Taking flight

- November 4, 2016

Hagar Akua Prah and Melissa MacKay with Human Rights & Equity Services. (Jordan Zarvie photo)
Hagar Akua Prah and Melissa MacKay with Human Rights & Equity Services. (Jordan Zarvie photo)

Last week Dalhousie launched a 10-week program designed to help student survivors of adult sexual assault. The program known as PEGaSUS (Psycho-Educational Group for Survivors of Sexual Assault) meets every Thursday from 4–5:30pm, through to January 26, 2017 (excluding next week’s Study Break, the December exam period, and holiday closure).

“The goal of the program is to assist students to better cope with and recover from the effects of sexual assault through connection, education and empowerment,” says Vice-Provost Student Affairs Dr. Arig al Shaibah. “The group complements other campus and community support services available, including Counselling & Psychological Services, campus peer helping initiatives, and the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre services.”

The program is run by Hagar Akua Prah, interim senior advisor with the office of Human Rights & Equity Services, and is co-facilitated by human rights advisor Melissa MacKay. Hagar says the group is part of a broader campus-wide initiative for sexual violence prevention and support for survivors.

“Offering PEGaSUS on campus can help break the isolation and stigma often associated with reaching out for support and talking about the experience of sexual assault,” says Hagar. “It can serve to interrupt shame and self-blame, which doesn't belong to any survivor of sexual assault. We also acknowledge the importance of having supports on campus for those who don't necessarily want to leave their learning community to access this type of resource.”

A supportive and safe space

An important part of PEGaSUS is how it differs from a self-help or therapeutic group. This psycho-educational approach offers a supportive and safe space to focus on strengths, build resilience, and work towards self-empowerment skills in a group environment. Hagar stresses the importance of student survivors being part of a community that cares about them and their experience.

“We hope to create a safe and welcoming environment for students to say as little or as much as they need, to begin or continue their healing process,” says Hagar. “PEGaSUS offers self-empowerment, and isn't intended to replace other important campus programs and resources or decisions students may pursue, including reporting their experience of sexual assault. Each choice is legitimate and a viable option.”

PEGaSUS is open to all Dalhousie and King’s students, regardless of gender, who have experienced sexual assault. Students are welcome to attend as many sessions as they wish, depending on their specific needs.

For more information about the group and its meeting location, visit dal.ca/pegasus or email hagar.prah@dal.ca.


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