PARC implements two new online features

January 24, 2020

The Brandeis Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC) implemented a new feature on its website that allows users to message with an advocate during noon-5 p.m. office hours on weekdays. All conversations that are held with advocates in the chat are confidential, according to the group’s website.

Another new feature allows users to make an appointment with a peer advocate by clicking on the button that reads “Schedule a Meeting.” Specific advocates’ hours are listed on PARC’s website.

“On the chat page of our website a little box appears when chat is open,” said Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Sarah Berg in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. “The chat box allows for text, links, emojis, and sending photos or other attachments. The chat box program we use can support any language, too. Some of our Peer Advocates speak multiple languages, so they could chat with someone in those languages when they are in office, too.”

Media and Communications Coordinator Olivia Pavao ’20 said in a message to The Hoot that PARC was inspired by the library’s chat function with which students can ask librarians for help with research. 

“Since we are always trying to expand our campus outreach and find new methods for accessing our services, a chat function seeks to cover a need that our hotline and office hours might not meet,” said Pavao. “Additionally, scheduling an appointment can create a sense of empowerment and control that walk ins may not provide for someone seeking our services. While making an appointment is not necessary, if there is a specific advocate that the student would prefer to meet with or feels more comfortable having a specific time laid out in advance, this can be a helpful feature.”

“We hope the chat will offer a new layer of privacy for folks—they don’t have to share their identity with the peer advocate and they can talk from anywhere without someone overhearing,” wrote Berg. “It’s also a nice way to ask a quick question without having to find time to come into the office. We also heard feedback from students that they might not come to drop in hours if they weren’t sure someone would be available, so we decided to offer the option to book a time in advance. People can still definitely come in without a meeting scheduled, but if having a set time is helpful we wanted to give them the option!”

Pavao added that the advantage of scheduling an appointment rather than dropping in during office hours is that the user has a personal choice.

“Speaking personally, I feel far more comfortable walking into an office with an appointment already in place,” said Pavao. “It makes me feel more in control and like I know what to expect. However, this is entirely a personal choice and many may feel just as comfortable walking in without an appointment scheduled. The real advantage is that more people will hopefully feel comfortable accessing office hours.”

Pavao said that many of their ideas and their implementations are “highly collaborative with efforts coming from many people working together.”

“Our hope is that these features allow us to reach people that might have otherwise not felt comfortable accessing our services,” said Pavao. “Phone calls and in-person meetings can be intimidating, especially about topics as potentially personal as sexual violence, dating/domestic violence and stalking. Providing the option to schedule an appointment or chat online are the next step in our mission to make PARC a welcoming and accessible resource.”

PARC provides “education, empowerment and support related to sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence and stalking,” according to its website. 

“Confidential advocates are available 24/7 via the hotline; drop-ins are welcome in the office noon–5 p.m. any day classes are in session, and appointments are always available with professional staff,” says the website.
PARC is located in Usdan G-108 and has trained advocates that can be reached through a 24 hour hotline at 781-736-3370.

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