In 1986, University students held a sit-in at the Office of the Dean of Students to demand more resources that inform students about sexual assault, intimate partner violence and appropriate preventive measures.
The sit-in was the catalyst for the creation of the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“SAPAC was actually founded on the power and passion of student voices …” SAPAC director Holly Rider-Milkovich said. “And so the University responded to the students’ needs and SAPAC was founded.”
Now 25 years later, SAPAC is looking ahead to reach more students, provide more comprehensive strategies for educating the campus community on sexual assault and intimate partner violence and better protect the survivors of these incidents.
Since it began, SAPAC has had a peer education program available for interested University students to participate in. But starting next fall, all incoming freshmen will be required to attend the program.
Along with trying to reach a larger audience, SAPAC is attempting to collaborate with diverse communities and groups on campus. For example, Rider-Milkovich pointed out that SAPAC has created a men’s activism program.
“We recognize that men have an absolutely critical role to play (and) that we will not eliminate sexual violence until all the members of our community are involved, including men,” she said.
Through the years, SAPAC has modified its practices in order to meet students’ needs, Rider-Milkovich added. She referenced new concerns regarding Internet stalking — an issue that was not relevant when the center was founded in 1986.
“It is a continual commitment to make sure that as our students’ lives change, as the circumstances that they face change, we are remaining relevant and current and can address their needs,” Rider-Milkovich said.
Working to meet these goals, SAPAC has adopted a new client-management database that is similar to the one used in hospitals and based on the one used by the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. The database, which will be implemented this semester, allows SAPAC to keep track of its work and see whether it is effectively meeting students’ needs, Rider-Milkovich said.
“We’re also really excited to be bringing about new technology so that we’re able to follow students better and provide better care to survivors when they do come to us,” she said.
Rider-Milkovich reflected on the center’s past achievements, which include three grants, each for $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women. The grants were used for a wide range of efforts including a sexual assault prevention video, prevention services, outreach to students living on North Campus and a response team to help survivors.
SAPAC was also recognized by the department as being one of the best programs of its kind. Rider-Milkovich said she’s proud of the recognition and pointed to the University’s environment as the key to SAPAC’s success.
“We are the best in the work that we do and that is very much because of the institutional help that we receive, and it’s also because of the ways in which our students push us to always do better,” she said.
Last month, SAPAC celebrated its anniversary with a resource fair and a concert featuring Ella Riot, Hana Malhas, and Izzrael.
LSA junior Ellie Howe, co-coordinator of networking, publicity and advertising for SAPAC, said what she loves most about being involved in the center is the sense of community it creates and the staff’s commitment.
“I love how dedicated SAPAC is to its mission,” Howe said. “Our professional staff members don’t work 9 to 5. They work much longer hours because they really care about the work that they do.”
Howe added that it’s important students recognize that SAPAC is a source of pride for the University.
“I want everyone to know how exciting it is that we live on a campus that has such a multi-dimensional and prioritized resource center like this in our university, and our group provides some of the best services in the country,” Howe said. “Sometimes I don’t think we realize how lucky we are to have a place for survivors and allies to go to.”