, and although a survivor circle had existed previously, no one had taken initiative with it, and it did not last, said Katie Haroldson, a facilitator of the group and A&S '11. "There was a need for it," Haroldson said.

Both Haroldson and the other student facilitator of the group, Ryan Summers, A&S '11, are advocates for the Sexual Assault Network (SANet). While SANet tends to provide more initial help, HEAL, which stands for "Help, Empowerment, Acceptance, and Listening," will be more about helping survivors of sexual assault work through the healing process. "It's more the follow-up work that we're into," Summers said. "If there's nobody to facilitate that, it leaves them feeling alone and stressed."

University Counseling Services also has resources for survivors of sexual assault, though this group is not meant to provide therapy. "A survivor tends to be isolated unless she or he has access to very specific resources," said Elizabeth Rhodes, a professor in the romance languages department and the faculty moderator of HEAL. "At college when you're away from home and family, in incidents where people may turn against you, it's very difficult to reintegrate," she said. "It takes everyone a different amount of time, but it takes everyone a long time."

The group will allow survivors to be exposed to others who will be able to relate to their experiences and the recovery process. "Sexual assault is one of the traumas that is more effectively healed by contact with people who have been through the same thing," Rhodes said.

There will be no set plan for each meeting. Instead, "people can talk about their own experiences to the extent they feel comfortable," Summers said. "It's the survivors themselves that are setting the boundaries, and that's part of empowerment."

At the end of the meetings, there will be a yoga component to help make sure survivors leave the meetings relaxed, since the meetings may become intense. "It's more for decompression," Summers said. "It's something to bring the stress level down."

"It's really important that people know that rape happens at BC," Rhodes said. "It happens on all college campuses. What happens here isn't any different than anywhere else."

HEAL is intended to provide support for anyone who has been the victim of any kind of sexual assault.

"Sexual assault doesn't just mean rape," Summers said. "Any sort of feeling of violation is really important."

HEAL's website, http://sites.google.com/site/healatbc/, will post updates about the group.

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