Admit it: you’ve been reading the educational bathroom stall posters at least once a week since you’ve started going to Case Western Reserve University. While the censored stick figures and bullet-pointed resources might be informative, sometimes it’s best to talk it out. Erin Moran and Monica Yost Kiss of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women have created a women’s empowerment group to do just that.
The group will be made up of women seeking to support one another through discussion. Members will cover themes that include healthy relationships, self-esteem, assertiveness skills, and communication. “Part of the idea for this stemmed from our knowledge base and part of it stemmed from a need we saw on campus,” said Moran.
Before Monica Yost Kiss became the associate director for women’s health advocacy, Katie Hanna, the previous associate director for women’s health advocacy, led a similar group. Yost Kiss explains it’s a much needed re-introduction for a variety of reasons. “Incoming students have grown up with their own sense of normal and when they get to college that is challenged,” Yost Kiss said.
Due to the personal nature of empowerment and adjusting to college life, Yost Kiss and Moran encourage a safe and comfortable culture within the group. In order to maintain the safe sharing environment of the group, women interested must first meet with Moran to discuss the group and make sure that it will suit their needs. Once women join the group, they promise to keep all discussions confidential.
“It’s important to remember that the support group is not the same thing as counseling,” said Moran. “It can be therapeutic, but it’s not therapy.”
While some meetings will cover topics like assertiveness and will be very light and empowering, others will have a more serious tone. With one in every four college women experiencing sexual assault, it is crucial for such topics to come up in this type of setting. Even if somebody is not a survivor themselves, explained Yost Kiss, they can be affected by what’s called secondary trauma in which they feel compelled to help the survivor, but are unsure of how.
“When you have a support group and you bring people together that can share concerns about this sort of thing, it’s really empowering for women,” said Yost Kiss.
Skeptics may wonder why men are not part to the group, but Moran and Yost Kiss have thought that through. Much of society, they explained, embraces a culture of victim blaming. “Since women are disproportionately affected by that, it makes sense to start with them,” said Yost Kiss. “Women have to learn how to work towards changing that culture.”
While the empowerment group is limited to women, Flora Stone Mather Center for Women’s services are not. Their doors are always open for anyone who wants more information, or simply to talk to a privileged or confidential source. They even offer couples counseling as long as one member of the partnership is a CWRU student.
Should the women’s empowerment group really take off in its first semester, a men’s empowerment group or even one just for graduate students may soon follow. So, it may be time to look away from the bathroom stall posters and begin the conversation. Once the conversation starts, the empowerment begins.
For more information contact Erin Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org.