Survivor Support

If you need immediate assistance, please call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or dial 911.


Awake Survivor Circles

We warmly invite you to connect with fellow abuse survivors for community and support through one of Awake’s virtual Survivor Circles.

These circles welcome adults who have experienced sexual abuse by a person in leadership in the Catholic Church, whether that abuse happened during childhood or during their adult years; you do not need to live in the Milwaukee area to participate. Our groups allow survivors to connect with one another in the context of safe, structured, consistent online gatherings. Each circle is co-led by Awake’s executive director Sara Larson and a volunteer who is a survivor of abuse.

With the exception of the Wednesday night group, these circles are designed for those who have chosen to remain connected with the Catholic Church. Gatherings include gentle prayer and, on occasion, honest discussions about faith, in a way that respects the complicated and painful relationship that many survivors have with God and with the Catholic Church.

Gatherings follow a simple structure:
– Welcome and centering
– An introductory question to help participants get to know one another (something simple like “What is one thing you’re looking forward to this month?” or “Tell us about a favorite book or movie you’ve enjoyed.”)
– Open conversation about a monthly topic (for example, “Triggers” or “What Has Helped Me Heal”)
– Closing comments and gratitude

Our circles meet once a month on Zoom, and group size is capped at 10 so that we can get to know one another better over time. We hold a fall session from September through December, a winter/spring session from January through May, and drop-in gatherings over the summer months.

For All Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse by a Catholic Leader
Friday Afternoons, 1:00pm – 2:15pm CDT
Led by Lisa and Sara

For Women Abused as Children or Adults
Sunday Evenings, 7:00pm – 8:15pm CDT
Led by Cathy and Sara

For Women Abused as Adults
Tuesday Evenings, 7:00pm – 8:15pm CDT
Led by Esther and Sara

For All Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse by a Catholic Leader
Wednesday Evenings, 6:30pm – 7:45pm CDT
Led by Michael and Sara
* This group is religiously-neutral and does not assume that participants have remained Catholic.

If you would like more information about participating in one of these circles, please reach out to Executive Director Sara Larson at saralarson@awakemilwaukee.org or Survivor Circle Coordinator Esther Harber at estherharber@awakemilwaukee.org. We like to have an individual phone or Zoom call with each new participant so that we can welcome you to the community and learn how we can best serve you.


We also recommend these virtual support groups facilitated by friends of Awake:

  • Victim/survivor restorative justice support groups hosted by our friend Paula Kaempffer, Outreach Coordinator for Restorative Justice and Abuse Prevention for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Virtual offerings include a general group for all victim/survivors of sexual abuse, a group specifically for those sexually assaulted by clergy as adults, and a group for family and friends of victims of clergy sexual abuse. More information is available at www.archspm.org/restorative-justice-groups or by contacting Paula at kaempfferp@archspm.org
  • Independent support groups facilitated by our friend Jim Richter, M.D. on Zoom. These groups include a survivor peace circle on the third Tuesday of each month and a gathering on the first Monday of each month specifically for men who have been sexually abused by clergy or religious. For details, contact Jim at 773-412-0909 or jrichter316@gmail.com.

Some survivors have also found these resources helpful: