Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, February 23, 2019

Letter to the Editor: Sexual Violence: Reporting and Resources at American University

Letter to the Editor: Sexual Violence: Reporting and Resources at American University

Coordinator for Victim Advocacy Services Sara Yzaguirre

This article is not about a specific incident or student case. It does not include any confidential information.

As the Coordinator for Victim Advocacy Services, I serve as a confidential resource for students who are survivors of sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking. In that capacity, I spend about 70% of my time in advocacy meetings with students. Additionally, I work with the other Wellness Center staff and campus partners to develop and implement prevention education and outreach programming. I truly love my job, and I feel honored to be a part of a campus community that cares so deeply about these issues.

So when I read “System Under Fire” and the staff editorial in The Eagle (4/22/16), I was disappointed to see no references to OASIS, other confidential campus resources, or the on-going and fruitful collaboration between administrators, faculty, and students around this topic.

I’m troubled by the misrepresentation of administrators as unable to give clear answers to simple questions. I can assure the campus community that I and my colleagues in the Dean of Student’s Office and the Title IX Office are able to answer process and policy questions with ease. At the end of this letter are simple answers to some of the questions we get most frequently about where and to whom one may report, get advice about the process, and gain support.

I acknowledge that our system is not perfect. I understand that many students are mistrustful of administrators—both here at AU and at other universities. Students and administrators alike are well-aware of the dominant media narrative around this topic. And for good reason: historically, universities have not properly handled sexual violence on campus. I offer three observations about where we are at AU, based on my experience in this field:

  • The administrators and faculty members who work on this issue have been leaders in sexual violence response and prevention for decades. This is an issue that is close to our hearts. We meet weekly to discuss these issues, and we are fully committed to exceeding best practice.
  • American University is already a leader in many regards. We are one of the few universities to mandate in-person, consent and sexual communication programming for all incoming students. As a mid-sized institution, we employ two confidential campus advocates when schools twice our size employ none. Additionally, our bystander intervention program, Step Up, has been recognized as a model for other universities. These outcomes are examples of the progress we can make when we work together.
  • We acknowledge that the reporting, investigation, and conduct process can be overwhelming and confusing. We know there is room for improvement, and we welcome all feedback.

Daily, I am thankful for my colleagues and the students I serve. I want an environment that is conducive to a healthy and productive dialogue on these issues, and if you do too, then we have to work together.

We want you at the table. We welcome your feedback. We invite you to join the Sexual Assault Working Group. We ask you to trust that we too care deeply about this issue.

Please contact me with any questions at I would be happy to speak with you.


For a confidential appointment about resources, accommodations, advocacy, and the reporting and investigation process:

  • OASIS, Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence
  • 202-885-7070

To report an instance of sexual violence:

  • Heather Pratt, Title IX Program Officer
  • 202-885-3373
  • Note: This resource is non-confidential

For immediate assistance on campus:

  • Public Safety
  • Emergencies: 202-885-3636
  • Non-emergencies: 202-885-2527
  • Note: This resource is non-confidential.

For questions regarding the additional support and interim measures on campus:

  • The Office of the Dean of Students
  • 202-885-3300
  • Note: This resource is non-confidential.

For confidential counseling or referrals to specialists in the community:

  • The AU Counseling Center
  • 202-885-3500
  • Walk-in hours: 2:00-4:00pm, Monday-Friday

For confidential and free STI screening:

  • University Health Center
  • 202-885-3380

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