Pomona’s new sexual assault survivors program includes close ties to local org Project Sister

Four Pomona College administrators sit on stage.
The President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Violence Intervention and Prevention (PAC-SVIP) holds a meeting to discuss the suspension of Pomona College’s Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault program. (Timothy Liu • The Student Life)

Following the suspension of its sexual assault survivors program earlier this semester, Pomona College plans to introduce a new program in the fall, according to student services program coordinator Rita Shaw.

Pomona will formally partner the advocates with Project Sister, a local organization supporting sexual violence survivors, and implement an internal hierarchical structure to enforce oversight and improve communication and event organization, according to ASPC’s Title IX Director Hersheeta Suri PO ’21.

The Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault program was suspended in February after “people reported experiencing harm in connection to advocates as an individual or as a group,” according to Pomona Title IX coordinator Sue McCarthy.

Students in the former advocates program were supposed to receive training from Project Sister last fall, but due to a scheduling error made by McCarthy, did not receive the training.

Even though they advertised themselves as confidential resources for sexual assault survivors, because they lacked this training, the advocates were legally required to inform the administration about any Title IX violations reported to them, due to the Clery Act.

Beginning next semester, the program will be more closely connected to Project Sister, Shaw said in an email to students April 5.

The new program will have two components: the “Project Sister Family Services Campus Advocates @ Pomona College” and the “Campus Advocacy Resources Education and Support (CARES),” Shaw said.

Students interested in being advocates will apply for both programs and serve in both capacities in a “joint position,” according to Shaw. The two programs will operate in conjunction with one another.

The first component, the campus advocates, will be a group of Pomona students, who will be trained, certified by and receive ongoing supervision from Project Sister as volunteers, Shaw said.

The CARES program will also provide training and a support structure for the campus advocates program, Shaw said. All campus advocates will also be CARES fellows, and will receive training, an $800-per-semester stipend and other benefits through the CARES program.

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Suri, who has been involved in discussions about the advocates program, said in an email to students that she and the former advocates have been working to communicate student concerns and interests to the administration.

“While the [administration] has the best of intentions, they can not fully understand the student experience or the struggles the advocates have had to go through for more than 10 years,” she said. “Therefore, advocates and I have been actively pushing for complete student involvement, little administrative oversight and Project Sister support for the upcoming advocates program.”

Pomona is working to finalize the hiring process for the new advocates program, and is taking input from a multitude of sources on interview questions, which will be finalized by Pomona and Project Sister. One former advocate who is not applying for the new program will be part of the interview panel, according to Suri.

The dean of students office and Project Sister will make final hiring decisions.

Multiple advocates TSL contacted about the new program did not respond to requests for comment.

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