Part of an ongoing effort across the Claremont Colleges to increase resources available for students, the Scripps College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault opened a student help hotline Feb. 15 that aims to give Scripps students a peer-to-peer resource for survivors.
Although the Scripps Advocates group is affiliated with and receives funding from the college’s administration, the students who will staff the hotline will not be mandated reporters—legally required to notify higher authorities—according to Advocates member Claire Hirschberg SC ’15. The dates and times of calls will be logged, but no identifying data will be solicited from callers. The Advocates will also record details that the college is federally mandated to disclose, such as whether the event took place on- or off-campus, but only if volunteered by the caller.
“Our goal is to support whoever calls us,” Hirschberg said. “That’s the number one priority.”
If the information provided in a call suggests that the caller or the Scripps campus is at immediate risk, the Advocates have the option to notify Scripps’ on-call dean without disclosing the identity of the caller. Hirschberg emphasized that statistics collection was a secondary goal, but one that may also benefit the community.
“Schools that have a higher rate of reporting are known to have a better response to sexual violence on their campuses,” Hirschberg said.
At the beginning of each call, Hirschberg said, the Advocates read an explanation of the organization, their data collection policy, and the possibility of notifying the on-call dean.
“We always offer to be the liaison to the [Title IX] coordinator to help them not have to make as many disclosures,” Hirschberg said.
Megan Petersen SC ’15 said that the peer-to-peer hotline is a more comfortable and safe environment than other resources such as the Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services or outside services.
“It’s important that Scripps students know that they can talk to a Scripps student,” Petersen said. “Women’s colleges should exist as a collective of students supporting each other.”
The Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault at Pomona College have provided a 24/7 support hotline since October 2012. The Pomona and Scripps Advocates groups currently offer the only support hotlines at the 5Cs but both accept calls from students at other campuses.
Pomona’s Advocates employ a pager system for incoming calls, but Scripps’ group shares a single cell phone. One individual will be on call and another available as backup whenever the line is active, Hirschberg said. Fifteen members are currently committed to staffing the hotline.
According to the website for the Scripps Advocates, the members who will be operating the phone line have undergone 20 hours of administration-approved training. Scripps Assistant Dean of Students Marla Love, the Advocates’ adviser, helped coordinate training with representatives from local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, according to Hirschberg.
Advocates are also responsible for organizing events and creating education initiatives for the Scripps and wider 5C community regarding sexual assault and sexual violence.
Hirschberg noted that members of the Advocates who are mandated reporters, such as Resident Advisers, will participate in the programming subset of the group rather than serving on the phone line team.
Since the founding of the Scripps Advocates in the fall, Petersen said that she has perceived the Scripps community to be more open about reporting incidents of sexual assault.
“Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault have been more active this year, so students feel more comfortable going to the school with these things, so the statistics are different,” Petersen said.
Samuel Haynes, Acting Dean of Students at Scripps, confirmed Petersen’s observations.
“It is my understanding that most of the Claremont Colleges have seen an increase in reported incidents of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct this year compared to prior years,” Haynes wrote in an email to TSL.
He added that the higher numbers do not necessarily reflect an increase in incidents, but may be due to more focused efforts across the consortium to enhance support networks for students.
“All of the Colleges, including Scripps, have been proactive in the past year to educate students about the various avenues for reporting instances of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct and the processes available for investigation and resolution of complaints,” Haynes wrote.
The phone line, available at (909) 214-2138, is active from 8 p.m to 8 a.m. every day of the week.