Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sexual Assault in College: A Common Problem

College is full of challenges. On top of managing 'the usual' things- adjusting to being on one's own, balancing classes, studies, work, friends, socializing, and what's going on 'back home'- sexual assault is a common problem, especially for women. If we experience violence during this time it can turn our worlds upside down. When it does, counseling can help us get our footing back.

Statistics show that close to thirty percent of undergraduate women experience attempted or completed sexual assault before or since entering college. Experiencing sexual assault can make us feel ashamed and afraid and increase our risk of abusing alcohol and experiencing further trauma. It can be difficult to reach out. A counselor specially trained to work with trauma understands this and knows how to work with you to help you find your own answers. 

When and where you choose to see a counselor is a personal decision. The most important thing is to find a counselor who is a good fit for you. There are options on and off campus. Here in Athens, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at The University of Georgia (UGA) offers short-term counseling to students. You can give them a call at 706-542-2273. Many students choose to go off campus for counseling, as well. We see many students at The Banyan Tree Counseling Center. You can reach our intake coordinator for free and confidential phone consultation at 706-850-7041. Clinicians at The Banyan Tree Counseling Center and at CAPS will be happy to offer you community referrals, as well.

Counseling Today recently published a very informative article about counseling students after sexual assault. The article is geared towards counselors but provides useful information for anyone impacted by sexual trauma. Read the article in its entirety here.

Whatever you decide, if you've experienced sexual assault, know that you are not alone. And, healing is possible. Counseling can help.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Help Families Find Safety: Support Project Safe This Sunday

I received a copy of the empowering classic Our Bodies Ourselves for my eighteenth birthday and was forever changed by much of what I read. Some of the information affirmed what I already knew to be true and some was news to me, such as the fact that "Approximately 50% of the homeless women and children in this country are on the streets because of violence in their homes." I was shocked- but this is a reality for many people. If you're like me, you find this reality to be unacceptable.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone- but many factors combine to put some of us at greater risk than others. My previous employer, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, in Boulder, Colorado, does a great job of explaining how various forms and systems of oppression combine to perpetuate injustice against society's more vulnerable members, such as women and children (check out SPAN's community offerings here).

According to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women continue to account for 97% of domestic violence survivors, many of whom end up on the streets. This isn't a coincidence- and it will take time for us all to help change the fabric of society for the better- but there are immediate things we can do, as well.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness points out the need for immediate "safe housing away from the abuser," as well as "access to safe, stable, affordable housing" for the future. Project Safe provides both emergency confidential shelter and transitional housing for women and children seeking safety.

You can help women and children right here at home escape domestic violence by attending Project Safe's biggest fundraiser of the year this Sunday: Dancing with the Athens Stars. Buy your tickets online or at the Class Center box office. Read my previous post to find out what the fun event is all about. Violence against women and children effects us all- and we can all help end it!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dancing with the Athens Stars

It's nearly here! Project Safe's biggest annual event: Dancing with the Athens Stars! Mark your calendars. It's all happening Sunday March 24th at 7pm at the Classic Center. Tickets are on sale, now! Buy your tickets here.

Here's a little snippet from the Classic Center's event description: "Watch what happens when teams of novices are matched with experienced dancers in this exciting competition!"

And, more from the event's facebook page:

"Ten notable Athenians have been paired with dance instructors and each couple is creating one signature routine to be performed on stage at the Classic Center. A panel of judges will award trophies for their favorite, and the audience and community will select their favorite by voting (at $1 per voted contributed to Project Safe). This year's lineup features the most diverse array of dance styles ever, from ballroom and Latin to hip hop, Irish dance, and a martial arts routine set to music.

Tickets are $20 general admission, and all proceeds from tickets and voting go directly to services for survivors of domestic violence.

This year's lineup: Couple #1 John Bateman and Rachel Williams Couple #2 Johnetta Barnett and Amanda Carrithers Couple #3 Melanie Ford and Alex Bo-oCouple #4 Jackie Bishoff and Joseph Stunzi Couple #5 Chuck Dowdle and Natalie Cox Couple #6 Charlie Maddox and Barb Benson Couple #7 SJ Ursrey and Ladarius Thomas Couple #8 Emily Garrison and Oonagh Benson Couple #9 Jamey Loftin and Genie Wiggins Couple #10 Brett Atchley and Cassidy Carson 

To cast your votes, go to and click on the Dancing with the Athens Stars button."

Who doesn't enjoy a live dance show? Plus, proceeds go to support an important cause (from the facebook page): "Project Safe is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose primary mission is to end domestic violence through prevention and educational programs, crisis intervention, ongoing supportive services for survivors of domestic violence and their children, and advocacy/systems change work in our community... Our founders opened their homes so that victims of domestic violence could escape the pain and humiliation of abuse. Today we ask ourselves as an organization, 'What's the equivalent act of courage we must undertake to end domestic violence?'"   

Project Safe helps save and change lives right here at home- and we're all in this together. Let's help support their courageous efforts by attending this fun event. 

The night is sure to be entertaining! Read more about the exciting event's line-up here. It's interactive fun for the whole family that helps strengthen our whole community. 

See you there!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Consider the Snowflakes

A friend once wrote a song about how "people are like snowflakes." That concept popped into my head this morning as I watched the big juicy white flakes fall from the Southern sky. People are like snowflakes. No two of us alike. Yet, that doesn't stop us from trying. 

How many ways do we hurt ourselves trying to be something that we're not: "perfect?" The media seems to beckon us constantly with new ways to keep up with the latest thing we "should" be doing or worrying about. The title of one of the most popular stories on NPR today says it all: Are You Overwhelmed? You Don't Have To Be.

The piece's author, Alva Noe, asserts that "The New Perfection" fuels our sense of being perpetually stressed out or overwhelmed- in an effort to "keep up." With what? It's constantly changing. The bottom line seems to be that things are broken and need fixing. Is it possible that we feel the need to improve every aspect of our lives more so today than we have in the past? And that cell phones and other devices we keep tethered to our person have something to do with this? I think so.

Noe concludes her piece with the observation, "The bottom line seems to be that we know too much, understand too little and we are way too scared of what we might be missing." Our frenzied attempts to be "perfect" prohibit us from reaching what I imagine to be the desired destination: happiness and connection with each other. 

There is no need to "should" all over ourselves, as my Gestalt teacher used to say. Self-acceptance is the key. We're already perfect snowflakes right here in the present moment. Our attempts to behave otherwise, however well-meaning, ultimately keep us from ourselves and each other. 

So, go ahead and unplug for a minute, an hour, or a day if you want to. Let your body and mind unwind. Enjoy the snowflakes, raindrops, sunshine, or whatever it is that the rest of us might miss out on while we're all too busy tweeting and blogging... ;~)