A new, weekly peer-facilitated support group, Women Survivors of Sexual Trauma, will hold its first meeting Wednesday, March 7, and thereafter it will meet every Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. at Empowerment Initiatives, 3941 SE Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland.
The group will be open to all women, including transgender persons who identify as women, who have undergone traumatic sexual experiences.
“We refer to ‘sexual trauma’ rather than saying the group is for survivors of rape, or abuse, or words like that, because often we have such shame that we tell ourselves it wasn’t really rape, it wasn’t really incest, and so on,” said co-facilitator Jenny Westberg.
“We don’t want women excluding themselves. If you’ve had sexual experiences that were traumatic, you’re welcome in this group.”
Approximately 1 in 4 Oregon women (1 in 5 nationally) have been victims of rape and/or other forms of sexual violence, according to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but locally there are few resources. The groups available through the Portland Women’s Crisis Line, for instance, rarely have immediate openings. The new group will be one more resource for Portland-area survivors.
Organizers want the group to be a safe place to share, listen, and discover common areas of experience.
“In sharing our stories, we reclaim the parts of ourselves we lost in the trauma. This has an empowering effect and it connects us to others. When we release the secretiveness and shame, we reclaim our voices.” said co-facilitator Chaya Grossberg.
The group will be free of charge, with donations appreciated.
Co-facilitators Jenny Westberg and Chaya Grossberg are survivors and mental health activists who both work with the Mental Health Association of Portland.
The group is sponsored by Portland Hearing Voices, which has been running a successful Extreme States and Voices support group for the past three years. Portland Hearing Voices director Will Hall also provided facilitation training.