Sep 062004
Authors: Nicole Burbank

Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted somewhere in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2002 National Crime Victimization Survey.

In response to such instances, the CSU Victim Assistance Team was created. Established in the mid 1970s, VAT provides 24-hour emergency services for any student sexually assaulted on or off campus.

“We train our advocates very extensively in catering to a victim’s physical needs, psychological needs or legal needs,” said Chris Linder, assistant director of the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies, which runs the VAT.

The 50 to 75 active VAT advocates all serve on a volunteer basis and are made up of CSU students, staff and faculty members. While predominately female, there are a few male advocates, to help with gender matching.

“We try to keep as many options (for victims) open as possible,” Linder said. “So, if we do get a male victim that calls, we want to be able to offer him the choice of talking to another man, or if they prefer, talking to a woman.”

VAT services are offered 365 days a year. Generally, two VAT advocates are on call for a period of a few weeks at a time.

“I’ve been on call for eight weeks in the past two years,” said Megan Adams, a graduate student in counseling psychology. “In those weeks I think I’ve gotten about three calls that were difficult for me.”

There is no determined length of service for VAT advocates. They may serve with VAT for as long as they want, and many do it for multiple years like Adams. Generally, advocates stay on for the duration of their time at CSU, which for a student may only be a few years, but for a faculty member may be several years.

“We do offer ongoing services to anyone that calls, if they need support through a trial and so forth, but we do not offer ongoing counseling,” Linder said.

Since VAT advocates are not thoroughly trained in counseling, as a psychologist would be, they often refer victims to the University Counseling Center.

In addition to the counseling center, VAT works in cooperation with many other groups on campus. Since advocates are trained to provide victims with options, including whether or not to go to a hospital or file a police report, they work in accordance with those departments in order to make any processes for the victim run as smoothly as possible.

VAT trains about 30 new volunteers every fall, and they are currently recruiting. Applications to be in VAT must be completed and turned in to the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies today. Training for the new advocates will begin on Sept. 14, and continue every Tuesday through Nov. 9.

Brian Kelly, a freshman business major, believes the program is worthwhile to the general student population.

“I think Victim Assistance Team is a good deal because the pains and effects that occur to a victim are long-lasting and need that kind of attention,” he said.

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