New location, same services for SACIS

Katie Smith, Online Editor

Since Charleston’s Sexual Assault Counseling and Informational Services (SACIS) has settled into its new off-campus facility, its counselors have noticed  a positive response from the both their community and university clientele.

In May SACIS made the move from the basement of Lawson Hall to their new 18th Street location across from Pilson Auto Center.

Counselor, Erin Walters, said the organization’s new building makes it better-known that SACIS’ services are not exclusive to Eastern students.

“We are still seeing the university students as much as we were before and what we can do is we can make accommodations to see them close to campus, or they can come here,” she said. “We want to always make sure that we’re not moving away from the campus.”

In addition to Coles County, Charleston’s SACIS also serves Cumberland and Clark Counties. Walters added that non-university members make up a majority of the group’s clientele, with 1/3 of their clients generally identifying as a student, staff or faculty member.

“You have to take into consideration how many counselors we have,” she said. “We have more children’s counselors than we have adult counselors. Child sexual abuse affects so many kids, there is a greater need for that.”

While the new building serves as a platform for SACIS to make its presence known, Walters said the move has enabled the organization to shed light on the sexual assault in more ways than one.

“We have windows, which was a new thing for us,” she said. “Being in the basement for so many years has been difficult in the sense that we’re sort of hidden and out of sight and when there’s out of sight there’s also out of mind, I suppose on a number of levels.”

Walter drew parallels between SACIS’ former location and a general tendency to brush over sexual assault as a societal issue.

“Our sign was so faded on the campus that you almost couldn’t see it anymore,
she said. “It is sort of symbolic in the sense that sexual violence is often a taboo topic. We don’t want to talk about it. It causes people to feel uncomfortable.”

Walters hopes the new location encourages those who may have been curious about SACIS but intimidated by it’s placement in a residence hall, to seek help without feeling exposed.

“We also have university students who think, ‘I reside on the university campus, I’m involved on the university campus, I know you’re there but I don’t want people to see me there,’” she said. “I think that SACIS is in a really good place – and I don’t mean physically. I mean generally, overall, we’re in a very good place.”

 

Katie Smith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]