Student Support Group Offers Safe Haven For Abuse Survivors
|Showing support: (from left) Shannon Lowry, president; Tiffany Graham; Meaghyn Barker, tresurer; Cheyenne Drafke; Skye Martin, vice president; and Maritza Snow created the Abuse Survivors Support Group to let their peers know they aren't alone in incidents of abuse or violence. Some of the members, but not all, have been victims themselves. —Photos by Brian Blalock|
It took Shannon Lowry years before she felt ready to talk to others about the abuse she experienced as a teen.
But as the founder of the student organization Abuse Survivors Support Group at Sam Houston State University, she is hoping to provide a safe, non-threatening environment for others when they reach that point.
“We’re really excited because there’s nothing like it,” said Lowry, a 26-year-old senior majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology. “We’re trying to find healing from something that’s painful and a difficult subject. You need people to help you.
“For me, it has been inspirational to talk to people who’ve been through what I’ve been through.”
Abuse Survivors Support Group, Lowry said, is open to females who’ve experienced abuse or violence of any kind. Meetings have a confidential and anonymous atmosphere.
The group is not a counseling program; it’s a peer support group where women come to help one another, Lowry said.
“When you’re a survivor, you can feel alone, and there’s this feeling like it’s never going to get better.”
But life can get better for abuse survivors, added Lowry, who is now very open about the
abusive relationship she endured as a high school student.
“It was pretty severe,” she said. “I didn’t realize how bad it was when I was in the relationship.”
After the relationship ended, Lowry couldn’t admit–even to herself–that she was a survivor of abuse. But Lowry was able to find comfort in friends and family who came alongside her to offer support, and through counseling, she began a path of recovery.
Since that time, Lowry said, it has been important to her to volunteer for organizations that help others abuse survivors.
After becoming an SHSU student, she decided to take that commitment one step further.
“I wanted to create a community of people who understand,” she said.
Lowry’s goal for the group is to help participants find a place of peace and forgiveness.
Her work is already making a difference for many SHSU students whose stories are similar to Lowry’s, others have said.
“I recently got out of a violent relationship that involved the police, and ASSG has impacted my life decisions, given me support through a difficult time and helped me grow as a person,” said one student, who asked to remain anonymous.
Lowry also wants to get the word out about the very real dangers of abuse. That message is especially timely during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
She will take that message into the community on April 29, when she will speak about her experiences as a survivor during the annual “Take Back the Night” event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. behind Lone Star Hall.
In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that one in three women around the globe experiences sexual or physical violence, in most cases from their intimate partner. In the report, Margaret Chan, the director-general of WHO, described the violence as a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”
For those who know a victim of abuse, it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what to do to help.
“The important thing is just to listen,” Lowry said. “You don’t have to have all of the answers. If they want resources, get resources. Just make sure you’re not pressuring them. Everyone’s process is different.”
The Abuse Survivors Support Group meets in the Lowman Student Center.
For more information about meetings or the group, visit shsu.collegiatelink.net/organization/survivorssupportgroup, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or find the “Abuse Survivors Support Group” on Facebook.
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