April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and a UNA group is reaching out to survivors in a new way. Title IX and the Student Counseling Services paired up to create a new support group for victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence.
“The support group really came to be following the peaceful protest in honor of Jane Doe last semester,” said senior and co-organizer Ashley Massey. “That protest was about making sure that our campus was a safe and welcoming environment for a survivor to come forward with their experiences.”
Massey said she began talking with Title IX about what to do around campus to promote a welcoming atmosphere for survivors.
“I hope the support group is a way that survivors can heal and find support through others who have been through similar situations,” Massey said. “I also hope it shows survivors that they are surrounded by people who care about them and see their experiences as valid and worth sharing.”
There is a representative from Title IX and Student Counseling Services present at meetings in case further help is needed. Massey said both services serve as supportive listeners and respect the confidentiality of survivors.
“I feel like starting a group for sexual assault survivors at UNA will benefit a variety of people,” said freshman Meg Werner. “We need a safe space for survivors to come and have open discussions and having a support group would create just that.”
The group had an interest meeting in March and its first official meeting on April 13. Massey said she will graduate in May and hopes the group will continue to meet the following semester. The group meets in the GUC next to Panda Express.
“I think it’s great that UNA is starting this group,” senior Viktoria Piepke said. “I think that the fact that this group exists helps victims know that they aren’t alone and that is very important to the healing process.”
Massey said not to hesitate reaching out to Title IX or the Student Counseling Services if a service is needed.
“Both genuinely care about the well-being of all UNA students,” Massey said. “I have really enjoyed working with Title IX on organizing this group, and I can attest that they are more than just a university office, they are genuine people who really care about survivors and ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming campus for everyone.”