Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program was a unique campus organization dedicated to providing confidentiality and resources to victims of sexual assault until Coordinating Director Delaney Anderson announced her leave on Sept. 29, and the university failed to post a new opening for the position.
Since Anderson’s departure in mid October, OUSAP has been temporarily shut down and labeled “under construction” by the university.
During this transitory period, students seeking resources or a confidential place to discuss sexual assault are being referred to Counseling and Psychological Services.
CPS is a large-scale program designed to meet general mental health needs for all students seeking help, while OUSAP is a focused group with the designated purpose to aid victims of sexual assault. While CPS provides licensed counseling, it lacks the specificity of the Survivor Advocacy Program and subsequently, some important features that may be valuable to survivors seeking help.
OUSAP provides students an opportunity to meet with trained advocates, some of whom are peers and graduate students, with the focus and intention to work with victims in a safe, confidential environment. Additionally, OUSAP is also the only program to offer the accompaniment of a trained advocate to victims seeking hospital advice or police investigation.
While CPS may also offer a level of confidentiality to students, there is typically a waiting period, and after the first-year student ‘Ohio Guarantee’ is no longer provided, only higher level students who are insured under the university’s wellness plan may continue to use this service.
The greatest controversy lies within the university’s lack of response to Anderson’s submitted notice of her resignation, a solution which would have never halted OUSAP in the first place.
In an open letter to the community, Shari Clarke, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, addressed the issue: “While we think the Survivor Advocacy model was providing good service to clients, we are taking the opportunity to consider other models and best practices for provision of services to survivors.”
Clarke further cites that reassessing the position and title of the coordinator to provide a “licensed, credentialed” adviser, and evaluating financial statistics within the program provide justifiable reason to temporarily revise services without “disrupting the placement of a current employee.”
The university ensures students that OUSAP is not going away, just temporarily on leave. However, the university’s definition of “temporary” remains unclear, and in the meantime, students are demanding answers.
Members of Fuck Rape Culture, an advocacy organization against sexual assault and rape, created a petition on change.org with a list of demands, including assurance that the peer advocate program remains strong within OUSAP, and that budget and staff are not reduced during the transition.
As of Nov. 4, the petition received 304 signatures.
FRC member, sophomore and creative writing major Sasha Gough shared her position on the university’s response.
“The university continues to tell us how much they care but they’re really not doing as much as they can,” Gough said. “Videos and conversations and making statements about all of things that they are trying to do are all great and awesome, but until I see actual steps being taken towards what the survivors actually need rather than what they think the campus needs, then I’ll be really impressed.”
Alicia Chavira-Prado, the administrative supervisor of the OUSAP stated on Nov. 5, “We have contacted and/or considered several prospective candidates, and are hopeful that we will find a good fit for the program soon. As our search for a qualified professional continues, we have waived our standard procedures in order to expedite hiring when we can identify the appropriate individual. Although it has been a challenge, it is important to recognize that we are all working toward the same goal in trying to restore this valuable program to our campus.”