Engaging community, supporting survivors

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Engaging community, supporting survivors

Categories: Blog, News, Sexual Assault

More than 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. A problem this big needs a network just as powerful.

YWCA is the largest provider of domestic violence and sexual assault services in the U.S. Across the country, we serve more than 500,000 women and children every year with programs ranging from emergency shelters and resources to support groups and crisis hotlines. Here in the Miami Valley, we’ve advocated for “better protection for women against assault” since 1886, and provided support to victims of sexual assault for more than 40 years.

We know there are strength in numbers. Accredited by the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence in 2018 as the only rape crisis center serving Montgomery and Preble counties, in 2020, YWCA Dayton is launching two new ways for survivors to receive support, and additionally, for our community to be of support.

New sexual assault support groups will take place on the first Tuesday of each month, from 6:30-7:45 p.m., YW sexual assault staff partner with Womanline (2211 Arbor Blvd., Dayton) to provide a safe space for survivors of sexual trauma to come together and process their feelings.

“The group focuses on the resiliency of a survivor and provides opportunities for understanding how to navigate their healing: coping mechanisms, identifying triggers, building trust, and encouraging healthy relationships,” explains Megan Garrison, sexual assault program educator.

Support groups are still a vital part of healing from sexual trauma, providing social support, improving social networks, and reducing stigma, isolation, and feelings of alienation. Plus, members can be agents of change for each other, helping them realize they also can cope and feel stronger.

“Many survivors feel self-guilt and self-blame, and often isolate themselves out of a sense of hypervigilance,” Garrison said. “Our goal is for every survivor to receive both practical and emotional support, and is able to dispel the notion that the assault was their fault. We are very proud to be working alongside Womanline as co-facilitators.”

In addition, the sexual assault program is launching CASE (Communities Against Sexual violence through Education) sessions to bring together members of the community to learn about the nuances and intersectionality of sexual violence, discuss real solutions to the current culture that allows for sexual violence, and work to enact systematic change in the greater Dayton community.

“The sessions will cover topics ranging from teen dating violence to rape culture to gender identity,” Garrison said. “Sessions are an open-forum style with activities to engage and empower all those that attend to use their voice to speak out within their own communities. We want attendees to leave feeling engaged, educated, and empowered.”

CASE sessions are slated for the last Saturday of each month, starting Feb. 29, at the Dayton International Peace Museum (208 W. Monument Ave., Dayton), 10 a.m.-noon. February’s inaugural session will partner with Girls LEAD! for a Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month focus.