For survivors of sexual assault, Charlottesville has two major support groups available for those that wish to seek help. Whatever may come after an assault, there are people there to help survivors through it all.
In the past four years, our university has faced many trials that have concerned our students’ safety. It feels like it was just yesterday that Hannah Graham went missing, and Rolling Stone’s baseless article painted our school as the stereotype setting for sexual violence.
Regardless of its degree of truth, the Rolling Stone article brought to our attention an important controversy of college safety. That sexual assault happens. We have all been taught the statistics in our school training modules that 1 in 4 college women and 1 in 6 college men have this unwanted experience. Overall, that is approximately 1 in 5 college students, meaning we likely know someone who has gone through this ordeal before.
Even so, sexual assault is not something we often talk about. It can be too hard for a survivor to open up to their peers, especially if their attacker is also a fellow student. However, there are other options for survivors to consider.
There are two major groups located in Charlottesville that are dedicated to fighting for the safety of UVA’s students, The Sexual Assault Resource Agency (S.A.R.A.) & The Sexual Assault Advocacy Fund (S.A.A.F.).
S.A.R.A. is a widespread organization that has been around for over 40 years, open to both sexual assault survivors as well as anyone who is concerned about sexual assault. Whether it is help in the emergency room, individual or group counseling afterward, or legal advice, S.A.R.A. offers free services and is prepared to support the healing process after an assault. Their proactive approach to combat the problem of sexual assault in Charlottesville is something we all can aspire to.
Even with full support from S.A.R.A., it can be difficult for survivors to go forward with legal action. It is an intensive process that can be draining for survivors and put strain on them mentally. That is where S.A.A.F. comes in. S.A.A.F. is entirely focused on providing free legal services to survivors and helping them to navigate the legal realm. Their professional advocate who attended UVA is committed to helping each individual weigh their options and find the best way for them to proceed.
Whether we know someone who’s been impacted by sexual assault or not, as members of the UVA community we should be aware of these free resources that the non-profit organizations in Charlottesville provide. Specialists who have devoted their life’s work to delivering justice to survivors of sexual assault are ready to help our community heal, and we should take full advantage of their support.
Especially now in a time when hatred has infiltrated our campus and our home, we need to demonstrate support for one another by taking advantage of the opportunities that S.A.R.A. and S.A.A.F. have to offer our community.
S.A.R.A. has a number of preventative services to help us prepare for these possibilities listed on their website http://saracville.org including training sessions for how to respond in the event of sexual assault. Their main office can be reached on weekdays during normal office hours (9am-5pm) at (434) 295-7273, but SARA also has a 24-hour Crisis Hotline if needed.
If you want to understand how the legal process surrounding sexual assault unfolds, please contact S.A.A.F. during normal office hours at (434) 327-1447 or visit their website at http://www.studentsaaf.org.