Support for women and survivors of sexual violence

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A local counsellor is leading a monthly support group for women, focused on the challenges women face in today’s society. A counsellor at Compassionate Support for Stressful Times (a holistic trauma clinic in Kemptville), Meagan Cumming started the group in October as a reaction to Brett Kavanaugh being appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States despite numerous allegations of sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual violence herself, Meagan was upset by the decision and thought there must be other women in the area who felt the same way and could use a space to talk and process their feelings.

The free group has been running since October at the Compassionate Support for Stressful Times office (which has now moved to 2505 County Road 43), hosting anywhere from three to eight women every month. Meagan says the group has morphed organically over the last six months, and it changes from week to week, based on what the participants bring to the table. “It often focuses around how rape culture and sexism has shown up in their lives,” she says.

Although the topic of sexual violence does come up, being a survivor of sexual violence is not a prerequisite to attend the group. In fact, Meagan is adamant in saying that it is not meant to be a clinically led group therapy. “It’s not for sharing trauma stories,” Meagan says. “[As a facilitator] I ensure people have the time and space to feel heard, and make sure people don’t get too dysregulated.”

The idea of having a group for survivors of sexual violence in Kemptville is something that has been on Meagan’s mind for a while. As an intern at the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, she created and led a program called Trauma Informed Yoga for Survivors of Sexual Violence, which was extremely well received. “I’d like to bring the program to Compassionate Support for Stressful Times,” she says.

Meagan has the even loftier goal of bringing a sexual assault support centre to North Grenville. “Leeds and Grenville is one of only three counties in Ontario that doesn’t have a sexual assault centre,” Meagan says. As a trauma counsellor Meagan sees the need for support for survivors of sexual violence every day. Accessibility in terms of finances and location of qualified practitioners are two big barriers for survivors (both women and men) of sexual violence getting the help they need.

Over the past few months, Meagan has been getting some traction on making the centre a reality in North Grenville. She has spoken with the Executive Director of Victims Services of Leeds and Grenville, Sonya Jodoin, who says the organization is very keen on helping in any way they can. She also met with Mayor Nancy Peckford earlier this year, and made a presentation to the Municipal Council on March 19, outlining the prevalence of sexual violence in the community and the need for services. “[At this point] I am asking for their support,” she says. “The more community knowledge the better.”

Meagan says sexual violence is very prevalent in rural areas, but most instances go unreported because of a culture of silencing and shaming. She is dedicated to breaking down those barriers and is looking for help in breaking the stigma and bringing services to those in need.

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