Campus Life

Support groups provide safe environment; students connect over similar experiences

The UCA Counseling Center is hosting several workshops and support groups this semester on campus. The workshops include topics such as anxiety, stress, dream interpretation and how students have changed.

The two support groups offered this semester are survivors of sexual abuse/assault and a gender identity support group.

The support groups’ purpose is to provide a safe environment for students to talk about their problems.

Sexual Abuse/Assault Survivors

Sexual abuse and assault survivors can come together for a support group at x-period on Thursdays in the Student Health Center, room 328. Pre-Doctoral Intern Cathy Staton leads the group.

Staton said she would like to see survivors of abuse and assault find others who have been through what they have experienced.

“The [goal of the]group is to provide a safe, accepting and understanding place to talk about what was experienced,” she said.

Staton said the group is important so survivors will know and learn they are not alone.

“The statistics are telling: one in four girls and one in six boys have experienced sexual abuse by the age of 18,” Staton said. “So one in five has experienced this type of abuse by the time they reach college age. That means there are a lot of individuals out there who might be hurting or feeling alone on the issue, when the reality is many others know and share in that pain.”

Staton said the group helps connect some of these people and if even one learns that he is not alone and finds hope or comfort, it is worth it.

Staton said the topic or issue of sexual abuse or assault is never an easy one to talk about, for those who have experienced it or for those who have not.

Staton said her primary role is to listen to those who come to the group.

“The group will decide on the direction of conversation,” she said. “I am there to support the group with information about resources and in connecting the members with each other.”

Survivors of sexual assault/abuse are the only students invited to this meeting due to confidentiality.

“Confidentiality is important for the safety of this group, so sharing can be open and engaging,” Staton said. “This group is an avenue for persons (sic) to find a safe way to talk about something that no one wants to believe can happen, but the survivors have really experienced,” she said.

The group will meet for eight weeks this semester.

Staton said the hope is always that the members will continue to be connected with ways to support each other once the specific group meeting times have passed, and that she imagines the UCA Counseling Center will continue to offer such groups in semesters to come.

Gender Identity Support Group 

The UCA Pride, Raising Awareness, Involvement, Support and Mentoring (PRISM) alliance is partnering with the Counseling Center to host the gender identity support group, which will hold meetings at 5 p.m. every other Tuesday in Student Health Center 328.

Sophomore Chloe Zedlitz, PRISM alliance member, said the goal for the support group is to support members who are in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community and their allies.

“We are open to anyone who would like to come and talk about anything,” Zedlitz said. “Those who are questioning or merely interested are encouraged to attend in order to gain knowledge and perspective about the community.”

Allies are welcomed to join the support groups.

Zedlitz said the counselors and students discuss a number of things in the group, including coming out stories, realizing and understanding sexuality and everyday life or school problems.

“Really anything that anyone needs to talk about, we talk about,” Zedlitz said. “I open the room to discussion and when someone brings something up we go from there.”

Zedlitz said the number of participants is typically between five and 15 people, though it varies from week to week.

“As of this semester, we are starting to get more and more people [to]come to the meetings that we have never met before,” Zedlitz said. “This is a great thing and one of the sole purposes of having a support group. It’s all about forming a community for a group of students who may not have the support they need because of their gender identity.”

UCA’s Counseling Center joined forces with PRISM, who originally held these support groups, in spring 2013.

PRISM Alliance is open to anyone, with meetings every Thursday during x-period in Harrin Hall 225.

Zedlitz said the organization is always excited to see new faces.

“We are open and welcoming to everyone that we meet,” she said.

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