Standing Together Against Rape opens office in the Student Health and Counseling Center

Students are encouraged to seek an advocate for STAR if they are in need. STAR is located on the first floor of Rasmusen Hall. Photo credit: Young Kim

Standing Together Against Rape advocates are the newest addition to Rasmuson Hall. Located in room 118 within the Student Health and Counseling Center open to students, faculty and staff, STAR is a confidential community-based resource to contact with any questions about power-based violence, such as sexual assault and abuse, dating violence, sexual harassment, improper conduct and more. They provide various crisis intervention support services along with long-term support for victims of sexual assault.

“STAR is a community-based social service agency that does not have the same requirements for reporting to University officials as many resources on campus mandate,” Keeley Olson, program director at STAR, said. “If an adult over the age of 18 wants to discuss any dynamic related to these issues, they will find a safe, confidential, outlet through STAR. STAR can provide resources, both on and off campus, and options of which many may be unaware.”

At the end of 2016, STAR entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the university about the type of services they can provide and was invited to have an office at UAA by Chancellor Tom Case.

“STAR has been open to providing services on campus for some time, but, as with any service, there has to be a readiness on the part of the University. Nationally, there has been a lot of recent focus on campus sexual assault, thanks in large part to the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase the understanding and effectiveness of Title IX,” Olson said. “Along with that heightened awareness, the President’s ‘Dear Colleague’ letter and Title IX compliance investigations, more and more colleges and universities are recognizing they can partner with community-based services to provide more options for their students, faculty and staff. As a result, the University of Alaska Anchorage reached out to STAR in 2016 to begin the process of bringing its services to campus.”

On campus, STAR advocates will be rotating weekly with various backgrounds and connections to multidisciplinary associates to help anyone without discrimination.

“They come from human services, social work, criminal justice and other educational and career backgrounds. They enjoy close relationships with STAR’s multidisciplinary partners, such as Forensic Nursing Services of Providence, the Anchorage Police Department and the Department of Law,” Olson said. “STAR Advocates recognize that power-based violence does not discriminate. People of all ages, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual preferences and socio-economic backgrounds may need assistance. Students, faculty and staff will find STAR welcoming of all forms of diversity and eager to help.”

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Although STAR provides many services outside of campus, having a STAR advocate on campus will provide a direct resource. There are various systems of support that will be provided by STAR, such as helping organize a report or having a professional to talk to about concerns.

“STAR can provide confidential individual support and resource referral, reporting options on and off campus, safety planning, referrals to Title IX officers, support through the process of reporting, assistance with obtaining protective orders, criminal and civil legal advocacy, access to survivor support groups, individual trauma counseling and can be a sounding board for those concerned about a friend or family member they suspect is dealing with an issue related to power-based violence or oppression,” Olson said.

Laura Hill, direct services manager at STAR and one of the advocates that will be rotating on campus, believes this will help students, faculty and staff feel comfortable talking to an advocate and get the support they need.

“I hope that having an advocate on campus will help bring awareness to the high rate of sexual assault and domestic violence our state faces,” Hill said. “It isn’t something that people often talk about, which can make it even harder for someone to reach out for help when needed, but by having an advocate on-campus in a location that students are familiar with may make it easier for them to reach out for support when it’s needed, especially if the student walks or takes the bus. They don’t have to go out of their way to talk to someone; they can drop by after classes or schedule an appointment around a time that works for them.”

STAR not only provides a support system but also helps those looking how to be supportive to their friends and family. There are also ways students, faculty and staff can be involved with STAR through volunteering.

“We know that the incidence of sexual violence is extremely high in Anchorage and in our State, we can each help to change this. Most of us know someone who experiences or has experienced sexual violence or misconduct and we can be a good friend by learning how to be supportive of those in need,” Bridget Dooley, Title IX coordinator at UAA, said. “I would challenge everyone on campus to stop by STAR’s campus office and speak with the advocate about how to help or invite them to come to your group and speak about how to be a supportive friend. One more thing, STAR has volunteer opportunities, ask the advocate about ways you can help.”

The STAR office encourages anyone to come and talk to an advocate whether or not they need support services.

“You don’t have to be a survivor of sexual assault or domestic violence to stop by our office either. If a student just wants to drop in to learn more about resources, come in to get information on how they can help a friend, ask questions or find out about volunteer or internship opportunities we’d be happy to talk to them anytime,” Hill said.

The STAR office is located in Rasmuson Hall, room 118. The office is currently open and ready to provide support to students, faculty and staff. If there is not an advocate in the office, STAR has a 24-hour crisis line at (907) 276-7278 or 1 (800) 478-8999 to make an appointment or, if urgent, have an advocate dispatched to the office to meet them immediately.