Carrying the SARA phone
Jessica Olson is a sophomore at Simpson College. She is a religion major with minors in both sociology and women’s and gender studies. Olson is a member of Religious Life Community (RLC), is the Assistant Campus Liaison and the First Year Coordinator for Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARA).
Being a Sexual Assault Response Advocate (SARA) comes with responsibilities that are sometimes tough to handle.
SARA has a confidential, 24-hour hotline that anyone can call while school is in session. Each SARA member takes the phone for one week per semester.
A lot of our conversations with fellow students end up happening in person or via email, so I didn’t really think having the SARA phone would be a big deal.
I was very, very wrong.
Every time during my on-call weeks, when my own cellphone rings in my pocket, I have a wave of panic surge through me thinking that it is the SARA phone.
I think of all of the possible situations that could be happening, and it – quite frankly – scares me. I worry that I will not be able to handle the situation, or I will not be a positive advocate for the individual that has just gone through something that is so incredibly traumatic.
What am I going to say? What if I say something wrong? What if I know the person calling? What am I going to do to help this person?
These are the thoughts that race through my mind at any given moment when I have the SARA phone.
At first, it made me think that I wasn’t cut out for SARA. But then, I realized that my worry is because I care so much about helping a survivor of sexual assault in any way that I can.
It shows me that I am more equipped to handle the situation than I give myself credit for. And, it constantly pushes me to be better at this role and constantly learn new things.
I have only had the phone ring once while in my possession. It was someone that wanted to ask a few questions for a paper they were writing.
At first, I was a little upset. The phone rang, I panicked, and then I called back to find out that it was just for information.
Sometimes I forget that the informational role of SARA is just as important as the advocacy role.
We are here to provide information in any way that we can, so I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes non-crisis calls are going to happen.
That call scared me a lot. But, it also showed me that SARA is making a difference on our campus because people feel comfortable calling the line.
I now realize that it is great that the individual called, and that even though they weren’t in a crisis situation, I provided my knowledge and applied my training to the conversation, and I ultimately taught that person something important.