April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Cara Tuttle Bell, Director of Project Safe, the Center for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response, highlights resources available for Vanderbilt faculty and staff including help for survivors, talking with a co-worker about intimate partner violence, and additional training and resources on this topic.
Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. I am here today with Cara Tuttle Bell who is the Director of Project Safe, the Center for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response. Cara holds a JD from Vanderbilt University Law School, her Master’s in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Louisville, and Bachelor’s in Political Science from Ball State University. Along with her work at Project Safe, she is a lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies Program for which she teaches the seminar on gender violence. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and today, we are looking at the services available to Vanderbilt faculty and staff through Project Safe related to sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence. Cara, I think that many employees assume Project Safe is only for students, and they are unaware that there are resources available for them. Would you please highlight those resources?
Cara Tuttle Bell: Yes and thank you so much for having me. I agree, I think many faculty and staff are unaware of the services that we offer, but we offer very similar services that we offer to students. So, we offer a variety of prevention programs. So, we would offer training on understanding mandatory reporting obligations if that applies to them but also our bystander intervention programs, how to support a friend or colleague who has been impacted by sexual violence, and more. So, we also provide victim advocacy services. So, we have a 24-hour hotline that faculty or staff members may call one of the victim resource specialists. They do the victim advocacy work for our center and always answer that phone. So, we are available to answer questions and provide information, connect people with resources. Faculty and staff may also walk in. So, we are open for walk-ins or appointments Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Project Safe which is located on 304 Westside Row in what is known as the Cumberland House. We will help a person connect with law enforcement if that is what they want to do, connect with the Jean Crowe Advocacy Center downtown if that is what they want or maybe they do not want to work with us, but they would like to connect with the Nashville Sexual Assault Center. So, sometimes, we make those connections. We really try to help a person understand their options available on campus resources and off campus resources, so that a person can get the help that they may need.
Rosemary Cope: Cara, say a co-worker confides to another one that they are experiencing some intimate partner violence in their life. How can that co-worker be helpful?
Cara Tuttle Bell: Well, first of all, it is really important to know if you are a mandatory reporter. Most university faculty and staff are mandatory reporters meaning that they must tell the University Title IX coordinator if they learn of an incidence of sexual assault, stalking, dating, or domestic violence that has impacted a student, faculty, or staff member. If you feel like someone is getting ready to disclose something of this nature to you, I would encourage you to gently pause the conversation; and that means interrupt if you have to, to ensure that your coworker retains control over their information and what they want to do with it, but then, your primary goal is really being a good listener, do not do most of the talking, let them do most of the talking, and then we would recommend mirroring their language back to them. So, a lot of times people will not use terms like rape or sexual assault when they are explaining to a supportive colleague what has happened to them, and so, it is important at this stage for us to not label their experience, try not to tell them what you would do, instead ask how can I best support you, and maybe offer to accompany them to Project Safe if you can.
Rosemary Cope: And if I am a faculty or staff member, where can I turn for additional training or resources for myself or for my staff?
Cara Tuttle Bell: Project Safe tries to provide a lot of information on our website. We have a tab that is called Faculty Resources that exists right now. We are also happy to offer any of our programs or tailor a program for your staff meeting or for any special schedule that would work with you on whatever might best serve your audience. So, some of those programs I mentioned earlier are really great for an entire team to complete. How to support a survivor is really good practice. So, you think about how you would respond before the opportunity presents itself to you, but we also work closely with EAD which is the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services Department, and sometimes, we offer programs together, but they too offer a variety of programs connected to addressing this issue and they are available for faculty and staff.
Rosemary Cope: So, if one of our listeners would like to contact to you or your staff, what is the number and the website?
Cara Tuttle Bell: Our office number is (615) 875-0660. That is monitored during our business hours, and this is the number for non-urgent matters. A person can schedule an appointment through that office. Our 24-Hour Crisis Hotline is (615) 322-SAFE (7233). Our website is www.vanderbilt.edu/projectsafe, and you can email us again for non-urgent matters but at email@example.com. Our information is also widely available on social media. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at VU Project Safe.
Rosemary Cope: Well thank you so much, Cara, for your time today. I appreciate the information and really look forward to exploring the website and contacting those resources when needed. Thank you for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the “Add New Comment” link at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or a suggestion, please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the “Contact Us” link on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.