BY JENNY DEVRIES
Student-led organization Violence Intervention Partner (VIP) released a survey this past weekend available to all students wishing to contribute their perceptions about the peer advocacy program on campus.
The survey is the first step the program is taking to improve VIP’s outreach to Drake students. Member Jessica Rick is hoping to build off VIP’s base of student support, all with the help of Alysa Mozak, coordinator for sexual violence response and healthy relationship promotion.
“VIP is a 24/7 resource for any Drake student to use when they are struggling with any sort of relationship — from domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, to just wanting someone to talk to in order to help work through a problem,” Rick said.
The advocacy program is 100 percent confidential and is peer-run; the volunteers are students who want to be there for their peers in times of need, as member Kevin Kane attests.
“VIP is a way to ensure that students have a voice and they have somewhere to turn to where someone will hear their story and help them figure out what the next step is,” Kane said.
First-year Megan Marsh is one of many students who utilized VIP, though, she says, her introduction to the group was unconventional.
“Initially I felt very supportive, especially because they reached out to me, instead of the other way around,” Marsh said. “I think if there had been a representative there when I was initially talking to people like Jerry Parker, it would have been easier, but I didn’t know they existed.”
The uninformed student is precisely who this survey is targeting. Part of the issue is that, as Rick points out, the program is new.
“VIP is still a relatively new program on our campus, so it is still in a period of immense growth,” Rick said. “This past year we have worked really hard to increase awareness of VIP among the student body, and I think this year people are more aware of the program due to this.”
VIP deals not only with a lack of awareness, but also misconceptions about their organization’s function, according to Kane.
“Students perceive us as a group or a number you call after you’ve been assaulted and that’s a flawed system,” Kane said. “Because we’re picking up the pieces instead of preventing it, and we’re trained to do so much more.”
The next step to increasing awareness on campus is the survey to improve VIP’s outreach on campus. Rick hopes it will help the program better campus through advocacy and clear up many misconceptions about VIP.
“I hope to take the results from the survey and come up with some achievable ways to improve the VIP program on campus in order to advocate for students in the best way possible,” Rick said. “I hope that the survey will provide us with a starting point to see what exactly students perceive the VIP program to be so that we can improve the program to better fit student needs.”
That improvement will build upon skills the volunteers have worked over 30 hours to perfect. Student advocates have resources that span from answering questions about unhealthy relationships to crisis management, according to Rick.
“I would like to see the VIP program grow and become utilized more as a resource rather than just being used as a crisis line,” Rick said. “VIP needs to be used more as a proactive tool rather than just as a reactive resource for students who might be experiencing some sort of relationship issue.”
In any case, Marsh sees the advantage to MVP and appreciates the work they do.
“Given the right circumstance, they could be really beneficial for students,” Marsh said. “Their persistence can be really useful.”
For Kane, the end goal is bettering campus as a whole.
“It’s amazing to see someone in crisis come out of it and feel empowered, feel a sense of belonging,” Kane said. “To expand what we do and to reach more people would really mean a lot to us and would really help the university.”
Students who complete the submission of their survey will be entered into a drawing for a gift card. The link will be open until next Wednesday, April 6. For further questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.