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Aug. 27, 2018

MSU Sexual Assault Program launches Crisis Chat service for survivors

Preventing sexual assault through outreach and education is a high priority for Michigan State University. Now it adds a new service to address another top concern, providing the best care possible for survivors of sexual assault.

The MSU Sexual Assault Program today added web-based Crisis Chat to its resources for survivors. The online tool will provide them an additional avenue to receive support, information and resources.

“While researching ways to reach students and encourage them to seek help, we discovered that the chat function may appeal to international students, those who feel marginalized and vulnerable, and survivors who have never spoken to anyone about their sexual assault experience,” said Tana Fedewa, director of SAP.

The office began researching web-based and crisis texting programs across the country in 2016. SAP developed a protocol, identified and tailored existing chat software to meet strict requirements for client confidentiality, and trained staff and volunteers to perform crisis intervention and advocacy in a web-based platform.

Crisis Chat is accessed through SAP’s website, Confidential sexual assault crisis intervention advocates who staff SAP’s 24-hour sexual assault hotline will also provide the chat support. They are not professional counselors, Fedewa said, but volunteers trained to support and direct survivors to helpful resources.

“During the chat, survivors are not required to share any information with the advocate except what they want to,” added Fedewa. “Our goal is to help reduce the negative impact of whatever the survivors are experiencing at the moment.”

The SAP is part of Student Health and Wellness under MSU’s new Office of Health Affairs. The Crisis Chat is an example of MSU’s ongoing efforts to become a national model for quality and safety.

“We’re working tirelessly to create a transparent and accountable culture of safety so that all MSU students, faculty and staff have the safest quality healthcare and achieve a healthier, peaceful and purposeful life with optimum performance in mind, body and spirit,” said Tony Avellino, M.D. Avellino is assistant provost for student health, wellness and safety within the office of the associate provost and assistant vice president of health affairs.

Creating a safer, healthier, more respectful campus community for students is a clear priority, added Dave Weismantel, executive director of student health and wellness. “We are deliberately focused on creating support and systems like Crisis Chat that emphasize health and wellness for all MSU students.”

Founded in 1980, MSU’s Sexual Assault Program provides free, confidential individual and group therapy to student survivors of sexual violence. SAP also provides personal, academic, institutional and criminal justice advocacy services to student and nonstudent survivors of sexual assault. SAP serves more than 600 survivors each year at MSU.

For more information on the actions MSU has taken to protect patients and improve patient care, please visit the Our Commitment website.

By: Kim Ward