A new sexual assault support group is now available to residents in the Weyburn area. Open to those who have been targeted in an assault as well as their family members, the group aims to provide a place where people can share their struggles openly with others who will understand their experiences. The next meeting is scheduled for March 17th, 7:30 p.m., above Higher Conscious Connections on 3rd Street. A local mother, who prefers to remain anonymous, has taken the lead in forming the group after realizing there are likely others in the community that share the same need for support.

"My daughters had their experience with sexual assault and although I had family that I could talk to, they hadn't experienced the same things before. Even though I could talk to them, there was a lack of understanding of what it actually does to your life and how much hurt it causes. I wanted to start a support group or have someone to talk to, because this is not an everyday conversation. You don't just go up to somebody and say, 'Hey, this happened. Has it happened to you?' So, it's a way that I can get people that have had the same experience together to share their stories and share a level of understanding with each other."

Victims of sexual assault often experience extreme isolation as an effect of the trauma they've experienced, leaving friends and family feeling alone and confused as well. It can drive a wedge into relationships that were otherwise healthy and thriving if those wounds are left to fester, but finding a safe space to openly talk can greatly help the healing process.

"I felt very alone even though I had my husband. We still divided because he was dealing with it in his own way. I was dealing it with my in my own way. And families, a lot of family gets divided. It's just a very lonely experience. I dealt with it in the best way I could, which wasn't always the healthiest way, but I was alone. So, I think a support group would really help because at least you have that opportunity for release where people will understand."

So far, outreach on the group's Facebook Page has been strong with many reaching out to receive more information. However, the turnout at the first meeting was less than expected. The fact that so many are reaching out online only confirms the need for a support group in the community, though, and left the group's organizer assured that this is a worthwhile pursuit.

"It's very new, and we didn't have many people come to our first meeting, but I can think of at least 10 messages that I received on the Facebook page from people who were interested in attending. That tells me that this is needed, and I need to keep trying, so I have our next meeting scheduled for March 17th at 7:30 p.m."

Those in attendance can expect a welcoming and confidential environment where they can share freely, or not at all. The only expectations for joining are that details of the meetings remain private and exclusive to those in the room. While conversations will be guided by participants, additional materials and information will be made available to take away as well. 

"We'll have pamphlets there from Victim Services, Envision, and other nonprofit organizations from around the community. We'll provide other ways that people can find help if they want to take their situation further or need some more information. I have been in touch with Envision and they are very excited to see something like this happen. They are very overbooked there. I've also talked to Victim Services and as this gets bigger, Victim Services actually said that they would come in and talk to our group, so that would be incredibly helpful."

More resources will become available as the group grows, but encouraging membership is their current priority. While it can be a scary thought to share such intimate details of one's life with strangers, the option is open to warm up with the group's organizer one-on-one ahead of time, who can also be reached privately through the Facebook Group.

"I think what would encourage people to show up, maybe if they if they wanted to, they could message me on the Facebook page again just to start getting more comfortable. I think a lot of people are a little bit nervous still just because it is new, so I'm open to warming up with going for coffee, just the two of us. Anybody can reach out to me and we can just get to know each other without a bunch of other people there. But it's important to know that everything within the group setting is safe and confidential, first and foremost."

The next meeting is March 17th at 7:30 p.m., located upstairs at Higher Conscious Connections on 3rd Street in Weyburn. Attendees are instructed to look for the purple door and head upstairs, with no registration required for this free and confidential meeting.