Sexual Violence Advocate and Educator Hired at CSUSM

CSUSM+Sexual+Assault+Advocate%2C+Christa+Wencl+%28shown+above%29%2C+will+help+create+safer%2C+more+informed+campus

Photo by Rhealynn Ravarra

CSUSM Sexual Assault Advocate, Christa Wencl (shown above), will help create safer, more informed campus

Jasmine Demers, Managing Editor


 

Last year a series of sexual assaults prompted demands for action by CSUSM students, and now their desire for campus representation has been fulfilled.

This past summer, campus officials conducted a search for an on campus advocate that would represent and support survivors of sexual assault at CSUSM. The search was officially closed when Christa Wencl accepted the new position as CSUSM’s Sexual Violence Advocate and Educator.  

The need for an advocate at CSUSM was made prevalent with an influx of reported sexual assaults last year. On college campuses alone, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 16 males are victims of attempted or completed acts of sexual assault, Wencl said in an interview last week.

“With the shame, guilt, confusion, trauma and various other possible impacts, it is important for students to have a person to simply talk with, share, receive validation and especially to have all that in a space where it is confidential,” said Wencle. “When universities have a sexual violence advocate position, it sends a message to the community that people care, the university is invested, sexual based violence will not be tolerated and it values offering prevention and response support to the campus.”

With an extensive background in sexual violence advocacy, Wencl explains that she decided to apply for this position because it encompassed both the “responder and prevention” aspects that she had hopes for.

“It was exciting to me that this is a new position and that the campus community was asking for it,” said Wencl. “I’m from Minnesota which has been a pioneering state within the grassroots anti-sexual violence movement. With that foundation, it is important to me that a position incorporate the educational, political and activist necessities to address and shift a culture of sexual violence. This position seemed to encompass those aspects and after the interview I felt that even more so.”

Dr. Jay Robertson-Howell, Interim Associate Director for Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS), hired Wencl in consultation with the SHCS Director, Dr. Karen Nicholson, and Title IX Coordinator, Bridget Blanshan. Along with other candidates, Wencl was interviewed and placed before an open campus forum in July.

According to Executive Order 1095 from the Chancellor’s Office, all CSU campuses are required to designate a Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate. Dr. Robertson-Howell agreed that it would be important to bring this position to CSUSM.

“We expect that the number of reported sexual violence incidents will increase because students will now be able to speak to the advocate, as well as the SHCS counselors, confidentially, and work with the advocate to determine next steps in the process for the student. Since education is also part of the advocate’s job, I believe that we will see an increase in programming related to sexual violence and bystander intervention,” said Dr. Robertson-Howell.

He also said that it is important for all students to be aware of the many resources that students can take advantage of at SHCS as well as the resources that the Sexual Violence Advocate and Educator can provide.

“Since students enrolled at the CSUSM campus pay a health and wellness fee each semester, health care and counseling are available to students at no to low cost,” he said. “SHCS is a great first stop for many students and, if necessary, we can connect students with a variety of community-based providers depending on the needs of the student.”

Wencl explained that there are a variety of way for her to be a resource for students whether that be by giving them a space to share confidentially, supporting them through the reporting process, answering questions or being there for survivors through triggering events.

“I can listen, validate and help explore options and I can honor and support what is decided by the student as they are the expert in their own life and ultimately know best what they need,” said Wencl.

Overall, Wencl says that she is prepared to help make an impact on the campus community.

“I hope I can contribute to a campus community that feels more informed, supported and empowered to take action against sexual violence, to speak up, to intervene and to do something,” she said.

For more information on the Sexual Violence Advocate and Educator position as well as other SHCS resources, visit www.csusm.edu/shcs.

The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos