Rape Crisis Center Separates From OU, Regains Confidentiality

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A program founded through Ohio University is now striking out on its own, in hopes of continuing its service to survivors of rape and sexual assault, and bringing back the confidentiality it recently lost.

Screen shot 2016-07-03 at 10.55.56 AMThe Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program is seeking a new fiscal agent as it transitions away from Ohio University affiliation. They will end their partnership with the university when their grant funding for this fiscal year ends, in September.

In October, they plan to find their own way, through pending grant funding  from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and the Rape Crisis Fund, along with the fiscal management help of a current non-profit in Athens County, My Sister’s Place.

“We foresee no lapse in service during this transition,” said Kat Wargo, program coordinator for the SAOP.

While the program was housed within the university, it was intended to serve those in the area that were not enrolled as students. The Survivor Advocacy Program (SAP) is a program still ongoing with the university that assists students with incidents of rape or sexual assault.

The outreach program includes a 24/7 crisis hotline, help with the medical, housing and legal needs of survivors and even help in interacting with law enforcement during the process of dealing with a rape or other incident.

It was the law enforcement aspect that became one reason SAOP decided to separate itself from the university.

The university told Wargo earlier this year that under its policy, if employees of SAOP were notified of a felony criminal act, they were required to report it to law enforcement. Wargo said this policy goes against the best practices of the program.

“Because of what they’ve already gone through, survivors have already had choices taken away from them,” Wargo told WOUB. “We want survivors to be able to choose their own path.”

SAOP serves Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry and Vinton counties, according to their mission statement. It was originally founded to help Meigs and Perry County survivors in August 2013, then expanded to Athens in December of that year. The service area was expanded to the other counties in October 2015.

“Our mission is to create a safe community where victims and survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking, and domestic/dating violence are thoroughly respected and supported,” the program’s mission statement reads.

The program will now work toward becoming a non-profit, and will also be seeking a new location while still keeping services going for those that need them.

Meanwhile, OU has said it has “refocused its efforts on rebuilding its student Survivor Advocacy Program” under the Division of Student Affairs, including its policy on confidentiality, according to a statement provided to WOUB by OU spokesman Dan Pittman.

“Reopening in Fall 2016, SAP will provide confidential support services for survivors of sexual assault, stalking and dating and relationship violence,” the statement read.