WUFT News

Abused LGBT Partners Now Have An Alachua County Support Group

By on October 8th, 2013

The Alachua County Victim Services & Rape Crisis Center will run a 10-week support group for LGBT victims of intimate partner violence.

Jennifer Heard, an Alachua County victim advocate therapist, pitched the idea of an LGBT-specific support group.

“It’s the first time we’ve done a group that wasn’t geared specifically for female-identified victims or male-identified victims,” Heard said. “We opened this one up and said if you identify as LGBTQ and you’re a victim of intimate partner violence, regardless of the type – domestic, sexual, stalking – you’re invited to come participate in this group.”

The free and confidential support group will allow survivors of intimate partner violence to connect with other survivors and learn ways to heal in a safe environment.

While each group contains about four to six people and varies on subject matter, trust is always a huge topic during the 90-minute sessions.

The groups cover things such as what healthy relationships look like, how to spot manipulative behaviors, such as someone always wanting to know where their partner is, and how to get out of an unhealthy relationship.

“One of the things we looked at before was empowerment, feeling good about yourself, appreciating yourself for who you are,” Heard said. “Another big thing we go over is communication: what effective, healthy communication looks like, communicating when you’re angry, setting limits, that sort of thing.”

L.B. Hannahs, director for LGBT Affairs at the University of Florida, said she was pleased with the idea.

“It says to the community that the crisis center knows the specific issues and recognizes them and knows the barriers to LGBT people accessing general support groups for victims of personal violence,” Hannahs said. “Creating this group gives an option to folks who may not seek services because they are LGBT.”

This is the second time the group will be in session. The crisis center gave it a soft launch in March and April.

The first session ended up only including females. Among them was 37-year-old Jennifer Wester, who is bisexual and was trapped in an abusive same-sex relationship for more than two years.

“It went really bad, really fast,” Wester said. “It got to the point that I was so depressed and so miserable that when she would threaten to kill me, I wished she would. That was my rock bottom.”

That was six years ago. In Wester’s case, she was able to get out of her situation by walking away cold, leaving every possession she owned in her ex’s house, she said. But she wasn’t able to fully address the aftermath until she joined the support group.

It was hard to trust her instincts afterward. One of the best things, for her, was hearing that every person in the group felt the exact same way, she said.

“You don’t expect someone to be playing you the whole time,” she said. “It was just nice to hear other people talk about what they’ve been through because then you realize you’re not alone, and it just made such a difference.”

The relaxed atmosphere also helped, Wester said. The sessions took place in a conference room with couches and a big, wide window.

Sometimes they did activities like collages. Wester said she still has hers proudly hanging on her fridge as a reminder of all she has accomplished since.

“I feel like I’ve made so much progress,” she said. “I feel lighter now than I have in years.”

Victims interested in participating in the group should call Heard at 352-364-6737. In the case of an emergency, call 911 or Alachua County Victim Services at 352-264-6760.

“I’m still single now but I feel like I could give it a shot instead of just running away, which is what I have been doing,” she said. “The whole trust thing is hard because I didn’t want to take that chance, but I can now, and that’s something I really should thank them for.”


This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Ian

    Great article! :)

 

More Stories in Local

Teacher Conference Aims to Bring Global Perspective Into Classrooms

Gainesville Connected, a conference in Gainesville, aims to equip teachers to engage students on global issues such as poverty.


Anna Claire (left) and Katie Scarlett (right) are two capuchin monkeys that were once pets but now live in the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. Scarlett is blind and Claire is diabetic.

Primate Sanctuaries Feel Stresses of Insufficient Funding

Sanctuaries are struggling to take in primates as researchers and pet owners forgo euthanasia for better homes.


Oct. 23, 2014: Afternoon News in 90

A video roundup of local, state and national stories for readers in North Central Florida.


The Ocala City Council voted not to renew Matthew Brower's contract as city manager on Tuesday. Brower's current contract will expire on Dec. 21.

Ocala City Manager’s Contract Not Renewed

The request to reappoint Matthew Brower as Ocala’s city manager was rejected on a three-to-two vote by the Ocala City Council. Brower was appointed city manager in February 2011, and his contract will now expire on Dec. 21.


Victoria Rusinov administers FluMist to a child at the Control Flu clinic at Littlewood Elementary School.

CDC Studies Effects of Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine Over Traditional Shot for Children

Recent studies suggests a nasal spray form of the flu vaccine is more effective than the flu shot in healthy children ages 2 to 8, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments