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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and there’s a lot going on! Click the calendar file to open it in a new window and zoom in. Once the image is open you can also control click or right-click and save it to your computer.

I’ll try to post regular updates here with information about locations & times, and any new events we hear about. You can learn about the history of SAAM by clicking here.

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

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SACS Pinterest Page

SACS Pinterest Page

Hey y’all! Just wanted to announce the creation of the SACS Pinterest page! We have ideas for self-care, definitions of consent, resources, information about healthy relationships, and also some classic funny stuff. Check it out!

Self-Care Sunday: Websites & Apps

This is the first post in a new series, Self-Care Sunday. Every week (er, hopefully), I’ll be posting different ideas about what you can do to take care of yourself. Since this is the blog of SACS, many of these ideas are survivor-focused — things that survivors of sexual violence can do to take care of themselves. But self-care is an important skill for everyone and many of our ideas will apply no matter what your situation is.

This week I’m focusing on using technology for self care — specifically using your laptop or smartphone. The internet provides us with so many resources, but sometimes it’s hard to find what you are looking for because there are so many different options out there. I’ve combed through a lot of websites to bring you what I think are the top 5 websites and top 5 apps for self-care, although please add more ideas in the comments — I’m sure I’ve barely seen 1% of the options!

Top 5 Websites For Self-Care

  1. The Quiet Place Project has a variety of different “rooms” you can visit. My favorite is the thoughts room, where you can type out everything that’s bothering you and watch as the words burst into  bits and fall away. It’s great when you’re frustrated or sad about a situation and don’t know how to express it.
  2. Calm.com has a variety of different backgrounds and sounds, such as a beach at sunset, a rainy day under a tree, or snow falling. They also provide guided relaxation exercises ranging from 2 to 20 minutes — perfect to fit a mini-vacation into your busy schedule!
  3. This I Believe is a project of personal stories shared via public radio, the internet, and published books. You are never too old to enjoy a story. Visit this site to listen to 3-minute-long audio clips of people sharing their personal beliefs and stories.
  4. Orsinal games by Ferry Halim. These free online games have adorable graphics and gentle background music. They are a great way to have a bit of mindless fun for free online. My favorite is Winterbells.
  5. WeaveSilk is a site that lets you create beautiful drawings on a plain black background while relaxing music plays.

Runners-Up: Calming Manatee and RainyMood.Com

Top 5 Smartphone Apps for Self-Care

  1. RelaxMelodies: This awesome app allows you to combine different sounds into your own mix of ideal relaxation music. You can also overlay it with music from your personal collection, as well as binaural beats created to help you sleep, relax, or concentrate. It has timers and alarms so you can use it for a nap or even a full night’s sleep. There is a free version or the premium is $2.99. (Personal note: This is my favorite app ever. I use it to take naps, sleep, tune out ambient noise when working on campus, or create a soothing atmosphere when I am at home reading or journaling.)
  2. Moody Me: A cute mood tracker app that is easy to use. You can include symptoms (such as fatigue), photos of what makes you happy or sad, and events that may effect your mood (such as getting your period or breaking up with a significant other). It automatically creates graphs so you can see how your mood has changed over time.
  3. Take A Break!: I used this app all the time when I had a sometimes very stressful job back in New York. It includes two guided meditations, one seven minutes, and one thirteen minutes long. You can overlay nature sounds as well as music, depending on your preference. The 7-minute one is specifically designed to be a work break so you can do it anywhere (no lying on the floor, etc.). Taking a ten-minute break for a meditation and healthy snack is a great way to cope with stresses of school and life — in a short enough time frame to fit into your busy IU schedule! It is 100% free. 🙂
  4. FlowerGarden: This fun, relaxing game lets you cultivate your own flower garden. There are gentle nature sounds, mini-challenges to keep it interesting, and the option to create and email/text bouquets to your friends and family! A sweet, relaxing, and totally addictive game. Free or paid version $2.99. (There are in-app purchases but you can definitely get by without them.)
  5. POETRY: If you have a few minutes and want to read a little something, this is the perfect app. You can search poems by mood, subject, or title/first line. You can also shake your phone for a random poem. Even for those who don’t know a lot about poetry, it’s super easy to plug in “sad” and find a poem that is sympathetic and comforting, or “happy” for days when you want to share your joy. The app makes sharing easy, with options to Facebook, Tweet, or email your poetry finds. Totally free…and totally awesome.

Runners-Up: Fig and Think A Good Thought

One last thing: I wanted to take some time to highlight the amazing app Circle of Six. This app is an amazing way for you and your friends to keep each other safe. Program in your “Circle of 6” — up to six people you can count on to be there for you when you really need it. The app then offers several buttons: Come Get Me, Call Me, I Need Some Advice, and Danger. They automatically send texts to the people in your circles asking for help — a safe ride home or an easy excuse to duck out of a situation. I Need Some Advice connects you to information about healthy relationships. The Danger icon calls hotlines or a pre-programmed emergency number that you select. Learn more at www.circleof6app.com.

Remember to take care of yourself this week, Hoosiers! Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, thoughts, or suggestions for what you’d like to see on the blog. 

Take Back The Night

Next week is a very important event in the world of sexual violence prevention and activism here at IUB. Put on by the IU Women’s Student Association is the annual march and rally, Take Back the Night.  It starts next Tuesday, October 8th at 6:30 pm at Dunn Meadow.  We’ll be there! To learn more about the Take Back the Night movement visit www.takebackthenight.org.

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Make the Call Day

We love this cool graphic that OASIS emailed out with info about Make the Call Day! Click through for more information.