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Pastors Team Up for Sex Assault Forum

November 11, 2018

By Scott Shurtleff

sshurtleff@nashoba valleyvoice.com

AYER -- The Rev. Joyce Scherer-Hoock can offer a unique perspective on sexual abuse and domestic violence. She is the in-house clergy at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and is partnering with two other local female reverends to host a public forum on sexual assault.

Scherer-Hoock, along with the Rev. Gail Miller of Union Congregational in Groton and the Rev. Susan Gatea of Shepherd of the Valley, hope to get parishioners and residents from the area to attend an open conversation on the topic. It will be held on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Federated Church on Washington Street.

“It’s not a group that is completely private,” she said. “But it will serve as a support group for those who have been the victim of sexual assault, violence or harassment.”

Although there is a spiritual element to the forum -- “Jesus was healer after all,” she said -- it is a loosely arranged discourse facilitated by the clergies.

Scherer-Hoock describes the “sacred listening circle as an opportunity for people to share their experiences, there is no agenda other than that.”

She decided to launch the effort after several of her parishioners expressed some concerns over the current socio-political climate. She then shared the greater concern with her colleagues, Gatea and Miller. Spearheaded by Scherer-Houck, the pastors opted for an ecumenical approach, which would allow for a greater reach.

She has experience in the matter of organizing support over stigmatization.

“Back in the ’80s, I was part of a similar effort to help with the AIDS crisis,” Scherer-Hoock said.

Aside from the collective experience of the pastors, the only experts in the room will be the victims. They would at some point like to make it a regular support meeting, complete with professionals and lecturers but for now have no expectations about the meeting or the future.

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