Support group reaches out to sexual assault survivors

Freedom New Mexico: Alisa Boswell Liz Wooley, left, and Amber Hamilton of Sexual Assault Services look over new curriculum for their sexual abuse support group which meets regularly in Clovis. Wooley said giving sexual assault survivors a structured environment helps them to feel safe along with imagery exercises to help develop a safe place in their mind.

Alisa Boswell

Members of a new support group in Clovis and Portales hope their program run by Sexual Assault Services of Eastern New Mexico will help sexual assault survivors find peace and acceptance.

According to program Administrator Amber Hamilton, the group held its first six- to eight-week session in Portales in early spring. The program’s second session is now in its second week in Clovis.

“We run the support group where there’s a greater need,” Hamilton said. “The goal is to create a safe place and a safe group for survivors to both receive and give support.”

Liz Wooley, one of the counselors for SAS, said the program also focuses on showing survivors their strengths and that they are not alone.

“We help them … and one way of doing that is to talk about how they have lived through what happened and how they have managed since then,” Wooley said. “We look at their strengths and build on them and work on building some additional strengths.”

She said during the spring session, she saw the biggest turning point for the support group about four weeks in when two victims shared specific feelings they were experiencing and many of the other group members said they could relate.

“An important thing is that what many sexual assault survivors experience are normal reactions to the situation,” Wooley said. “But a lot of times they think they’re crazy; and in a group, they are able to realize it’s not just them, they are not alone.”

Hamilton said the program caters to survivors who have had different experiences by placing them in groups with others who can relate to their situation.

“These issues are tough and survivors don’t face the same issues,” Hamilton said. “We don’t ask our survivors to relive what they went through but instead, we seek to empower them with information and tools to overcome that trauma and to continue in their healing process.”

Hamilton said SAS hopes to continually run groups in both Clovis and Portales as they are needed in the community.

She said the organization works towards emphasizing that survivors should use the state programs available to them and people should talk to their children about appropriate sexual behaviors.

“We have grown so much and we really want to help those who need it,” Hamilton said. “I wish no one would ever need our services but the fact is, they will, and when they do, I just want them to know about our services. Sometimes you have to be bold and go where no one wants to go.”