Vinson Health Center to begin partnership with First Step Domestic Abuse Treatment Center

The Bruce and Graciela Redwine Student Wellness Center and the Cinson Health Center are located on the water front of Sikes Lake, on the other side of campus, across Midwestern Parkway. Photo by Rachel Johnson

The Bruce and Graciela Redwine Student Wellness Center and the Cinson Health Center are located on the water front of Sikes Lake, on the other side of campus, across Midwestern Parkway. Photo by Rachel Johnson

To provide gender-based violence counseling for students, faculty and staff, administrators created a partnership with First Step Domestic Abuse Treatment Center and Vinson Health Center. Staff members will be on campus eight hours a week, and will be available at all times even off campus. 

“It was not because of an illicit need that was brought to our attention,” Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Matthew Park said.“We know that this is an issue on college and university campuses across the country and Midwestern State University is no different.”

After attending a summer 2015 retreat with other vice presidents of students affairs, Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Lamb learned about providing advocacy services on colleges and universities and discovered a model that he thought would be appropriate for the campus.

“We found a model where [Stephen F. Austin State University] was doing something similar,” Lamb said. “We visited with them to see how it was working using a community based advocacy service and decided that it would work well for us.”

The university operates under certain federal regulations and guidelines that has implications for gender-based violence such as Title IX. As Title IX coordinator, Park was in charge of training the First Step staff to help operate on campus.

“They were very receptive to the idea and the conversations so they have been a pleasure to work with thus far,” Park said.

The Bruce and Graciela Redwine Student Wellness Center and the Cinson Health Center are located on the water front of Sikes Lake, on the other side of campus, across Midwestern Parkway. Photo by Rachel Johnson

The Bruce and Graciela Redwine Student Wellness Center and the Cinson Health Center are located on the water front of Sikes Lake, on the other side of campus, across Midwestern Parkway. Photo by Rachel Johnson

Any person can go meet with one of the advocates and share information in a confidential manner. This will not be considered as making a report to Park as Title IX coordinator, student conduct office or the human resources office. Advocates are in a position to empower the individual to help understand the resources available to them.

“We are excited about [the partnership] because we are trying to either reduce or eliminate that barrier such that when these incidents of sexual misconduct happen, we want that person to feel that they can go approach and share that with an advocate,” Park said.

Park said the reason their service will be located in Vinson Health Center is because there are already strict policy considerations in place for any student utilizing that service. A vacant office space in the health center will be dedicated to First Step for its exclusive use. Since they are a non-profit organization, Park said he does not see any monetary cost to their service.

“[First Step] is not in the business of making money. They are in the business of supporting and sustaining their programs and their outreach efforts that serve the community,” Park said. “The nature of the agreement that we set up does not carry monetary value but I could see in time that it might be something we could look at.”

Park and Lamb said the program should officially be up and running by the fall semester.

“There are a majority of incidents which go unreported and with a service such as this,” Park said. “Perhaps that number will decrease because people will feel more comfortable knowing that they are in a confidential service.” 

 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said “increase” instead of “decrease” in the final paragraph.