New group aims to help sex assault, domestic violence survivors find healing, together

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Advocates of Routt County is launching a new group to help survivors of sexual and domestic violence find healing.

Healing Circles is intended for adult women who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence or sexual violence. The group will meet for 10 weeks, and meetings will kick off Wednesday, July 10.

The group will explore tools survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence can use to work through challenges.

Need support?

The content of this series can be upsetting or triggering in relation to a trauma you directly or indirectly have experienced. Advocates of Routt County offers 24/7 support. Reach out confidentially to an advocate by calling the crisis line at 970-879-8888.

“We came up with Healing Circles because (we’ll be) working through people’s resources, recognizing our own inner and outer resources and the skills we already have,” said Tamsin Angus-Leppan, a victim advocate for Advocates of Routt County. “So, in that way, we hope it’s a healing experience for people to be part of the group,” 

Weekly topics include coping skills, such as building a network of friends and ways to relax and get better sleep and other tools to boost body image and consider intimacy as a survivor.

Angus-Leppan said there are three goals for the group.

“One is helping people to remember their strengths, using the other people in the group to reinforce that,” she said.

The group also aims to help women build a network with each other and to build resilience and learn ways to help anchor themselves.

From Advocates, Angus-Leppan will lead the domestic violence group, while social change advocate Patty Oakland will lead the sexual assault survivors group. Natalie Gavic, a family therapist in Steamboat Springs, will help facilitate discussions. If a topic is upsetting for a survivor, a victim’s advocate will be available to speak to them one-on-one.

If you go

What: Healing Circles
When: 11 a.m. to noon Wednesdays from July 10 to Sept. 11
Where: Downtown Steamboat Springs
Cost: Free, but registration required. To register, call Advocates of Routt County at 970-879-2034 or email

Anybody who is interested is encouraged to call Advocates for more information or with any concerns, such as childcare or getting to the location.

Topics include:

  • July 10: Introductions and what to expect in the next 10 weeks
  • July 17: Internal resources to get through challenging times
  • July 24: External resources to get through challenging times.
  • July 31: Healthy and safe boundaries
  • Aug. 7: Trauma, coping and building resilience
  • Aug. 14 : Body image, finding beauty within yourself and the world
  • Aug. 21: Making friends
  • Aug. 28: Relaxation and sleep
  • Sept. 4: Intimacy as a survivor
  • Sept. 11: Self defense

Empowering and healing

Gavic said groups like these can empower survivors, not only by helping them connect with others who have had similar experiences but in helping survivors break patterns of negative thought about themselves.

“There’s a level of empowerment that comes from a group that, as a therapist, I don’t think we can always give what they deserve,” Gavic said.

Each session will incorporate light, yoga-like stretching and movement before introducing the topic of the week. These exercises aren’t meant to be a work out but to help women become grounded.

“I always found that what yoga does is — at a really important and basic level — is allow people to get out of their heads and back into their bodies again and to start to take care of themselves,” said Angus-Leppan.

She has about 15 years of experience as a yoga teacher, including specialized classes for survivors of domestic violence at a women’s shelter in Sydney, Australia.

After some stretching and an introduction of the week’s topic, the women will split into two groups, one for sex assault survivors and one for domestic violence survivors, where women will discuss the educational topic of the week. Angus-Leppan said this split aims to serve the two groups, which have different needs.

Angus-Leppan will lead a reflection and meditation to close each meeting.

Gavic said that while someone interested in the group might feel nervous to step into a group setting, there is no expectation that each person must share, and there will be no pressure to speak.

“It’s normal to be nervous, but I would also say that it could really provide help, and there’s no pressure to share if they don’t want to,” Gavic said. “Just stepping through the door is a huge act of bravery.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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