Sexual Assault Survivors Support group: Providing hope and comfort

By Zachary Wright
Copy Editor

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 11.25.54 AM

The writing on the bathroom wall in the women’s restroom. Overall, there are 16 people who wrote the words, “Me too.” Photo by Rachel Popa.

Going somewhere familiar like home sounds easy, but what if one day, you just forget how to find your way back? No matter how hard you try to use your map, you just can’t figure it out. Finding your way is a struggle and all the surroundings start to look the same. When you feel this way, it can be difficult find the right path to take. It can be even more difficult to find others who understand you.

That is the purpose of a new group on campus, called Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support, – to give victims a safe space. The group, started by River Toomer, had its first meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 7. As a new group, and one that deals with a topic that needs sensitivity, Toomer said each members’ confidentiality will be assured so no members are identified.

In recent months, victims of sexual crimes have been speaking up. The #MeToo movement, started by civil rights activist Tarana Burke has given victims a new platform to bring light to the topic. For Title IX Coordinator Alice Jones, she said it’s not about sexual assault being talked about more, but how it is talked about.

“I think it’s not about the quantity, but I think it’s about the quality of conversations around it. I think there’s a lot of conversations that are sort of shallow,” Jones said.

“I hope that the group will be a community for us to realize we’re not alone with what happened to us and there’s people responding the same ways,” said sophomore math major Allison Myhelic.

For Toomer, this topic needs to be discussed more and go beyond just briefly touching upon it at freshman orientation.

“I think it needs to be addressed a little more, especially the first couple weeks of freshman year is a red zone,” Toomer said, who also mentioned the administration needs to make sure school is safe for everyone.

“I think it’s an absolute necessity to have community space around these types of issues,” Jones said. She credited online platforms like Reddit for allowing people to seek others to share their experiences, but now that needs to happen in real life. She said a community online can’t replace a real life support network.

“Very often, people talk about what a difference that made for them in terms of having that space, being able to process and connect with other people who go through the same thing,” Jones said.

Toomer said students on campus need a safe place to discuss their experiences or to find some sort of direction on how to recover. “I just want people to benefit from it, and to be able to use the skills that they learn or gain in our group in the outside world,” Toomer said.

Learning how to cope with the aftermath from sexual assault was a primary focus the group agreed upon. However, Toomer said the group isn’t meant to replace professional help. Instead, it’s meant to serve as a support network for those who are seeking others who are able to relate to them.

“I could see, even in the first group meeting, a lot of students are very hungry for that community,” Jones said. “Which means they feel isolated in having this experience of sexual assault in their life.”

Jones said there was a realization about needing this topic to be discussed more. Jones said a colleague said it’s not surprising a group like this has started after noticing writing in the restroom stall.

“On the wall of the stall, there’s, ‘me too, me too, me too,’ and then almost a conversation that goes in several different directions. ‘I love you, I see you, I support you.’ And even that indicates there is a want to talk about this, even if it’s just scribbles on the bathroom wall,” Jones said.

Trying to recover from something so traumatizing can take even the strongest person to their limits. For those who may need help in their recovery, SASS holds meetings every other first and third Wednesday.

If you are in need of help, there are resources for you to use. Please get in touch with a member of Title IX staff. Roosevelt’s confidential advisers, who are not required to report any information a victim tells them, are LaDonna Long (312-244-0426) and Audrey Guy (312-244-0577).

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