TRURO – Margaret Mauger wants to bring her passion back into focus.
After almost seven years as the executive director of the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, Mauger has stepped out of the role and will focus on working with clients who have been victims of sexual assault.
“It’s seeing the changes in the way they walk, the way they hold their head up, the way they speak…It’s seeing them more empowered,” Mauger said, of the greatest aspect of helping clients.
“One of the biggest things we work on is them understanding that what happened to them wasn’t their fault.”
Mauger said many people, especially those older in age who may have been abused as a child, can take a while to come to that realization.
“But it’s incredible when you see people finally get that. For some, it can take a really long time.”
She said victim shaming and today’s rape culture has been harmful in that respect, and it can often take a lot of convincing a victim they weren’t at fault.
“When they understand it wasn’t their fault, that’s huge,” she said.
For the past couple of years, going back to being a trauma counsellor was also on Mauger’s mind. There have been a number of contributing factors for the change. The former executive director has plans on releasing a “Mauger Report” that talks about some of the discriminations, challenges and barriers she’s faced in the position over the years.
“My passion, education and training has been therapy, and the executive director role was taking away from that,” Mauger said. “I just can’t do it anymore. I want to focus on my work with clients.”
She noted the timing was right, thanks to finally having coworkers, which she didn’t have for about six years. Kendra MacKinnon, the centre’s community coordinator, will take on the acting executive director’s role for the time being.
With new victims coming in on a weekly basis, 70 per cent of the client base is female. About 27 per cent of the clientele is male, with the remaining three being transgender.
Mauger said how soon before a client talks about their own experience depends on the client.
“Within the first 10 minutes, some will be able to tell me everything. Sometimes they’ll just come in and say it all.”
Others, she said, can have multiple meetings and still not divulge any information of their trauma.
“It really depends where they’re at,” she said.
Mauger said some clients are worried they have to disclose every detail of what happened, but she wants to assure them that’s not the case.
“The client is always the boss. I always tell them if I ask a question they don’t want to answer, they don’t have to. They never have to talk about anything they don’t want to,” she said.
“You often see huge relief when they hear that.”
She said in the cases where it takes a victim a while to talk about their experience, it’s about giving the power to them. There have been times where Mauger has shared her own experience as well, which she often does during presentations.
“There’s an old school thinking that a therapist should never talk about themselves, but I have had so many thank me for sharing that information,” she said. “It shows I’ve come through stuff too. It’s about connecting with them on a human level.”
Mauger finished up her executive director duties on July 21, and started as a trauma counselling therapist on Aug. 8.
“I’ll still be an advocate here,” she assured. “I’ll always be a voice, just in a different capacity.”
For more information on the services offered at the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, visit http://www.colchestersac.ca/ or call 902-897-4366.