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“The Journey Home” for survivors of sexual trauma

Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS) has launched a support group for women that have survived sexual trauma, and they hope it takes hold for the future, to help many community members.

Developed by support counsellors at KSCS, Amanda Winslade and Jean O’Conner, the 10-week long program offers a rather different approach at providing support.

The sessions will consist of an hour of group talk therapy which will be facilitated by Winslade and O’Conner.

Unlike the traditional group therapy meetings in which therapists often prescribe coping methods for changing negative thought patterns or educating the group members with facts, Winslade and O’Conner will mediate dialogue with a focus on reclaiming the strength the women already have within themselves.

“The point of trying to bring a narrative approach is to recognize that these women have all the skills and qualities that they need to reclaim their life from trauma,” said Winslade.

The group will not be talking about the details of the trauma the group members have experienced.

“It’s more about bringing out those stories of their life rather than focusing on these problem-stories. A lot of the question we will ask to generate discussion will be, for example, about the moments they’ve fought back against the trauma,” she said.

Other topics of conversation can include subjects such as how society’s understanding of sexual abuse can influence misconceptions and false beliefs.

Talking about these issues can help guide group members to break free from unnecessary feelings such as guilt.

For Winslade and O’Conner, this type of conversation will encourage the important sense of empowerment for the women.

Another innovative component of this program will combine the mind as well as the body as part of the healing process. The second hour of the session will invite women to do a yoga session instructed by O’Conner.

“One of the things we know about trauma is that oftentimes women feel a sense of disconnection to themselves, disconnection to people – a sense of emptiness within themselves. So through a practice of trauma-sensitive yoga it gives people opportunities to rebuild that connection,” O’Conner said.

In addition, Winslade and O’Conner feel it is important that there is an understanding that there are no power relations in these group sessions because, “I am only providing opportunities for people to make these shapes in their body,” O’Conner said.

They named the program “The Journey Home” because “it’s the journey from moving from the trauma back to your heart,” O’Conner says.

Winslade and O’Conner found that the topic of sexual trauma came up frequently in their individual therapy sessions.

“I figured it would be helpful to the women of the community to heal together as a group,” said Winslade.

“For them, support groups can be an even more effective resource for victims of sexual trauma. Feelings of isolation and alienation can be alleviated by coming together to share similar stories and through the support of one another,” said O’Conner. “KSCS wishes to provide that safe space for recovery and has seen a recent increase in people coming in to ask for help and different requests for services- an “openness for healing.”

Winslade and O’Conner are pleased with the response they got since the launching of this program. The group is full and if the interest is there they hope to continue this group in the fall.

The sessions will be held Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Family and Wellness Center beginning January 21.

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