A light in the dark: Sexual assault victims encouraged to reach for help

Photo Credit: Richard Hirst | Photo Editor

By Emma King, Staff Writer

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college.

“We see students who have been sexually assaulted,” said Dr. James G. Marsh, Baylor’s director of counseling services. “We provide therapy for those students, to help them through that.”

A week ago, Baylor held a mandatory “It’s On Us” event for freshmen and new transfer students. Marsh said his staff was very involved in this sexual assault bystander intervention training.

“These programs have been shown to be very successful, so we’re very hopeful about that,” Marsh said.

“It’s On Us” is a national campaign centered on identifying the scope of the sexual assault problem on individual campuses, preventing campus sexual assault and helping schools respond effectively, according to a press release straight from the Office of the Press Secretary at the White House published at the launch of the campaign in September 2014.

”I think it was very, very beneficial,” said Zach Vanderslice, community leader in Allen Hall. “[My residents] were all enlightened through what was said.”

On the “It’s On Us” website, students are encouraged to take a pledge to recognize sexual assault, intervene and create a positive environment around survivors.

According to Marsh, the Baylor Counseling Center has been set up to be that kind of an environment for survivors. They are one of the few places on campus where reports of sexual assault remain confidential unless the victim wants police involvement.

Marsh said Baylor’s Counseling Center sees students for many other reasons as well, the top three being anxiety, depression and relationship problems.

“We’re going to take care of you,” Marsh said.

The counseling center gives students guidance and makes sure students know their options and have access to resources they need.

In the 16 years Marsh has been at Baylor, the department has grown from three psychologists and one office manager to eight psychologists, a full time clinical case manager, a part-time dietitian, a part-time addiction behavior specialist, an office manager and two office support staff.

“I really feel like we have developed a pretty comprehensive department here in terms of our services,” Marsh said.

Baylor’s Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the McLane Student Life Center, offers walk-in clinic hours, where no appointment is needed, and has a 24/7 crisis hotline.

“We know how hard it is to walk over here that first time,” Marsh said. “[It] takes a lot of courage.”

In addition to individual or group counseling sessions, there are also group sessions available for students seeking safe places to share with others experiencing their same challenges.

There is no fee and no limit on how many group sessions one can attend.

Individual and couple sessions are limited to 12 a year, where the first seven are free and each additional session is $10.

At the beginning of treatment, counseling staff will assess the patient to ensure that if more than 12 sessions are needed, the patient is referred to a clinic in town as soon as possible to begin healing and building relationships with the staff there.