Survivors of sexual assault will soon have another resource available on Bluffton University’s campus. Victoria Sinift, a sophomore social work major, is spearheading the effort to bring a support group to students who are sexual assault survivors. Sinift has recently been working with Julie DeGraw, Bluffton University’s Title IX coordinator, and Rae Staton, the campus counselor, to kick off the support group.
“It’s official name as of now is SSA or Survivors of Sexual Assault,” said Sinift.“It’s primarily a support group for survivors. We are going to be trying to work towards getting better and coming to terms with our experiences.”
The group is expected to remain a support group rather than a club in order to allow participants the freedom to handle their experiences as they choose.
“The main difference [between a club and a support group] is that, as long as we are [a support group], people can come to me and say they just got raped, and I won’t have to report that,” said Sinift.“Unlike most of the staff on campus, I am not required to report it. So unless they want to go through the reporting process and talk to Julie and all that, I don’t have to tell anybody anything.”
Sinift said the group may eventually begin hosting events on campus to raise awareness for sexual assault. In order to preserve the anonymity of the group members during events, Sinift plans to pair with other groups on campus to host events.
“That way, it doesn’t really give you away as a survivor. You can totally just pretend you are there from Women’s Circle or something,” said Sinift.
With a focus on empowering survivors, Sinift wants to ensure that members of the group feel safe sharing their experiences and are able to share only as they feel comfortable doing so.
“Everything is going to be completely anonymous within the group,” Sinift said. “ We are not going to go about advertising your names or leaving your contact information on a poster or anything. I’m the only one that anybody really knows is in the group.”
Sinift has also been in contact with Nicole Fairburn, the campus advocate from Crime Victim Services, who will be helping with some of the meetings. Meetings are expected to consist mainly of survivors sharing about their experiences and supporting one another by listening.
The group is also intended to focus strongly on creating a safe environment for all who wish to participate.
“It is most definitely open to men,” said Sinift.“I recognize the struggle, as most men are taught the same as women are. That you aren’t going to be talking about assault. But we are most definitely going to be open to men, whatever the situation is.
“As of now, we are still really in the beginning stages. We only have myself and two other women who are participating currently.”
Sinift hopes participation will increase with time and encourages students who wish to connect with the group to contact Rae Staton, Julie DeGraw, or Sinift directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any victim of sexual assault may also contact Crime Victim Services in Lima at either 419-222-8666 or 877-867-7273 to receive immediate support.