New resource for mental health launches

Statistics indicate that sexual assault doesn’t happen to just women. About 1 in 16 men also are victims, suggesting it’s highly underreported in that population.

The main goal of Heidelberg’s new Center for Survivor Empowerment is to provide resources, advocacy and awareness – and ultimately, prevention – for everyone, regardless of gender, according to Ronee Rice. Ronee led the effort to create the center on campus, which launched earlier this semester.

“We are not creating this because there’s a problem only on our campus. We are creating it because there’s a problem across the nation. We want survivors to know they’re supported here,” Ronee said.

In 2017, Heidelberg received a $299,972 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to address the issue of sexual assault on campus. The center is the main outcome of the grant, which she is overseeing. A cross-section of departments on campus are actively engaged in supporting the center with programming and other initiatives.

“We want to share the message about sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking,” Ronee said. “Education is how these incidents can be prevented.”

In addition to serving as a resource, the center will have a presence on campus as host and co-sponsor a variety of related events, some already in existence and some new. For example, staff will be involved in the Walk A Mile event by incorporating educational pieces that will be available to participants. Center staff – Ronee and counseling grad students Mo Stohlman and Courtney Hughes-Ksenich –also maintain a social media presence (Twitter: center_hu).

Ronee is working to establish a Peer Advocate Group to serve students who want to talk with peers as a confidential resource outside of formal counseling or the chaplain’s office. A group of undergrad volunteers will be trained and available to listen, share resources and be supportive.

An additional goal is the creation of an advocacy room – a designated space where students would feel safe and comfortable sharing their experiences in a confidential, private setting.

Other assault awareness programs such as Green Dot, an evidence-based bystander intervention program, and It’s On Us activities will fall under the center’s umbrella. 

“We have a team of people working on this issue,” Ronee said. “We’re all interconnected. We just want to make sure people are connected to the resources they need.”

Ultimately, she wants students to become aware of resources available to them. “There’s support. We’re here to help. They don’t have to face anything alone,” she said. “We can all do something to stop sexual assault and prevent it from happening.”

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