By JOSEPH KOBSAR
On Thursday, Oct. 18, a seminar called “Talking To A Survivor” was held on campus in partnership with the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA) to teach staff and faculty ways to approach students and those seeking help. RCASA provides all of its services at no charge. They focus on individual and group counseling, art therapy, case management, legal and hospital accompaniment, and outreach.
“A lot of my experience is in college advocacy, but as a peer and now that I’m more of a community resource with the college, I really enjoy how UMW works so well with other community resources. I think it’s just because professors and staff, especially RAs, for a lot of people are the first person they’re going to disclose to if something happened,” said Alex Weathersby, Community Services Coordinator.
“I think it’s just a nice way of getting everyone on the same page about more helpful responses and they can pair that with their universities specific rules about mandatory reporting while increasing some cultural competencies.”
The presentation covered a variety of topics and points. It discussed how the term survivor can mean that someone has had a recent experience, childhood experience, or abuse whether that be sexual, emotional, physical, or financial. According to the presentation, the core steps in helping someone are to listen without judgment, support their decisions, offer resources, and validate their feelings.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Standing to protect individuals from sexual discrimination in educational programs, the Title IX department at UMW advocates for the expansion of education on sexual assault.
“We wanted to make sure that we’re giving resources to students, faculty, or staff members across campus to have effective and personal conversations with survivors or victims that come forward and report to them,” said Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students Myranda Thomson. “We wanted a way for them to have appropriate resources so that they can refer out to someone if they don’t feel that they are appropriate but then also for quick tips that everyone can learn on their own.”
Professors and other staff members attended the meeting to learn about the issue.
“This topic and this subject is seen so much in the news nowadays, I really wanted to go to something that would be hands-on like this where there could be some discussion and just provide information that I might not be thinking about on a daily basis,” said UMW Stafford Registrar staff member Kevin Caffrey.
“What I got out of this was thinking about the different ways you can respond to someone who might come to you with a problem. If you sense that there’s a problem with someone, you would want to know the right way to approach it without invading their personal space or saying anything that might be considered inappropriate or rude.”
Some students said that they feel the information sessions will help create a more welcoming environment to encourage more conversation about these issues.
“I think that the information sessions are a good way to educate faculty and staff,” said classics and communications and digital studies double major sophomore Cameron Ashley. “Maybe this is a way that students can become more comfortable with talking to someone. We have gotten two emails this semester related to sexual assault so obviously, there’s more that should be done. These informational sessions could be a step in the right direction.”
Anyone needing resources can call RCASA’s Crisis Hotline is (540) 371-1666.