After months of protesting against proposed University changes
to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, the group
publicly speaking out against the changes has gained a small
victory in keeping SAPAC’s crisis line operating
independently of similar service-providers.

The original changes proposed by the administration would have
moved SAPAC’s 24-hour crisis line to SAFEHouse, the national
service provider to sexual assault and domestic abuse victims and
survivors. It would also relocate SAPAC’s counselors to
Counseling and Psychological Services in the Michigan Union,
leaving SAPAC to focus on sexual assault advocacy and
education.

After hearing members of Our Voices Count speak at
regents’ meetings during the last few months, the University
announced through e-mail that the crisis line would not be moved to
SAFEHouse but would instead be professionally staffed and operate
through SAPAC. The student volunteers that currently conduct the
crisis line will be replaced with professionals this week.

“We heard from many in our community that, despite some
specific advantages offered by coordinating with SAFEHouse, the
SAPAC crisis line should remain student-centered and should
continue to be administered as a University resource,” said
SAPAC coordinator Kelly Cichy in the e-mail.

OVC member Kathryn Turnock, who was a volunteer staff member of
the crisis line, said the group considers this decision a victory
because the University is not moving the service to SAFEHouse.

“The University will still have responsibility for its own
students instead of asking them to go to an outside agency. It will
make it easier for the University to have statistics of assaults on
campus and they will have a better handle on the University
climate,” she said.

The new and professionally-staffed crisis line will include
features and services that administrators as well as some SAPAC
volunteers and staffers said were lacking when it was
student-run.

One of the main concerns was “having the (call) answered
by a person not by a pager,” Cichy said of the current
system, which puts callers on hold until a volunteer can be reached
and sometimes requires a callback.

By having a professionally-trained staff, calls will always be
answered, and callers do not have to worry about reaching a student
volunteer who may know them from class, Cichy added. Other features
planned for the new crisis line are Telephone-Typewriter services
for the hearing impaired as well as a Language Line translating
service.

Even though the University may have conceded partially to
OVC’s demands, Turnock said the group is still unhappy with
the administration’s decision to move SAPAC’s
counselors to CAPS. OVC’s website lists a number of reasons
that counseling for survivors should stay within SAPAC, stating
that the division of services between different organizations would
have a negative impact on their clients.

“It is important not to (divide services) because (the
clients) are able to build a level of trust (in one agency) and
chances are that (everyone) at that agency will handle a situation
in the same way,” Turnock said. “But to have someone
contact a certain agency and then a different one with different
philosophies … then that’s a risk.”

Although the new crisis line does not remedy the division
between counseling and advocacy, supporters of the decision point
out that the University narrowed down the services to two groups,
taking SAFEHouse out of the picture.

“I think it’s a very good decision,” said LSA
senior and SAPAC staff member Sasha Achen. “It allows SAPAC
to (have) consistent, professional care (from people who) have more
training. It allows (the University) to respond to the concerns of
those who felt that SAFEHouse would fragmentize the system,”
she said.

University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a letter to
students in April that changes to SAPAC were based on “very
real and enduring concerns about our ability to serve all our
students” and Cichy emphasized that the changes were not a
result of budget constraints.

The crisis line number remains (734) 936-3333.

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