Monthly Archives: December 2013

The IUSACS Last Minute Gift Guide!

Are you realizing that you forgot a present for someone in your life? Don’t worry, SACS is here to help. We’ve gathered a list of beautiful gifts that are fun to give and receive and support survivors of sexual assault — what could be better? Here are our top picks for your holiday shopping.


Hope. Courage. Strength. Tote Bag from RAINN. $25


This sturdy tote bag will help your loved one tote his or her books around campus, pick up groceries, or carry a change of clothes and a toothbrush for an overnight trip — all while spreading an important message. All proceeds to RAINN. Click here to purchase.

The INCASA Cookbook. $15


The Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault published a cookbook this year. This makes a great gift for a friend who is living off-campus and learning to cook, or anyone who enjoys food! Proceeds support INCASA’s work in the state of Indiana. Purchase & learn more about INCASA here

NO MORE Water Bottle. $26.95



This sleek, reusable water bottle accomplishes two missions: reducing plastic bottle waste and spreading the word about the national organization NO MORE, a group that aims to unify those working to end domestic violence and sexual assault. The group also has magnets, t-shirts, pins, and other products to fit any budget. Go shop here.

Declaration Necklaces from RAINN. Individual $8.50 or pack of 4 for $27.70.



These strong, simple necklaces come in four messages: STRONG, HOPE, COURAGE, & STRENGTH. Choose one or a whole set for the strong survivor in your life. Proceeds to RAINN. Shop here.

Tiny Pine Press Gratitude Cards from the Joyful Heart Foundation. Set of 6 for $24.



A practical gift this time of year. These sweet cards feature the word “Gratitute” and a single Swarovski crystal on the front and the mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation on the back. The Joyful Heart Foundation is an organization that aims to heal, empower, and educate survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. It was started by actress Mariska Hargitay who plays Detective Olivia Benson on the popular television show Law & Order SVU. 100% of the proceeds of this card go to Joyful Heart. Purchase here.

Finally, no matter what you buy, if it can be bought through,, or a whole host of major online retailers, it can be purchased in such a way that a small portion of the proceeds go to RAINN. You can click links to those websites or download an app that will automatically route you through their system at this link.

Thanks so much for shopping to support these important groups, and from all of us at SACS, have a wonderful winter break and a safe and happy holiday!


Meet Ann

Maybe you’re thinking about coming to Sexual Assault Crisis Services, but you don’t know what to expect. Maybe you’re just curious to know more about the types of people doing this important and difficult work. Ann Skirvin, LMHC, is one of the counselors here at the IU Counseling Center who specifically works for SACS. She not only does a lot of direct work with clients but also does a lot of work around programming on campus related to sexual violence. I sat down with Ann to learn a little bit more about her, her work, and what to expect if you come for a free appointment at SACS.

Ann Skirvin, LMHC, in her office at the IU Counseling Center

Ann Skirvin, LMHC, in her office at the IU Counseling Center

Me: Would you tell me a little bit about your self, just your individual self?

Ann: I am 43 years old, I’m married, and I have two kids — one in high school, and one in grade school. I love sports and I coach a middle school volleyball team.

Me: Can you tell me about your career path and what brought you to SACS?

Ann: I went to IU and got my bachelor’s in English literature. For me personally I was trying to decide, did I want to be a writer or did I want to be a counselor? And ultimately for me I decided counseling was a better fit. I went straight out of undergraduate into a master’s in counseling program at IU. From there, I worked in a psychiatric hospital and did the whole gamut of care from inpatient to day treatment to outpatient. Through that, I worked with kids who had experienced sexual victimization and then adults as well. I did my internship at the Butler University Counseling Center which is where I fell in love with university counseling. I worked with survivors of sexual assault there as well and I fell in love with the work.

Me: So would you just sort of walk me through a work day in your life?

Ann: So, I get here at 7:30 and go over notes and dictation from the day before, review those, sign those off. Then I’ll see clients a good part of the day. On the average day I’ll see between 4 and 6 clients, for 50 minutes at a time, or I might do a group — groups are 90 minutes. And then I’ve tried to get better about taking breaks, and taking time to: 1. take care of myself because it’s hard work and  2. do the kind of paperwork, dictation, meetings, report-writing…things that aren’t my favorite things to do. For me, my favorite thing to do is meeting with clients. I enjoy that very much. I like clinical work the best, so I do as much of that as I can. Half the year, I’m on call, so that means when I leave here, I carry my phone with me. If somebody calls the crisis line, whether that’s a parent, a family member, a survivor, emergency room nurse, the police or whoever, I answer those calls. That’s anywhere from 4:30 pm at night to 8 am the next morning. There are times when I am laying in bed sleeping and I get a call from the crisis line and it’s my job to get up, take a few minutes to wake up and get oriented, then answer the call.  It’s important work and once I start talking to someone, I usually don’t think too much about what time it is.  Debbie and I share the crisis line so that’s a responsibility between the two of us — one of us is always on call.

Me: Would you talk a little bit more about how the crisis line works?

Ann: There’s a 24-hour crisis line. If somebody calls during the day, the 9-5 hours, somebody from the front desk will answer it, and then they’ll contact me or Debbie and we’ll give them a call back between clients. If they call after hours, someone from the answering service will answer it, and then they’ll ask for very minimal information. Name, just a first name if that is what the caller prefers, and a phone number. Sometimes people will offer more about why they’re calling, but that’s not necessary. And then they’ll either just patch me through to the caller or give me the phone number and I’ll call the person back. Then I’ll try to assess what they’re needing in that moment. Typical things might be physical or medical needs, safety issues, emotional support, advice on how to handle a person or situation, deciding whether or not to report or go to the hospital or how to help a family member or loved one who is going through this.

Me: What are some of the best things that you like about working here?

Ann: My favorite thing is clinical work. And I really enjoy talking to survivors. Some people will say, that must be really hard or difficult — but I don’t see it that way. There are difficult moments, but I think it is important work to be there to bear witness to their pain. And I enjoy my role of giving them help and guidance and support through their experience. I find a lot of hope and joy in seeing people get better, and I see that a lot. I like reminding people of where they were when they first came in, and where they are in their journey, and helping them see how far they’ve come. And I also enjoy helping them take a very painful experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody, and find whatever silver lining they can. Finding ways to use it in positive ways in their life moving forward — connecting with other survivors, finding a way to use it in the career path, using it as a way to distance themselves from negative or toxic people, helping them find a sense of empowerment and agency in their life. I enjoy working in a college counseling center because people are developmentally in a place where they’re seeking their identity. They’re open to doing that work without pressure from outside sources. They’re engaged and invested in the process. I enjoy working here in this particular counseling center because I have a great director, and a great partner in Debbie, and a lot of support from the other people I work with. It’s a very healthy environment to work in.

Me: How about the worst?

AnnIt’s hard to see injustice. It’s hard knowing these things happen in the world. It’s hard making sense of why these things happen. Sometimes it feels so big that it’s hard to know what to do to make a difference.

Me: So knowing that it’s so hard, and it’s such a big problem, what does give you the motivation and hope to do this work?

Ann: Well one, like I said, is seeing clients get better. Two, I’ve really tried hard to identify like-minded people who are in a variety of different roles from students to other therapists to administrators — you know, people on the campus in student ethics, residence life, Greek life, professors or the prosecutor’s office and trying to get organized and join forces — that inspires me, when I feel lost or unsure of what to do.

Me: Finally, imagining that there is somebody reading this who is a survivor on campus and they’re not sure if they are ready to seek help, what would you say to them?

Ann: I would say…do some research. I would say read anything about this topic that feels comfortable that moves you. I’d say that there are a lot more people out there who are struggling with this than you realize and it’s important to connect to other people who understand and want to provide help and support. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, keep trying.

Thanks so much, Ann, for sharing your wisdom with us and for all the hard work that you do for the IU community!

Ann's office at the IU Counseling Center

Ann’s office at the IU Counseling Center

Self-Care Sunday: Laugh Out Loud

Hey Hoosiers! Hope everyone enjoyed the snow this weekend and stayed safe. Wintertime, though it has its plus sides, can be a difficult time. You go home for the holidays and remember that home life is not as rosy as it seemed in your memory — not to mention a lot less interesting than dorm life. It can be easy to get stuck in the doldroms when its cold and dark outside.

Lots of the self-care ideas we’ve discussed can help you make it through winter break. But another good go-to one is to laugh. Laughter helps relax your muscles and releases endorphins. Even at difficult times, a good laugh can work wonders for your body and mind. I put together a list of links to some websites that will hopefully get you to at least chuckle a bit.

First of all, check out our Pinterest board of funny stuff:

Many newspaper comics have web presences if you are craving the classics. I found links for Pearls Before Swine, Zits, Garfield, and Calvin & Hobbes.

There are also tons of great webcomics. Two of my favorites are Hyperbole and a Half and XKCD. XKCD is excellent for geeks of all stripes, and Hyperbole and a Half literally makes me cry with pained laughter on a regular basis.

Other websites to check out include Dog Shaming and the wonderful “LOL” lists on BuzzFeed.

Maybe books are more your style than websites — or maybe your family is going to an internet-free vacation destination over break (eek!). If so, drop by your local library or bookstore and try books by David Sedaris, Laurie Notaro, or anything from the humor section (that’s where the comics are). If you’d prefer more of a novel approach, try Terry Pratchett or even kids’ novels — two of my favorite authors for young people are Louise Rennison (of Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging) or M.E. Castle (the Popular Clone series proved embarrassing to read on the subway when everyone stared at me, the young woman crying with laughter in her business clothes).

Finally, there is that veritable treasure trove of funny things online: YouTube. Obviously there are more videos than there are stars in the sky and I can’t provide a complete list of funny YouTube videos, but here are some of my favorite family-friendly options:

Tennessee Ernie Ford’s performance of Children Go Where I Send Thee with silly kids driving him up the wall is a good one to share with your grandparents.

Kristen Bell’s Sloth Meltdown may help you explain your new overemotional college friend to your parents. (Note: This video is basically a photo of my personality.)

Your cousin who is into musical theatre may enjoy the Stanley Steemer variations.

Geeks will enjoy this funny Harry Potter video and the Dalek Relaxation Tape.

For lovers of German and travelers of Europe there is always the Times Square Coat advertisement.

And there there is the endless series of funny/cute animal videos. Some of my personal favorites:

Sad French Bulldog listening to Adele.

Dog With Baguette.

Embarrassed Barking Cat.

Elephant sneezing.

Dog in boots.

The dog that loves iceberg lettuce, nature’s blandest vegetable, more than you love ANYTHING.

Dog being taunted with potential snacks.


Not Ever by Rape Crisis Scotland

Just wanted to share one of my favorite public service announcement videos ever. It is 100% on point.

Nobody asks to be raped.

Self-Care Sunday: Home For The Holidays

Joy, peace, love, and family. Tables laden with delicious and carefully prepared food. Gifts wrapped in shiny paper with big bows on top. Menorahs and Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkeys, the champagne toast at midnight on New Year’s, laughter, gratitude, and festive decorations. This is the cultural script we all here every year as late November and December roll around.

For survivors of sexual abuse, this season is not always as joyful and carefree. For some, going home to family means seeing the very people that abused you or covered up your abuse. For others who have ‘come out’ about their abuse while at college, going home means putting on a fake smile again. For some who are healing, the stress of so many social obligations can be daunting. And for the many survivors of sexual abuse who are struggling with an eating disorder, the good-centered holiday celebrations can be upsetting, frightening, and nearly unmanageable.

It is possible to get through the holidays in one piece, and we want to help you do that. There are many tools, services, and methods you can use to ease the stress of the holidays. Here are our top five tips for getting through the holidays:

5. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” This sentence is one of our go-to phrases. When dealing with difficult or manipulative family members or friends, it can be easy to be overwhelmed and struggle to come up with a response. This simple phrase is honest, direct, and often surprisingly effective at shutting difficult conversations down.

4. Carve out alone time, wherever you find it. A few years ago when I really needed to talk to my fiancé while he was spending time with his family at the holidays, he came up with a clever way to both honor his time commitment to his family and find time to talk with me: he volunteered to walk to the local store for eggnog. During his walk to and from the store, we were able to talk. Volunteer to run errands, walk the family dog, switch the laundry — whatever. Take advantage of bathroom breaks to take a few deep breaths, stretch, text a friend, or recite a comforting poem or song lyric to yourself.

3. Find ways to contribute that you are comfortable with. Maybe the big block party is too much for you and all the crowds and noises are about to send you over the edge. Can you sneak into the kitchen to help with dishes, or monitor the kiddos while they watch a Christmas movie? Maybe you can spend the evening whipping up your homemade cocoa and pouring it into mugs. Perhaps sweet old Mrs.Smith needs a quiet companion to converse with while she sits in her armchair. If you find ways to be involved that fit your comfort level, you will feel better and be less likely to catch flack from others.

2. Know your support team and help them help you. Before leaving for the holidays, ask a few friends if they can be your texting buddies in tense situations. Find out if any of your good friends will be home, and keep them on speed-dial. A good friend can always call and say they “need you” to help them babysit their little cousin or give their car a jump, providing you with an easy exit from any uncomfortable situations. If the annual New Year’s party will include someone from your past who you can’t handle seeing, find out if a few of your friends want to get together for a safe, trigger-free holiday night.

1. Reach out for helpYou are not the only one struggling this time of year, and there are lots of services that can help you get through the holidays. Follow these links for information about contacting the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network phone & online hotline; the National Eating Disorders Helpline; and the national suicide hotline.