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Confidential support for survivors: UA’s Survivor Advocacy program

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Sofia Moraga | The Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona Mall in Tucson, Ariz.

A program aimed at helping students deal with sexual or gender-based violence at the  University of Arizona is run by just four people: two advocates, a supervisor and a graduate intern. 

The Survivor Advocacy program, like many others, was started through student advocacy in 2018. 

“Right now, it's just small because that's what our funding is,” said Makele White, a survivor advocate. “The program has just been such a small thing that I don't think a lot of people know about us.”

The program offers a wide range of resources and support: emotional support, physical and emotional safety planning, help in requesting academic accommodation and assistance in obtaining safe housing. Their website offers on-campus and off-campus resources, state and national resources, resources for undocumented students and for male survivors. 

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“The main thing that we do is advocacy,” White said. “[And making students] feel like they have somebody with them that can advocate on their behalf and navigating the systems that sometimes aren't set up to help survivors.”

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If a student reports sexual misconduct to the Institutional Equity office, both parties "meet with an investigator to present their perspectives, and provide witnesses or information, to bring an advisor to the meeting and to ask questions and seek clarification," according to the Dean of Students website.  

If a student reports sexual misconduct to either Tucson or the University police department an investigation may take place. An officer will be sent out to gather details about the event and possible evidence, according to the City of Tucson website

Unlike other organizations that handle sexual violence cases — like the University of Arizona Police Department, the Tucson Police Department and the Office of Institutional Equity — the Survivor Advocacy program is completely confidential. 

“Survivor [Advocates] are not mandated reporters,” White said. “That allows survivors to kind of have a little bit more control over their story.” 

The program helps all students who have experienced sexual or gender-based violence. It does not conduct investigations or look further; it is in place to simply support students with whatever course of action they want to take. Whether that be going through the justice system, making a university complaint or simply dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic experience. 

“It doesn't matter how long ago or how recent students experienced gender-based violence, we're here to support them,” White said. 

To refer yourself or someone who is experiencing sexual or gender-based violence, visit their website

“We understand that sometimes after something happens, it takes a while to be able to reach out and ask for help and that's okay,” White said. “Whenever students are ready to talk, we are ready to listen.”


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