RMIT has strengthened its support for victims and survivors of sexual assault by partnering with CASA House.
CASA House is a department of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne that offers free and confidential support to adults who have experienced recent or past sexual assaults, regardless of gender.
It is a government-funded organisation which provides 24-hour services, which are in heavy demand.
The partnership with RMIT means students have exclusive access to a CASA House counsellor on City campus each Tuesday. RMIT is exploring a similar arrangement for Bundoora campus.
The counsellor is also helping train RMIT’s existing welfare and counselling staff to strengthen their ability to respond to trauma associated with sexual assault.
Fiona Ellis, Director of Student Wellbeing and Commercial Services, said RMIT put the safety and wellbeing of students and staff first.
“The University, with its values of Inclusion and Courage, has long been committed to supporting its students and staff when it comes to welfare and safety,” she said.
“CASA House is made up of dedicated professionals who can advise on support and health services in Melbourne and who are familiar with the intricacies of Victorian law.
These arrangements mean RMIT is adding CASA House resources into the system rather than putting more strain on resources which are in heavy demand.
“CASA House is offering training for RMIT students on respectful personal relationships, consent and bystander intervention, including students heading off to the Southern UniGames next month.
“They are also delivering the program to culturally and linguistically diverse student groups at RMIT English Worldwide.”
CASA House counsellor Jessica Maxwell said the organisation was committed to ensuring that the silence which surrounded sexual assault continued to be broken and that victims/survivors were provided with necessary support.
“CASA House offers 24-hour crisis care support following a sexual assault in the previous two weeks, short to medium-term counselling and advocacy support, and support groups.
“Our message is – everyone is entitled to feel safe and to be free of sexual assault.”
Jessica Maxwell said the training for students would highlight that everyone in our community was responsible for engaging in respectful relationships.
Training for RMIT staff was also important. “If a victim/survivor has a difficult experience dealing with any kind of system, it can be retraumatising.
“If the people in that system are responsive, it can make the experience a useful and positive one,” Maxwell said.
Story: David Glanz
Photo: Peter Clarke