New hotline provides confidential support

May 1, 2014 6:17 AMComments Off

Story by Jennifer Crane and Megan Ellis

New this spring to Drake University’s campus, Violence Intervention Partner (VIP) is a confidential, peer crisis hotline for victims of sexual violence.

Drake students will be able to access the line 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“You can call or text,” said Tess Cody, a counselor from Crisis Intervention Services. “It’s very modern.”

The student volunteers take shifts managing a cell phone specifically for VIP purposes.

Students wanting to talk confidentially about sexual violence can call, text or meet in person with a VIP member at any time of day.

All contact with VIP is at the request of the victim. Contact information is not recorded, and follow-up contact from the group is only done at the victim’s requested.

“(Students) can be just looking for support or looking at what are their options on Drake’s campus are,” said Kathryn Gilbery, a Drake junior and VIP volunteer.

This hotline is not limited to students dealing with recent sexual abuse. Students with past experiences are encouraged to contact VIP.

“If you’re up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep because you’re having a flashback, there’s someone for you to talk to,” said VIP Advisor Alysa Mozak.

Mozak has been working for the Office for Sexual Violence Response & Healthy Relationship Promotion for three years and coordinated with Crisis Intervention Services to bring VIP’s services to campus.

“From my understanding, there was a 24-hour crisis line that was outsourced from Employee Family Resources that we used for students to access,” Mozak said.

Since Mozak has been at Drake, there hasn’t been a program that like this operated by student volunteers.

Other services are available to Drake students through Mozak’s office and the campus health center.

Although these resources are available, few cases of sexual assault are brought to the health center.

Mozak attributes this reluctance as discomfort students may face when talking to health professionals and their fear that using these programs will force students to take legal action.

“We really don’t get a lot of sexual assault cases. If we do, it’s from the counselors where they may need some counseling for psychosocial issues, or depression, anxiety, anything like that,” said Mary Beth Olander, a registered nurse at Drake’s health center. “For the most part, if that were to ever arise here, we would send them on to the Sexual Assault Center.”

Besides the three advisors, students run VIP.

Mozak hopes having students available on the line will make calling more comfortable for victims of sexual assault.

Eight student volunteers share the responsibility of running the line, and the group is hoping to grow and get more volunteers.

Students interested in helping are encouraged to join the team of confidants.

“When I heard about it, it seemed like we had this gap that needed to be filled,” Gilbery said. “I don’t get paid. I just do it because I care.”

“I guess for me personally, I wanted to possibly get into counseling in the future, and it’s a good way for me to get my foot in the door, and I guess I just want to help people,” said Henry Carlson, a  Drake sophomore. “Even if we just help one person, it’s worth it.”

The VIP hotline number is 515-512-2972, call or text.

Students interested in joining can e-mail Alysa Mozak at alysa.mozak@drake.edu.

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