CARE and Women’s Center to start support group for sexual violence survivors


Daily file photo by Sean Su

The Center for Awareness, Response and Education is working with the Women’s Center to provide student survivors of sexual violence with an on-campus support group. The group will focus on giving students a place to grieve and heal safely.

Darby Hopper, Reporter

A student support group for survivors of sexual violence will open its doors for the first time early next quarter.

The group, From Surviving to Thriving, aims to give students a place to grieve and heal safely.

Carrie Wachter, the Center for Awareness, Response and Education’s coordinator of sexual violence response services and advocacy, is one of the group’s facilitators. She said the group also aims to build empathy, restore social connections, integrate goals of the past and present and validate members’ experiences with sexual violence.   

Wachter said she started the group with Sara Walz, a counselor at the Women’s Center. CARE and the Women’s Center have collaborated on interpersonal issues for a long time, she said.

“In this work that we’ve been doing, we recognized that there’s a gap for survivors on campus,” Wachter said. “They don’t have a place to come together. They have a place to go individually.”

In her experience as a counselor, Walz said she has seen people go months or even years without talking about their experiences, often because of early unsupportive responses.

“What we know is that people who have experienced trauma will often feel a sense of isolation, shame, even a sense of self doubt,” Wachter said. “A support group like this can really help survivors feel less alone.”

To join the group, Wachter said, students must be survivors themselves. Although From Surviving to Thriving is closed to people who have not been directly affected by sexual violence, Walz said counseling services are available for students who have questions or concerns about their own relationships.

Walz, who has worked at the Women’s Center for about 10 years, said she has referred many to outside support in her career and has long wanted to start this kind of group on campus. Walz said increased advocacy of the issue, as well as the right staffing, allowed the Women’s Center and CARE to develop the program.

SESP junior Kendall Speer, co-chair of College Feminists’ Take Back the Night event during Northwestern’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week, said the new group is great to have on campus.

“For Take Back the Night, we have a speakout for survivors to tell their stories,” Speer said. “But that’s only once a year, and I’m sure it’s needed more than that. It’s a great way for survivors to talk about their experiences. Even just telling the story is helpful.” 

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