Mar 29, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Find out what it means to be a Victim-Survivor Advocate at Georgia Tech.
A Day in the Life of Health Promotion Victim-Survivor Advocates
Katy Berteau and Jennifer Gagen are the Victim Survivor Advocates in Health Promotion at Georgia Tech. Together they work to provide immediate and ongoing support to a victim-survivor as they cope with an experience of sexual violence, including information on reporting options, regardless of when the violence occurred.
Q: What does a world without sexual violence look like to you?
The world would be a lot better. Sexual violence causes so many issues and problems for victim-survivors and the communities in which they live. On an individual level, survivors can experience different mental health issues as a result of their trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, and a general disruption of their day to day lives. On a broader level, a world without sexual violence would mean a lot of other sociological issues that are root causes of sexual violence, such as sexism, racism, transphobia, and ableism would hopefully also be lessened.
Q: What is the process like once you receive a call?
We work with students in different types of situations. How we respond to a call depends on if we have previously connected with the student or if the student is calling us for the first time. It also depends on if the student comes forward to report the situation after some time has passed, or they’re reporting immediately after the incident has occurred.
As far as sexual assault and rape, we will go with them to the police, hospital, or rape crisis centers to report the situation. We know that reporting can be a re-traumatizing experience, so being there as support is really important. We walk them through the process and what it will look like. Just being there to support the victim and to make sure their rights are being met is very beneficial to the survivor.
Sexual violence also includes dating and intimate partner violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, and we provide support and resources for students dealing with those situations as well. We also provide additional services such as safety planning, referrals to resources on and off campus, assistance with academic accommodation, and assistance with housing rearrangements.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
One challenging part about being a Victim Survivor Advocate is not always being able to help the student the way you would like. This can be disheartening and frustrating at times.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a Victim-Survivor Advocate?
It is important to have a lot of self-awareness as to why you want to do this work. It is hard and challenging, and you just have to keep sight of the end goal, which is helping people. You also really need to be mindful of self-care in the process, because you cannot be fully present and help someone to the best of your ability if you aren’t taking care of yourself as well.
If you have experienced sexual violence and need support, contact our Victim Survivor Advocates*.
To reach an Advocate after business hours:
Call GTPD at 404-894-2500, ask to be connected to the on-call advocate, and provide your phone number.
*Services are free, confidential, and available to any student survivor of any identity*