Support groups are useful if you are recovering from sexual abuse, as you may have particular feelings that only other abused women will understand. There may be one in your area or if not you might consider starting your own. Posters in carefully selected places may help i.e. in your therapist's office or healing centre, natural health store, etc... Word of mouth is always useful. Please remember when you are meeting a potential group member for the first time, arrange to meet in a public place such as a cafe or a crowded street.

 Benefits of a Support Group

There are many way you can support each other, however, it is important that you all go away from the group feeling supported and not more upset. The emphasis has to be on recovery and a celebration of yourselves. The group is not designed to be therapy, but some story sharing will naturally happen. It is important that you all are in therapy of some kind otherwise you may find you support some people more than others. It is also important that you have a plan in place if someone feels suicidal.

The idea behind the support group is that it is a safe place to discuss real feelings. This will take a high degree of trust within the members that can be built up over a period of time. Remember that building trust requires trust and trustworthy behaviour.

Ground Rules

When you have gathered your group it makes sense to establish some ground rules. The following are examples of rules you might chose to adopt:

  • Confidentiality. Whatever is said between group members is not discussed outside of the group 
  • Active listening . Everyone gets a turn to speak in equal measures 
  • All feelings are welcomed 
  • Believe each other's personal stories 
  • At anytime someone can stop doing the group task and leave the room if they need to, but that person will always be followed by someone else
  • Agreed terms of support stating times when it is ok to call each other 
  • How often will you meet 
  • Everyone makes others feel welcome 
  • Keep everyone informed including group members who might have missed a session 
  • Decide and agree what to do if someone feels suicidal 
  • Decide and agree what to do if someone is at risk to themselves in other ways 
  • No alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during the group especially if someone has an addiction to any of these things 
  • No sex between group members, especially at first 
  • Have a structured time to meet and a definite finishing time 
  • To close the membership once the group is established. This will help members bond with each other and stop the disruption of people wandering in and out of the group 
  • Everyone acknowledges that the support group is not a therapy group
  • Everyone commits to their own personal growth 
  • Unconditional positive regard 
  • Self destructive patterns are allowed to be challenged 
  • Every group member has to be in therapy 
  • Members take in turns to facilitate the group

Ancient stained glass angel

 Photograph by Jennifer Weston © 


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