Rape Crisis Center to open soon, hiring peer advocates
The University’s new Rape Crisis Center, which is set to open on March 2, is hiring students as peer advocates to provide help and support to survivors of sexual assault.
The Rape Crisis Center, or RCC, is an initiative started by the University’s Office of Prevention Services and was first proposed by members of Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) in a petition last spring, according to an April 8 Justice article. The RCC, along with several other campus-wide changes, was established after contentious debates on how the University handles sexual assault policies. Last fall, the University was listed as one of over 75 colleges and universities that was under investigation for potentially violating Title IX rights.
Three students, Samantha Daniels ’16, Victoria Jonas ’15 and Ava Blustein ’15, already work closely with the Office of Prevention Services and are set to work at the RCC when it opens. They are under the supervision of Sheila McMahon, the sexual assault services and prevention specialist who has returned this semester from academic leave, as well as Dr. Kristin Huang from the Psychological Counseling Center, who was hired as a specialist in the field of trauma and sexual violence. Huang did not respond to requests for comment.
Daniels, the volunteer coordinator for the RCC, wrote in an email to the Justice that the inaugural group of peer advocates will serve as “additional members of the [center’s] team” and must go through extensive training to become advocates. According to Daniels, the six to ten peer advocates who are hired must commit to two semesters of work, work 8-10 hours per week at the RCC and participate in biweekly training and support meetings. According to the online application, advocates will also receive a $250 stipend.
McMahon wrote in an email to the Justice that the main roles of the advocates will be to work alongside staff at the RCC and provide resources, information and support to students who request it. According to McMahon, the advocates’ work could involve “providing emotional support to students who have experienced a sexual assault, providing information about other support resources on campus and in the community and providing accompaniment to medical or other related appointments.”
Daniels stressed the importance of the latter role, stating that the most “unique component of the role is to provide medical advocacy,” or accompanying a survivor to the hospital “should they choose to get a rape kit done.”
“We cannot anticipate how often this service will be used,” Daniels wrote in an email to the Justice. “The RCC is a space for survivors as well as their support network.”
McMahon wrote that among the criteria for selected applicants includes “the ability to maintain confidentiality, a respectful stance toward all who access the RCC, and a commitment to addressing the consequences of sexual violence,” as well as empowering survivors and providing “non-judgmental, warm support.”
“We are looking to hire students who have high levels of self-awareness and stability because they will be accompanying students who may experience intense emotions,” McMahon wrote.
Daniels wrote that a long-term goal of the RCC is to “develop campaigns aimed toward creating a culture change on campus.”
The final applicants will officially be selected prior to February break, and the Rape Crisis Center will hold an open house on Feb. 24 before officially opening on March 2.