University of Richmond is working to have a Safe Harbor counselor stationed on campus in the Westhampton College deanery, although the two organizations still need to work out final details in the coming weeks.
Safe Harbor is a non-profit community-based organization dedicated to the elimination of domestic and sexual violence, according to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Safe Harbor and Richmond.
The partnership has been agreed, although a specific representative has not yet been chosen. A meeting between Richmond and Safe Harbor will occur in the next few weeks to determine the counselor’s on-campus schedule, said Beth Curry, Richmond Coordinator for Sexual Misconduct Education and Advocacy.
This partnership is supported by the Campus Alliance to End Violence (CAEV) grant through the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, a collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University.
Once a schedule is set, there will be a confidential scheduling system available to all Richmond students, Curry said.
Jen Miller, Safe Harbor Outreach and Education Manager, said the partnership was still in an early stage and was thus unable to comment.
This partnership will provide convenience and confidential support for victims, Curry said. The main goal of the partnership is to ensure that survivors do not have to endure the inconvenience of having to leave campus to search for support or help in an unfamiliar place.
“We just want to make it as easy as possible for our students to seek support," Curry said, "and if somebody is right here, a student is much more likely to come by and meet with someone than get a ride, or find a ride, to Safe Harbor.”
“We are here to support those who are experiencing or have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence," according to Safe Harbor's website. "Safe Harbor offers comprehensive services for survivors of sexual and/or intimate partner violence including: 24 hour helpline, children/youth services, community education and training, counseling, court advocacy, emergency shelter, and hospital accompaniment.”
Partnering with Safe Harbor involves more than on-campus counseling, Curry said. Safe Harbor promotes healthy sexual and domestic lifestyles and will be tabling at campus events such as “Are You Healthy Fair,” and other events pertaining to sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.
Safe Harbor provides 24-hour support to Richmond and VCU students through two support groups held in the fall and the other in the spring. Having a Safe Harbor counselor on campus will help alleviate the overflow of appointments in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The CAPS office is only open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Often there is a waitlist for counseling services, Curry said.
When it comes to education on sexual assault and abuse, Richmond does not take an nonchalant approach. Education keeps students informed and capable of identifying abuse, Curry said.
“We have a high rate of reports," Curry said. "That’s actually a good sign because it means we are a supportive environment for victims to actually feel comfortable coming forward, and we’ve educated our students to know that they can come and report, and know that they can get resources and support without going forward with an investigation if they don’t want to.”
Due to confidentiality laws, Safe Harbor is not permitted to release a victim’s information, or any details pertaining to its contact or communication with victims. Therefore, there is no way to gauge the success of having the counselor at Richmond, Curry said. The goal, however, is to have the resources conveniently in place should a student or faculty member need them.
“The more support for victims the better because we want the University of Richmond to be a very supportive environment for victims to feel comfortable seeking help, whether that’s confidential counseling or reporting, or both.”
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