H.O.P.E. at UAF: student organizes support group
Josh Hartman / Sun Star
H.O.P.E. stands for Hold On, Pain Ends, a support group for women and men who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence to connect and discuss their experiences.
The group meets in the Women’s Center at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays. The Women’s Center is located in room 130 in the Wood Center. This location and time will be consistent for the rest of the semester.
The group has had two meetings so far.
This group can help people to not feel so alone, Shaelene Holstrom, the organizer of H.O.P.E. said.
UAF Interim Chancellor Mike Powers recently made a apology on behalf of the University for failing to properly handle sexual assault cases and held a town hall style meeting regarding sexual assault on Oct. 21.
The organization of H.O.P.E. was not related to these events regarding sexual assault; instead it was sparked by a desire to help others, according to Holstrom.
“When I thought of the group I was only thinking of the other women and men out there who were hurting,” Holstrom said. “I just thought it would be good for the campus.”
Holstrom is studying Rural Development and Yup’ik language at UAF. She also works for the LIVE (Leadership, Involvement and Volunteer Experience) Office.
Mae Marsh, UAF’s Director of Diversity, was involved with the initial establishment of the group, although she is not currently active with its operation. The support group can get resources or help from the Office of Diversity if they need it, according to Marsh.
“I would encourage other survivors to come forward and participate with the group,” Marsh said. “I’d like to see a strong support group here at UAF.”
“I know the university will be willing to fund [the group’s projects],” Holstrom said. “We would probably only [request funds] if we really needed to though.”
One of the other students from the group may help with organizing in the future, however currently only Holstrom runs the group.
Holstrom has been working on the organization of the group for the past month. She discussed the idea with others around campus such as Marsh, Chancellor Mike Powers and the psychology department.
“I wanted to make a safe place,” Holstrom said. “I’m also a survivor. I was determined to help other women and men get through the process of healing because I think it’s important.”
Many of the decisions about the group, including the location and meeting times, were decided by members of the group. The logistics of the group could change in the future based on what will best serve the members, according to Holstrom.
“I like the idea of it being student-led, because I don’t feel it would be as intimidating,” Holstrom said. “If there is no other student to organize it I would be comfortable with the Women’s Center taking it on.”
The UAF administration also supports the student-led aspect of support group, according to Mike Sfraga, UAF’s Vice Chancellor.
“What was encouraging to me was that groups like this have formed and are forming,” Sfraga said. “Students are taking the leadership role in creating the environment, the structure, and the organizations to have these very candid, safe discussions about their safety and campus safety.”
Chancellor Mike Powers and Vice Chancellor Sfraga are always open to help or talk with groups like these, Sfraga said.
Holstrom does hope that the support group will have a relationship with similar organizations around campus, such as Green Dot.
“I think it’s important for students to go online and take the haven training,” Marsh said, referring to the sexual assault training that students can access on UAonline. “The more awareness we have the more equipped we are to do an intervention if we see something that is happening.”