Advocates offer help to student survivors of sexual assault, violence, stalking
Being a voice and resource for Ball State students who have been impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking isn't an easy job, but it's important to Allison Wynbissinger.
Wynbissinger, a victim advocate for the Office of Victim Services, has dedicated her life to working with college students and helping them in situations that could leave some feeling damaged.
“I love working with people, serving them and listening to people,” Wynbissinger said. "It’s important for students who have become a victim to have a voice and know that they have someone there for them."
OVS assists individuals in the recovery process by providing timely information and confidential support and guidance through the campus judiciary and criminal justice systems, according to bsu.edu.
If a student decides to report to the University Police Department or Title IX Coordinator, or have meetings with any of those individuals, as well as Student Rights and Community Standards, an advocate can accompany that student at their request, Wynbissinger said.
Student-on-student sexual harassment, including sexual violence and sexual harassment directed toward a student by a university employee or other representative of the university, violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, according to bsu.edu.
Furthermore, if a student is considering requesting a Protective Order, an advocate can assist them with completing the paperwork, as well as safety planning, Wynbissinger said.
If a victim feels they already know their options and believe they have identified an option or options they would like to pursue, OVS can still help them through the process.
"We can support students as they navigate that system but we do not have to participate if they’d prefer to maneuver this independently," Wynbissinger said. "Our office is here to provide options but not make decisions for individuals."
With so many different tasks within one job title, Wynbissinger said she handles it through the support of her friends and family who are very understanding of the situations she has to handle and the hours that come with the job.
“I have a really great support system. I have a really great partner,” she said.
Wynbissinger said she is in the job because she loves college kids and helping them through their tough times, even when some students may not want to report their situations out of fear or embarrassment
“Your feelings are valid,” Wynbissinger said. “What has happened – whether abuse, assault or stalking – are all very scary, horrible things and I can appreciate that you may not want to come forward.”
OVS will not ask students to provide every detail of the situation and students are allowed to tell as much or as little as they want, she said.
“You are the expert on your life, we’re just here to empower you to pursue the best version of that life,” Wynbissinger said.
If victimized students feel uncomfortable talking to someone, Wynbissinger advises they find another alternative such as journaling, meditation or exercise.
“Every person is different and has individual needs as far as support, help and assistance goes,” she said. “While one survivor may desire to be surrounded by family or friends, another may prefer to spend time alone or with another individual.”