We realize that those without a thorough understanding of
survivor services might overlook many of the devastating barriers
the proposed changes to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness
Center have and will create for survivors seeking help. The
discussion of the fragmentation of SAPAC’s survivor services
can become complicated, which is why it is important not only to
include opinion but also fact in such discourse. We’d hope
that as peer educators, Sasha Achen and Stephanie Vitale would have
educated themselves about the issue before publicly declaring their
opinion in the viewpoint SAPAC changes will provide better
services
(04/08/04). We’d like to clear up some of the
facts that were lost in the viewpoint.

Counseling will no longer be available at SAPAC. The crisis line
at SAPAC is being shut down. Outreaches will no longer be done
through SAPAC-trained volunteers and professionals. These are
undeniable components of the proposal to change SAPAC. Is this a
growth in services? Some would have you believe so. After speaking
to the president of the University, vice president for student
affairs, the directors of both SAPAC and Counseling and
Psychological Services, University regents, professional staff,
researchers and other experts in the field, it is our opinion that
these changes are in fact a reduction of services and not a
growth.

The facts are quite clear: Survivor services at SAPAC will be
cut. It is time to stop the disinformation campaign. The increase
in education does not excuse the loss of survivor services. The
increase in education initiatives is not in any way dependent on
the removal of counseling and crisis intervention; in fact, for
years, they have worked remarkably well together within the same
organization.

Achen and Vitale write, “CAPS has been providing services
to sexual violence survivors for over 20 years (longer than SAPAC
has been in existence), and so staff is familiar with these
issues.”

SAPAC was formed when an off-campus crisis line and CAPS existed
as independent resources. It was the demand for specialized
services on campus that led to the creation of SAPAC. Since then,
SAPAC has become a national model for such resources. What this
plan proposes is a return to what the University had almost 20
years ago and did not work. Is this what the administration would
have students believe is a growth?

The viewpoint claims that moving counseling from SAPAC to CAPS
is working toward “providing quality counseling to all
University survivors.” However, there is no reason to believe
that this move will in any way increase the quality of counseling
and many reasons to believe the quality will decrease.

There are important barriers that exist for survivors at CAPS.
Perpetrators are served at CAPS. That risk is not simply a barrier
for many seeking services, but has already been a reality for
survivors seeking services at CAPS. Achen and Vitale posit that
“when the situation is known to exist,” CAPS will try
and work around this issue. Among other problems, this leaves
unaddressed the obvious issues of first-time clients and those who
do not wish to disclose about their perpetrator. We’ll leave
the fact that CAPS is located in the most public building on campus
for another discussion.

The demand for long-term services should signal the need for an
increase in counselors at SAPAC and clearly not a removal of these
services entirely. Todd Sevig, the director of CAPS, has confirmed
that it will never be a long-term agency.

Less than a year ago there were three crisis lines within
Washtenaw County handling calls concerning issues of sexual
violence. The Sexual Assault Crisis Center was shut down because of
funding issues. Now, with the proposed plans to SAPAC, only one
will remain. This is a part of the disturbing trend in decreasing
resources for survivors in Washtenaw County. Services continue to
be severed and disappear, only this time, it’s a matter of
bureaucracy and not budget as a source of the cuts.

What we do know is that people have already expressed not
feeling safe at CAPS. We know for a fact that many survivors have
already been traumatized over the loss of a resource that has been
a staple of this community. We know that long-term counseling
services will no longer be available unless exceptions are made. We
know that the counselors currently at SAPAC did not have the option
to stay at SAPAC or participate in the design of such a
“community coordinated response.” We know that Our
Voices Count is only one of many organizations outraged by such a
blatant disregard for campus safety. We do know that people will no
longer be able to walk into one safe space with specialized
services and professionals dedicated solely to the needs of
survivors, families and friends of sexual assault. We know this for
a fact.

Achen and Vitale write, “Most importantly, please remember
that SAPAC is and always will be here for survivors.” It is
our wish that statement would remain true in fact and not simply in
opinion.

White and Turnock, an LSA senior and LSA junior respectively,
are SAPAC volunteers and representatives of Our Voices
Count.

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