Old and new resources for survivors of sexual assault on the Saint Mary’s campus.
By Brent Dondalski
Both the Campus Assault Response and Education (CARE) center and the Student Coalition Against Abuse and Rape (SCAAR) are striving to educate the campus community on domestic and dating violence as well as how people can be more attuned to what makes a relationship healthy. “When someone is educated around what is healthy, they can often recognize signs when something is unhealthy,” says Megan Gallagher, the director of the CARE center.
During October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month, certain on-campus organizations tried “to make the education conversation and awareness of [domestic violence] more wide-scale” so that everyone benefits, according to Kulia Osborne, a senior anthropology major who is the student lead for SCAAR.
At Saint Mary’s, several resources are available to survivors and any students concerned about domestic violence. “I meet one-on-one with survivors or students who want more information... I'm a confidential resource on campus,” Gallagher explained, meaning that she does not need to report information that is given to her. Additionally, she highlighted the 24/7 support line that the CARE Center operates, which can also be accessed anonymously.
The CARE center is involved in hosting multiple speaking events, fundraisers, and presentations that seek to educate the campus community. “For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, educating our community meant doing workshops on healthy relationships and providing information about Title IX, consent, etc,” Gallagher explained. Furthermore, she wants the campus to be more aware of the several resources available to students.
Each year, 8 total counseling sessions are offered to every Saint Mary’s student by the campus’ Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, according to the Saint Mary’s website. Confidentiality and mandated reporting vary depending on what resource is being used. In addition to counselors at CAPS and Megan Gallagher, Clergy in a confessional role are also confidential resources on campus according to the school’s Title IX reporting policy.
There are also nonconfidential resources related to domestic violence available on campus, such as RA’s, the Title IX office, Public Safety, and more. “I want the resources on campus to be utilized and I want people to know about them and be able to access them in case they ever need any form of support,” Osborne emphasized, saying that community support is one thing SCAAR wants to prioritize, especially in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Even if an individual chooses not to utilize on-campus resources, there are still other options available to them. “Spreading awareness about off-campus resources that can help people based on their experiences” is also an important practice according to Maya Patel, the student lead for the Center for Women and Gender Equity and vice lead of SCAAR.
Three of CARE’s core values are prevention, education, and helping others. “We are trying to emphasize safe and healthy relationships and what it means to have uncomfortable conversations,” described Patel. Part of this education is also encouraging students to take action against dating violence. “If they see something that's not right... then that person can intervene and help that individual… and we train the community to work with that individual in such a way as to not cause further harm,” Gallagher summarized. She further noted that responding in a trauma-informed way is what’ll ultimately help others in the community.
With it being many students’ first times on campus, the CARE Center and SCAAR are seeking to educate the community about proactive responses to dating violence. “Recognizing the signs of violence and having awareness of that both in our own relationships and others” is essential, Gallagher emphasized, elaborating that “anything that someone can do, if a friend or a teammate is in a potentially harmful situation, is getting that student to the resources” such as CAPS, CARE Center, or any other resource the student might need.
Domestic Violence Month is only one example of the awareness these organizations are trying to spread. “Sometimes we all just need to learn how to become better advocates. So there's a community to learn and grow in” Osborne mentioned. Building a community that is open and inclusive is an ongoing endeavor that doesn’t stop at the end of October. “We want folks to come as they are and share their experiences with us,” Patel expressed.
The CARE Center, SCAAR, and other resources, like the Center for Women and Gender Equity and CAPS, are all available to students to combat dating violence on campus and make sure students receive the education and support they need.
Melanie Moyer '22,