The Portland Women’s Crisis Line, a nonprofit organization that provides 24-hour advocacy and response to domestic and sexual violence victims, is offering to provide training and support for a 24-hour advocate program on the PSU campus.
The service would provide sexual assault victims with peer-to-peer assistance including counseling and accompaniment to OHSU for examination, as well as information about victims’ rights, the legal process and how to file a university complaint.
Claudia Weber, the Crisis Line’s sexual assault program director, is trying to create the program on as many college campuses throughout the Portland metro area as possible.
“Sexual assault on college campuses is a horrific problem and it’s being magnified by the fact that most college campuses do not want sexual assaults publicized because they lose enrollment and donors. It’s a financial issue for them rather than an issue of safety for students and the best interest of a survivor,” Weber said.
When told that PSU already has services such as CAPS and Student Health Services that claim to offer assistance to sexual assault victims, Weber said, “Unless they have had very specific extensive training in sexual assault advocacy, they cannot be an advocate.”
Weber added, “A victim should have immediate advocacy so they know what their options are in order to make an informed decision about whether to report, whether to go to a hospital, … to get the process started for ongoing counseling, to have crime victim’s compensation information and in order to know of other resources for survivors.”
Aimee Shattuck, a senior majoring in social work, co-coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center and member of the Crisis Line’s board of directors, stressed the importance of an advocate program. She said, “People have a lot of fears and feel vulnerable when they go to get services. Unless a service really makes it clear that they are a safe place they aren’t going to want to use the services.”
A target start date for the program is still unclear and, according to Weber, depends heavily on acceptance of the proposal by numerous PSU departments, including Campus Public Safety, CAPS, Student Health Services and the administration.
To date Weber has only introduced the concept of the program to some people at PSU, but said she has received acceptance so far.
The Crisis Line also hopes to provide Health Services, Campus Public Safety and CAPS with more training.
Margaret Trout, Health Services nurse manager, is looking forward to working with the Crisis Line and fully supports the advocate program.
Although Mary Collins, director of CAPS, has not seen the proposal, she said, “On the face of it, it sound like a very good idea … [But,] I also know that the Women’s Crisis Line has had some pretty serious organizational problems in the past and I would want to be reassured that everything was in order with them now.”
Collins was referring to funding and staffing problems that occurred last year.
Weber explained that personality conflicts between the prior staff and the board of directors caused funders to withdraw their support.
As a result, the Crisis Line was shut down for four days last February until the Volunteers of America began answering the line, giving the Crisis Line time to restructure its staff and board of directors.
Weber said that the Crisis Line has a new director, the funding is back and there is no reason to worry about the Crisis Line’s reliability.
Dr. Douglas Samuels, vice-provost for student affairs at PSU, said the prospect is very exciting and positive. He said, “I would do everything to facilitate that and make it a reality for our students.”
The program in action
The University of Portland is the only college that has started the advocate program.
An inactive sexual assault advocacy program had existed on the U of P campus for several years until last August when Marilyn Krueger, psychiatric nurse practitioner at the U of P counseling department, reformulated the program.
The Portland Women’s Crisis Line and the U of P Men’s Resource Center provided the initial training. The Crisis Line facilitated subsequent role-playing training and has offered 24-hour crisis consultation.
The PSU program will differ from that of U of P in a few ways. First, the Women’s Resource Center, not the counseling department, will take an active role in the organization of the program. Second, PSU will only provide assistance to sexual assault victims – not perpetrators, as the U of P does.
Medical examinations on campus
Weber voiced interest in having a trained “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner” (SANE) on-call to do rape evidence collection exams on campus.
Weber explained that the sexual assault exam is very specific and intricate, requiring that it be done properly so that evidence is not contaminated and can be used in court.
She will have to talk to law enforcement about the possibility and admits that the request would be a lot to ask of a university.
Trout said that this idea has benefits, but was concerned about how it would actually work. She pointed out that someone would have to provide the expensive equipment required for evidence collection, there would have to be space to store the equipment and Health Services would have to be open 24 hours.
Funding and training
Weber explained that training, support and organization of the program would be voluntary by Crisis Line and PSU student volunteers.
Shattuck explained that a core group of people will be trained in late March. She hopes they will get excited about the issue and put some energy into helping to develop the program and contribute ideas.
In order to function, the program will need about 28 student volunteers to work six hour-long, on-call shifts. Weber explained that the shifts would be very flexible and only require that the volunteer be available if an emergency arises.
Students from any major or year in school can volunteer and receive credit. Voluntary tasks will also include data entry, scheduling and other office duties.
Volunteers will complete 40 hours of training in increments, learning about such subjects as advocacy skills, the criminal justice system, forensic evidence, sexual assault exam, process in law enforcement and emergency room etiquette.
Shattuck explained that a lot of work remains to be done before the program is started.
She said, “We need to look at what we want, what we feel the need for, how we’ll structure it and liability issues, because we’ll be dealing with safety and confidentiality issues.”
She added, “Until we look at the liability issues and get some real structure for the program, we could do things like awareness campaigns and workshops.”
Currently Weber is immersed in other projects, but will probably devote herself “full force” to the program in late March.
For information about becoming a volunteer, contact Aimee Shattuck at the resource center: 503-725-5672.
According to the Department of Justice:*Nearly three percent of college women experience a completed or attempted rape during a typical school year. However, rape is known to be one of the most under reported crimes.*In 1996, only 31 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement officials – less than one in every three.*One of every four rapes takes place in a public area or in a parking garage.*Rapes occur in America an average of once every two minutes.*Those with a household income under $7,500 are twice as likely as the general population to be victims of a sexual assault.
*Nearly 60 percent of completed rapes occur in the victim’s residence. Roughly 30 percent take place in other living quarters, and 10 percent at fraternities.*Nearly 90 percent of rape victims know the offender, who is usually a classmate, friend, ex-boyfriend or acquaintance.
What is rape?
According to the Uniform Crime Reports, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), rape is any sexual act directed at another person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will (or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent).Intoxication is a condition that would render a person incapable of giving consent.
What do I do? Where do I go?
Aimee Shattuck of the Women’s Resource Center advises, “You don’t have to come out and say ‘I’ve been raped’ or ‘I’ve been assaulted’ or ‘I’m a victim of domestic violence’ to just call somebody and ask questions.” She added, “There is a lot of blame and guilt and denial … No one wants to identify themselves as a victim. If you feel violated you have been violated. It’s no one else’s right to define that experience for you.”Immediately after a sexual assault*After a sexual assault do not douche, bathe or change clothes; this destroys evidence.*Go to the emergency room immediately.*Have a rape kit performed within 72 hours.*Seek the support of a close friend or family member.*Just because you didn’t say no does not mean it was consensual.*Call the police or an advocate immediately.Filing a report against a studentSexual assault falls under student conduct code rule number four: “Detention or physical abuse of any person or conduct which is intended to threaten imminent bodily harm or endanger the health of any person on University-owned or -controlled property.”The process to determine whether misconduct occurred is outlined here, according to Weny Endress, judicial conduct officer in the office of student affairs :
1. A report must be filed for a student to be investigated.
2. Regardless of what campus department takes the report, as soon as the alleged perpetrator is identified the report is sent to the office of student affairs.
3. A letter is sent to the accused and an appointment is made to hear that side of the story.
4. If the accused admits to the incident, he or she is sanctioned.
5. If the accused does not admit to the misconduct, that person is scheduled for a student conduct hearing in front of the student conduct review board, which is composed of faculty and students.Both the accused and accuser must present their sides of the story. However, arrangements can be made to attend the hearing separately.
6. The review board listens to both sides of the story and then discusses the situation, much like a jury. If the defendant is found guilty there is a range of sanctions available, as indicated by University policy. The punishments range from a warning to sanction.
The district attorney’s victims assistance program provides legal information and emotional support for victims of crime. Included in the program is an extensive volunteer network of over 80 individuals. These specially trained volunteers are on call 24 hours a day to provide aid and comfort to victims of sexual assaults. Through the program, victims of crime can receive crisis intervention services, counseling, assistance with and information on the criminal prosecution process. A total of nearly $19 million has been collected and distributed to victims since the restitution program began in 1976. Information provided by Multnomah County district attorney Web page at: www.co.multnomah.or.us/da/dv/victims.html