Temple pairs with Philadelphia rape crisis center for 24/7 survivor support

Students can call at any time to receive in-person support on Main Campus.

Women Organized Against Rape, a Philadelphia-based sexual violence crisis center, will open a satellite office on Main Campus on Wednesday to provide 24-hour support to survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence, the university announced Tuesday.

The service will act as a third party not associated with Temple, where students can report incidents of sexual assault.

The location of the office will not be released to prevent students from being targeted or revealing that they have sought out services, said Kelly Dawson, Temple Student Government’s vice president of Internal Services. Instead, students who call the office’s hotline can request an in-person meeting with a trained WOAR representative on Main Campus, at any time, and any day.

Dawson acted as a liaison between Temple’s administration and students. When she spoke to administrators about what students wanted, Dawson said the university was already working on creating a center. Concerns about sexual assault resources came up during last year’s TSG elections.

“For a while, for students, we found through the [Presidential Committee on Sexual Misconduct] that students were asking for something,” said Andrea Seiss, Temple’s Title IX coordinator. “Whether it be a rape crisis center to be on campus or for there to be 24/7 availability of someone who could work with students who are struggling, especially with issues involving sexual violence and dating violence.”

Seiss is responsible for ensuring the university complies with Title IX’s stipulations and requirements, which prohibit federally funded education programs from sexual discrimination. She also leads investigations of Title IX complaints.

“There can be concerns about the politics of accusing someone,” Dawson said. “It’s important that Temple create a third party.”

When students call the WOAR hotline, they will be given access to all of the university’s resources, but WOAR will not release students’ personal information to Temple, Seiss said.

“[WOAR] will provide aggregate data,” she added. “They might let [Temple] know they met with 10 students over a one-month period. They’ll let me know if have any type of data that’s useful for patterns.”

WOAR has always had some form of partnership with Temple, said Monique Howard, the organization’s executive director. This partnership is an “amped up” version of the services WOAR already provides for the city.

This year, Valerie Harrison, Temple’s senior adviser for Title IX compliance, invited WOAR representatives to attend her staff’s meetings, Seiss added. It was right after Seiss met with Dawson to talk about students’ wish for a crisis center.

“We started talking about this 24/7 center and access for students and it led to several follow-up meetings with WOAR … to say, ‘Hey, they can completely work with us to provide this 24/7 access by having this kind of satellite office on our campus that students can get to to reach out to our hotline,’” Seiss said.

“What makes this different is that it’s more for students after hours,” Howard said. “We wanted to make sure students had a place to go.”

Seiss said she hopes the partnership with WOAR will help “break down” barriers that keep students from reporting sexual assault.

The WOAR collaboration comes 11 days after Temple received a nearly $26,000 grant from Pennsylvania’s “It’s On Us” campaign.

Seiss said the grant will fund research on how to increase reporting among underrepresented groups, like international students and students with disabilities. It will also implement an online, anonymous reporting system that goes directly to Temple’s Title IX office, that will be completed and launched by June 1, when the grant ends, she said.

Tuttleman Counseling Services and Student Health Services only provide support during business hours, and the only other after-hours resource for reporting assault is Temple Police.

“This provides them with that third confidential reporting location for them,” Seiss said. “But it also provides them with that 2 a.m. access to help. But sometimes [the police are] not where students want to start because a lot of times they are confused about what happened and so they don’t feel necessarily comfortable going right to the police.”

Starting Wednesday, students will be able to call WOAR on Main Campus at 215-985-3333.

Julie Christie can be reached at julie.christie@temple.edu or on Twitter @ChristieJules.

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