The University has hired Johanna DeBari as the Director of the Office of Survivor Advocacy this semester. The Survivor Advocacy and Community Education Office (SACE) serves as a confidential resource to students, faculty, and staff who identify as victims or survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and other forms of interpersonal violence.
“The Office of Survivor Advocacy and Education is a space that is kind of meant to be a place for advocacy and also educational pieces,” DeBari said. “My role as the director is to be a confidential resource to students, faculty, and staff who have experienced or identify as survivors of sexual violence, dating violence, stalking or harassment.”
In this position, DeBari will provide support by helping survivors explore courses of action within the University and through outside resources.
“I’m not a counselor—I don’t have those particular letters after my name—so my role as an advocate is to really explore options and then connect people to those options rather than provide that kind of mental health support,” DeBari said.
DeBari will work as an educator by providing training, programs, and workshops within the community with students, faculty, and staff. She wants to engage the community by discussing prevention and intervention in responding to survivors and various types of sexual violence.
“I also create and facilitate education programs, trainings, and workshops, in collaboration with other organizations on campus and beyond regarding sexual and intimate partner violence prevention and responding to them,” DeBari wrote in a campus-wide email on Jan. 24.
Before coming to the University, DeBari worked as a trainer and adult educator at the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury. At the center, DeBari answered hotlines and also spoke with clients and survivors in-person. DeBari also led a training course certifying volunteers and staff as domestic violence and sexual assault counselors and advocates.
“The experience I had in that role is giving me a solid foundation to this role at Wesleyan,” DeBari said.
DeBari is also excited to work in partnership with student groups, faculty, staff, and various offices on campus. She also hopes to be a resource on campus not only to survivors, but also people who are connected to and work with survivors.
“If we’re trying to live in a world where we want rape culture not to exist, we want an environment where all survivors feel supported and that this violence isn’t happening, we need to be bringing everyone into conversation,” DeBari said. “So, I’m really excited about exploring those opportunities to collaborate with folks and see what we can all do together.”
Kaye Dyja can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @kayedyja.