Transforming Victim Advocacy to Co-Advocacy

with Ashley Schulte, Jessica Jennrich

About This Course

In a compliance-centered strategy, the voice of the victim/survivor is often lost. An innovative advocacy program developed at Grand Valley State University re-centers the work on the student (as victim/survivor). In doing so, we faced genuine resistance, as well as promising success in meeting the ever-growing demands of disclosures on our campus. The Co-Advocate Program introduced non-traditional opportunities for safe disclosure spaces on campus that ultimately upheld compliance standards while focusing attention on the student-survivor experience. 

This live briefing will be a discussion-based presentation outlining the challenges, benefits, and implementation options for expanding victim/survivor advocacy options on a college campus. The session will begin with a description of an innovative program launched at Grand Valley State University in 2016, after months of negotiation, research, training, and preparation. The Co-Advocate Program utilizes a decentralized model, collaboration from on- and off-campus partners, and integrated communication to offer advocacy services beyond the role of a primary Victim Advocate without needing to increase personnel costs.

The presenters will provide a history of the launch of the Co-Advocate program which included navigating the following factors:

  • institutional atmosphere;
  • increase in student disclosures;
  • a swing of the pendulum towards a compliance-centered violence response approach;
  • the inherent challenges of having a single Victim Advocate; and
  • lack of role clarity between various offices doing violence prevention and response work.

Learning Outcomes

Participants in this live briefing will gain:

  • an understanding of the value of having multiple Victim Advocates in diverse locations;
  • tools for creating similar programs at participants colleges and universities; and
  • appreciation for the complexity of using a student-centered model in compliance based spaces.




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