UWO adds new sex assault advocate position

Amber Brockman, Assistant News Editor

UW Oshkosh has created a new advocate position, the sexual & interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, with the goal of creating a position with a more consistent funding source as it ends its sexual assault and violence services with Reach Counseling.

UWO Dean of Students Art Munin said the sexual and interpersonal violence prevention coordinator position will be replacing the campus victims advocate position through Reach Counseling, which was funded by grants administered by the Office of the Justice Assistance. The partnership with Reach Counseling will end December 2019 after 15 years of implementation.

“This has been a wonderful partnership that UWO is very grateful to have been part of for so many years,” Munin said. “However, as with any grant funded, the money for this position had to be reapplied for every year, leaving the possibility that, at any point, the funding could be denied and the position ended.”

UWO funds the new position, so an employee will always be available to students.

“Our students will now have a confidential advocate that can serve students on all three campuses,” Munin said. “We also have a full-time professional dedicated to systemic prevention efforts.”

Despite the reorganization of counseling services, Munin said UWO will maintain their association with Reach.
“Reach continues to be beneficial to students and we greatly value their partnership,” Munin said. “We continue to collaborate on initiatives such as the Take Back the Night event.”

Although student reports made to the Sexual & Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator are confidential, Campus Victim Advocate at Reach Counseling Ciara Hill said whoever fills that position is still a university employee. Hill said this eliminates the anonymity of the individual reporting since the employee could be known on campus by faculty, staff or students.

“It kind of takes away the feeling of ‘OK, I’m coming for help, but I don’t want anyone at the university to know that this happened to me,’” Hill said. “Having one less person on campus, I feel, isn’t necessarily beneficial, especially when the employee that they hired is not only doing advocacy, prevention and education on UWO campus, but also at UW-Fond du Lac and UW-Fox Cities, which is a lot for one person to do.”

Since UWO proposed they would be ending the campus victim advocate position last year, Hill said she has been working to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“I still have clients that I’ve seen since I started last year, so just explaining to them ‘I’m not leaving you, I’m still going to be around, we can still see each other but I just won’t be on campus’ was a lot to tell them because they have already gone through a lot of trauma in their lives,” Hill said. “I don’t want them to feel like they’re not wanted or feel like they’re being left.”

Sexual & Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator Gabrielle Schwartz, who began her role at the beginning of the semester, said sexual violence is a community issue that impacts everyone.

“Whether or not students are aware of it, we all know a victim/survivor of sexual or interpersonal violence,” Schwartz said. “Participating and engaging in campus prevention and awareness efforts sends a message of support to survivors, and a community message that we find all forms of sexual violence unacceptable.”

Schwartz said UWO is dedicated to eliminating sexual and interpersonal violence in the campus community.

“Unfortunately, we know it is a pervasive problem in our society, and specifically institutions of higher education,” Schwartz said. “It is vital that we have campus resources dedicated to providing the best possible care, advocacy, and support to our student victims/survivors here at UW Oshkosh.”

Schwartz, as well as the Counseling Center and Student Health Center, are all confidential reporters on campus.

This story was updated with a new headline and to include the confidential reporters on campus.