CARE reports increase in students using its services

Paige Leskin, Reporter

The Center for Awareness, Response and Education reported a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of services it provided to Northwestern students during the 2013-14 academic year.

In an annual report, which was released July 30, the Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence summarized its work on campus and proposed recommendations to improve the group’s efforts in the future.

In its third year on campus, CARE provided services to 78 students, a 44 percent increase from the year before, according to the report.

CARE has worked with 137 students since its creation, the report says. Although CARE only worked with 17 students in its first year, the number of students who utilized staff increased 231 percent in the 2012-13 school year, to 54 students.

CARE staff and school officials predicted an increase in the number of students who turned to CARE, said Laura Stuart, NU’s coordinator of sexual health education and violence prevention. In the first year, not many people knew about CARE and the kinds of services available, she said.

“We didn’t expect during our first year to have a lot of services provided because nothing like that had ever been available at Northwestern before,” Stuart said. “Maybe incoming freshmen heard about CARE during Wildcat Welcome, but sophomores, juniors and seniors literally had no idea that the office existed.”

The CCSV, which was established in Spring Quarter 2010, launched CARE at the start of the 2011-2012 academic year as a resource on campus to offer services related to preventing sexual violence and assisting survivors. CARE provides students with advocates that can connect them to various services, including medical help, counseling, legal and law enforcement options and the University complaint process.

With the graduation of the class of 2014 – the last group of students who were not introduced to CARE as freshmen – Stuart said she thinks CARE will become more established on campus.

The report also notes a three-year $300,000 grant that had been awarded to NU in September 2011 from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women is coming to an end. Funding went toward activities such as CARE’s marketing campaigns and the Step Up! bystander intervention program, which trained more than 1,000 students, staff and faculty last year.

While CCSV waits to hear if it has received another $300,000 grant for the next three years, Stuart said NU has picked up the costs of keeping her on campus as CARE’s lone full-time survivor advocate.

“It really kind of shows Northwestern’s commitment … they’re going to keep that position in place and assume the costs for that,” she said. “It would be terrible if we did all this work over the past three years and weren’t able to continue that position.”

The funding was also used to introduce Agent of Change, a new online pre-orientation program that all incoming undergraduates were required to complete between June 1 and August 1. Produced by We End Violence, an organization that works to prevent sexual violence through education, the interactive program is designed to cover all aspects of power-based sexual violence and show users how they can contribute to developing a safer culture on their college campuses.

Stuart said CARE and New Student and Family Programs felt there was a need for a separate pre-orientation Essential NU on sexual violence besides the component within the AlcoholEdu program. She said the groups hope that Agent of Change will portray to incoming students similar messages as those that will come from the “Student Body” Essential NU during Wildcat Welcome – that NU is a place where survivors are supported and sexual violence isn’t acceptable.

“We don’t see all students like potential victims or potential perpetrators … I don’t think that’s a message that’s helpful or empowering to people,” she said. “I hope that instead, students heard that this is an issue the whole community should be concerned about and everyone has the power to intervene, to prevent sexual assault, or try to change our campus culture.”

CARE also used some grant money to try to get survivors involved in shaping the way NU conducts itself in dealing with reports of sexual violence from students. Last Fall Quarter, CARE formed SPEAK for Change, a confidential survivor activism group on campus. All students who had utilized CARE’s services were invited to participate and given the voice to “comment on Northwestern’s policies and programs and processes,” Stuart said.

The University has recently come under fire with the way it has handled complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment. A rising Medill senior who filed a Title IX lawsuit against NU in February said she “lost faith as an individual and as a student” due to the way the University dealt with the sexual assault she reported.

(In Focus: Northwestern community looks to change sexual assault procedures as Ludlow case moves forward)

Stuart said since CARE does not run NU’s sexual assault complaint process and its services, but only acts to provide students with information about their options, CARE will not be changing what it does as a result of the complaints.

(Student: Northwestern’s failures spurred Title IX lawsuit)

Stuart said SPEAK for Change has played a significant part in redeveloping the University’s sexual misconduct process with the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. Students have worked to reword the standard letter that OSCCR sends out to students on behalf of NU who have brought an incident of sexual violence to the attention of the school, detailing the rights and options they have moving forward, Stuart said.

“A lot of survivors thought it was a little cold and kind of scary,” she said, “So they worked with OSCCR to rewrite that letter and make it something that they would’ve liked to receive when they got it.”

NU hopes to be able to adopt a new process for investigating sexual violence complaints by Fall Quarter, the report says.

Stuart called SPEAK for Change “a great sounding board” for CARE and anticipates that CARE will extend invitations each fall to students who have used their services to continue to get their feedback.

The group was initially created by Eva Ball, CARE’s sexual violence response services coordinator who left NU in May, citing family reasons.

(CARE administrator Eva Ball to leave Northwestern)

Stuart said that the search for Ball’s replacement is well underway and hopes to have the position filled by as early as this week. She said she hopes to have the new coordinator prepared to assume the position by the beginning of Fall Quarter.

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