New session of Juneau’s only trauma support group for LGBTQ people starts this month

Chloey Cavanaugh (left) and Meryl Connelly-Chew (right) facilitate Spectrum for AWARE – an LGBTQ trauma support group in Juneau on Sept. 1, 2022 (Photo by Paige Sparks/KTOO)

LGBTQ people experience domestic and sexual violence at higher rates than heterosexual and cisgender people. On top of that, queer people of color, people with disabilities and bisexual and transgender people are more likely to experience violence of any kind in their lives. 

One key difference is that they are less likely to recognize it as abuse. 

“It doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a cis-man physically abusing a cis-woman, which is often in people’s perception of what domestic violence looks like,” said Meryl Connelly-Chew from Juneau’s domestic violence support organization, AWARE.

That’s why AWARE is hosting Spectrum – the only queer-specific support group that serves people in Juneau who’ve experienced trauma. 

Connelly-Chew says the group discussion focuses on the effects of trauma – not the traumatic experiences themselves. 

“[We] do this because we’re queer people who have experienced, you know, various traumas in our own lives,” Connelly-Chew said. “I think it’s what makes it work so well.” 

“We’re kind of discussing it together and learning with people and learning from people in a way that isn’t necessarily giving advice, but it’s just sharing our different lived experiences, and what that’s been like being in this community,” said Chloey Cavanaugh, the other facilitator of the group. 

Connelly-Chew said some of the most common hang-ups new group members have are about belonging. 

“I often get asked like, ‘am I queer enough for this queer space? Is my trauma, like, bad enough for this trauma support group?’,” they said. “I get asked that, almost, from everyone who calls.”

Cavanaugh says Spectrum prioritizes confidentiality and safety because Juneau is a small city. 

“You’re going into a space where we’re all committed to confidentiality, and uplifting each other, and you know who’s gonna be there,” she said. 

Spectrum is a free, in-person program that lasts 12 weeks, starting Sept. 29. 

For more information, call 907-586-4902 or email Connelly-Chew at merylc@awareak.org.

Yvonne Krumrey

Local News Reporter, KTOO

Juneau is built on hidden and assumed layers of power and access, influencing how we interact with identity, with the law and with each other. I bring you stories of the gaps in access to power, and those who are working to close those gaps.

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