For UGA students who have experienced rape or sexual assault, there are numerous resources and support groups. However, there are still those who believe that more can be done to prevent sexual assault on campus.
The resources for survivors include support through the University Health Center’s Relationship Sexual Violence and Prevention program, commonly known as RSVP, as well as off-campus support organizations such as The Cottage and Project Safe. The university also encourages preventative measures including educating students through online programs such as AlcoholEdu and Haven through the University Health Center when they are accepted into the university.
Leila Mohammadizadeh, a sophomore English major from Alpharetta, said she felt the abundance of post-assault resources was disproportionate and “counter-intuitive” with the precautionary resources currently in place.
“They have a lot of the after-the-fact things … But there’s not enough that’s happening to avoid those situations from happening in the first place,” she said.
“They have a lot of the after-the-fact things … But there’s not enough that’s happening to avoid those situations from happening in the first place."
-Lela Mohammadizadeh, UGA sophomore
Mohammadizadeh said she has taken note of how dark certain areas of campus can be late at night and will often try to walk with a male student, rather than navigating campus alone.
Matt Miehl, a graduate law and business student from Roswell, said he thinks it could be beneficial for UGA to install motion-sensored lights throughout campus, specifically in dark areas that students may frequent late at night. He also suggested installing blue-light phones throughout campus and downtown.
“It could make a dangerous situation a lot less compelling,” Miehl said.
Despite UGA’s decision not to utilize blue-light phones and motion-sensor lights, RSVP advocate Caron Hope said their program allows for a steady amount of dialogue from students who are reaching out for assistance with a domestic violence, stalking or assault case.
“We receive about five to ten calls per week,” Hope said. These calls may be concerning any of the aforementioned cases, as well as students or relatives who are seeking emotional support for an incident that may have taken place previously.
When a student calls RSVP’s hotline at 706-542-SAFE, they should begin a dialogue with an advocate who will inform them about their options going forward.
Hope said her background in therapy and trauma treatment helps her to understand that emotional support is the most important aspect in her role as an advocate.
“I understand the difficulty in coming forward and seeking support when something like this happens and I understand the emotional toll it can take,” Hope said.
“I understand the difficulty in coming forward and seeking support when something like this happens and I understand the emotional toll it can take."
-Caron Hope, RSVP advocate
Advocates from RSVP can assist students by contacting law enforcement officials and the Equal Opportunity Office if a student does decide to proceed with pressing charges. If the student decides to refrain from sharing information about the assault, their information will be kept confidential with RSVP. Advocates may also assist by referring students to an emotional support program such as The Cottage, by setting up a medical exam with Athens Clarke County Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and by communicating generally with professors about accommodations.
RSVP, The Cottage and Project Safe are all separate organizations that work to ensure that sexual assault victims are receiving the treatment they require when recovering from an assault.
According to Kendall Worman, the community involvement and volunteer coordinator of Project Safe, their organization works to connect survivors with appropriate community resources.
“The reactions you get from people when you disclose can really affect how you recover or if you ask for help from someone else again,” Hope said. “So, we really like to try to be that barrier so survivors don’t feel like they’re getting a negative response for asking for help.”
Miehl warned that although the university offers many resources, they can only benefit students if students choose to take advantage of those resources.
“At some point, the university can only do so much. I think that people have to be receptive to whatever the university’s going to do, or else all the effort that they waste trying to do ... it’s going to be brushed under the rug, and I think that’s even worse,” Miehl said.