Advocacy for sexual assault survivors coming to University of Arizona

Teresa Graham Brett, the associate dean of students for inclusion and multicultural engagement, is working with a team to develop the victim advocacy program at UA. (Photo by Aurora Begay / Arizona Sonora News)

The University of Arizona is working on establishing a victim advocacy programduring the Fall 2018 semester. Victim advocates support sexual assault survivors by providing information and helping them through the process of going through emergency medical examinations, evidence collection, police reports and court hearings.

“Victim advocate comprehensive requires us to look at what the roles are on campus and what we need to support the victims,” said Teresa Graham Brett, associate dean of students for inclusion and multicultural engagement.

According to the 2017 Campus Safety, Security and Fire Safety Report, cases of sexual assault at the University of Arizona increased from 18 in 2015 to 24 in 2016. Cases of fondling also rose from two in 2015 to six in 2016.

In November, at the first conference on Gender-Based Violence, a group of students spoke aabout how there was a need for the victim advocacy program. The program is being funded by both the University of Arizona and a private donor.

According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, 1-in-6 college-aged female survivors receive assistance from a victim services agency.

The University of Washington has an advocate within its police department. Victoria Adams, the department’s victim advocate, works students, staff, and community affiliates who were impacted by a criminal act.

“Since starting this job in July 2017 through March, I have worked with 241 victims,” said Adams. “My numbers are also increasing each month.” Adams worked with 60 clients, of which 38 were new contacts. She also supported nine court hearings, 39 in-person meetings, 29 phone calls, and 116 emails.

Adams is also finishing her PhD at the University of Arizona while working as an advocate at the University of Washington. Last year, she worked with sexual assault and violence prevention at UA.

“I felt I was somewhat of an unofficial advocate, as students and staff would refer survivors of sexual violence to me as a way to access resources and seek support,” Adams said.

Adams advice to the University of Arizona is to “hire people who are passionate about advocacy and experienced in it” and to “reach out to campus advocate networks and experts for advice on best practices.”

Advocacy training will be held this summer through the university and community partnerships. The advocates will work closely with Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.

Aurora Begay is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News Service, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at aurorabegay@email.arizona.edu.

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