Survivor advocate candidates pitch strategies

by Rebecca Fiore / Beacon Staff • September 10, 2014

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People watch Candidates
Beacon Staff
People watch Candidates
Beacon Staff

The four candidates for a new sexual assault survivor advocate position visited campus in the past week, and presented their plans for sexual violence prevention to audiences marked by low student attendance. 

Violence Prevention & Response, or VPR, sent an email to students, faculty, and staff Sept. 2, asking them to participate in the search for candidates. 

According to the email, the survivor advocate will work with the VPR director, Melanie Matson, to support students and employees who have been impacted by sexual assault, stalking, and abusive relationships. 

The first candidate spoke to a room of 13 staff and faculty members on Wednesday, Sept. 3, the first day of classes, coaching them on how to be a “first responder.” Attendees were encouraged to submit candidate evaluations after the session. No students attended. 

“We are trying to create a culture of consent here at Emerson,” the candidate said during her presentation, which was held on the 10th floor of the Walker Building.

The Beacon has decided to withhold the names of the candidates to protect their current employment statuses and relationships with clients.  

The first candidate said consent doesn’t just have to be about sexual assault; it can also involve sharing photos online and other interactions. 

The candidate said it is important for first responders to “use their language and don’t be afraid to ask.” 

“I am really passionate about violence prevention and advocacy,” she told the Beacon. “It’s some of the most fulfilling work.” 

The second candidate presented “Responding to Interpersonal Violence” to an audience of 10 on Thursday, Sept. 4. No students were present. 

The second candidate talked about “power-based interpersonal violence” and how first responders should handle these situations.

Some of the tips the second candidate suggested include using gender neutral pronouns, mirroring the language of the other person, and being clear about the counselor’s obligation to report campus crimes.

At the third session on Friday, Sept. 5, there were a total of 13 attendees, including four students. 

The third candidate presented a response model used by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: “SEEK: Safety, Empowerment, Empathy, and Knowledge.” 

“Safety” involves asking about the concerns students, faculty, and staff may have at Emerson, and “empowerment” means putting the survivor first, the candidate said. 

“So much about sexual violence is about taking power and control away from someone, so giving them options about how to proceed is giving that back to them,” the third candidate said.

The candidate also discussed empathy — in this case, recognizing that a survivor chose to speak to a particular advocate — and knowledge, in terms of using Emerson and Boston as resources.  

The fourth and last presentation, “Growing a Community of Support for Survivors of Interpersonal Violence — A Training for First Responders,” was shown to a crowd of eight people, including one student, on Friday evening. 

“Whatever the survivor’s reaction is, that’s the normal reaction,” the fourth candidate said. “What happened to them is the thing that’s wrong.”

The fourth candidate discussed topics like creating barriers against sexual assault and violence and reporting the case to the college. 

“I’ve worked with a lot of college students,” the fourth candidate said, “and the fact of the matter is colleges are typically ground zero for sexual assault,” 


Martha Schick and Christina Jedra contributed reporting for this article.