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Sexual assault on college campuses is pervasive, underreported, and can be extremely detrimental to survivors’ health, well-being, and academic achievements. More than 26% of females and nearly 7% of males experience rape or sexual assault as an undergraduate student, and 23% of transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming college students have been sexually assaulted (Association of American Universities, 2020).
Many sexual assault survivors experience depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. In 75% of campus sexual assault cases, the perpetrator is someone familiar to the survivor, meaning survivors may see the person who harmed them regularly (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). One study found that among rape survivors who stayed on campus after their assault, nearly one in three had academic problems, and more than one in five considered leaving school (U.S. Department of Justice, 2016).
While most universities offer counseling, it is offered on campus, where survivors could run into perpetrators, as well as friends or classmates, leading to potentially uncomfortable or even hostile situations. Students may fear that what is shared in therapy at their college may not be completely confidential and could have academic implications. In addition to these issues, school counselors may not specialize in sexual assault or have experience working with survivors.
Fortunately, for survivors attending colleges in Chicago, there is another option – Greenlight Counseling Services. Previously called Porchlight Counseling Services, Greenlight Counseling Services is a program within Greenlight Family Services (Greenlight) which has been helping survivors of campus sexual assault since 2004.
The program provides approximately 100 survivors each year with 20 sessions of free counseling. In addition, it conducts advocacy, outreach events, and public education, especially for Resident Advisors (RAs) who students may confide in after an assault. Approximately 30 therapists, trained to work with survivors of sexual assault, provide counseling—in their private offices or via telehealth—to students attending Columbia College, Loyola University, Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, The University of Chicago, and University of Illinois – Chicago.
Maria Nanos, LCSW, PhD was the first therapist for Porchlight Counseling and now serves as CEO of Greenlight. Dr. Nanos has devoted her career to those recovering from sexual assault and neglect and believes that “in order to heal from these experiences, it takes a relationship with a therapist, with the environment, and a lot of time.” She shares that the Greenlight team “is here to provide the rest of the story: the healing from the sexual assault in a way that is productive and puts our young people back into schools and hopefully leading productive lives.”
Greenlight Counseling is the only program of its kind in the nation and exists to help to create a world in which a person’s life is not defined by the devastating experience of campus sexual assault. Looking to the future, Greenlight hopes to expand its counseling program to reach students throughout the state, and ultimately the nation. In addition, the team is partnering with students at the Illinois Institute of Technology to develop an app, allowing survivors to quickly access resources, schedule counseling sessions, and more. VNA Foundation is proud to partner with Greenlight and celebrate the positive impact it has on college students working to heal after this far-too-common experience.
To learn more about Greenlight’s Counseling program, visit: https://greenlightfamilyservices.org/services/counseling/
To view a list of Resources, visit: https://greenlightfamilyservices.org/about/resources/