New victims' advocate sits poised to make big impact
The Wellness Center’s new coordinator for victim advocacy services, Sara Yzaguirre, will begin counseling students this semester after joining AU’s staff last November.
Yzaguirre will work alongside Daniel Rappaport, who is the sexual assault prevention coordinator at the Wellness Center. She will provide confidential trauma therapy and consultation for survivors of sexual violence, gender-based and intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and stalking, according to an email from Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and Dean of Students Robert Hradsky.
“[Yzaguirre] will work closely with our sexual assault prevention coordinator to implement prevention programs and training to ensure ongoing education in these areas is available for students, faculty, and staff,” Hradsky said in the email.
Yzaguirre will function as a confidential counselor for survivors of sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence who come to the Wellness Center, while Rappaport will continue to focus on student outreach and sexual assault prevention.
Her goal is to make survivors feel safe and comfortable revealing as much or as little as they want, she said.
“I love working with college-age people,” Yzaguirre said. “This position is really nice because I get to do mostly clinical work, but I’m still going to be able to do some of the prevention programming, which I’m also super passionate about.”
Yzaguirre formerly worked for the University of Maryland Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program, where she counseled survivors of sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence. She also worked at the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County, where she frequently counseled survivors within the 18 to 25 age range.
Last fall, one of her first tasks was to fine-tune the bystander intervention program StepUp to make it more applicable to AU’s population. Yzaguirre used data collected from AU surveys about common situations that students face to tailor the bystander education, she said.
Yzaguirre is also serving on the Sexual Assault Working Group, which meets all year-long to evaluate sexual health programing and education.
“I think there is a fantastic dialogue happening on campus right now,” Yzaguirre said in reference of the Student Government’s report on sexual assault from this fall.
Open dialogue between students and the administration is one of the first steps to a comprehensive response by the University, she said.
“The students are really driving the change, and the more that we know about what the students want and think is effective, then the more responsive we are going to be able to be,” Yzaguirre said.
Yzaguirre said she wants to work on continuing AU’s campus conversation surrounding enthusiastic consent by working with other members of the Wellness Center and other University offices.
“I think that what often happens in this field is that people who [handle] sexual assault are kind of in one silo,” Yzaguirre said, “and people that do sexual health programming are in another silo. So one thing that I’d like to see is some collaboration.”
Yzaguirre hopes that these collaborations will help students better understand what enthusiastic consent is, she said. This includes intimate partners being open and comfortable with talking about sex and consent.
“If people aren’t comfortable having those conversations, that’s where things can go wrong,” she said.