Written by Sharon, WAVAW Counsellor
Many of us have seen support groups on TV and have an idea that they’re a space where one explicit group leader puts participants on the spot to share their deepest thoughts, without much choice. This is not what WAVAW’s groups are like. Not at all.
As a counsellor at WAVAW, I’ve had the honour of facilitating all three of our regularly offered support groups held at WAVAW’s office, including Women Connect, Recharging, and Visioning Safety. You can get more information about these three support groups here. Side note: we do tons of support groups off-site, including at places like WISH Drop-In Centre, Helping Spirit Lodge Society, Aboriginal Front Door, and others.
Before each group begins, I email or call women who are interested and always let them know I’m genuinely here to answer any questions or concerns they may have. I also send along some basic info about the group and explain that in our groups no one will be sharing any specifics about violence they’ve experienced. This is something that relieves most, and surprises some. “Why wouldn’t we tell any each other about what happened?” one participant asked. I explained, “It can be both triggering to the person sharing as well as to the group. And plus, we don’t need to allow violence any more airtime and energy then it’s already taken up in our lives.” “Aha, gotcha,” she said, “I’m relieved and didn’t even know I had anything to be relieved about.”
So, what then gets airtime and deserves to take up space in our lives, and during the groups? In the simplest words, I’d say the group’s main purpose is to serve as a space for survivors to witness each other’s resistance and strengths—and to witness and share their own. So often, women’s struggles go unseen, or if they are visible, they will likely be misunderstood, criticized, or judged. Each group is full of so many knowing nods, “me too,” “oh yes, I hear you on that,” and powerful moments of survivor connection.
Whether it’s a consecutive ongoing group, or the monthly group, entering through the door can often be the most challenging thing to do. If you’ve done it: Congrats! Thinking about attending? You are welcome and will be welcomed.
While facilitating, I wholeheartedly believe my place is to create a space where women can feel safe enough to fill the space with their brilliance and wisdom, because it’s there, it just doesn’t always have space or permission to be out. Too often an impact of violence is isolation and disconnection, and by gathering in groups, we are creating a collective act of resistance. Imagine how radical and healing the simple act of being together is—especially when we know that instead of having to justify or explain any experiences, we can just be.