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University debuts sexual assault survivor resource website

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University debuts sexual assault survivor resource website

By Marijo Enderle

The University unveiled a new website intended to provide sexual assault and domestic violence survivors with information about University reporting and support resources.

According to Amy Thomson, assistant dean of students, the “At Illinois We Care” website was made public on July 1 in time for the “Red Zone,” named after the first six weeks of the new school year in which women and freshmen in particular are at an increased risk for sexual assault.

“Our goal in the creation of the website was to create a single, mobile-friendly, user-friendly, accessible, comprehensive resource for support, response and prevention resources,” Thomson said.

Featuring an emergency exit or “privacy” button on the top of the website that redirects the user to Illinois.edu, the website was the product of three months of work by a team chaired by Thomson and consisting of representatives from the Office of the Dean of Students, the Women’s Resources Center, the Office of the University Counsel, the University of Illinois Police Department and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Access.

“If people need reporting options, if they are seeking emotional or medical support, if they are supporting a friend or want to get involved with these issue on campus, or if they aren’t even quite sure what to do next,” Thomson said, “We hope this site will be a bridge to the information that will be most helpful to them depending on their individual circumstances.”

State legislators have additionally attempted to address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.

Illinois Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-56, and state Senator Toi Hutchinson, D-40, co-sponsored the Preventing Sexual Assault in Higher Education Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 21.

According to the Illinois General Assembly’s website, the bill directs Illinois colleges and universities to create a comprehensive policy “to address student allegations of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.”

Additionally, the act mandates that universities provide confidential advisors to survivors, provide annual reports to the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Attorney General concerning discrimination and sexual violence cases and charges universities with creating or participating in a campus or regional task force with the goal of coordinating community efforts to prevent sexual assault.

On campus, the Illinois Student Senate has already begun plans to create an It’s On Us task force consisting of student senators, FYCARE facilitators and other community stakeholders in time for the one-year anniversary of the campaign’s launch on Sept. 19.

It’s On Us, the sexual assault awareness campaign debuted by the White House last year, has been a major focus of the senate over the past year, cumulating in the visit of Vice President Joe Biden to the University in May to recognize campus and community efforts in the movement.

“We’re going to be bringing in all these different types of student leaders and representatives from different types of organizations like Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council,” said Student Senate Vice President-External Matt Hill, “to really make sure that we can spread the campaign far and wide across campus and really utilize people to get their ideas and develop new creative ways to champion the It’s On Us message this year.”

Beyond compiling a list of resources for sexual assault survivors, Thomson said there was a bigger goal for the website.

“We don’t want anyone to feel alone or as if they have nowhere to turn to for support and/or help when they are ready to reach out.”

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