Listening session for trauma survivors to be held Wednesday

By Natalie Rubio-Licht | September 18, 2017 10:09pm

At an event to address sexual assault last December, students anonymously wrote what they wanted from the University.
by Sam Keeler / The Beacon

UPDATE: The sexual assault listening session scheduled for tonight, (Wednesday), has been rescheduled for next Wednesday evening. Campus Ministry announced the postponement this afternoon:

Tonight’s event, “Healing Trauma on Campus: A Listening Session” has been postponed. The event has been rescheduled for 09/27/17.
The sponsors of this event (Campus Ministry and the Health & Counseling Center) made the decision to postpone due to concerns about misinformation shared on campus that could lead to misunderstanding of what the event is about. The concern is that some of these misunderstandings could be potentially harmful. We intend to address these concerns in a future campus publication. Please know that our primary focus continues to be the safety and emotional welfare of this community.

A sexual assault listening session that aims to provide victims a place to have their voices heard will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. in the Terrace Room below Bauccio Commons. 

The session is a combined effort of Campus Ministry, the Health and Counseling Center, and Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA). There will also be an anonymous survey on the Campus Ministry website for students who are unable to attend. 

“Campus Ministry and the Health and Counseling Center both have responsibility for the wellness of students on campus,” said Fr. Jim Gallagher, director of Campus Ministry. 

The aim is to get ideas on better methods of support from a broader spectrum of people instead of deciding what is best for others on their own.

“When talking with survivors, it’s not about what you think is best,” said Abby Sherman, senior and president of SASA. “It’s about listening to them and their needs and then meeting those needs in the best way you know how.”

The survey is available on the campus ministry website for students who cannot make it to the session or who do not feel comfortable going. 

“It takes so much courage to even come forward,” Sherman said. “Every story matters, and every voice should be heard.”

The listening session is not only meant for victims of trauma, but for friends and family of those afflicted, and for allies fighting against it. 

“An assault affects an entire community,” Sherman said. “So come, even if you don't have anything to say, being around the dialog helps you conceptualize what others need.” 

Staff members in Campus Ministry and the Health and Counseling Center are not mandatory reporters, meaning they do not have to report the stories they hear to UP’s title nine coordinator, a fear that many victims have. 

“The basic heart of this is to get students to talk with us and share with us,” Gallagher said.

According to Sherman, another purpose of the listening session is for administration to listen to students, get ideas on how to make students feel safer and eventually put those ideas into action. 

Sherman said that the university holding listening sessions is productive, and shifts the conversation around interpersonal violence.

“Before it was students talking about it, but now its administration saying ‘okay, we hear you, what do you need?’” Sherman said. 

This isn’t the first sexual assault listening session held at UP, last year the Title IX Review Committee also held a listening session. 

“It came up through conversations with Campus Ministry and the Health and Counseling Center, and it came about more and more on my end from conversation with students,” Gallagher said. 

Campus Ministry wants this listening session to also spread the message that it is there as a resource for students who have been affected by sexual assault. 

“Sometimes someone may not feel a faith environment isn't seen as a place they can come to in the wake of something like that, and I would like Campus Ministry to be seen as one of those places where people can find healing,” Gallagher said.  

The most important purpose of the listening session is to give a voice to victims in an anonymous way and in a space where they feel comfortable, according to Gallagher.

“It’s for students to have their voices heard, especially survivors,” Sherman said. “There's not a moment we want you to feel alone in this process, we want you to feel safe, believed and heard.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the listening session would be confidential.