SHERIDAN — Community agencies in Sheridan partnered with Sheridan College to provide access to their services last week and remain available through a community resources room on campus.
Advocacy and Resource Center now offers office hours in the community resources room, which also houses spiritual care services hosted by First Presbyterian Church of Sheridan’s Paul Hayden and will be used as needed for soft interviews by Sheridan College campus police.
Hayden’s spiritual care services will serve as non-proselytizing work to connect students to church families off campus.
“(Hayden) calls the local minister and sets up a time to talk to the student on campus,” said Amy Browning, counselor and Americans with Disabilities Act services coordinator at Sheridan College.
The spiritual care service will be based solely on student interest and includes office hours of noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
Advocacy and Resource Center victim advocates hold office hours 8:30-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays and noon-3 p.m. Fridays. At any time needed, the chief of campus police may also pull in victims of crimes for soft interviews instead of interviewing in a less comfortable location.
Advocacy and Resource Center victim advocates appreciate the ability to bring their services to college students, a demographic at high risk for sexual assault and other crimes.
When ARC suggested offering services on a college campus to Browning, she and Dr. Paul Young jumped at the opportunity to connect students with the center’s services.
“She did all of the work to make it happen,” ARC assistant director Rhonda Weber said. “All of a sudden the jokes (to get services started on campus) was met with someone who was like, ‘Yeah!” and we’re like, “Yeah!”
Browning said a lot of members of the faculty and staff at the college were interested in the space.
“Having services on campuses is not unique,” ARC director Yvonne Swanson said. “We’re actually behind the times.”
Other campuses have students volunteering to be peer victim advocates, which ARC aspires to integrate on Sheridan’s campus eventually.
“If we go statistically, one in four girls will be sexually assaulted on a college campus,” Swanson said. “There’s a need no matter what it is, and this is amazing to have a place that they can talk and feel safe and not have to go somewhere.”
Weber said starting a presence on campus helps eliminate some deterrents for victims seeking help.
“The incident occurs and then the logical next step in their minds is then the scary step of reporting,” Weber said. “We can be that step in between so they can get the education, they get the resources available to them.
“Then more often than not, they are still going to go do that scary step of reporting,” she said. “But now they feel that it’s a choice they’ve made on their own and they’re informed.”
ARC has been visiting campus for years to help train resident assistants and law enforcement officers. The center anticipates the permanent presence on campus to help with “warm handoffs,” or transferring victims of assault or other crimes to available resources.
ARC and the faith community in Sheridan are one step closer to connecting college students to the community with the simple use of a resources room and office hours.