Safer, Cal Poly’s on-campus sexual violence resource center, now offers completely confidential counseling to survivors of sexual assault.
Previously, when someone came to Safer seeking counsel, the organization was required to share any reports of sexual assault with the university’s Title IX coordinator, Dean of Students Jean DeCosta. The affected student would be contacted and told that the university is aware they were affected by sexual or gender violence and inform the student of their options.
Cheri Love, an assistant coordinator at Safer, said that even though an official investigation would only be pursued with the survivor’s consent, the prospect of their information being shared with a campus entity still deterred survivors from seeking help.
“I think when people hear that there’s a mandated report to the Dean of Students, or university reporting if they come to an entity on campus, there’s a misconception that their name is somehow going to be released,” Love said. “Because of those myths, or those misconceptions, I think Safer has been underutilized.”
Counseling allows survivors to choose their next steps, Love said.
“I think it’s really to acknowledge that it’s up to the person that’s been affected by violence, for them to choose what their next steps are,” Love said. “They didn’t ask to be put in that position, and they just need to take care of their own healing process.”
Confidential counseling can influence the amount of official reports made by survivors. When survivors can weigh their options confidentially, they may feel more comfortable making an official report, Love said.
A Mustang News investigation in June 2014 found that the sexual assault report rate at University of California, Santa Barbara was six times that of Cal Poly. UCSB has offered confidential reporting at their Safer-equivalent longer than Cal Poly, and the higher report rate could be indicative of survivors feeling more comfortable coming forward.
Safer now joins the Counseling Center as one of two places on campus that are not required to share reports of sexual assault with the Dean of Students. All other Cal Poly employees are required to report to the Dean of Students.
Love — along with two students certified by the state to provide crisis counseling — is available to speak with survivors at Safer.
Crisis counseling hours are available at the Safer office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The group is also partnered with the RISE center in San Luis Obispo, which provides 24/7 counseling services.
Since RISE is not officially affiliated with the university, they do not have to report to a Title IX coordinator and are therefore completely confidential.
The change comes from Cal State University (CSU) Executive Order No. 1097, which was put in place this past June. Under the new policy, sexual assault counselors and advocates are no longer required to make reports.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesperson, said the Executive Order was issued to reflect changes in the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law updated in March.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misattributed a statement to Cheri Love. It has been corrected.