The Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program’s grant cycle ended Sept. 30, officially ending its fiscal partnership with Ohio University.
With the grant cycle having closed Sept. 30, the program will secede from Ohio University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which had acted as its fiscal agent since 2013. Now, it will be a program under My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence agency that serves Athens and surrounding counties.
“When the transition became a reality, we started having more serious conversations about how our program would make a really good match with the philosophies that (My Sister’s Place) holds with being a survivor service program based on survivor rights,” SAOP director Catherine Wargo said.
Under My Sister’s Place, SAOP will offer confidential services, but ongoing counseling requests will be referred to other agencies, Wargo said.
One of those services will be a 24/7 crisis hotline that will remain anonymous unless someone reports child abuse, abuse of an elder or someone with disabilities, the center is mandated by law to report those incidents, Wargo said.
"We also offer crisis intervention services," Wargo said.
Those services include talking to individuals about sexual violence they have experienced, accompanying individuals to a hospital, helping individuals report to local law enforcement, connecting people to victims compensation programs and connecting people to victim notification services.
In May, the program announced it would no longer offer confidential counseling following the university's interpretation of federal and state mandatory reporting laws, according to a previous Post report.
While the program operates under My Sister’s Place wing for the next year, it will work to become a private nonprofit of its own standing.
“There has been a lot of excitement and a lot to be done,” Wargo said.
She added that part of that work will include looking for board members to oversee the program.
While the program was under OU, funding was awarded to the university from the Victims of Crime office through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, OU Spokeswoman Anna Hartenbach said in an email. “This program was not available to persons enrolled as students at Ohio University."
SAOP’s news partnership with the domestic violence agency has allowed it to apply for two grants through the Ohio Attorney General’s office, Wargo said.
One of the grants, The Rape Crisis Fund, has already been awarded for the next year, Wargo said. She added that they’re still waiting to hear if the program will receive funding from the Victims of Crime Act.
“We are hopeful that Oct. 1 is the date that our new funding is suppose to begin,” Wargo said.
The university had used Lindley Hall for the program's location, Hartenbach said.
After the program leaves the university, it will make appointments at safe locations until it's able to move into a new location, Wargo said.
She hopes to be in the new location Dec. 1, but didn’t want to disclose where it will be because they’re still in the process of securing it.
“We are very actively working on it,” Wargo said.
Kelly Cooke, executive director of My Sister’s Place, said her program has had a relationship with SAOP for years when it would train their advocates.
“When I heard about them leaving OU, I approached (Catherine) just to check in and to see what their next steps were to see if we could be of some help,” Cooke said.
Cooke added that she thinks it will be a natural relationship because of the similar missions and populations that the two agencies serve.
SAOP has served Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry and Vinton counties since 2013.
“It seemed like a need in our community,” Cooke said. "We wanted to make sure that community had confidential services for survivors of sexual assault and I felt like we were a natural fit to help them."