Late September of this year, the Women’s Resource Center in Norman launched a program hoping to fill a gap in its supportive services for survivors of sexual assault. Before this year, the organization provided advocacy to survivors in many ways by offering immediate emotional support to the survivors through advocates, rape exams from certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, emergency contraception, counseling, legal aid, and more. However, the effects of sexual assault can last far beyond the actual event itself, and the WRC wants to expand its services that help survivors find healthy ways to cope with their trauma and regain a feeling of empowerment.
With this goal in mind, on September 21st, the WRC held its first meeting of Everyone’s Story, a group for survivors to come together and talk about whatever is on their minds. For many survivors, it can seem difficult to find other people with similar experiences or who can empathize with being a survivor, especially with the stigma surrounding sexual assault. The intent of Everyone’s Story is to give survivors a space to come together and connect with people who understand the things they might be feeling. Whether they’re discussing their experiences and how they cope or just chatting about their days, the hope is that survivors can come to Everyone’s Story and be in a space where they feel heard and understood by others who can relate to their experiences.
In addition to giving survivors a safe, empathetic space, the WRC wants to empower the survivors. After a sexual assault, it is common for survivors to feel like they have lost some control in their lives, which can be extremely distressing. Attempting to give survivors back a sense of control, Everyone’s Story aims to be a member-oriented group. The group activities and topics that are discussed are completely up to the members, and only a few WRC staff members are at the meetings in case they are needed by the group. By allowing the members to drive the group in the direction they want, the WRC hopes that Everyone’s Story will foster an atmosphere of supportive environment and also be better in tune with the specific needs of its members.
Just as the effects of sexual assault can be enduring, our advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, both through organizations and in our personal relationships with our friends, family, and loved ones, should also be a long-term, ongoing process. With Everyone’s Story, Norman’s Women’s Resource Center is trying to make its advocacy reflect this idea by creating a safe, supportive space focused on members’ long-term needs and empowerment. For anyone interested in attending a meeting of Everyone’s Story, meetings are generally held at 6:00 PM on Thursdays, and weekly attendance is not required for membership. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the location or more information.