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Dec. 2, 2021

Student volunteers provide support to survivors through crisis chat

When faced with a traumatic situation, such as relationship violence, sexual misconduct or harassment, knowing what steps to take for help can be extremely difficult. Michigan State University students volunteer their time to MSU Center for Survivors Crisis Chat program to be the first line of support for their classmates facing these challenges.

The Crisis Chat program is a free, anonymous text service available to survivors, their friends and their family members to seek support and learn about available resources. It is a part of MSU’s Center for Survivors — a free and confidential program offering individual counseling, advocacy and support service for MSU students and campus community.

Volunteers for the Crisis Chat program are not professional counselors, but trained members of the Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention program—a registered student organization of undergraduate and graduate students and community volunteers who are active in the movement against gender-based violence.

Erin Shrum, a third-year law student, serves as a volunteer advocate for the program and says her inspiration stems from helping others after they have experienced harm.

“Sometimes, when you’re going through something traumatic, you just really need to know that someone is there for you,” Shrum said. “SACI is a great resource for people if they just need someone to listen to or talk to.”

Advocates are on call during their 24-hour shift and are provided with a program-owned iPhone to text with people who reach out. The phone is linked to the Center for Survivors website, from which users can click on the teal chat bubble in the right-hand corner that will automatically connect them with an advocate.

The SACI team meets every Monday to go over best practices, share supportive affirmations and participate in self-care activities.

After hearing many accounts that could be difficult to process, the program offers support to advocates to ensure they receive the care they need to continue to serve the campus community. Shrum said that there is always an on-call back-up if an advocate needs to debrief after an emotional call.

“It can be challenging because you do hear stories of trauma, and that never gets easy,” she said. “The SACI team is so supportive, and someone is always available if we need support after a tough call.”

SACI accepts new volunteers each semester and is open to MSU students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members. Applications are closed for this semester, but SACI will resume taking applications in the spring. To apply or learn more about the process, please visit the Center for Survivors website.

By: Chris Chapman

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