LU Shepherd Office Creates Groups That Provide Space For Women To Heal Following Sexual Abuse

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the introduction of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which was created to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Liberty University’s Grace Groups, offered through the LU Shepherd’s office, provides support and community for women who have experienced sexual assault or abuse in  their lifetime.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four women by the age of 18 have already been sexually assaulted or abused, and female college students, ages 18-24, are three times more likely than women in other age brackets to experience sexual violence.

If these statistics are applied to Liberty’s Residential Commons dormitory area, that would be equivalent to 250 female students. 

Grace Groups aims to create a safe space for women to acknowledge and process their trauma while simultaneously highlighting the statistics for female students. 

Chrissie Hastoglis, an LU Shepherd who runs the groups, explains that Grace Groups also allows students who have been sexually assaulted to recognize and come to terms with what has happened to them.

The groups walk through the book “Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin S. Holcomb. The book is accompanied by a companion guide for small groups as well as reflection prompts to complete during the week. 

The first Grace Groups meeting typically consists of testimonies from those who previously participated in the program. The following meetings usually begin with worship followed by a summary of the chapter and close out with small groups. 

Most importantly, this group recognizes that healing is propelled through the word of God. “Rid of My Disgrace” is centered around finding ultimate healing through Christ. 

“When you’re really hurt to that point, your view of where God was at that time may not be biblically correct,” Hastoglis said. “But it’s how you feel and how you’re processing.” 

The atmosphere is similar to AA or Celebrate Recovery. No one talks over one another, and each individual’s time is respected. Grace Groups allows individuals to verbally process what they have been through. 

“You can’t really heal from anything unless you’ve acknowledged what it is,” Hastoglis said. 

Groups do not replace counseling, and, according to Hastoglis, individuals participating are asked not to share deep details about past trauma; details are reserved for counseling and other services. This is a semester-by-semester group and is open to all women. The Shepherd’s office is working to extend the groups to men as well.

“We give the opportunity for people to talk about and understand Gods love for them and his plan for them,” Hastoglis said. “This will be a good tool in         your healing.” 

Grace Groups will be organized again in the fall semester through the Shepherd’s office. For information contact

Peyton MacKenzie is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @PeytMacK.

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