Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 21, 2013
New Island support group offers safe discussion space for victims of sexual abuse
by Jessica Brophy
A support group now meets every Monday at the Island Community Center in Stonington to offer victims of sexual abuse a forum to talk, share experiences and offer one another support.
The group, called After the Silence, meets from 5 to 6 p.m. It is organized by Nichole Cormier and Judith Jerome. Cormier and Jerome both identify as victims of childhood sexual abuse, and founded the group a few months ago in order to offer a space for men and women of all ages who have experienced any kind of sexual abuse.
“It’s a way to build up what others have torn down,” said Cormier, who came up with the idea of a support group with her counselor.
The group is anonymous and stresses confidentiality, said Jerome. “We use the [Alcoholics Anonymous] model,” she continued. “You can always pass.” No one is required to share anything they do not wish to share, and the group suggests not using names of perpetrators.
“The goal is not prosecution [of abusers],” said Jerome. “The goal is empowerment.”
Cormier said that people who attend the group can expect to find a welcoming smile and a place to share whatever they are comfortable sharing.
Sometimes, it’s talking about the abuse that brings them to the group. Other times, Cormier continued, it’s talking about what is happening that day, about triggers or persistent thoughts. “It’s different each week,” said Cormier.
Jerome has been involved and active with different groups surrounding sexual abuse, including a support group founded in Blue Hill in response to the allegations against Howard Evans, who was accused of abusing children for decades. Evans pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in 2008 and is a registered sex offender.
Jerome hopes to make a full assessment of resources available to those who are victims of sexual abuse. There aren’t many, she said, in part because so few people talk about the issue. “The insidious thing about sexual abuse is that it cuts you off from the support system and there is this incredible silence,” said Jerome.
“It’s so hard for people to say, ‘I am a victim,’” said Cormier. Both Cormier and Jerome agree that it’s vital and helpful to talk about the trauma.
For more information about the group, call Nichole Cormier at 348-6427 or Judith Jerome at 348-2669.