Universities Hire “Confidential Survivor Advocates” For Assault Victims


The University of California at Berkeley and many other academic institutions are stepping up efforts to provide support to victims of sexual assault that is confidential, easily accessible and ongoing, reports the Wall Street Journal. This fall, Berkeley plans to hire a “confidential survivor advocate,” which a spokeswoman describes as a “one-stop shop”—an individual who will work with victims to guide them through everything from seeking out health services and counseling support to changing housing, switching class schedules, filing reports with the school and pressing criminal charges, if they choose to do so.

The idea is gaining traction at colleges and universities as assault victims and their advocates push a victim-centered approach to address sexual violence on campus. A 2007 study by the U.S. Justice Department found that 1 in 5 undergraduate women will have experienced sexual assault by the time they graduate, but fewer than 5 percent of rape victims in college report the assault to law enforcement. Recently, more victims have come forward publicly, and groups of assault survivors from dozens of colleges and universities have asked the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate their schools for mishandling assault complaints. From 2009 to 2012, the number of forcible sexual assaults reported at public and private four-year schools jumped more than 50 percent to 3,641 from 2,380.

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