Berg appointed to direct Sexual Assault Services
Sarah Berg will oversee the Rape Crisis Center and the Office of Prevention Services as the University’s newly-appointed director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention. In an interview with the Justice, Berg — who was appointed on Jan. 15 — talked about her background in advocacy and her plans for the position.
Berg became interested in sexual assault prevention advocacy when she was a graduate student studying gender studies. “At the time and still today, I think that we talk about gender inequity and violence as large social problems, which they are, but sometimes at the expense of discussing the human impact at the individual level,” she said, adding, “I realized that if I wanted to contribute to gender equity in a big way, I needed to think smaller, the individual level, to make impact and change.”
While in school, Berg began working as a domestic violence victim advocate on a hotline, eventually being hired as a volunteer coordinator and victim advocate. According to Berg, this experience taught her about “advocacy specific to sexual assault and stalking” through “helping students, faculty and staff navigate their options after experiencing trauma.”
Berg added, “Most recently I delved into the prevention side of this work and provided training on interrupting sexual violence and responsible reporting requirements for faculty and staff at a large state school in Colorado.”
Berg said she would like to use her previous experience in advocacy and prevention services in her new position, believing it will be helpful in better connecting with the University community. She stated that one of her priorities this semester will be reaching out to the community to “let everyone … know how we can help.”
“Reaching out for support after experiencing violence can feel like a huge step, but it doesn’t have to be scary,” she said. “The more folks know who we are and what we can do, the more empowered they can feel to come in and explore their options.”
Berg added that she has been “really impressed, maybe even overwhelmed, with the level of student involvement on campus,” and would like to collaborate with student organizations. “I plan to reach out to any and every student group who will meet with me,” she said. “I think there are possibilities to collaborate with everyone since we all can play a role in stopping violence.”
Though she has a great deal of experience in sexual assault prevention advocacy, Berg admits that there will be challenges in her new position. She stated that she recognizes that many students have not heard about the RCC and OPS, as they are relatively new programs. She said that increasing visibility is a priority for her, which could be a great challenge because of the programs’ obscurity. “In this type of work, there are a lot of reasons why a person might never talk to anyone about their experience, and I hope we can do a lot of break down barriers and challenge stigma here,” she added.
As for her plans for the RCC and OPS in the near future, Berg said, “I want to hear from the community about what changes folks would like to see before I start making big plans, so that is next on my agenda — meeting with students, faculty and staff to learn about what has worked well in the past and what ideas we have for the future. … I really encourage folks to email me with ideas or reach out to me directly to talk; I want to hear from you!”
The Rape Crisis Center and Office of Prevention Services are located in Usdan Student Center G-108. Students may schedule an appointment by calling 781-736-3370 during the office’s business hours — noon to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday — or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.