Guest Post By Theresa A. Bivaletz
Theresa A. Bivaletz, MSW, LSW is the Campus Victim Services Coordinator at William Paterson University.
Sexual violence is an issue that is not contained to specific areas or populations; it can happen anywhere and to anyone. William Paterson University, just like any college or university, is not immune from this issue, which is why we strive to bring education, prevention methods, and awareness to our campus. One of the biggest changes for the university was hiring a full-time victim advocate in the summer of 2014, made possible in part by the Campus Grant from the Office on Violence Against Women, and the support of William Paterson’s administration as they recognized the need for victim services.
Getting the word out. As the new Campus Victim Services Coordinator, I faced the challenge of getting the word out to students and employees that William Paterson now had specialized advocacy services for survivors of dating/domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. I was pleasantly surprised that so many people from the campus community were eager to know about this new service. I attended a variety of faculty and staff meetings and presented to student clubs and organizations to boost awareness. We also ran a poster campaign throughout the Student Center to advertise Campus Victim Services.
Community response. All of our outreach, and word of mouth, spread the message that survivors of gender-based violence had a safe and confidential place to go that is dedicated to victim services. Survivors have been reaching out for assistance; staff and faculty have been referring others. Students now invite me to speak at their events, participate in awareness programs, and help with their class projects. This has shown me how much students care about these issues and want to shed light on them.
Moving forward. Since joining the William Paterson community, I have been able to look at what our university was doing in the past to address these issues, and add my experience and voice as a long-time domestic violence and sexual assault advocate. Because of the Campus Grant, William Paterson has implemented several programs for students. We are working diligently to institutionalize the prevention and bystander intervention education implemented through the grant. Additionally, now all student staff with a prominent role on campus are trained on domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As my second semester with the university winds down, we plan to look at how we can expand our training with faculty and staff, and further involve students in our efforts.
With rape culture ever-present in our society, it will require sustained efforts on all levels at colleges and universities to produce any kind of change. However, it is rewarding to see how synergistic efforts in that direction produce very encouraging results. It is a fight worth fighting.
NJCASA features posts from guest bloggers to provide a broad perspective about topics relating to sexual violence. The views, opinions, and experiences expressed in guest posts are those of the author and are not necessary shared, or endorsed by, NJCASA.