University of Chicago Staff Offer 24/7 Help to Students Who Suffer Sexual Assault
The University of Chicago’s Sexual Assault Dean on Call (SADoC) program helps ensure that sexual assault victims have a specially trained university employee available to help them 24/7.
SADoC staff, who communicate with the university’s Title IX office, answer student calls and provide emotional support as well as help regarding procedural, legal, and/or medical issues. They ensure victims are better informed when deciding next steps to take following an assault — including helping them seek medical care right after the assault.
Through this program — which is about 30 years old — the university has helped encourage reporting, says Kenyatta Tatum Futterman, a SADoC who works in the Risk Management department.
Having trained staff always available for students “makes a big difference in how people engage with the university and with how they deal with the trauma,” Futterman says. “It provides a human connection and helps set the tone that the university takes this issue seriously.”
The program shows the university has a culture of caring and wants to help victims as much as possible through what can be a complicated process.
Plus, Futterman says, any situation where a victim feels trauma or stress and an individual is available to help instead of a university providing a more corporate, impersonal response, is “very helpful.”
Overall, she adds, the university is committed to addressing and preventing incidents of sexual misconduct and makes substantial efforts to respond in a prompt, equitable, and thorough manner whenever allegations occur.
Training on Helping Victims
These deans are fully trained in how to respond to general or individual questions about sexual assault, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, unwanted sexual touching, and stalking.
The program is an offshoot of university’s Dean on Call program, which handles a range of calls that can include someone experiencing a mental health crisis, someone whose mother hasn’t heard from them in a few weeks, or someone who was mugged on campus.
Specialized SADoC training includes:
- How to talk to victims in a way that won’t cause additional trauma
- State laws and university policies related to sexual assault
- What resources, such as counseling, are available for victims
These deans on call receive training from different agencies around Chicago. For example, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago offers a 40-hour crisis intervention training. Futterman, meanwhile, received training from Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates).
Two Tiers of Support
The deans are on call all year, including weekends and holidays and when the school isn’t in session. The university provides a dedicated university-provided cell phone for them to be on call and address issues that come their way during their weeklong shift. The shift runs 24 hours a day from Wednesday through Tuesday.
The university designates Tier 1 and Tier 2 deans to ensure there is sufficient support. The Tier 1 dean is the primary person responsible for calls, but if that person gets overloaded, they would ask the assigned Tier 2 dean for help.
To reach a SADoC, victims can text the SADoC directly via the UChicago Safe App or call the university police department and ask that the SADoC be paged.
Police Know to Contact SADoCs
As part of its general orders, the university’s police department alerts SADoCs when it is contacted about gender-based violence.
University police receive training that they must contact SADoCs when:
- A student arrives at the university’s emergency department and asks for a SADoC.
- A student reports a sexual assault to university police.
- University staff, faculty, or another university community member requests to speak with a SADoC.
- A victim — or a friend or support person of the victim — requests to speak with a SADoC.
Assistance Varies Depending on Calls
The SADoC who answers the initial call follows the case for as long as the victim wants them to be involved.
While it could be a quick call resulting in no further action, it could involve collaborating with university police and going with police to the scene of an assault.
It also could involve trips to the university hospital, where the dean would ensure the victim receives proper care (with a specially trained nurse in the emergency room).
Involvement could extend to helping victims work through the university’s disciplinary process when pursuing a formal complaint and/or going to the courthouse and serving as a support person for the victim.
Launch Your Own Program
Based on Futterman’s experiences, she recommends institutions implementing a SADoC program keep these strategies in mind:
When seeking out someone to serve as a dean on call, it makes sense for universities to identify employees who can react quickly and decisively.
SADoCs have various primary roles within the university. Futterman, for example, is the Youth Program Coordinator on the Risk Management team; she’s in charge of the university’s Minors on Campus policy. When she served in a prior role for the university, the Dean of Students for her college asked if Futterman was interested and then interviewed her for the SADoC program. Part of what Futterman believes makes her a good fit for the position is that she has previously served as an academic advisor and as a federal criminal defense attorney.
“My mindset is victim-oriented,” she says.
Ensure SADoCs Are Always Available
College students don’t only need help from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Often they need access to help in the middle of the night, with weekends being some of the busiest times. It’s essential to have someone available around the clock.
Spread the Word About the Program
Education about the program’s existence can occur via orientation programs and meetings, flyers, tchotchkes, postcards, and annual fire and safety publications. The University of Chicago also provides staff training about the program.