OPS, RCC unify under the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center

September 28, 2018

Brandeis students experience sexual assault at a rate comparable to the national average. To provide a space and community for people facing these hardships, Brandeis implemented the Office of Prevention Services (OPS) and the Rape Crisis Center (RCC) in 2015.

In the past year, Brandeis has made some structural changes to the OPS and the RCC, bringing the two offices under one umbrella: the Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC). The changes occurred in response to the intimidation students felt by the previous name and the lack of clarity surrounding the roles of each office.

PARC is headed by Sarah Berg, a graduate of the Social Science & Gender Studies masters program from the University of Colorado Denver. She has worked in the victim advocacy and prevention field since obtaining her masters, and she continues her work at Brandeis.

The PARC office, located in Usdan Student Center to the right of Levin Ballroom, offers confidential advocacy for survivors of sexual assault. Berg calls it a great “first stop for anyone who has been impacted by sexual or relationship violence and isn’t sure what they want to do.” The resources offered extend not only to survivors themselves, but also friends of survivors who are seeking information and techniques for advocacy and support.

Along with Berg, the PARC staffs 10 undergraduate violence prevention educators, a group of students that have undergone 34 hours of training over the course of a semester consisting of in depth overviews of campus resources, practice in active listening and grounding skills and information regarding unpacking violence and how it impacts different people. These violence prevention educators train the wider community on safe practices of violence prevention. Some of these students also serve as peer advocates in PARC, working as advocates and functioning as a resource for students seeking advice or a conversation in the realm of sexual and/or relationship violence.

In terms of professional staff, Berg works with PARC’s Survivor Advocate Vilma Uribe. Prior to joining the PARC staff at Brandeis, Uribe has had plenty of experience working in advocacy for survivors of violence in Massachusetts, especially within the Latinx and LGBTQ community.

The implementation of OPS and the RCC, and eventually PARC, derives from the 2015 Campus Climate survey that showed the campus body’s experience with sexual violence, specifically in that many of the statistics match the rates of the wider college and university population. This is why PARC’s role on campus is so important, according to Berg. “I like to think of PARC as a necessary piece of the puzzle for working to eliminate violence, hate and the stigmas related to them,” Berg said. The office works to accomplish this work “through both individual interactions and on the institutional level of forwarding difficult conversations that we need to make change in ourselves and our community,” she elaborated.

Along with the structural change in the office, PARC is also working on implementing a few new programs and resources available to students this academic year, while continuing their work on programs such as Take Back the Night in April and the Wellness Wednesday self-care series. This year the office is working on raising greater awareness around dating and/or relationship violence. They hope to emphasize that dating violence does not just fall under the realm of physical violence, and that there are ways to recognize red flags earlier.

Berg and the PARC office have also been working with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to implement a new training program centered on racial justice. The training program, called Racial Justice Bystander Training, was developed in response to student feedback from previous sessions. It will use similar framework to the Bystander Training program that many students have seen in Orientation or otherwise, but will focus on training pro-social bystanders of racial injustices.

Students can sign up for these Bystander training sessions through the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center website. The website also details contact information for anyone seeking to schedule an appointment with Berg and Uribe. PARC’s peer advocates are also available for drop-in appointments Monday through Friday from noon until 5:00 p.m. The office also offers a 24/7 hotline, reachable at (781) 736-3370.

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