New CARES policy detailed to student body

Since 1989, CARES has served Vassar as a confidential peer-listening resource for students affected by any type of personal violation issue. Personal violation includes sexual assault, relationship abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, stalking or anything else that makes someone feel uncomfortable in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. We are also available as a resource for friends and family members of people who are experiencing or have experienced personal violation issues.

CARES has always prided itself as an organization that other students can turn to for resources and for support. We are not professionals; we are not counselors. We are your peers who have vast knowledge about the resources the College can offer, training in empathic listening, and a commitment to keeping your experiences confidential. We believe that our callers themselves are the experts of their experiences, and that they can determine what they need better than we can.

CARES is a resource of the College, housed within the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) office. We are grateful to the College for their generous support of CARES both in funding and in our operating with significant autonomy. The College respects CARES as an organization and includes us in conversations about policy and praxis by giving us a seat at the table on the SAVP committee.

As a result of working under the umbrella of the College, we are bound by the College’s policies. On rare occasion, there is a shift in a policy that requires CARES to change our protocol. We feel it is important to make these shifts aware to the Vassar community, so the student body can know what to expect when they call us. Recent changes in policy have led CARES to adjust its protocol about breaking confidentiality.

The following is CARES’ updated policy that outlines when CARES is obligated to break confidentiality by notifying the Metcalf Counselor on Call or Vassar Safety and Security:

 

1.)   CARES is obligated to break confidentiality if a student is in imminent physical danger. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, circumstances in which a caller discloses that

a. they have a plan to commit suicide or to self-harm

b. they have self-harmed within the past 48 hours

c. they are aware of a weapon on campus

d. they have been assaulted by someone whose identity they do not know

e. another person has threatened to harm them

2.)   CARES is obligated to break confidentiality if a caller discloses that child abuse is currently taking place.

 

As individual CARES listeners, we recognize that these circumstances are not ideal. We have the utmost concern for our callers’ safety, and we recognize that breaking confidentiality and cueing an institutional response may not be the safest course of action for every student that calls us, particularly for those students who are members of groups that are historically and currently marginalized or who may not be safe in a situation in which the College may notify parents or guardians.

A fundamental principle that CARES holds is that callers should be able to determine the course of action in their individual situation. Vassar’s liability requires us to disclose certain information if we have it. In light of this, CARES thinks it is important that students know that they are not obligated to offer identifying information if they do not wish to give it when contacting CARES. We would specifically like to note that if a security officer asks for your name when you call the Campus Response Center to ask for the CARES listener, you do not have to give it.

As a campus resource, we are committed to providing our peers with a non-judgemental person who will listen, and provide options so our peers can decide what is their best course of action. In making this information public and our policies transparent, we hope to let our peers maintain their autonomy and independence in utilizing CARES as a resource and in making their experience at Vassar what they need it to be.

As always, we are available 24/7 during the academic year. Reach us by calling the CRC at 845-437-5221 and asking to speak to the CARES listener on call.

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