Safe Groups Seeks to Help Victims of Sexual Assault
By Tim Pompey
To combat the devastating effects of sexual assault, a new nonprofit forum called Safe Groups has been founded by Dr. Ingrid Dineen-Wimberly, Navy veteran, author, and history professor for the University of La Verne at their Pt. Mugu campus. Safe Groups will provide private discussion meetings for both civilians and military personnel impacted by sexual assault.
Dr. Dineen-Wimberly knows about sexual assault from her own personal experience. “I know what it’s like to go through things and not have a voice in the military,” she said. But even more moving was the time she spent listening to many of her military students share their own struggles. “I had students in class who told me about their own experience with sexual assault and having to hide it.”
Despite all the recent public attention given to the problem of vets and sexual assault, she believes that the problem in the military has gotten worse rather than better. This is because of the legal implications for vets who report assault. “Individual active duty members feel less safe to seek help for their troubles or to even be allowed to talk to anyone else except the advocate that’s been assigned to their case,” Dineen-Wimberly explained. “Structurally there are even fewer avenues for them to be open or to speak about what they have suffered.”
Dineen-Wimberly compares treatment for sexual assault to any other type of treatment for a physical injury. “If you were hit by a car and broke every bone in your body,” she said, “you probably wouldn’t be surprised by the pain. If you underwent treatment by enduring a body cast, visiting a physical therapist, and eventually exercising those weakened muscles, you’d arguably be content or even grateful to feel the occasional aches of a rainy day.”
She wonders, then, why it’s so difficult for victims of assault to seek out the same kind of care and treatment. “Why is that we accept as natural the imperfections of physical healing, but suffer self-loathing when unresolved emotional pain associated with trauma remains?”
Safe Groups is an attempt by Dineen-Wimberly to bring the best of care to assault victims. She has a forensic nurse as one of her advisors and has included on her board a clinical psychologist. She is bringing in volunteer facilitators specially trained to deal with these issues. “They are all survivors,” she said. “They will provide a therapeutic and anonymous approach similar to a general 12-step group. The facilitators will all have experience helping other individuals.”
She further emphasizes that the group is open to everyone, including members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transvestite (LGBT) community. “We realize that sexual violence is not gender specific,” said Dineen-Wimberly, “nor is it related to sexual orientation, so members of the LGBT community are welcome.”
The initial Safe Groups forums will be held at the Café on A, 438 South A Street, in downtown Oxnard. The first meeting for women is scheduled for Sunday, May 4 at 2:00 p.m. The second meeting for men and will be on held on Saturday, May 24 at 2:00 p.m.
Security will be provided. All active-duty persons with ongoing or restricted cases are encouraged to use pseudonyms or first names only. Those that attend will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement. All attendees must be 18 years or older.
Donations for Safe Groups are welcome, either through the Foundation for Educational and Employment Resources Development, Inc., at Café on A, or by going to www.indiegogo.com and typing “safe groups” in the search line.
For more information, you can find their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/