The University of Montana’s SARC (Student Advocacy Resource Center) is upgrading its services to better serve students and just as importantly, better support staff and student counselors.

KGVO spoke to Jennifer Euell, Director of UM’s SARC on Thursday morning, who described the mission of the program.

“The Student Advocacy Resource Center here at the university is the space on campus that provides supportive services to any of our students who may have experienced what we call identity based harm.” began Euell. “Most often, of course, that would be survivors of sexual assault; also survivors of interpersonal violence, but also at times, survivors of discrimination and harassment if it's based on their identities.”

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Euell said the SARC has a dual purpose in supporting students during a difficult time in their lives.

“What that looks like is both advocacy and counseling services,” she said. “So our advocacy services are basically meeting with students and working with them to understand what different options are available to them both for reporting options if they're interested in reporting to Title Nine, or if they're interested in reporting potentially to law enforcement, but also looking at what other kinds of resources might be available to them.”

Euell described the goal of each contact with a victim that turns to the SARC for help.

“Being that first responder who's there, which is such an important role, because what we want to be making sure we're conveying to these students is that this is not your fault,” she said. “This is a crime that was committed by someone else, and we are here to support you and make sure that from here moving forward, you get to make the choices, and we're going to support you in your healing.”

Euell said the upgrade means there are additional services available to the SARC staff and counselors, so that they too can receive help when needed.

“The University restructured it slightly so that we have a full time director, which is my position,” she said. “But we also now have a staff person who's our direct services coordinator. So, they're really the one who's able to work with our student interns and also provide some of the counseling for those students who might need someone with a little bit more experience or a little bit more skill to provide advanced work. In addition, we also have a staff person who's doing the outreach portion, so it's not all just on one person.”

In a press release, Euell states: ‘SARC is a totally confidential service. Staff members are not required to report anything to the authorities unless someone’s life is in danger or a child has been hurt. The victim decides whether any charges advance to the authorities. SARC offers counseling services and a 24-hour crisis line (406-243-6559) for students and others dealing with sexual assault, relationship violence, bullying, intimidation or discrimination.’

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