USF offers free and confidential counseling resources for students

Whether it’s on or off campus, it’s not unusual to know of a sexual violence incident. Fortunately, most college campuses offer resources for sexual violence victims who feel like they have nowhere to turn.

At USF there are free and confidential resources available to help students who have experienced sexual violence. Students also receive certain rights when attending on-campus counseling.

According to Student Eligibility and Rights of USF’s Counseling Center, “All currently registered USF students who have paid the Tampa campus student health fee are eligible for Counseling Center services. Students have a right to professional and ethical services at the Counseling Center. Students have a right to a respectful therapeutic relationship without physical, sexual, verbal, or other abuse.”

Below is a video from the USF Counseling Center website explaining what they do.

Located at SVC 2124, the USF Counseling Center has counselors who are trained to help students with whatever they are going through. Once the student fills out an application at the counseling center, he or she will be provided with an available counselor. After the student has signed up for counseling, he or she can make appointments with their counselor.

According to the USF Counseling Center website, “The Counseling Center offers comprehensive psychological services to help students navigate the challenges of college life and take advantage of opportunities for personal growth.”

The Counseling Center is available for students who are currently enrolled in classes. They offer ways for patients to solve their problems, learn new skills and new insights or perspectives on how they can cope with their issue or trauma.

As stated by the USF Counseling Center’s website, their mission is, “To promote the well being of the campus community by providing culturally sensitive counseling, consultation, prevention, and training that enhances student academic and personal success.”

Whether it be for an individual, a couple, or a group in need of help, the center offers different types of counseling. For the couples counseling, both must be registered USF students to receive the free consultation. Meanwhile, group counseling has several different groups someone can connect with.

The Counseling Center offers several types of group counseling including for LGBTQ students, for those coping with grief, for those dealing with body image, and for those in need of family counseling.

Another resource is USF’s Center for Victim Advocacy, which provides free and confidential services to USF students, faculty, and staff.

Photo from Center for Victim Advocacy website

As stated by the USF Center for Victim Advocacy, “We serve men, women, and people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expression who have experienced crime, violence or abuse on or off campus either recently or in the past.”

Photo from Center for Victim Advocacy website.

USF’s Center for Victim Advocacy attempts to empower survivors of crime, violence, or abuse by promoting the restoration of decision making, by advocating for their rights, and by offering support and resources. However, while there are counselors at USF’s Counseling Center, the Center for Victim Advocacy has advocates.

An advocate with the USF Center for Victim Advocacy is a professional who is trained to respond with compassion and expertise to the victims of crime, violence, and abuse. Which includes crisis intervention, advocacy and accompaniment, safety planning, academic and housing assistance, and nonjudgmental support to victims to help them get through the experience and regain control of their lives.

The Advocacy Center has different sources it uses to help victims who have experienced sexual violence including individual support, academic/university support, medical support, court support, reporting assistance and more. The center is there to help victims learn and understand the rights for the specific crime he or she is dealing with it.

The center provides advocates to victims for guidance every step of the way, in any way possible. The center’s website also gives information on a list of crimes which show how the advocates can explain and assist the clients with their personal experience of sexual violence.

The following is an interview provided by USF’s Counseling Center advocate Angela Candela:

“How long has the advocacy center been open?”

“For at least 10 years,” said Candela. “We’ve been open for a really long time.”

“What’s the process like when someone comes in?”

“If somebody wants our services the first step would be to schedule an appointment by walking into the office to schedule an appointment or you could call and schedule an appointment,” said Candela.  “Then you receive an intake appointment with your advocate. They will have already looked at the paper and case file that you provided for them, then they will walk you through steps on what can be done and like to do”

“How many people come in on a weekly basis? Do you guys have a certain amount or is it random?”

“Its kind of random depending on the time of year, right now its busy during fall, slows down during spring and is dead during the summer. It really varies,” said Candela.

“What advice would you give to victims who have not gotten help or have not gone to an advocacy center or have just been very silent?”

“I would say that your best resource when you have experienced some type of crime would be an advocate. An advocate is really somebody that is there in your corner, that’s what we’re there for. We’re confidential, we’re not ever going to report anything. Its okay even if you were drinking underage at the time of the crime, we’re not going to judge you. We don’t care and are not going to tell on you or anything. All we are concern about is giving help to somebody who is a victim of a crime,” Candela said. “It’s scary, it’s not always easy. It takes a lot of bravery and strength to do so in the first place, to come out and say, ‘Hey I need help.’ If they feel like they can, I think it’s an amazing option.”

Photo by Megan Holzwarth

Both USF’s Victim Advocacy Center and Counseling Center are  options that are available to students. Other options include the University Police Department (USFPD) and the Student Health Services which are available to USF students who would like to receive help.

Sexual violence can happen to students on or off campus. With this in mind, USF offers resources to students in need of a safe space. Everyone deserves to know his or her rights and what services are available for students.

Below is the full audio link with the interview with Angela Candela.

 

Policy changes for Title IX on college campuses?

Election year means new changes from the new person in office, and new policies replacing the old ones.

One thing that this election year has decided to change is former President Barack Obama’s Title IX guidance for colleges.

Title IX makes sure educational institutions do not discriminate against genders. Members of any gender may not be excluded from participation or be denied benefits in educational programs.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans on changing Obama’s Title IX and replacing it with a new policy she is working on. The new guidance is shorter and quick to the point compared to the old policy. It is in the form of a question-and-answer document and allows schools to decide how to handle cases of sexual misconduct on their campus.

“The tone of the new guidance is much more permissive than that of the Obama-era directives,” said Peter F. Lake, who leads the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Trump’s administration also rescinded documents from Obama’s Title IX guidance, including a 2011 Dear Colleague letter and a 2014 question-and-answer document.

Many colleges have announced that they will not be changing their current sexual misconduct policies. Colleges take sexual assault seriously and are not planning on changing their policies until more details are talked about.

In a background call with reporters, a senior department official said the government had left open the option of what schools do in this interim period but had no expectation about whether colleges would adopt a higher standard.

Crystal C. Coombes, senior deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of South Florida, spoke with the Chronicle of Higher Education and said her institution will stick with the preponderance standard for now.

“We believe it works well for us,” said Coombes.

DeVos did give credit to the Obama administration by bringing this issue to light and creating a policy to help, but she thinks the policy should be updated and changed.

“The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” said DeVos. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”

DeVos believes that changing the policy would be good and help all of those who are involved in sexual violence cases, including the people  accused of sexual violence and the victims.

“All students deserve protection. All students,” DeVos said in a news conference in July. “There has been a lack of clarity in this area. I heard from both groups in ensuring that the process is fair to both parties, and they’ve acknowledged that it isn’t today.”

Most people are not behind DeVos policy plan change and some fear that this will not help the victims at all, but only those accused of sexual violence. They think things will go back to how they use to be and victims won’t have their voices heard.

Title IX may have new policy changes. Some people may think the change is a good idea, while others may argue that there shouldn’t be any change. The government is taking careful consideration of both groups when creating the new policy.

Policies on sexual misconduct to change

Are the people who are accused of sexual misconduct automatically guilty? Are they already seen guilty once someone has accused them of sexual misconduct? Should there be fairness for both sides, the victims and the accused? The accusers are not always the perpetrators in some of these cases, and the victims who accused these people are not always the victims. Some of them are innocent and shouldn’t receive the punishment the colleges have given them.

“Once you are accused, you’re guilty,” Parker Oaks, a Boston University student, said in an interview on NPR’s For Students Accused Of Campus Rape, Legal Victories Win Back Rights. “We’re living in a society where you’re guilty before innocent now.”

Those accused of sexual misconduct face suspension and possible expulsion from school. In the case of Doe v. Regents of the University of California, the accused student was not given the opportunity to present evidence proving him not guilty. This student went to court and has since proven his innocence.

It used to be the victims who were the ones who not getting justice. Now, as colleges crack down on sexual assault, the opposite is occurring.

“Many accused students see themselves as victims,” Sherry Warner-Seefeld, founder of the Families Advocating for Campus Equality group, said in an interview on NPR’s For Students Accused Of Campus Rape, Legal Victories Win Back Rights. “They feel as traumatized as victims of sexual assault.”

The colleges have jumped from one extreme to the another. “So the question here is whether there can be an approach to enforcement that treats both the victims and the accused with seriousness and dignity and tries to get to the bottom of these kinds of allegations,” Anya Kamenetz, a member of NPR’s Education team, said on NPR’s Education Department Official Apologizes For ‘Flippant’ Campus Sexual Assault Comments. The Education Department and Betsy DeVos are trying to change what the Obama administration had in place for schools by trying to come up with a system that does more for survivors and ensures fair due process for the accused.

NPR’s Tovia Smith wrote, “The Trump administration is expected to address Obama-era policies cracking down on campus sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has signaled she wants to make significant changes to how schools handle allegations, to ensure the process is fair to accused students.”

“DeVos pointed to Obama Administration directives detailing exactly how schools have to investigate and adjudicate sexual assault cases,” Smith said on NPR’s Betsy DeVos Signals Rollback Of Obama Policies On Campus Sexual Assault. “Those may well have been based on good intentions, she says, but they’ve now run amok to the point where college-run kangaroo courts have resulted in a shameful unraveling of justice, as she put it.”

They want to change the policy on how colleges handle sexual violence and how the accusers are treated. The accusers are happy that they are being recognized and that there will be possible changes to help defend themselves. Others feel this is not a good idea and we will go back to how it used to be. It is hard to find a common ground on this issue.

photo from cc by fanpop.com

“I think that people come into this debate on a side,” Feminist Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley said on NPR’s Betsy DeVos Launches Reform Effort On Campus Sexual Assault Policy . “They come in on the side of survivors. They come in on the side of the accused. I’m saying, let’s try to be on the side of all the students and from that point of view think about what we would want these programs to look like. And I think if we thought that way, we would be doing very different things than we are doing today.”

Should colleges change their policies on how they handle sexual violence on campus? The accusers aren’t always to blame and should have a right to defend themselves. The victims should have the same right as well. Both parties should have an equal opportunity to prove their case.

Sexual violence happening on college campuses

By Megan Holzwarth

September 24, 2017

Going to college should be a fun time in people’s lives. It’s so exciting to finally be on your own and to meet new people while going out to parties, sporting events, clubs and late night study sessions. One thing that people shouldn’t have to worry about when going to school is sexual violence. Unfortunately however, this is something college students should definitely be aware of when they are on campus.

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, women who are 18 to 24 years of age are at a high risk for sexual violence. RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” said, “Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

From RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics. Infographic

Sexual violence takes place more on college campuses than any other forms of crime that happen on those campuses. Students who are victims of sexual violence often do not come forward to report the crime to law enforcement. RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” said, “Only 20 percent of female student victims, age 18 to 24, report to law enforcement. Only 32 percent of nonstudent females the same age do make a report.” RAINN also states that, “about one in six college-aged female survivors received assistance from a victim services agency.”

From RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Infographic

From RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Infographic

Another thing that students should be aware of is the fact that there are periods of increased risk of sexual violence throughout the year. According to RAINN, “More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November. Students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.” Students should also keep in mind that law enforcement on campus are there to help protect students and have been trained to respond to this matter.

Below are some statistics from RAINN’s article: Campus Law Enforcement Has a Significant Role in Addressing and Responding to College Sexual Assault

  • 86 percent of sworn campus law enforcement officials have legal authority to make an arrest outside of the campus grounds.
  • 86 percent of sworn campus law enforcement agencies have a staff member responsible for rape prevention programming.
  • 70 percent of campus law enforcement agencies have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with local law enforcement.
  • 72 percent of campus law enforcement agencies have a staff member responsible for survivor response and assistance.
  • Among four year academic institutions with 2,500 students or more, 75 percent employ armed officers, a 10 percent increase in the last decade.

College campuses are taking this issue seriously with the help of law enforcement on the campuses. The law enforcement on these school campuses are there to make sure that every student is safe.

Another method that college campuses use to keep their students safe is Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, which is used at the majority of schools in the country. There is a website dedicated to Title IX and spreading awareness of sexual violence called “Know Your IX”, which was founded in 2013 by survivors of sexual violence. The article “Know Your IX” from the website of the same name says, “under Title IX, schools are legally required to respond and remedy hostile educational environments and failure to do so is a violation that means a school could risk losing its federal funding.”

From “Know Your IX”

For students who are victims of sexual violence and are considering reporting about the crime this is what the schools must do under Title IX. According to “Know Your IX”, “schools must notify victims of their right to report to police and facilitate that process if desired by the victim. Victims also have the right not to report to the police. Regardless of a victim’s choice to report to the police, a victim may use a school’s grievance procedure to address sexual harassment or sexual violence or merely seek accommodations. When reasonable, schools must accommodate a victim on campus to remedy a hostile environment on a school’s campus.” Colleges that do not obey and help the victim may be in violation of Title IX.

Sexual violence is not something to be taken lightly and certainly not something that can be tossed under a rug. Issues of this nature are very serious and must be addressed and handled with respect to both the victims and accusers.

https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence