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ASU explores Family Advocacy Center as students push for CAARE Center

The University is considering partnering with the city of Tempe on its Family Advocacy Center instead of establishing an on-campus rape crisis center

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"Students want a central, dedicated location designed to address sexual assault on campus." Illustration published on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. 

ASU is considering a partnership with the city of Tempe on a Family Advocacy Center as student advocates continue to push for the creation of a rape crisis center on the Tempe campus.

After reports that ASU’s sexual assault investigation processes were harming survivors and not delivering justice, University administrators met several times during the spring semester with the ASU Women’s Coalition and Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault to discuss implementing a rape crisis center on the Tempe campus.

The Women’s Coalition and SDASA created a proposal for a Campus Assault Advocacy, Resources & Education Center, which serve as an “independent, confidential office responsible for prevention, training, advocacy and healing related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking for students, faculty, and staff at ASU.”

City Council is moving to establish a Family Advocacy Center as soon as possible

Tempe City Council plans to allocate half a million dollars in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget to fund a Family Advocacy Center, according to Councilmember Lauren Kuby. There are currently four Family Advocacy Centers in Maricopa County, one in each of the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and Glendale.

Under protocol from the Maricopa County Prosecutors Office, medical forensic examinations must occur at an advocacy center, making it difficult for ASU students living in Tempe to receive an exam following an assault.

“This need has existed for quite a long time,” Kuby said. “Being a university town, shame on us, we should have a Family Advocacy Center already.”

Kuby said that the Tempe Family Justice Commission has been lobbying for a Family Advocacy Center since the commission’s conception in 2015. 

According to an update given by the FAC Task Force created by the FJC, 1,926 victims could have benefited from an FAC in 2020.

Tempe’s proposed FAC would cost over $1.8 million over five years and would start out with 17 staff members, including victim advocates, a victim advocate coordinator, special victims unit detectives, a special victims unit sergeant, a trauma therapist, a crisis intervention specialist and a comfort canine.

Kuby said that the funding for the first year of the center will be allocated on July 1, the beginning of the 2021-22 fiscal year. Tempe City Council will vote to approve the city budget on June 10.

“Every person on the council is in favor of this, so there’s a lot of work behind the scenes right now to get things up and running,” Kuby said.

University looking into ways to collaborate with the city of Tempe as alternative to on-campus rape crisis center

The University provided a letter of support to the city regarding the implementation of an FAC, according to Joanne Vogel, vice president of student services. The University is looking to support the center through staffing and grant writing, she said.

“We have social work programs, we have counseling psychology programs, we have a lot of those human services professions that may wish to do a practicum experience (at the FAC) or just be part of the effort to provide care,” Vogel said. 

Vogel believes that students and the Tempe community would be better served by an FAC that is run collaboratively by ASU and the city of Tempe, and that would not be fully affiliated with the University.

However, ASU and the city of Tempe would work together to create a seamless transfer of records should a student desire to seek help within University services, Vogel said. This would allow students to seek care at an FAC but receive support regarding classes, housing and other on-campus matters at an ASU facility.

Vogel said she wants to involve groups like the Women’s Coalition in the creation of this process.

Additionally, the University will be training more victim advocates and looking into an app, which would be created by ASU researcher Michelle Villegas-Gold, that would give survivors 24/7 access to support and formulate plans to help guide survivors through the process of reporting an incident.

But Jasmine Lester, an ASU alumna and founding director of SDASA, said an app won’t solve the existing problems within ASU’s sexual assault investigation processes.

“Students don't need an app that connects them to ASU resources that have failed other students,” she said.

Vogel said the app would still follow the requests of the CAARE Center proposal, which calls for the expansion of health services.

“I'm a firm believer (that) it's about connect(ing) to a person and not necessarily the place," she said. "So if you're connected to the right person who can help you navigate (a situation), this does become easier in a very difficult time."

CAARE Center advocates say a Family Advocacy Center wouldn’t provide enough support to students

Although the University and the city of Tempe are shifting their focuses to an FAC, SDASA said that alone won’t be enough to support students, especially those who need on-campus services. 

Kuby said a rape crisis center in addition to an FAC would be counterintuitive.

“It would be duplicative and we'd be best to partner,” Kuby said. “We're stronger as a city when we collaborate with the University, and the University has a lot of expertise to offer.”

However, students are worried that an ASU partnership with the city of Tempe on an FAC won't solve the unique problems that come with rape and sexual assault on college campuses.

"I don't think (an FAC) is going to address the specific need for ASU students to have these resources on campus," said Andrea Amavisca, a junior majoring in environmental engineering.

She said it seems like the University is refusing to take accountability by not creating a rape crisis center on campus.

"If there's an advocacy center in the community, then it's not ASU's problem anymore, it's on Tempe," Amavisca said. "ASU can just sweep it under the rug and hand off these cases." 

Lester believes both are necessary since an FAC would still be required to obtain medical forensic exams, and none currently exists in Tempe.

Additionally, the CAARE Center proposal would include expanding ASU’s Sexual & Relationship Violence Prevention program and establishing a Survivor Fund within the ASU Foundation, goals that would not be accomplished with a University partnership on a city FAC project. 

Lester expressed frustration with ASU for not committing to a plan and not genuinely considering the CAARE Center proposal.

“After three months of meetings, a proposal based on survivor testimon(ies) and 30 #MeTooASU stories, we have no commitment from the University to invest in adequate sexual violence prevention and response,” she said.

Amavisca believes the lack of initiative and transparency regarding the CAARE Center reflects poorly on the University.

"It's honestly really embarrassing that they haven't committed to it at this point because it's been a whole semester," she said.

Vogel said the proposal is being considered, but saw "lots in that proposal that really wouldn't necessarily take the construction of a building to accomplish.”

Even if an FAC is built in Tempe, CAARE Center advocates still want a rape crisis center on the Tempe campus to handle cases within the University.

"We have a solution here that has been well researched, and that so many organizations on campus are supporting," Amavisca said. "How are you not listening when this is the solution that survivors are demanding?"

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Reagan PriestPolitics Editor

Reagan Priest is the politics editor, leading coverage of ASU’s relationship to Arizona’s political entities. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and currently works as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.

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