Oregon State University is creating a new center that will help support students who have experienced sexual violence.
The OSU Advocacy Center for Survivors of Violence will provide confidential and accessible services including a full-time advocate whose sole job is to listen and support survivors and to help them navigate available resources, making sure the survivor’s wishes and needs are respected.
The center will be housed in the Student Health Services Building (Plageman), allowing for privacy and confidentiality and will also put survivors within close proximity of trained sexual assault nurses if requested (SHS has three such nurses on staff who work closely with community medical providers).
“The idea is that most of the Student Health Services building is already confidential,” said Rob Reff, substance abuse and violence prevention director, who is part of the team that will be overseeing the center. Because SHS offers a broad variety of student services, “you can be going there for all sorts of reasons,” he said, thus providing confidentiality for those who do not want it known they’re seeking help.
While OSU offers a broad variety of resources, both on and off campus that can serve students who have experienced sexual violence, the campus lacked a centralized location where students could seek help without having to go from place to place. Faculty and staff members who have a student disclose a past assault to them can also contact the advocacy center for information or refer students to the center for support.
“It is critical that we provide a single, central resource that is networked to the various offices and support functions,” said Susie Brubaker-Cole, OSU vice provost for Student Affairs. “This will help faculty and staff make referrals and will help survivors feel supported in choosing what resources they need in the short or long term.”
A search is under way for a full-time advocate who will have a graduate assistant to provide administrative and support services, as well as support from Sexual Assault Support Services within Counseling and Psychological Services. Reff will also be trained to provide support to the new advocate when necessary.
Additionally, an assistant director of violence prevention is being recruited through Student Health Services. That person’s primary role will be extensive program development, as well as to provide support to the Advocacy Center.
Reff said providing an advocate for survivors is crucial because advocates working solely in the interest of the student, and are not there to advance a particular agenda or predetermined path. Advocates empower survivors by connecting them with the resources needed, whether that’s counseling, housing, law enforcement, medical services or simply someone to listen.
“The advocate is not going to ask survivors to disclose any information they don’t want to,” Reff said.
While the center is primarily for students, OSU faculty and staff survivors can also receive support, stabilization and referral from the OSU Advocacy Center. Additionally a resource room will be open to all to providing materials including books, movies, articles and other media with information about sexual violence.
The center will be part of a broader effort by OSU to create a campus that is safe and free of sexual or other violence, and one which supports survivors. During April, the campus has celebrated Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a variety of events, which culminates in the final event Wednesday, April 29, at 6 p.m., with “Take Back the Night” in the Memorial Union Quad. The event provides a space for students, staff, faculty and community members to demonstrate that OSU is a campus that does not condone sexual violence and supports survivors.
The Office of the Provost is funding the center, with support from Student Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services.