While it is an unfortunate and terrible event for any individual to go through, each year there at roughly 207,754 sexual assault crimes reported across the United States. For those of us at Springfield College, we are very lucky to have a supportive and helpful team for victims of sexual assault to turn to.
First, there is Jami Chrzanowski. Chrzanowski, who started here at SC this past January, is the Interim Clinical Director of the Health Center, as well as the official Sexual Assault Advocate on campus.
“Women’s health is what I do for a job,” Chrzanowski said emphatically. “This is my passion. I don’t look at it as a job, I look at it as a privilege to be able to serve students that are in need.”
According to Chrzanowski, the first step taken after one has been sexually assaulted is confiding in someone that the victim trusts.
“Whether that be a friend on campus, or a professor, an RA or RD, just somebody. Even their parent,” Chrzanowski explained.
Once the victim is comfortable enough speaking to someone about the crime, the report then goes to Chrzanowski, who will then help the victim in any way that she can.
“I will counsel you on your options, you could look at it that way, but I’m there to be the impartial party in it all. I’m there to advocate for what the person wants. I’m there just to listen sometimes. It’s an interesting role. I’m counseling them on their options, I’m there to listen, I’m there to be the shoulder to cry on,” said Chrzanowski. “I’m there to do whatever they need me to do. If they want to just cry for three hours, we can do that. If they want to go right down to the hospital or police station, we can do that.”
Chrzanowski’s ultimate goal is to help the victims understand that they now have control of the situation after feeling like they have lost all control.
Chrzanowski is happy that the Debunking the Myths: A Guide to Sexual Assault seminar happened last week. She now feels that more people are aware of her and her position, and now they will feel more comfortable coming to her.
“I’m hoping that now my face is getting out on campus, and people have heard me speak, and seen me at the Health Center, and seen me on campus [so] they’ll [see] me as trustworthy,” Chrzanowski said.
While Chrzanowski is the first step in providing support after a sexual assault, there are also the officers at Public Safety who are trained to deal with legal issues. Six out of the 17 officers here at SC are certified to deal specifically with sexual assaults. There are both male and female officers that are certified, and victims can request either gender to deal with their case.
“We’re not going to victimize the victim again. [The victim] needs to get back into control,” said Chief of Campus Police Judy Jackson.
Jackson, who has been in law enforcement for 42 years, has seen her fair share of sexual assault cases. The single most important first step in dealing with a sexual assault case is that the victim must report the crime to authorities, she stressed.
“It’s not going away if they do not speak up or ask for help,” Jackson explained.
Once the crime is reported, Jackson and her officers get right down to business.
“[We] assign them [the victim] a sexual assault investigator. [We check] if we can still go to the hospital for a rape kit to be done. [We] save all the clothes they were wearing, the whole nine yards,” said Jackson.
Once the victim is assigned a sexual assault investigator, that particular officer stays with the victim throughout the entire process. If the victim needs to go to the hospital or Springfield Police Department, the officer is with them every step of the way.
“We want them to be comfortable,” Jackson said. “The point is, we have people here to just talk to and guide you. We’re not going to railroad you into something you’re not prepared to do.”
Both Chrznowski and Public Safety are here specifically for the students. Their job is to serve the entire student body. If you or anyone has been victimized by a sexual assault crime, Jami Chrznowski can be reached at the Health Center at 413-748-3175, while Public Safety can be reached at 412-748-5555.