By The Center for Student Wellness
The University of Utah Student Wellness Center recently acquired its second full-time victim advocate. Victim advocates help survivors of sexual and relationship violence navigate resources and find support so they can thrive after experiencing trauma.
Jodi Petersen and Darrah Jones are certified victim advocates and can be reached at 801-581-7779, email@example.com or by visiting their office Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Services Building, Room 330. Their services are free and confidential.
We sat down with Petersen and Jones to learn more about what they do.
What is a victim advocate?
As victim advocates, it is our goal to make the University of Utah a safe, survivor-friendly environment for all. We do this by focusing on providing students, faculty and staff with the resources and support they need to take steps after experiencing interpersonal violence of any kind. This includes, but is not limited to, dating and domestic violence, sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault and rape.
What does an advocate do?
It is our job to present all the options and information to someone who has experienced sexual or relationship violence, and then to support whatever decision they make going forward.
- We can help explain what certain processes look like. Examples include how to file a complaint to the university, what a forensic examination would be like if a victim wished to have one (steps that would be taken in an investigation, etc.).
- We can connect the student with counseling resources, support groups and academic withdrawal and tuition reimbursement, if the student’s experience has impeded his or her ability to perform well during the semester.
- We can help the student get classes moved around or take action to help survivors feel safe.
- We work with the Dean of Students Office and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to ensure that these adjustments can be made for survivors on campus.
Who are we?
We are your campus advocates!
Petersen believes that violence is the cornerstone to the oppression of marginalized populations, this is why she has dedicated her career helping victims of abuse and violence. Petersen spent eight years with the West Valley City prosecutor’s office as a court advocate. She wanted to become more involved with sexual violence cases, so she joined the Mobile Response Crisis Team for the Salt Lake City Police Department and was there for four years. For the past three years, Petersen worked for the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault as their Sexual Assault Training and Services Coordinator.
Jones started working with survivors at a treatment center for young women with trauma history. She then worked as a victim advocate/youth case manager at a domestic violence shelter. Jones’ passion for social justice and civil rights are the motivating force behind her work. Her goals are to use her career and influence to take an intersectional approach to social oppression through education and advocacy. In her free time, Jones enjoys any and all things relating to “Harry Potter” and exploring the food culture in the city.
Why are advocates important?
We are here to support whatever steps survivors believe will be best to take in order to thrive after experiencing trauma. This ties back to our victim-centered approach. We are here to make sure that the survivor knows every option and resource they have. Our services are free and confidential. This means that the details of your experience stay with us.
What should I do if I need help?
If you have experienced sexual or relationship violence and want to seek help, contact an advocate. We are a confidential resource, which means that we would never disclose information in a way that identifies you. You can reach us at 801-581-7779 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also available in our office from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Student Services Building, Room 330.
What should I do if I know someone who needs help?
- Believe the survivor. It isn’t your job to investigate the crime.
- Listen to the survivor. Let the survivor talk and tell the story. Ask what you can do to be supportive at this difficult time.
- Refer the survivor to the campus victim advocates. We can make sure the survivor knows exactly what resources and options are available to help after experiencing gender-based violence.
- If you are a University of Utah employee, you are required to report to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
What can we do to address the issue of sexual assault on our campus?
As students and members of the community at the University of Utah, we can help end gender-based violence on campus by becoming educated on the issues. We must unlearn rape myths, such as the belief that rapes are committed by strangers or that alcohol excuses or justifies sexual assault. Myths like these protect the rapist and create an environment where survivors aren’t supported.
Knowing the facts help our community become less tolerant of gender-based violence and more supportive of survivors. This will help survivors feel more comfortable seeking out services and reporting sexual assaults. If you would like to request a presentation about the facts surrounding gender-based violence and what we can do as a community to prevent it, contact the Center for Student Wellness. Additionally, if you are interested in learning skills to prevent and intervene when you see harmful situation, you can participate in our free Bystander Intervention Trainings. To reserve a space, visit stepinspeakup.com.