With all of the challenges brought about by living through a pandemic, perhaps one of the hardest has been the isolation. While moving through and within society has shifted dramatically for many of us, for others emotional isolation is a familiar feeling, albeit compounded by the broader landscape of COVID-19. Among these may be women who have experienced sexual trauma, such as living through the pain of abusive relationships, assault or rape, or childhood sexual abuse.
Why are support groups especially important for sexual trauma survivors?
Women who have experienced sexual trauma frequently feel shut down, isolated, alone, or as though no one else could understand their experience. It is difficult to bring up painful topics with friends or family who, despite their best intentions, may struggle to understand or become overwhelmed by their own discomfort with what has happened. While individual therapy is an invaluable resource, emotional healing can be magnified by the kind of reciprocal sharing that takes place in a group.
For this reason and many others, support groups and group therapy for women who have experienced sexual trauma can be tremendously healing. Groups offer a chance to be in the presence of others who are interested in sharing their story, experience mutual acceptance, connect with one another at a deeper level, release shame and begin to integrate and transcend painful events from the past.
In a group, we can also begin to understand ourselves and our symptoms in new ways – recognizing that, while they may be uncomfortable, trauma-related symptoms such as hypervigilance, restlessness, depression, intrusive memories, and others are the signs of a healthy reaction to an overwhelming or stressful situation. When we give ourselves the time, space, and support we need to integrate our experiences, it allows us to move forward with greater clarity and esteem.
WILA’s Voices of Warriors (VOW) 10-Week support group
At WILA, we support women who have experienced sexual trauma both through individual therapy and through the Voices of Warriors (VOW) program. The VOW program is a process-oriented group facilitated by one or two therapists, where a small group of women come together over the course of 10 weeks to share their experience and build community with each other. Group discussions arise organically and reflect the interests and needs of each individual group constellation. Currently, all groups take place over Zoom and are limited in size.
For more information about the VOW group, please check out our website, call (424) 371-5191 or write to us. One of the VOW facilitators will reach back out to you with more information and to setup a no-cost assessment session.
If a VOW group is not currently in session, don’t give up! You can also find support groups through Psychology Today. A directory of both men’s and women’s groups can be found here: Trauma Focused Support Groups.