Due to rising documented reports of gender-based violence and increased use of student resources, the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) is expanding its programs with a new hire.
Located in the Montag Loft in Willamette’s Eastside complex, the GRAC offers advocacy for victims of interpersonal violence through its director and confidential advocate, Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARAs) and its recently-hired second confidential advocate.
The quarterly report for July 1 to Sept. 30, 2018 recorded 28 contacts relating to sexual violence, whereas the same time period for 2019 saw that number more than double to 60 contacts. A contact can be sending an email to one of the confidential advocates, filling out a report, making a phone call or any other way of reaching out to the GRAC about an incident or concern.
This increase, however, is “not a reflection of more violence, but instead of significant outreach,” Andrea Doyle Hugmeyer, the GRAC’s director and confidential advocate, explained.
She noted more systematic documentation of contacts and the significance of the #MeToo Movement for “no longer tolerating certain behaviors and [helping victims feel] more empowered to reach out,” as two additional reasons for the spike.
To help address this increased interest in the GRAC’s offerings, Daphne Van Veen, a 2019 Willamette graduate and former SARA volunteer, began working five to 10 hours each week as a part-time confidential advocate since Oct. 21. As of now, Van Veen is hired through the end of spring semester, but there is hope that her position will be extended to further aid students.
The funding for the addition of Van Veen to the GRAC’s team is all thanks to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) and Crime Victims and Survivors Services Division (CVSSD), which together awarded seven Oregon universities, including Willamette, “Campus Victim Services Outreach and Advocacy Project” grants.
Allocated to Willamette’s Title IX Team for use from April 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2020, this $174,413 grant covers the second confidential advocate position and enhances victim services for other initiatives on campus, like Willamette’s Women’s Resource Center.
In Van Veen’s words, the job of a confidential advocate is “facilitating agency… and listening to what the survivor wants.” Hugmeyer agreed, stating that her role is all about “offering support and information about different options so students can make empowered decisions.”
This can involve working with professors, campus housing and safety and the Willamette Title IX Team to help students impacted by sexual violence or harassment, stalking or relationship violence feel a reinstated sense of power and control.
Speaking with either Hugmeyer or Van Veen can help a student know and understand all of their options for how to proceed, whether that be filing a law enforcement or Title IX report, pursuing academic accommodations or addressing housing needs on or off campus.
Van Veen said, “I’m here to support students, acknowledge my identity, go above and beyond… even if a student is just struggling and hasn’t made a decision about Title IX and just needs to come vent.”
Looking to the future, the GRAC and SARAs will continue to grow, produce more information materials and enhance prevention efforts. Hugmeyer also wants to direct more energy to underrepresented groups who utilize the GRAC’s resources, such as students of color and LGBTS+ students, in order to ensure that everyone feels comfortable, accepted and acknowledged.
Additionally, work is underway on the development of an LGBTQ+ education program focused on understanding discrimination around sexual identity and how to be an ally. The program is set to launch as early as this spring.
For more information about the GRAC, confidential advocates, SARAs and other resources, visit the Willamette website or email email@example.com.