Student Counseling Services raises awareness for sexual assault throughout the month of April

Francisco Castro, Contributor

Throughout the month of April, the Student Counseling Services has been hosting various events throughout campus as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While to some, it may be nothing more than endless droning about how to treat others fairly, the Student Counseling Services intend to go beyond that and not only educate the public about what’s real and what’s not, but to also explain how they can help those who have been hurt and are seeking help.

Caris Thetford, Assistant Director of Prevention and Advocacy, helps oversees the planning of the events, with support from all corners of campus.

“We have lots of partners across campus who have been really involved,” Thetford said. “The Dick Smith Library, the many departments within the Division of Student Affairs, the Administration, it’s a university-wide effort, led by Counseling Services.”

Every year, Student Counseling Services set a goal for what they want students to walk away with, according to Thetford. This year, they wish to look into the misconception found about sexual assault.

“One of the things we wanted to do this year with Sexual Assault Awareness Month is that we wanted to bring some attention to the dynamics around sexual assault,” Thetford explained.

Thetford explains that there is a lot of myths out there about sexual violence that she and her team wanted to bring into the light through the use of outreach and presentations.

“We are also doing a lot through online efforts through the Tarleton Today, through social media, posting information on the Texan True webpage and much of that information touches some of those dynamics,” Thetford said. “We also partnered with Student Affairs marketing to have a Twitter thread every Teal Tuesday, and that content has been very focused on those dynamics.”

Thetford also mentioned that above all, their goal is to raise awareness of Sexual Assault.

“Catching people’s eyes as they are walking across campus and getting this topic on their radar and the forefront of their mind and hoping that it will lead them to diving into more information, learning more and ultimately working towards a culture change where violence isn’t tolerated,” Thetford explained. “Ideally, we want to raise awareness that it is an issue, to challenge some of those misconceptions and absolutely to try and let our students know that they have support on campus and if they have been hurt and have been harmed, they are not alone.”

If a student does find themselves in such a situation and are seeking help, the Student Counseling Services can offer a Survivor Advocate to give support.

Survivor Advocate Morgan Scott explains how the first thing Survivor Advocates do is listen to the students.

“We’re absolutely confidential, so anything a student talks to us about, we don’t have to report it to Title IX, start an investigation, we can just have a conversation with them,” Scott said. “So first, we’re here just to listen and just to be support for that student if that’s what they want. We’re able to walk through the steps with them about what an investigation might look like what Title IX might look like, what all their options are. We also have a strong relationship with Cross Timbers Family Services here in town and so, we are able to connect student to those resources. We also have a strong relationship with the police department, so we’re able to meet the student wherever they are and be able to provide them with the information they need”.

“We also offer survivor groups for those who have been through domestic violence or sexual assault,” Kalyn Green, Survivor Advocate, said. “Whether it’d be recent history, or past history, to where they can connect with other for support.”

“Students can come to us at any point along the way,” Thetford mentioned. “Sometimes we find a student may have dealt with sexual assault in High School and they tried to push it towards to the back of their mind and then they come here, they’re in a different environment and it sort of bubbles up for them and it becomes an issue. That’s a student we can support and them may have never talked about it before and they may have been at the beginning of figuring out how to keep this from disrupting my life. Morgan and Kelyn are here for them, the full-time counselors are here for them. We will see them at any point on their journey, whether it is the immediate aftermath of being hurt, where we make sure to take care of immediate safety needs, immediate medical needs and deal with that kind of crisis situation, or somebody who may come in years after something happen to them and deal with the emotional turmoil that they may be carrying with them, or maybe somewhere in between, our services are very individualized, both advocacy and counseling, to what the individual needs.”

One of the problems that Survivor Advocates find is that if the student does not take that first step and ask for help, they cannot intervene and help them.

“They have to make they way to us somehow,” Thetford said. “If its an immediate safety situation that involves law enforcement, then they’ll call us in. If they come to the attention of the Title IX office, then they’ll call us in. But often, they come in on their own and sometimes they come in because a friend encourages them to and so that always nice when we find that they have support on campus and they encouraged them to call us.”

It is because of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and other times through out the year that Student Counseling Services can conduct outreach programs that they are able to reach out to students who may be hurt and are in need of support.

While it is difficult to determine how many people these outreach programs have touched, Thetford says that people are learning from the programs, and are applying the knowledge in their lives.

“We hear back from students, faculty and staff during the month of April and afterward about how they used our efforts in some of the conversations in the classroom,” Thetford explained. “Last year, there were several student groups that completed assignments on topics related to Sexual Assault Awareness in part because of our outreach efforts reaching out to them during the month of April”.

Scott also feels that their efforts are reaching students.

“With our event, like our kickoff event, we immediately began getting calls from students who saw the resources that we had to offer and wanted to reach out and ask for help,” Scott said.