The Role of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Advocates

TW: discussion of sexual assault & intimate partner violence.

There is a lot of discussion around Reed College these days about what our response to sexual assault on campus is going to look like this year and the years to come. I am a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Advocate; I work for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. Hopefully, I can start answering some of the questions that the community has about our response to these incidents. Obviously, I do not have answers to all of the questions that are being asked on campus, but I do feel that providing information about our program will be helpful for campus discussions. I want the student body to be as involved as everyone wants to be because this is such a far-reaching and important topic.

The Reed Student Advocates, originally just a student group, are now the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Advocates, and make up half of the sapr program. The other half of our team is the Peer Educators. They do a lot of work on the prevention side, including discussions during O-Week of what good consent looks like, dorm talks about healthy relationships, and answering individual student questions about their own relationships and sexual encounters. The advocates are the response team for incidents. Rowan Frost, Reed’s Assistant Dean of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (ADSAPR), manages the sapr program. I became involved with the advocates in the fall of my freshmen year. I heard statistics on campus about how one in six [1] women will experience attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. Knowing that this affects people in a community that I care about, I immediately wanted to be a part of the systems that existed on campus to support survivors.

SAPR Advocates provide a variety of support systems on campus. Our official services include: emotional support, information about options, referral, reporting assistance, coordinating transport for sexual assault forensic exams, and support for friends of survivors. [2] The Advocates run a crisis line, open to students who have experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence, as well as their friends. They also meet one-on-one with students who want support accessing campus resources in relation to sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The SAPR program organizes general advocacy events and raises awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault and dating violence. Last year we brought Project Unbreakable to campus, and organized Take Back the Night. The Advocates are a completely confidential resource: while we can help survivors to file reports if they want to, we never have to report anything. The only information that the Advocates provide to the sapr program is how many phone calls we receive and on what dates, exclusively for our Clery [3] report and to justify our funding.

Our crisis line (503-847-9772) is one of the most important parts of our program, and is entirely run by student advocates. The crisis line is run on a voicemail system during the school week (Monday-Thursday), which means that when the line receives a call, the advocates who are on-call get a text message, and respond within 24 hours. From Fridays at 4 pm until Sunday nights at 10 pm, we run a direct crisis line: the Advocate on-call will pick up the call immediately to provide support. The crisis line is completely anonymous, and is open to both survivors and to their friends and acquaintances who need support in relating to or supporting the survivor as well as dealing with the vicarious trauma that can occur when people hear about traumatic events outside of their own lives.

Outside of the crisis line, Advocates meet with students to prepare them for procedural processes including reporting sexual assault and intimate partner violence to Gary Granger, the Portland Police Department, and the Judicial Board. While the advocates are affiliated only with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, we also work closely with other offices on campus to make any process that a survivor chooses to go through as easy and straightforward as possible.

In the past, advocates on campus went through at least forty hours of training at either the Portland Women’s Crisis Line or the Portland YWCA. This year we launched equivalent in-house training program, in the hopes of making advocacy training more accessible to students who are interested in the sapr program. Our training covers not only immediate crisis response, but also safety planning, the neurobiology of trauma, the effects of vicarious and secondhand trauma, understanding intimate partner violence in lgbtqa relationships, systems advocacy, and more. We train to be as trauma-informed as possible to not retraumatize survivors, and to provide effective support after a traumatic event.

I hope that discussions about how Reed handles sexual assault and intimate partner violence will continue with a better understanding of what sapr Advocates do and what resources and support we provide. 

  1. From the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), more facts can be found at:

  2. Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (SAPR) Advocates page on the Reed website:

  3. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act is a federal law that mandates that institutions of higher education disclose statistics about crime on their campuses. More information about the Clery Act can be found at: