Jake Douglas | Mustang News

Safer is receiving new funding from a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for combating violence against women, as well as additional allocated money from the Student Success Fee. Currently, the organization does not have enough staff members and advocacy counselors to meet with students who come forward about sexual assault cases and have had to turn people away. 

Safer is Cal Poly’s confidential advocacy, education and support resource for addressing sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

The decision to allocate more funds from the Student Success Fee was based on decisions from a committee made up of representatives from different Cal Poly groups.

Safer Director Christina Kaviani proposed using funds from the Student Success Fee to increase funding for Safer. Denae Dupray, representative for the College of Engineering on the Student Success Fee Allocation Committee, said allocating the money to Safer was an unanimous decision because the services that Safer provides are essential.

“After hearing Christina propose her new advocate decision, we were all sort of like, ‘This is something that needs to be funded.’ And so it was the first thing we spent money on,” Dupray said.

Cal Poly is one of 53 schools across the nation chosen to be given the $300,000 grant from the DOJ. The Campus Program grant is awarded through the federal Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) and will provide funding for the next three years. This grant was secured in large part by Kaviani and Christine Hackman, an assistant professor in the kinesiology and public health department.

“This grant is an incredible opportunity for Cal Poly to be a U.S. leader in reducing sexual assault and intimate partner violence on college campuses,” Kaviani said. “We plan to do this by offering more prevention education with a coordinated team of talented individuals in the San Luis Obispo community. We are truly coming together to disseminate the prevention work in our various communities in an effective, data-driven manner.”

The additional funding will partly fund the hiring of more full-time advocacy counselors. In recent years, Safer has not been able to meet the needs of students. Unlike the Cal Poly Counseling Center, Safer aims to provide long-term counseling with multiple sessions.  

Journalism senior Kelly Jacobs has been a Safer volunteer for three years and spoke about Safer’s lack of resources in an Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors’ meeting November 2017.

“I can tell you from a student perspective that I am extremely frustrated that I tell my peers to come to Safer, when they have built up the courage to talk about probably the hardest thing that’s ever happened to them, just to be turned away and told that the next available appointment is a week ahead,” Jacobs said.

Currently, Safer has one full-time advocacy counselor, Kara Samaniego. Other University of California and California State University schools have far more. For example, University of California, Santa Barbara has five. Samaniego must act as the Safer coordinator while also making time to provide counsel for students.  

According to Safer’s website, about 58 percent of rapes take place at college parties and 18.3 percent of women reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives. Safer, founded in 1996, aims to increase education about sexual assault and prevention and to foster a compassionate environment for any member of the Cal Poly community involved in sexual assault or intimate partner violence.

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