Center for Awareness of Sexual AssaultWisconsin
The Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault (CASA) is located on the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire campus, and the project serves the Eau Claire community as well as the campus. CASA serves anyone over the age of 18, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds by referral with parental permission.
The goal of the project is to provide free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault. Services are also available for friends and family members of survivors. The project has worked to raise campus awareness of sexual assault through presentations, events, posters, and newspaper and television publicity.
Making the Idea a Reality
CASA was created in response to concern over the lack of appropriate services for victims of sexual violence on the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire campus. A task force was created and the Family Support Center in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, wrote a grant to have the program funded by the Victims of Crime Act in Wisconsin.
The project has two part-time staff members who are responsible for providing outreach programming on campus and in the community, recruiting and training volunteer advocates, and providing direct advocacy (including legal and medical advocacy, one-on-one counseling, and a support group). CASA also uses the services of 20 to 25 volunteers.
Volunteers receive 6 hours of mandatory training before they provide services to victims. They are responsible for responding to the 24-hour help line as well as for some outreach programming. During regular business hours, the 24-hour crisis line is answered by the project's two employees. From 4 p.m. until 8 a.m. during the week and 24 hours a day on the weekend, the phone line is forwarded to an answering service.
Each month the volunteers sign up for shifts to be on call. Trained volunteers have pagers, which they turn on during their shifts. The answering service receives all calls and takes messages for staff, if necessary, or pages the volunteers when requested by the caller. The volunteers then appraise the caller's situation. A volunteer may offer support to a caller or may go to the hospital with a victim. Volunteers are not responsible for followup calls or ongoing support. They complete a call log and indicate whether or not victims would like followup contact from the program coordinator.
Benefits to Victims
Clients have commented that it is great to have a service so accessible to the campus community that focuses on the college population.
Benefits to Victim Service Professionals
The program has also created good relationships with the campus police, city police, the SANE program, and the county victim-witness coordinator. These relationships have helped the program reach more victims and provide support through all the steps of the medical and legal processes. The program also facilitates the work of police and hospital personnel by allowing them to perform necessary tasks while the CASA advocate provides the emotional support the victim needs. At the victim's request, CASA advocates also will contact the victim's family members, roommates, employers, or professors.
Evaluation Efforts / Lessons Learned
At the end of volunteer training, new volunteers are asked to fill out an evaluation form. Through these evaluations the program has learned how to better present its information and conduct outreach. CASA has been growing steadily in the number of people it serves and in bringing about increased community awareness. Through time, the program has expanded community partnerships and created stronger relationships with campus and community agencies.