Two Brandeis alumnae created an Interactive Resource Guide for students that details the many resources and ways of reporting available for those who have been affected by sexual assault. Students click through the anonymous guide and answer questions about what has happened to them and are then directed to the resources.
Ava Blustein ’15 and Evelyn Milford ’16 created the guide, which is now available on the Rape Crisis Center’s (RCC) website. While at Brandeis, Blustein and Milford were heavily involved in the RCC and Office of Prevention Services (OPS), as well as activists for Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV).
They were prompted to create the guide after discussions with peers and the results of the spring 2015 Campus Climate Survey proved that students are not as aware as they could be about the available on- and off-campus resources.
“How, then, we asked ourselves, were individuals seeking information during a crisis, supposed to locate the services they might require?” Milford said. “While the information was out there, it was widespread and difficult to maneuver.”
Blustein agreed, voicing her concern that handing students an informational sheet of paper does not always give insight into how the process works, or what steps need to be taken to properly serve each student or fit each individual need.
“Evelyn and I … often wished we had a more visual, comprehensive and easy-to-understand way to give students information about some of the processes like reporting at Brandeis or getting medical attention off-campus,” Blustein said.
They brought their idea to Sheila McMahon, the sexual assault prevention and survivor specialist in the Office of Prevention Services. Knowing they wanted to make the guide as interactive as possible and have it be accessible online and on mobile devices, McMahon suggested the survey software Qualtrics as a base for building the guide.
Blustein and Milford spent almost two years working together to get the program where it is today. They worked collaboratively, drawing on knowledge they already had from working with the RCC and OPS, research and assistance from B.SASV and help from various Brandeis offices and administrators, according to Milford.
Gathering information and conducting research was not the hardest part of the project, but rather navigating the software. Qualtrics is a survey software, so it wasn’t necessarily conducive to making a comprehensive guide.
Blustein explained that they wanted the guide to be an endless loop, so users could access different sections at any time, but Qualtrics had to be updated before this was possible.
“It actually wasn’t until Qualtrics was updated and improved, and we were granted access to extra features of the platform, that we were able to make the Main Page and create a survey that gave us those capabilities,” she said.
The guide begins by asking users whether or not they are in immediate danger. If the user clicks yes, the page redirects to a list of emergency numbers. If the user clicks no, the page redirects to the Main Page of the guide.
The Main Page lists five categories: medical attention, accompaniment, counseling, accommodation services and reporting options. The user can click through these five categories at their leisure.
“Once you click on any of those options, you’ll be asked a series of questions that will lead you to information based on your responses. In several of the paths, once you reach a section that contains information, it will also ask if you’d like to know more about other options, or will lead to another category,” Blustein said.
The user always has the option of returning to the Main Page. Contact information for McMahon, the RCC and Julia Rickey, survivor advocate and education specialist, is listed on the Main Page as well.
Blustein and Milford hope to get a lot of feedback as students use the guide so they can update it to make it as relevant and accurate as possible. “We want to hear feedback from students about what aspects of the guide are most useful, if the language being used feels accessible enough and would love to hear suggestions about ways in which the guide could be more useful,” Milford noted.
The creators also want students to know that this guide is entirely confidential and anonymous. No personal information is saved after students use the guide. They also want to emphasize that the guide is a tool for everyone.
“Whether you’d like to get information for a friend or for yourself, you’re curious about options after an incident of sexual violence, or you’re a CA, OL or in a leadership position on campus, this guide is meant to spread information that we, as a community, all benefit from knowing,” Blustein said.
The link to the Interactive Resource Guide can be found on the homepage of the RCC’s website, in the right-hand column titled “Resource Guides.”