The Sexual Assault Awareness and Facilitative Education Office (SAAFE) serves as a support system for any individual who may be a survivor of sexual assault. According to their website, the SAAFE Office provides advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault. Advocates meet with survivors in confidence and provide the survivor with information about their rights, options that exist in dealing with the assault and support the survivor in their decision-making.
Senior social work and sociology major Samyra Leonard is the president of SAAFE Advocates. Leonard learned about SAAFE Advocates at RA training and felt passionate about what the program did.
“I know it’s a very small organization, but the work that we try to do at least for peer counseling and reaching out and spreading awareness is very important to me. So I wanted to take on a more active role and the opportunity [for presidency] came up,” Leonard said.
One of the main goals of the SAAFE Office and SAAFE Advocates is to maintain student safety. Valpo annually compiles a combined security and fire report, which is emailed to the VU community.
The last report, from October 2018, has the statistics from 2015-2017, which shows that rapes on campus, non campus and residential facilities have gone from a total of three to eight. While Leonard doesn’t believe there is an increase in sexual assaults, she does believes there is an increase in reporting.
“People are feeling more comfortable, or, even with the rise of the #METOO movement people are trying to take back their voices and might feel a little more comfortable or willing to speak to somebody they trust and they may report it, or they feel that they can come to the SAAFE Office and talk about it,” Leonard said.
Here at Valpo, the SAAFE Office and SAAFE Advocates are two different programs, but work closely together toward the goal of safety for students.
According to Leonard, the SAAFE Office is there to provide professional counseling and help through the process of informal and formal prosecution if need be.
“They’re there for the legal aspects but also to offer emotional counseling,” Leonard said.
SAAFE Advocates tries to do more certification procedures with organizations with informing them and hosting events, according to Leonard.
“We’re allowed to do peer counseling, so if there’s somebody who wants to speak with somebody at their age or who could potentially relate to them more, then they have that option,” Leonard said.
Leonard and the other advocates also try to educate students on how they can be active bystanders by using the “if you see something, say something” motto.
In order to partake in the peer counseling process, there is training that comes with that. Leonard said there is at least 48 hours of training which ranges from bystander intervention, how to speak with survivors of sexual assault and the action steps one must take with different scenarios.
By not going through with the training, the opportunity for membership for SAAFE is still there.
“You participate in discussions about issues related to sexual and dating violence, you come to events throughout the month and you also can advocate and spread awareness on social media,” Leonard said.
The SAAFE Office deals with offering assistance for past traumas before coming to Valpo as well as any events that occur while enrolled at Valpo. While the Valpo Counseling Center can offer assistance on these matters as well, Leonard states that the SAAFE Office focuses mainly on sexaul assault when helping students through their services.
“It goes beyond ‘I’m scheduling an appointment to work through these issues that I have,’ which yes, you can do through the SAAFE Office, but the SAAFE Office is more of ‘this happened, we’re here to support you through whatever channels you need,’” Leonard said.
To Leonard, the SAAFE Office offers a lot of learning experiences and feels that students could be using the resources more.
“I think that we offer a lot of teaching lessons for programs, and I think it would be helpful if we could do it for more student orgs and throughout the year for different classes,” Leonard said.
“I would like more people to reach out to the SAAFE Office or SAAFE Advocates to receive peer counseling.”
As for safety on campus, Leonard believes Valpo does a good job with keeping the students involved.
“All the RAs are given Paula [Dranger]’s personal cell phone [number] so they can give that out to students. VUPD is very active when patrolling especially at nighttime,” Leonard said. “I feel like student organizations and other groups on campus try to take a stand and speak out about these these and bring people's awareness through movies and conversations and events.”