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Wright State community invited to hike for survivors

Wright State fall | Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian

Wright State fall | Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian

Dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault and power-based violence, ‘Hike for Survivors’ will serve as an empowering bonding opportunity between survivors, supporters and the outdoors.

Campus Recreation and Student Advocacy and Wellness Center will be hosting the first Hike for Survivors on Oct. 16.

“We want to create an open space in the outdoors for survivors of sexual-assault and power-based violence to come together in unity. We believe the outdoors is a promising space for growth and healing,” said Outdoor Recreation Program Manager Erin Sherrets.

“[Hike for Survivors] brings in that holistic aspect of healing and using nature as something to ground you,” said Tylar O’Neal-White, the Gender-Based Violence Program coordinator for Student Advocacy and Wellness Center.

Members of the Student Advocacy and Wellness Center will be there to provide additional support and encouragement.

“For this event specifically, I will be providing support to participants, should anyone find themselves in need of a mental health professional they can speak to,” said Corrie Pleska, survivor advocate and case manager through the office of Student Advocacy and Wellness.

“Halfway through the hike, we will stop as a group for my intern and I to lead a discussion and activity centered around empowerment and healing through nature,” Pleska said. “I believe nature to be one of the most effective catalysts for growth and healing, having done quite a bit of both myself during some long hikes in our local metro parks.”

“I am a confidential and privileged resource for student survivors of power-based violence. Some of the services I provide are safety planning, court &/or hospital accompaniment, assisting students in identifying reporting options, providing referrals, and anything else someone may need assistance in regarding power-based violence. If I cannot provide the service myself, I will make sure to connect students with individuals that are knowledgeable in power-based violence in those fields,” said Pleska.

With this year being the first-ever Hike for Survivors, Pleska hopes, through the outcome of this event, that something similar will be created in the future to give students this opportunity.

“The hope is to create a brave space for participants to feel encouraged and empowered to discuss domestic violence, and other forms of power-based violence, in a group setting. Too often, survivors within our society feel as though they are completely alone in their experiences,” said Pleska. “We teach survivors, and our communities, that interpersonal violence is not an appropriate topic for public discussion in a large variety of ways, ranging from victim-blaming in the media to the court’s often lenient interpretation of laws set in place to punish perpetrators. The intention of events such as this is to create spaces for healthier, more informed, supportive dialogue around these issues.”

Establishing a community where students have that support and feel comfortable their experience and/or asking for help is an important goal for the future.

“It is important for the WSU community to actively participate in activities and discussions that highlight important issues within our community. Power-based violence, and domestic violence more specifically, effects communities in a multitude of ways,” said Pleska. “Domestic violence costs the United States more than eight billion dollars a year in health and medical costs, children growing up in violent households are at higher risk for developmental disorders and mental illness, many of the homeless women and children in our country are so due to domestic violence; the more you look at the issue the greater its impact and reach can be seen. It affects us all and should be discussed often, in as many different forums as possible, to ensure our communities are working toward its eradication.”

With this event covering sensitive and/or triggering topics for some, Hike for Survivors will be a safe place for those participants to share and/or learn from others’ experiences.

“For those who are hesitant to join, I would encourage them to come and speak with me prior. We can discuss any concerns they may have. No one is required to share. This is not going to be a therapy or support group session, just a gathering of individuals that care about this cause and support the individuals that have been affected by it. This event is open to anyone that wants to show their support, one need not be a survivor. All are welcome,” said Pleska.

Hike for Survivors will be hosted on Oct. 16 from 12:30-5 p.m. Participants will meet at the Student Advocacy and Wellness Center office in 023 Student Union.

Inspired by experience, Miranda Bretthauer, a Middle Childhood Education major in the College of Education and Human Services, was determined to make a difference and decided to organize an event for survivors.

“Last year I was a victim of Domestic violence,” said Bretthauer. “I felt extremely lost in life. To find peace I began exploring the local parks with my emotional support dog.”

According to Bretthauer going for hikes was part of the rare occasions she left her apartment.

“It gave me control of what was happening and made me feel safe and confident. That is when I made the suggestion to [Pleska and Sherrets] about collaborating an event,” said Bretthauer.

With the goal of creating an inclusive event for those in need of a safe space and community, a hike was planned.

“I hope that anyone who joins finds peace and unity in the fact that they are not alone and are able to feel safe and empowered again. I want them to know the resources that are available at [WSU] and that there is a community of other survivors. Most importantly, I want this to be an event that sparks joy for a brighter future ahead,” Bretthauer said.