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Rape crisis center to be implemented in near future

Published: September 19, 2014
Section: Front Page, News


This summer, the Brandeis administration approved the creation of a rape crisis center on campus, a project first proposed by members of Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV). B.SASV, one of the principal organizers of the silent protest during the dedication of Chris Burden’s “Light of Reason” at the Rose last week, brought up the idea of a center in an online petition to the Brandeis administration entitled “Call for Stronger Sexual Assault Response, Prevention and Awareness at Brandeis University” in April of last year.

The petition received over 2,500 online signatures from students and other members of the Brandeis community and was delivered to the administration. In an in-depth attachment to the petition, B.SASV members specifically detail a possible rape crisis center as an important factor in battling sexual violence at Brandeis, in both the short and long term. Ideally the center would be staffed by “experts specifically trained” to handle the ongoing needs of survivors of assault, as well as offer programs for Brandeis students to educate their peers about sexual assault and its effects.

According to an email to The Hoot from Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel and Executive Director of Integrated Media William Schaller, the rape crisis center will “operate under the coordination of the Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist, with the support of a graduate assistant and three student positions.”

“Once the petition came out, we began to communicate closely with a few members of the of the administration,” said B.SASV member Evelyn Milford ’16 in an email to The Hoot. “After numerous meetings over the summer with administrators and [Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist] Sheila McMahon, we were able to secure space and funding for the [student] advocate program,” she said. According to Milford, the advocate program “will be available before the end of the [Fall 2014] semester.”

Still, the program is only a first step. B.SASV member Ava Blustein ’15 wrote that she, like Milford, is “optimistic that an opening date will be announced in the near future,” and that students should not worry about costs to the university. “Our original vision for the rape crisis center was based on models of rape crisis centers serving universities and colleges around the country,” Blustein wrote. Such centers are budgeted independently by the host university and do not have much effect on student life.

The crisis center will also provide access to educational literature, prevention initiatives and information about choices that survivors have if they want to seek treatment at a hospital or file a police report.

According to both Milford and Blustein, McMahon’s assistance in setting up the center was essential. “To say Sheila played a huge role in this lengthy process would be an understatement,” said Milford. “We are incredibly grateful for all that she does and lucky to be working so closely with someone as experienced and caring as her.” Blustein agreed, calling McMahon “a true advocate for our community and an ally to students.”

Though McMahon is taking the rest of this semester off for academic leave, B.SASV will be meeting with Kristin Huang, who was recently hired by Brandeis’ Psychological Counseling Center as a specialist in the field of trauma and sexual violence.

Despite these successes, the road to establishing the center has not been without difficulties.

“I think we are currently facing the obstacle that certain members of the administration and community do not feel the current reality of sexual violence on our campus warrants hiring professional staff members for the rape crisis center,” said Blustein. “I believe sexual violence is an extremely prevalent issue on our campus, and members of our community deserve the most comprehensive services the university can provide.”