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survivor advocacy program

OU’s Survivor Advocacy Program continues to support students amid COVID-19

Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program (SAP) was created to provide a safe and confidential place for survivors of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence and stalking to receive support and guidance. The program was established to help empower survivors as well as to assist them through a very difficult time. 

“SAP advocates use a survivor-centered, empowerment-based approach to care,” KC Waltz, a licensed independent social worker and survivor advocate at SAP, said in an email. “We will always advocate for the survivor’s wants and needs. When a survivor presents to SAP, they are in control of how much or how little they share. We know that sharing details of traumatic situations can be difficult, and we will never expect the survivor to share more than they are ready.”

Each person who comes to SAP looking for help will meet with a licensed social worker, also called a survivor advocate, who is professionally trained in offering completely confidential support. The goal of SAP is to listen to the survivor and help them understand their options and choices when it comes to beginning the healing process or involving law enforcement through filing a report.

“We help survivors understand the various reporting options and what those processes may look like so they can make an informed decision about whether they wish to report,” Kimberly Rouse, licensed independent social worker and director of SAP, said in an email. “We know that understanding the various reporting processes available to them can be challenging, so SAP advocates are there to help navigate these processes so the survivor isn’t navigating them alone.”

SAP provides support services to not only survivors, but also to co-survivors, family or close friends of the survivor. Even if a co-survivor’s loved one is not seeking services from SAP, they are still welcome to receive help on their own. The program offers support specific to the co-survivor and their needs. 

“Reporting to law enforcement or Title IX is NOT a requirement to receive services from SAP,“ Waltz said in an email. “We support a survivor’s decision about what is best for them. The licensed professional social workers at SAP are there to provide supportive advocacy-based counseling. We do not replace individual therapy that a survivor may seek elsewhere, though it is not a requirement that survivors be actively engaged in therapy. We will make referrals to Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) or local providers at the request of a survivor.”

Ambassadors to the Survivor Advocacy Program (ASAP) is an OU student organization that helps support and advocate for survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking. ASAP works to strengthen policies and improve culture to help survivors and prevent sexual assault and violence. Even with COVID-19, ASAP is still able to provide support and garner awareness for survivors. 

“ASAP has been impacted, as we have had to become an almost completely virtual club,” Maddy McFadden, president of ASAP, said in an email. “Besides a couple socially-distanced, COVID-safe events outside, we have only met, planned, and hosted events online. Although we worry about students’ accessibility to computers and internet, as well as burnout due to everything being online, we have adapted and have been able to achieve so much this semester. Despite the challenges, we have grown our club this year and have built a close-knit group that looks forward to meeting every week, as we offer each other support. ASAP is full of passionate individuals who are always dedicated to supporting survivors, which is why we have been successful in our mission so far this year.” 

One of the ways ASAP supports survivors is collecting funds for resources like hospital bags for Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE), kits, taxi vouchers for travel to and from the hospital and other necessities like new bedsheets. ASAP also helps lead the conversation with other OU organizations, students and people to advocate for everyone to help survivors just by believing, listening to and supporting them.

McFadden said ASAP welcomes any OU student to get involved at any time. Weekly meetings are held on Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. Students can sign up through BobcatConnect or email mm557518@ohio.edu. Find out more information on how to get involved or upcoming events by viewing @ohioasap on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Due to COVID-19, all meetings for SAP are currently held on Microsoft Teams, and appointments can be made with an advocate here. A list of On-Campus resources for additional help is available, and SAP’s 24/7 confidential helpline is also available to assist students at (740)-597-7233. 

“Something that we have noticed recently is that people question whether they are ‘worthy’ of our services or if what they experienced would be serious enough to seek services from SAP,” Rouse said in an email. “We want students to know that WE ARE HERE and we welcome them to meet with us to discuss their needs and experiences. Many people question whether they meet the definition of ‘survivor’ and would therefore be eligible for our services. If you are feeling that way, please know that we are here.”

@MaryJaneSanese

ms943920@ohio.edu

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