The Office of Sexual Prevention and Response cancelled several events previously planned for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, shifted counseling online, and developed new resources in order to adapt to the current situation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
OSAPR Director Pierre R. Berastain ’10 said in an interview Tuesday that as soon as the University informed students they had to leave campus for the remainder of the semester, OSAPR began thinking about how it would have to change the services it usually provides, which typically range from large events to individual counseling sessions.
April is usually one of the busiest months for OSAPR because of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, according to Berastain. But this year, he said, much of its scheduled programming had to be cancelled because many events, even if they were held online, would lose their “in-person touch."
Instead, Berastain said OSAPR began to develop resources and programming adapted to specific needs students might have while away from school, such as providing information on technological safety and ways to avoid cyberstalking and privacy violations.
“We said, how do we provide resources for students to increase their capacity and knowledge about ensuring tech safety?” Berastain said. “So we poured some resources into figuring out some resources that are available, and we created a page on tech safety.”
Roseangelle D. Poyau, a case coordinator at OSAPR, added OSAPR has faced some difficulties transitioning counseling services to an online format, but said the office is adjusting to fit the needs of students.
“People can't just come and meet with us in person and so right now we’re doing phone appointments and we’re doing Zoom appointments,” Poyau said. “We're not necessarily operating on our regular nine-to-five that we typically do. We're being very flexible with the schedule and making appointments as works for people.”
Berastain said OSAPR is “fine-tuning” its information on resources available to students who reside outside of Massachusetts — such as processes for obtaining a restraining order — which change regularly.
“In terms of different policies, that actually ends up changing on a weekly basis,” he said. “One court might be open today and next week, it’s not. So it really is just being on top of it.”
Berastain added that though OSAPR is staying informed of such changes around the world, it is maintaining an “individual-centered approach” in working with students.
“The philosophy that we go by at OSAPR is individual-centered,” Berastain said. “So if somebody calls us from out of state or from Massachusetts or from outside of the country, we're going to figure out, ‘what are those individuals' needs, and how do we best meet them based on the resources available?’”
OSAPR is also hosting several weekly virtual events including “Netflix & Chill” sessions to watch a movie and have conversations about consent and relationships in media, yoga classes, and “Lunch & Learns” to discuss various issues including consent and how to manage long-distance relationships.
“That reality is going to look different depending on what decisions are made,” Berastain said. We’re all waiting to hear what's going to happen, and we’ll adapt accordingly. But we haven't heard something concrete yet.”
—Staff writer Fiona K. Brennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FionaBrennan23.