SARA provides awareness, advocates for students in need

by Alicia CarloStaff Writer

Sexual assault and violence has long been an issue that is kept quiet, especially on college campuses. Now, thanks to the student and faculty-run program, Sexual Assault Response Advocates, students have somewhere to turn.

SARA has a twofold purpose. The first is to serve as an advocate to students who are dealing with assault, whether it is a recent assault, a previous assault, concerns about a friend or questions about sexual assault in general. The second purpose of the group is to increase awareness of assault on campus through activities such as speakers at forum events and in classrooms.

“I think the best thing about SARA is knowing that in a victim’s darkest time, we are there to help them,” junior Missy Deer, member of SARA, said.

The group is on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week when classes are in session. Each advocate has been trained through the Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services so that they may adequately be the support that callers need.

The advocate that is on call for the week take the phone with them at all times, whether it’s to class, meetings or bed. Should someone call, they would be greeted with a message instructing them to leave a name and number. The advocate on duty would then receive that message and would get in touch with the caller within 20-30 minutes. They may talk on the phone or meet in person to provide assistance.

Director of counseling Ellie Olson is an advisor for SARA. She stressed the importance of confidentiality. The reason for the delay in response, she said, is so that the advocate can get to a private setting to provide the best discretion and support to the caller.

“We all take confidentiality very seriously,” Olson said. “There are concerns because it is a small campus.”

When classes are not in session, a user may still call the SARA hotline, but the message will be changed. It will connect them with the Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services.

SARA has held forum events with speakers like police officers and sexual advocates and has come into classrooms to speak in order to raise awareness across campus. They would also like to become involved with other various groups among campus to heighten the awareness.

SARA does at least one event each semester and plans on cosponsoring events like a self-defense workshop.

According Deer, they also went to a faculty meeting this semester that addressed concerns with faculty being sympathetic with student’s need in crisis situations.

Deer joined the group after transferring from Loras College where she participated in a similar program, Riverview center, where she was on call and worked directly with victims.

“I didn’t want to give it up so I asked Ellie Olson if we had something like that which is when she explained last year that they were founding an organization like Riverview Center for Simpson’s campus,” Deer said. “I joined because being an advocate is a great feeling when I know that I’m helping victims.”

Students can become involved with SARA by watching for applications sent out through e-mail, however, applications were already sent out and were due for this coming year.

A portion of the applicants will be interviewed. Those chosen will go through a 20-hour training period to be able to serve as advocates.

Olson says that they are looking to add two to three new members each year.

SARA encourages those on Simpson’s campus to use the phone line and stress that they are there to give support to whomever needs it.