Student activists Samantha Daniels ’16, Victoria Jonas ’15 and Ava Blustein ’15 outlined the responsibilities and application process for “peer advocate” positions at the soon-to-be implemented Brandeis Rape Crisis Center (RCC) to interested students on Tuesday. The Rape Crisis Center, an extension of Brandeis’ Peer Counseling Center and the Office of Prevention Services, was first proposed to the university by sexual assault activists in 2013. Since the administration’s approval of the RCC in the summer of 2014, activists, particularly members of Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) have been working to implement its services on campus. Daniels, Jonas and Blustein have been closely involved with the center’s development, and are seeking to hire 12 students as peer advocates.
The RCC is a massive victory resulting from years of activism by students, including the above mentioned student leaders. Last semester, activists conducted a silent protest during the dedication of the “Light of Reason” sculpture at the Rose Art Museum. Students also disrupted a meeting of the board of trustees to publicly demand more serious action against sexual assault on campus. In April 2014, B.SASV published a petition to the Brandeis administration with a list of requests, including a rape crisis center. After months of deliberation, the center will be implemented on campus in Usdan in the very near future.
Once the RCC opens this semester, it will principally be staffed by professionals in the field of sexual assault and offer services for survivors of sexual assault, including education and counseling.
“Peer advocates…will play a vital role in the increased development of the Rape Crisis Center,” Jonas said. Advocates will report to professional employees, such as Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist Sheila McMahon, and will be trained to handle situations involving serious trauma. “People might just be coming to pick up a brochure or ask a question, or they might be coming to the center as a first response,” Jonas said. “We are not totally sure what we will get.”
The presenters also stressed the importance of emotional self-care in the peer advocate position. “This definitely can be a very emotionally intense position,” Daniels said. “But there will also be time to reflect and meet with the supervision … you are not just going to be thrown into the position and never have anyone to talk to.” Applicants must also be able to maintain confidentiality. Peer advocates may also be required to provide “medical advocacy,” including accompanying assault survivors to the hospital in order to receive a rape kit or similar treatments. Transport would be arranged and paid for by the RCC, though coordinators are currently unsure of the frequency of these trips, according to Daniels. All interested students are encouraged to apply but will only be considered if they are at Brandeis for at least another two semesters.
Student coordinators hope that the RCC will be a safe place that will also be open to growth and change. “We want to help destigmatize the conversation around assault,” Jonas said. “We want the RCC to be a place everyone knows about and can access whenever they want.” The application for the peer advocate position is currently online at the Office of Prevention Services’ section of the Brandeis website, and applicants will be informed of their acceptance or rejection by early to mid-February.