Sep 052005
 
Authors: Natasha Grunden

The Victim Assistance Team is looking for volunteers. For more information call 491-7111 or apply online at www.wps.colostate.edu.

Applications are due today.

After an assault, victims are flooded with feelings of helplessness and fear. They may feel lost or angry.

The CSU Victim Assistance Team (VAT) provides victims comfort and guidance after an assault and helps rebuild their sense of security and control.

"The Victim Assistance Team is designed to provide emotional support and provide information to victims of interpersonal violence, primarily sexual assault, and help to explain options and offer resources related to the psychological, emotional, medical and legal aftermath of sexual assault," said Jen Krafchick, interim assistant director for the Office of Women's Programs and Studies.

The goal of VAT is to be available and accessible at all times, Krafchick said. A part of CSU for more than 30 years, VAT has 35 female and six male volunteers and is looking to add another 30 volunteers. Only the female volunteers are on-call, but the males go through the same training and know the same information as their female counterparts. The male advocates are contacted if requested by a person calling VAT.

Students can use VAT regardless of where or when the incident occurred. Also, students who have guests visiting can use VAT if the assault happened on campus, Krafchick said.

Advocates go through extensive training to learn about becoming a resource to the CSU community. There are nine weekly sessions during the first semester.

"We also have regular in-service training throughout the year to keep everyone up to date," Krafchick said.

Samantha Strife, a second year VAT advocate, said it is important for students to volunteer to keep the program afloat.

"VAT is a really valuable resource for the university," said Strife, a graduate student in the counseling psychology program. "It's important we sustain this resource; we need volunteers to stay active."

Krafchick said VAT advocates are a benefit to the community by providing an important service. They also are a good resource to help assist victims. On a personal level, they gain helpful and useful skills and know they are helping someone.

"The training is valuable," Strife said. "You learn more truths about sexual assault and debunking myths. You help to form community of people who are interested in learning more about and stopping sexual assault on campus."

Krafchick said one of the most important benefits of VAT is that they are often the first to respond.

"The initial response has a strong effect on the healing process," she said. "Victims are empowered to know their options and feel in control."

VAT is also an important resource for the CSU Police Department.

"VAT is supportive of the police process," said CSUPD Lt. Karl Swenson, who helps train VAT advocates.

Swenson said VAT is vital in helping victims file a report after they were sexually assaulted.

The number of sexual assault reports filed went down from 48 in 2002 to four in 2004 , but Swenson attributes the "deceptive" numbers to high profile incidences such as the sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy and the Kobe Bryant incident. He said victims were depicted poorly in the media and received threats and criticism.

"Why would anyone subject themselves to that?" Swenson said. Society is not always supportive, but continued efforts will help change views about sexual assault."

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