"Take Care, Take Action" Program Offers Trained Advocates to Listen and Help
484 764-9242. Program it into your cell phone; write it on your calendar; commit it to memory. It's one of those numbers you hope you won't need, but feel better knowing it's there if you do.
It's the number students can call if they or someone they know had an unwanted sexual experience, or if they have questions about something that happened to them or a friend—recently or at any time in the past. Trained advocates are available—24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the academic year—to listen and assist. Conversations are completely confidential.
"Our goal is to provide help, but the caller is completely in the driver's seat," said Liz Yates, director of resident and Greek life and coordinator of the advocate program. "Advocates are trained to explain the medical, reporting, judicial, and counseling options available." Yates, who served as an advocate at Bucknell University, recruited nine Moravian faculty and staff members to serve as volunteer advocates for the 2010-11 academic year.
Advocates received 25 to 30 hours of comprehensive training that included baseline counseling skills; visits to available resources (health center, local emergency room, and others); and role playing. "It was important for them to learn how to help without directing," explained Yates. "Advocates are not counselors. Their role is to step back and provide information—to help survivors navigate the system and do as much as they want to do." Advocates serve one-week shifts on call, and only female advocates answer the hotline; male advocates are available upon request.
"Very few colleges have a volunteer model like ours. We feel our program serves students at a very high level. We were hoping for five volunteers and we got nine—that says something about our Moravian College community."
Offering the support of a team of trained advocates is new this fall--the result of work done over the past year by the Committee on Sexual Assault Awareness (COSAA), chaired by Nicole Loyd, dean of students. "Our program is fairly unique," she said. "Very few colleges have a volunteer model like ours. We feel our program serves students at a very high level. We were hoping for five volunteers and we got nine—that says something about our Moravian College community." Formed in the spring of 2009, COSAA was "tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of our sexual assault policies, protocols, support systems, education and advocacy efforts."
To let the campus community know about the new advocate program, COSAA has displayed posters around campus, and Yates has talked with various student groups. Magnets and T-shirts with the 484 764-9242 number also will be distributed in the coming months.
"Although callers' names are never recorded or reported, we do report the number of events as required by the Clery Act," said Dean Loyd. "We want our numbers to go up because that will reflect students' comfort in reaching out. I am confident that they will."