By Sara Salimi
Ask the students who are doing it every day.
Maryam Sizar is a peer advocate at Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE) to Stop Violence. Like her other peers, she is trained to be trauma-informed and to connect student who has experienced different forms of sexual harassment with the services they need.
“This is more than connecting students to therapy; it’s about sitting down with them and listening to their stories,” Sizar said. Through her work, she learned that the shortest distance between two people is a story.
Sizar explained that the importance she attributes to peer advocacy stems from her religious principles. “As a Muslim, we are taught to advocate and fight for victims’ rights and give them the help they need in every way we can. That’s the value I saw going into CARE.”
After changing her career path from a pre-medical track to public health family science and psychology, Sizar said she wanted to hear patients’ stories more than diagnosing symptoms with pharmaceutical drugs. “I wanted to get to the root of the problem,” she added.
At CARE, a team of students and faculty provide free and confidential advocacy, therapy, and educational resources to the campus community. Their work involves emotional help and crisis intervention, as well as connecting people to medical, legal, and financial assistance.
“We educate the community to respond to violence when it does happen,” said Carly Cottone, the outreach coordinator. CARE now presents information about crisis intervention and the resources it provides to most incoming university freshmen.
“When I talk to people, a lot of them don’t recognize when something has happened and they might not call it sexual assault. One of my goals in outreach is to educate people about what those terms really mean,” Cottone said. She advises students to reach out to close friends when faced with a potentially dangerous situation and to document those experiences to have on record.
CARE accepts free walk-ins Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They also have a 24/7 crisis cell that advocates respond to. “We are behind closed doors a lot because our work is confidential, but there are resources and people here. Reach out, ask us!” Cottone said.
Sizar also had one message she wanted to share with her fellow students: “It’s such a small world, and we’re all dealing with the same issues. We should be each others’ safe space.”
Featured Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Sara Salimi/Bloc Reporter.
Sara Salimi is a senior multiplatform journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.