At Temple University, sexual assault survivors are not left to fend for themselves.
“You might say you’re going to report something to police,” Donna Gray says. “But then you realize you need to go to court or you’re going to miss a day at work. Then what do you do?”
As the Risk Reduction Manager in Temple’s Police Department, Gray helps victims prepare to file a report, anonymously or not. If they’re ready to talk to an officer, she’ll stay by their side from that first moment and until the legal process concludes.
“I’m going through it with them, no matter how long it takes,” Gray says.
But with just 2 in 10 college-age victims ever reporting an incident, universities have to find ways to support people who never talk to police. Title IX Coordinator Andrea Seiss is in daily contact with Gray, and both women work together to help bridge the gap.
“I don’t want a student to ever think that there’s only one place to go,” Seiss says.
When incidents of gender-based discrimination, harassment or assault involve a Temple student, Seiss introduces herself with a list of options for academic support, confidentiality, and attention to physical and emotional safety.
“Sometimes I get a student that comes back to me a couple of months after I reach out to them,” Seiss says. “That’s fine, because we want to get power back to the person that had power taken away from them. I’m not forcing them into something they don’t want to do.”
Nationwide, academic success often falters in the aftermath of trauma, and almost 25% of survivors do not reach graduation. Seiss can coordinate with professors to find flexibility in assignment deadlines, exams, and attendance.
“Sometimes someone isn’t comfortable going to class, or they’re really struggling with concentration,” Seiss says. “I work as a medium with faculty in those situations, so there’s a little bit less of an impact on the student, without disclosing any personal information.”
For Seiss and Gray, confidentiality is key when it comes to protecting victims from further trauma.
“We are a network of responsible employees,” Gray says. “What that means is that we don’t need to disclose an individual’s identity, we just need to make sure that people get the support they need.”
Both women are involved in Temple’s 24/7 partnership with Women Organized Against Rape, known as WOAR. Survivors can get access to resources through the hotline without identifying themselves and then decide what they’re comfortable with.
“Students wanted to report something that happened but didn’t know if the first call they wanted to make was to the police,” Seiss says. “The WOAR counselors are trained in a college environment and are wonderful with working with students to get the help that’s best for them.”
For some, that immediate next step is medical care available through Temple services or healthcare network, and others will start with a trained mental health provider at Tuttleman Counseling Center. The path of support is different for every survivor, and it’s never too late to ask for help.
“There is something beyond this for everybody,” Gray says. “You can get through this — actually, you will.”
Call the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center at 215-800-1589. WOAR’s 24-hour hotline is 215-985-3333.
Contact Temple Univeristy Police by calling 215-204-1234.
These resources are available even if you were not a student at the time of the incident.