Archive for Sunday, August 15, 2010

GaDuGi hires trauma counselor

Position funded through state grant

August 15, 2010


For years, rape survivors have called GaDuGi SafeCenter, asking for help in finding the right therapist.

GaDuGi hires new trauma counselor

A federal grant has allowed GaDuGi to hire a new trauma counselor to assist with sexual assault cases. The new counselor will provide free counseling. Enlarge video

Susan Miller is a new counselor with GaDuGi. She will work with victims of trauma. Miller was photographed at Wednesday at the United Way office building, 2518 Ridge Court.

Susan Miller is a new counselor with GaDuGi. She will work with victims of trauma. Miller was photographed at Wednesday at the United Way office building, 2518 Ridge Court.

“Lawrence is graced with many therapists, all skilled and compassionate, but we were constantly on a search for that particular person who specialized in working with victims of sexual assault. And that person wasn’t out there for us,” said Sarah Jane Crum, the director of GaDuGi, Lawrence’s sexual assault 24-hour crisis center.

GaDuGi support

GaDuGi counseling services are free to anyone who has been sexually assaulted at any point in his or her life.

To schedule an appointment, call Susan Miller at 843-8985, ext. 370, or e-mail her at Miller will also conduct several support groups throughout the community.

The first will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 23 at Independence Inc., 2001 Haskell Ave. The public is invited. Through making art, the session will teach skills for people recovering from trauma.

Thanks to a $41,000 grant from the governor’s office, Crum now can refer victims to GaDuGi’s newest employee, Susan Miller.

Under the one-year grant, Miller, a licensed clinical professional counselor and trauma specialist, will hold one-on-one counseling sessions and host support groups throughout the community.

The therapy is free and available to anyone who has been sexually abused at any point in his or her life. It is also available to friends and family of sexual assault victims.

The missing link

For Crum, the therapy will provide a missing piece in the community’s support network.

“This is an idea we have had for years and years,” Crum said. “I think sometimes you put the wish out there and then you say to yourself, somewhere, somehow, some way, we are going to find a grant that supports that.”

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women allocated money throughout the country to aid victims of sexual assault. Kansas will receive $409,000 over two years. GaDuGi was one of three sexual assault centers in Kansas to tap into the funding.

Juliene Maska, administrator of the Governor’s Grants Program, said that as long as Congress appropriates the funding, the projects will continue. She also stressed the importance of offering free therapy for sexual assault victims.

“So often the population that does report (sexual assaults) is a young population and then with a large university community, they are not going to have access to funds to pay for mental health services, even with a sliding scale fee. So to be able to access good-quality service free of charge … is a good thing,” she said.

While GaDuGi provides support in the hours after an assault and as victims navigate the legal system, it has never offered counseling. In the past, survivors have had to make numerous phone calls to find a therapist who was trained in treating trauma and one who was accepting clients. The cost of therapy can be expensive, even for people who have insurance.

“There is all kinds of layers that create barriers and we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Crum said.

How to cope

A good part of Miller’s work will be teaching survivors how to cope with the trauma of sexual assault.

“That adrenaline burst that you get when you are defending yourself — that is a huge amount of energy that courses through your body and that can get stuck there if you don’t know how to settle it or if you don’t allow it to settle,” Miller said. “That is what causes symptoms of post-traumatic stress.”

In some cases, PTSD can develop into other mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, bipolar and eating disorders.

Before joining GaDuGi three weeks ago, Miller had worked for 18 years as a counselor for Independence Inc. It was there that Miller gained experience working with clients suffering from trauma.

“I noticed real early on in my practice at Independence Inc. that people with disabilities have been traumatized over and over in all kinds of ways,” Miller said. “I was seeing lots of suffering and I wanted to be able to help with that.”

Miller will be practicing a therapy method known as somatic experiencing, which uses the body’s sensations to help people develop skills in recognizing when their nervous system is aroused and to find ways to release that feeling. Patients won’t have to relive or re-enact the trauma.

For clients who see Miller shortly after an assault, she will use Trauma First Aid, which was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help stabilize people who had just experienced traumatic events. The hope is that early intervention could prevent PTSD from forming later.

“You would never wish this upon somebody, but if it is going to happen, why not provide something that helps turn it around, so it can become something where a person has learned something from that experience,” Miller said.


bearded_gnome 7 years, 7 months ago

Vision to make things better in Lawrence.

congratulations! and I hope the program reaches many men and women who need this work with a therapist.

[re later comment in article] there had been some research indicating that children with physical disabilities were more likely to have been abused. and, other research indicated that sexual violence victims are overrepresented among adults with disabilities.

evilpenguin 7 years, 7 months ago

This is great, GaDuGi offers great services and are genuinely trying to do good work in the community to help sufferers of sexual violence.

Having met with Susan through GaDuGi, I can say that the work she is doing will change lives, she is awesome!

It's sometimes difficult to take the first step to seeking help but they make it so easy at GaDuGi. Anyone who is suffering through sexual violence, past or present, should make a visit there and meet with the staff, they won't be disappointed!!

Marcia Epstein 7 years, 7 months ago

Congratulations to GaDuGi and Susan for the successful grant proposal that will provide skilled and compassionate therapy to the unfortunately large number of people who are affected by sexual violence.

And thanks to LJW for bringing the community's attention to this important issues by featuring this story on page 1!

George_Braziller 7 years, 7 months ago

The agency has been around for a long time. They used to be called Rape Victim Support Services but changed the name to GaDuGi a few years ago. Problem is the new name doesn't give a clue as to the services they provide and they didn't really do a good job advertising the change to the public outside of the social service agencies.

lindsbug 7 years, 7 months ago

That is a good point... but I think they decided to change the name to make the agency less intimidating to victims and the general public. True, it is what it is, but "GaDuGi" means "working together as a community" in the Cherokee language. That better describes what GaDuGi does rather than "Rape Victim Support Services." They offer support to people that are not rape victims (in some situations) as well as preventative education (good touch/bad touch). However, I do agree that not a lot of people as of yet know what GaDuGi SafeCenter is though the name has not been RVSS for a considerable amount of time.

George_Braziller 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes I know where the new name came from, its Cherokee origin, and the reason the name was changed. It still wasn't a great choice for a new name for someone who needs the services immediately.

You say it hasn't been RVSS for a considerable amount of time. But, there are many who still know it by that name.

WTCS has now changed their name as well. All I know is that it's now "Willow" something. Pull out a phone book and try to find a number for either of them.

lindsbug 7 years, 7 months ago

Meh, your comment was a little snippy, so I did pull out a phone book to look it up as per your suggestion. But you're right. Very hard to find both GaDuGi and Willow. Touché...

I guess we can only hope that if someone is in need of these services, they have access to Google. :S

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