“Sometimes, something a friend says to a sexual assault survivor can actually end up hurting them more. We can’t expect students to respond well to sexual assault victims if we’ve never taught them how.”
1. What is the Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA) Program?
• Because the majority of sexual assault victims first feel comfortable sharing their stories with close friends and peers, it is essential that those most likely to face a situation requiring sexual assault response are trained and available.
• In response to this, a student-run Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA) program, supported and supervised by A-B Counseling Services, will be trained to offer crisis intervention in the case of a sexual offense. These students will work with survivors of assault/abuse (either recently or in the past), providing information, resources, support, referrals, accompaniment, and advocacy. These advocates will also work to educate the campus about sexual violence including risk prevention, how to respond to an assault, men’s roles, legal definitions, campus policies, awareness of the impact of sexual violence on survivors, promoting healthy relationships, etc.
• Peer advocates will maintain a 24 hour crisis hotline that provides a safe, confidential setting for questions, concerns, and immediate emotional support and guidance for victims. Information regarding counseling, forensic and medical exams, reporting an incident, telling parents, and other local support services will be a required part of the training for advocates. The first option offered by advocates will be to help contact WAIC or the AB Counseling Services.
• The services of the Peer Advocates are confidential and free, and are considered a supplementary option to services offered by A-B Counseling Services and Barbour County Women’s Aid in Crisis. It will be strongly suggested that Peer Advocates refer survivors who are in need of counseling, medical, and/or legal advice to professionals.
• A list of peer advocates will be sent to the entire college community, and will be available on the A-B Counseling Services webpage.
• SAPA’s eventual goal is to have at least one peer advocate in most of the student-run organizations, so that members can begin to address sexual assaults competently within their own groups.
2. Services Provided by Peer Advocates:
• Educational programming to various groups on campus about preventing and responding to sexual assault, abuse, stalking, or relationship violence.
• Listening to victim’s stories with respect and empathy, and offering emotional support in a non-judgmental setting.
• When necessary, connecting victims to appropriate resources including counseling services, medical facilities, crisis centers, legal services or counsel, etc.
• Maintaining a 24 hour on-campus crisis line available to respond to victims of assault immediately.
• Accompanying/transporting victims to medical exams, legal proceedings, crisis services or shelters, counseling sessions, telling parents, police station, or any other event for which a victim may request support.
• If/when ready, helping victims navigate the judicial policies and procedures of reporting incidents on campus and/or within the legal system. (ie immunity)
• Providing information and support to family members or significant others if requested.
3. Training Requirements/Application Process:
The program is open to all students, regardless of previous sexual assault education or advocacy experience. Applicants must be able to meet the following requirements:
• Must be age 18 minimum.
• Attend a comprehensive training at the beginning of the Fall semester each year.
• Attend regular in-service and refresher seminars throughout the year.
• Commit to at least two academic semesters (at least 15 volunteer hours a semester).
• Assume responsibility for the 24-hour crisis line as needed (min.1 week/year)
• Maintain on-going contact with Counseling Services about the details and logistics of any client support provided (while maintaining confidentiality)
If you meet the listed requirements and are interested in being a Peer Advocate, please apply below. How to apply:
• Fill out the application and return it to A-B Counseling Services
• All applications will be reviewed and references will be checked
• All applicants will be interviewed prior to the start of training
• Criminal background checks will be conducted
4. How Do I Contact SAPA or Other Services?
• SAPA Hotline number- coming soon
• Facebook (Counseling Services and SAPA): coming soon
• A-B Counseling Services- (304) 457-6320
• Women’s Aid In Crisis- (304) 457-5020
• Campus Security- (304) 457-7911
• Student Affairs/Residence Life- (304) 457-6213
5. Educational Programming List:
• Welcome to the Party- Freshman Orientation presentation including combined and split groups addressing issues such as increased risk for Freshman, the connection between alcohol and sexual assault, defining consent, holding each other accountable, men’s roles in prevention, statistics of assault on college campuses, Q& A session, and survivor’s stories.
• Self-Defense Training- January- Stalking Awareness Month program held on campus with local law enforcement. Includes basic safety and awareness techniques as well as practice/training in self-defense maneuvers available to potential victims.
• Clothesline Display- October- Domestic Violence Awareness Month program in conjunction with WAIC to increase awareness of physical and sexual abuse in relationships. Also repeated in April.
• Take Back the Night- April- Sexual Assault Awareness Month program event that includes community rallies, candle-light vigils, etc. to empower and support survivors, raise awareness, and to promote responsibility of men and women for changing the culture of fear and violence that exists.
• Additional Events- Other programs that occur on a rotating basis include: Sexuality: Making Good Choices, Unheard Voices (interactive Art Display), Mock Trial (legal process of Sexual Assault), and a Survivors Workshop. The following are presented upon request to specific groups (coming soon):
• Co-ed/Women’s Program- This program is presented to all-female or co-ed groups. The presenters will discuss the definition of sexual assault and consent, social myths surrounding sexual aggression, symptoms of manipulative behaviors or relationships, information on common date rape drugs, bystander intervention strategies, stalking, risk reduction strategies, and how to help a survivor. The incorporation of a survivor's account of their assault may be available.
• Men's Program- Advocates provide presentations to groups of males, defining sexual assault and consent, teaching men how to support survivors, and encouraging men to successfully intervene and confront ideas/actions that promote the occurrence of sexual assault.
• Healthy Relationships vs. Manipulative/Abusive Relationships- Through a series of small skits and statistical information, this program highlights the red flags of a manipulative/abusive situation, shows the progression of intensity (yelling - grabbing - hitting, etc.), touches on the "honeymoon" period, and gives information for supporting survivors and extricating oneself from an abusive situation.
• NO ZEBRAS or STEPUP: Bystander Intervention Program- These vignettes are performed and written by members of SAPA and their advisor who supplement each topic with factual information between skits. All actors are available after performances, confidentially, for anyone who needs to talk. Subjects include dating violence, sexual assault, "date rape drugs," sexual harassment, stalking, as well as facts and statistics for college campuses.
6. How to Respond to a Sexual Assault- General Guidelines
1. After an assault, get to a safe place: a friend or family member’s house/room or any place where people can give you emotional support. If major injuries have occurred, or you still feel unsafe, call 911. Due to the traumatic and/or disorienting nature of a sexual assault, it is strongly recommended that survivors call AB Counseling Services (304) 457-6320, Women’s Aid in Crisis (304) 457-5020, a Residence Life member, or the Peer Advocacy Program hotline.
2. These individuals and services can provide immediate guidance for considerations such as: seeking medical attention (for injuries, possible pregnancy, or possible venereal diseases), preserving evidence, telling parents, getting counseling, basic legal options, possible reporting, etc.
3. It is strongly recommended for survivors to obtain a forensic medical exam by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE Nurse). Women’s Aid in Crisis, AB Counseling Services, and SAPA are part of a local Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and are trained to educate individuals on the importance of the exam, how/where to obtain the exam, and to provide transportation/accompaniment to the exam if requested. This exam can be done up to 96 hours after the assault and even if the individual is unlikely to press charges, it is still important for purposes of assessing injuries and testing for pregnancy or venereal diseases.
4. Do not bathe, shower, comb hair, brush your teeth, change your clothes, douche, or discard tissues/clothing before seeking medical attention. Also, if possible, do not eat, drink fluids, or empty your bladder before the exam. The medical exam does not commit one to pressing charges against the perpetrator, but will provide and store evidence until the individual is ready to consider the legal decision that is right for her/him. In the event that the survivor decides not to press charges, the evidence collected will be destroyed after a minimum of 30 days. The evidence collected is likely to include some articles of clothing, and/or personal effects.
5. Tell your story soon to avoid forgetting details, preferably to a sexual assault advocate or counseling services, who are trained in asking questions pertinent to your safety, emotional health, and medical or legal options. Alternatively, write out the details for yourself, tell a friend who can write things down, or use an audio recorder.
6. Report the incident to the city police or campus security if you feel comfortable doing so. Sexual assault is a crime, and you may well want to press charges against the perpetrator. A WAIC advocate, AB Counselor, or SAPA advocate can assist or accompany you in making the report and with follow-up decisions.
7. You may also want to file a report with Student Affairs office to initiate the campus judicial process if the perpetrator is part of the campus. To do so, contact the Dean of Student Affairs (with aid of an advocate if desired) and an investigation for appropriate disciplinary action under the college's prohibition against sexual assault will occur.
8. Seek counseling regardless of whether you decide to report the crime or participate in any legal action. Professional counseling is available at Alderson-Broaddus Counseling Services, Women’s Aid in Crisis, or referrals outside the local area are available. Counseling can be beneficial as you work through your own emotional and physical reactions that can occur immediately after the event, or even months later. SAPA advocates can help you begin the process of talking about your feelings and the incident, and prepare you for what to expect from the counseling process.
10. Take whatever steps are necessary to work through the assault. This might include talking to your partner, friend, family, or counselor about your feelings. Resume your regular routine as much as possible, and understand that a “new normal” will take time to achieve, but is a necessary part of the healing process. Relationships, emotions, sleep patterns, academics, etc. may all be affected by this event, so taking initiative to address these is essential.
7. Best On-line Sexual Assault Resources
• http://www.fris.org (West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services)
• http://www.rainn.org (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network)
• http://www.waicwv.com (Women’s Aid In Crisis)