Domestic Violence Educational Support Group Offered in Calais

By Lura Jackson

 

The experience of being the victim of domestic abuse can be psychologically incapacitating, in part due to the isolation imposed by abusers. For those who have escaped the situation of abuse, reclaiming control over one’s outlook and one’s life is a gradual process. In an effort to provide a safe, respectful place to meaningfully connect with others that have been through similar situations and to work toward the goal of building a healthy mindset, Next Step Domestic Violence is holding a six-session educational support group in Calais.

Support groups are one of the primary outreach efforts in which Next Step engages. Unlike the organization’s regular ongoing support groups that enable former victims to find solidarity and acceptance, educational support groups offer participants the opportunity to engage in challenging the perceptions they may have previously held, as Next Step Community Education Coordinator Kelly Brown explains. “We ask a lot of questions to help that process.” Rather than being open like the ongoing groups, educational support groups are closed, meaning once participants have been determined and the sessions have begun, no new participants will begin. Ideally, all participants will finish the six sessions together.

Brown describes educational support groups as being valuable in the recovery process because they represent “the beginning piece of breaking the isolation that abusers put their victims through.” Abusers typically limit the social interactions of their victims, including restricting their contact with family and friends, or preventing them from working. “The support group is a great way to begin to take control of the situation, to get into a support system, and to begin to hear and understand statements like ‘What they did was not your fault.’”

The sessions are intended for past victims of domestic violence at any stage in the recovery period, including those who have recently left their abusers. With that said, not everyone is ready to undergo the educational support group. Next Step will interview the prospective members of the group to be sure that it is a good time to begin for each person.

Domestic violence is a continuing problem in our society, with 1 in 4 women experiencing physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their domestic partner. In her 15 years with Next Step, Brown said that the rate has not changed – but what has is the number of individuals coming forward to seek help. “That’s a good thing,” she said succinctly.

The last educational support group in Washington County was held in Eastport. “It was well attended, and some participants came forward with suggestions on what would make it better,” Brown said. She explained that after each educational support group, Next Step integrates feedback from participants to make it as effective as possible the next time it is held.

Brown recognizes that it can be very difficult for victims of past domestic abuse to come forward and share in their story. As such, all participants in the educational support group are free to decide when – and if – they wish to speak during the sessions. “If they never feel comfortable enough to do so, that’s perfectly fine,” she said.

The date and time of the sessions will be determined once enough people have signed up to begin the group. At present, Brown said that between 5 and 6 people will be attending. If there is a need for it, childcare may be arranged for participants by Next Step.

If you are interested in signing up for the educational support group in Calais, call 255-4934. If you are in need of assistance now due to an ongoing domestic violence situation that is affecting yourself or someone you know, call the Next Step helpline at 1-800-315-5579.