Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program, or SAP, has adapted to COVID-19 and, with the school year coming to an end, its staff is taking time to reminisce on the school year and what’s to come. 

With the month of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SAP has been able to participate in the planning of a few events, including Take Back the Night, Denim Day and a workshop for graduate students that focused on sexual harassment. All events were opportunities for students to participate in supporting survivors and advocate for believing survivors.

Another way for students to get involved is the Ambassadors for the Survivor Advocacy Program, or ASAP. This program is a way for students to involve themselves in the fight for advocacy. 

ASAP hosts Mindful Mondays and now some various workshops. Both are available on SAP’s YouTube.

“They're (SAP’s staff) really great, and we have the support of that organization, and they do amazing work,” Madison McFadden, president of ASAP, said. “Our role is to support them and then also do things that are unique to students, that only students can do, such as speaking out against OU policy, procedures and really connecting with students in a way that only students can to change the culture — going out of our way to make notes and crafts for survivors. Those are things that only really our students can do, which is a really unique experience. I think this year especially, because everyone in the club is so passionate, we really had the opportunity to do things that were especially meaningful.”

This year has been a challenge, but KC Waltz, a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and survivor advocate with SAP, hopes that next year will bring more in-person opportunities for ASAP and SAP. 

To keep up to date with the opportunities, those interested are able to subscribe to SAP’s newsletter, which will go out when there are important updates to share. Waltz anticipates the letter being sent out more often in the fall and spring. Registration can be found on SAP’s website.

However, SAP is also available for students in the summer. The staff plans to continue SAP’s operations through its hotline for advocacy requests during evenings and weekends. If there is a time-sensitive request, people can call SAP’s hotline, 740-597-SAFE (7233), leave a message that includes their name, request and a safe number that SAP can use to call them back. An advocate will return the call as soon as possible. 

Those interested are also able to book through SAP’s booking page.

“We will also continue to be available for people to accompany them — let us say, if somebody wants to make a report to law enforcement, we can accompany them remotely, which we've done a number of times, and it works out pretty well,” Waltz said. “So, what that looks like is if somebody has decided to report to OUPD (Ohio University Police Department), they take their laptop with them, or their phone, and they can hook us in through Teams, and we can be there remotely with them, while they do their interview. When we're not in the pandemic, we go physically, but right now, we're doing it this way. We can also do the same if someone were to go to the hospital to have a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exam.”

Waltz added that these exams typically do not have a fee and are usually paid for by the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Yejin Sohn, a survivor advocate with SAP, mentioned that despite the pandemic, SAP has been able to reach out to students who are not located in Athens, which proves beneficial for the summer.

When student orientation comes around this year, Waltz, Sohn and McFadden want students, their parents and friends to know about SAP and the services, support and advocacy they provide.

“I think the one thing about this allying environment we have is, I hope we can be also beneficial for the regional campus students,” Sohn said. “So, what we usually did before was everything we had as a resource over in our office was in person. We do realize that it may be difficult for a regional campus student to use our service, since they are located in different spaces. Since we already kept with this online setting, I wish this time from now on the regional campus students also wear us as a resource, and they can use the benefit from all of us. We wanted to also be there for them; we want to be the resource for them. I wish that we can be the resource for every Ohio University student.”