There has been much said about the changes at the Sexual Assault
Prevention and Awareness Center over the course of the last few
months. We support everyone’s right to have his or her own
opinions about this issue, and so we would like to take this
opportunity to express our opinion.

The changes that will take place this summer are a result of the
University dedicating an increased amount of funding to services
for survivors of sexual violence and to educational programming
around the issues of sexual violence. The changes are also part of
SAPAC’s commitment to developing a coordinated community
response to sexual violence. Rather than fragmenting services for
survivors of sexual violence, these changes are designed to
increase networking among area organizations that are already
serving survivors of sexual violence.

SAPAC has provided high-quality services for sexual violence
survivors for many years, but has not had the resources to provide
long-term counseling to all survivors seeking services from SAPAC.
SAPAC is committed to providing quality counseling to all
University survivors, and transferring counseling to Counseling and
Psychological Services is designed to work toward this goal. The
counselors who are currently employed at SAPAC will continue their
work at CAPS, where they will continue to see many of their current
clients, and will also be able to network with CAPS staff who serve
sexual violence survivors. Because CAPS is an accredited counseling
agency, both therapists will also receive position upgrades, and
our current part-time therapist will take a full-time position at
CAPS. These changes, then, mark an increase in counseling resources
available to survivors. CAPS has been providing services to sexual
violence survivors for over 20 years (longer than SAPAC has been in
existence), and so the staff at CAPS is familiar with these issues.
Some have expressed a concern that because CAPS also provides
services to perpetrators of sexual violence, a survivor might see
his or her perpetrator while at CAPS. When this situation is known
to exist, CAPS can schedule the appointment times of the survivor
and perpetrator so that they will not see each other and work with
survivors to ensure their sense of safety.

Crisis line services will be provided by SAFE House, which is
Washtenaw County’s service provider for survivors of sexual
assault and domestic violence. This change will allow all crisis
calls to be handled by a single organization. SAFE House is able to
staff a 24-hour crisis line, so callers are able to speak with the
person answering the phone right away, which means a faster
response to survivors in crisis.

SAPAC will provide more legal, medical, housing and academic
advocacy services to survivors of sexual violence. By separating
the roles of counselor and advocate, the new system will ensure
that survivors are able to continue the therapeutic process while
also pursuing academic or legal advocacy. SAPAC also continues to
provide educational programming, and the University has increased
resources to these programs, including raising the position of our
training and education coordinator from part-time to full-time.

The goal of this system is to allow multiple partner
organizations to respond in a timely and compassionate way to
survivors of sexual violence. Within such a system and with the
consent of the survivor, pertinent information about the
survivor’s story can be shared in order to minimize the
number of times that a survivor will have to re-tell his or her
story. By encouraging this network of organizations, the new system
will ensure that a survivor is able to receive comprehensive and
quality counseling, advocacy and crisis services, regardless of
whether his or her first contact is with CAPS, SAPAC or SAFE
House.

In our minds, these changes reflect the commitment of the
current administration to provide quality sexual violence services
to members of the University community. We recognize that not all
University students feel the same about these changes and that not
all survivors feel the same about these changes. Our goal is not to
change anyone’s mind, but simply to provide our perspective,
in order that members of the University community may make an
informed decision about their opinion on this issue. Most
importantly, please remember that SAPAC is and always will be here
for survivors.

Achen is a a LSA junior, Vitale is an Alum. They are SAPAC
Peer Education Coordinators.

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