Advocate joins AC

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Molly Sweeney

Assumption College has added a new resource for those who have experienced or who may have experienced sexual violence. Since January, Marienelly Vazquez has been working as a campus based Advocate, providing support, resources and information in regards to sexual violence. The services offered are free and confidential.

Vazquez is not an employee of Assumption, rather an employee of Pathways for Change, which is Worcester’s Rape Crisis Center. She has extensive training on sexual and interpersonal violence issues as well as in supporting survivors.

 The campus based Advocate is the result of grant in which the Assumption College Police Department began applying for in 2013.

“There has been a lot of relevant research recently which allowed us to present a strong argument for a grant funded advocate on campus,” said Lieutenant Steven Mackay. “We then met with Pathways for Change to see if they were interested in entering into a formal agreement [required under the grant], they were excited to do so.”

According to Mackay, the Assumption College Police Department was the only Campus Police Department in the State to apply for these grant funds. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Office of Grants and Research all had positive reactions to Assumption’s grant application from the start.

“Having this campus advocate at Assumption is a way to pave the way for a proactive response that college campuses should have when it comes to these issues,” said Assumption President Francesco Cesareo.

 The grant will fund the Advocate position approximately 20 hours per week during the school year.  The hours in which the advocate are on flexible and will be adjusted based on need. The grant is renewable for up to three years.

“I have never worked at a school that had an advocate and I am so excited that Assumption now does,” said Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Allison Cares. “In my opinion, this is something that every college campus should have, given the high rates of sexual violence on campuses and in the world in general. Marie can be a resource to victims and survivors and those in their lives who need guidance on how to be supportive.”

 “Many survivors of sexual violence are not really sure what they would like to do after an assault or they are not sure where they can seek support,” said Elizabeth Drexler Hines, director of Student Health Services at Assumption College.

By having an advocate on campus, people can get support either while they are deciding whether or not they want to report to the police or if they have decided they do not want to report.

“Without an advocate, many people will not seek support because they are not sure whether or not they want what happened investigated or reported to the police,” said Cares.

One of the main roles of Vazquez will be answering questions that survivors of sexually violent crimes may have. She can provide counseling and medical, legal and academic accompaniment; this includes meeting a student at a local hospital, court or in various academic settings.

“Her role is to support the survivor and provide them with appropriate resources,” said Drexler Hines.

“My goal is to try and create a better atmosphere on campus for victims of sexual assault,” said Vazquez. “It’s a lot more common than people realize, which is why it is really important for me to do outreach work, and educate the community, not just for students, but the staff too.

Vazquez will be on Campus Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. She can be reached at advocate@assumption.edu or by calling (774) 314-5744.

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