The Sexual Assault Prevention and
Awareness Center is a rare and exceptional student program that
caters to University-affiliated individuals who are dealing with
sexual assault. SAPAC is unique in that it serves to help those
assaulted or victimized, their parents and friends, faculty and
administrative personnel. Originally founded by students, it is an
independently operated organization — a program created and
managed by students, for the students, and with the students.
However, the University’s administration has announced
changes to SAPAC. Administrators want to integrate the center with
the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services and
Washtenaw County’s Safe House. The changes were announced
without consulting students, devaluing their dependence on the
invaluable services provided by SAPAC. The changes to SAPAC will
prove detrimental to both the program and its clients.
The changes pose many problems for both SAPAC employees and
sexual assault victims. Instead of counseling victims of sexual
assault, SAPAC will limit its focus to education, intervention,
advocacy and crises, while counseling services are expected to be
transfer to Safe House and CAPS. Students would be expected to
disclose their personal information a number of times, thereby
sacrificing the anonymity guaranteed under the old SAPAC system.
Cases will no longer be handled by one person. Instead, callers
will be forced to speak to multiple people if they wish to receive
counseling, each time disclosing their personal information. The
changes to SAPAC will also impose a quota on the number of free
counseling sessions, and upon completion of these sessions, clients
are expected to pay an outside counselor if they are still in need
This means the relationships SAPAC developed with its callers in
the past will no longer exist. This new system is much more
impersonal and defies the principle SAPAC holds itself to — a
safe place for students in need.
Currently, the SAPAC office is located on a discreet part of
campus, providing victims with a sense of safety because it allows
students seeking SAPAC’s aid to maintain their anonymity.
This also helps many trying to escape stalkers. The changes will
relocate the office to the Michigan Union, which will not only
limit the privacy students currently have and make it much easier
for stalkers to moniter their victims.
Many SAPAC employees said they feel these changes will be
damaging to those seeking help. This is ironic — after all,
these changes are supposed to benefit those in need of help.
Employees also resent the lack of student involvement in
formulating such drastic policy changes. Many students are worried
that the future of SAPAC is now endangered because of the
administration’s sudden and unsolicited intervention. The
unexpected changes were announced shortly after a new SAPAC
director was hired, raising questions internally.
These new changes are being made though there were never any
problems with the old system, which is reason enough not to make