Support group to offer healing for victims of sexual assault

Brianne Carlon

By the time you put this paper down, another woman will have been raped.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, somewhere in America, a woman is raped every two minutes.

Laura Bruneau, teaching fellow at the Counseling and Human Development Center, is in the process of forming a support group on campus for those who have been sexually assaulted.

Before joining the support group, it is important the victims of sexual assault are at a point in their lives where they are ready to confide in others, Bruneau said. It usually takes about a year for victims to be comfortable enough to join a support group, she said.

“Some women may be confused if they should join a support group or not,” Bruneau said. “But learning from those who have experienced this could be helpful during the healing process.”

Anyone interested would have to meet with Bruneau for an hour to see if they are ready to join a support group, she said.

Joining a support group gives rape victims an opportunity to get to know others who have had similar experiences. From that, they can build their support network, Bruneau said.

The group would meet for an hour and a half every other week until the end of the semester, Bruneau said. The day and time is still to be determined. She plans to begin meeting Feb. 21.

In Spring 2004, a group of three met for eight weeks to listen to one another’s stories about sexual assault. The group didn’t run in Fall 2004 because not enough women expressed interest, Bruneau said.

“Rape is not a crime of sex, it is a crime of violence and power — a support group gains back power,” Bruneau said.

Through opening up and synthesizing ideas, victims begin to gain back a feeling of empowerment, she said.

The idea of a support group was originally suggested by the Women’s Resource Center last year because nothing like it was available on campus, Bruneau said. Since then, she has taken on sole responsibility of organizing the group.

Recent victims of rape are pointed in the right direction to receive medical attention, such as DeWeese Health Center, she said.

Raymond Leone, chief university physician, handles any cases of sexual assault reported to the health center.

The health center offers everyone that comes in emergency contraception, sexual infection treatment and counseling, he said.

“It would be phenomenal if there was somewhere on campus we could refer victims to,” such as a support group, he said.

The safe and private environment filled with like-minded people would be helpful for most people, he said.

Statistically, 95 percent of college-age rape victims know their attacker, Leone said. A lot of times it is a coworker. People like to blame fraternities, but the number is not as high as people think.

“In 14 years of working here, there was only one girl who did not know her attacker,” Leone said.

This excludes the cases including date-rape drugs.

“Date-rape drugs are out there. They are real, and they are here,” Leone said.

For example, after Halloween last semester, there were four unrelated cases where the women woke up not knowing what had happened, he said.

Leone said education for both men and women is the key to preventing sexual assault.

“I would like to say (to these men), ‘Excuse me? Can I take your clothes off and fondle you a bit? Is that OK with you? Cause if it’s not, I’m going to do it anyway,’” Leone said. “Some men do not know what they did was assault. They might even kiss the girl in the morning.”

That may be harsh, but that is reality, he said.

Contact student life reporter Brianne Carlon at [email protected].