SCSU Unsung Hero: Cathy Christie
Melissa Nuñez – Opinions and Features Editor
Cathy Christie, director of the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support Center and coordinator of the Sexual Assault Resource team, started her Southern career in 1998 at VPAS. Christie said she always knew violence prevention work was imperative on college campuses and that work has become her life’s mission.
“If I didn’t do what I do here, I would be volunteering somewhere in the community doing this work,” said Christie. “This work is my passion; I feel that this is my life’s purpose. I feel really blessed to be able to do what I love to do as my career with the great people on this campus: the students [and] the staff.”
Christie said VPAS is constantly working on prevention efforts, which includes a great deal of outreach and education to the student body. This takes many forms, like staffing stables on campus offering information to students in a fun and interactive way, or offering workshops. Christie added, as the coordinator of Sexual Assault Resource Team, she also coordinates training sessions, gets information ready for SART members, posts things throughout campus to create awareness and more.
But above all, Christie said her most important role is supporting survivors.
“I want survivors, and those who may know survivors, to know that they can contact us at any time,” said Christie. “We are here to provide survivors with support, advocacy and information on reporting options, and Title IX rights. We want to help in the way that best supports each student. We do not need to know any details on the incident, unless a survivor chooses to share. We are here to empower survivors and support them in any decisions they choose to make: we can do this informally or formally.”
Christie added all the information and support VPAS provides would not be possible without her student workers and volunteers like Melissa Kissi, survivor advocate, and Elizabeth Brady, graduate intern.
“It definitely takes a special student to work with us: a student who is interested in the work that we do and also has the ability to balance the work with their role as a student,” said Christie. “They know they can talk with us; we have very close relationships with our students. We also make sure that the work that those students do is upbeat and interactive and most of the work that we do is like that because we want students to feel empowered by it.”
Christie said the support received from students, faculty and staff has been overwhelming, going onto say that VPAS has been invited to every athletic team under Jay Moran, Director of Athletics, and has also seen tremendous support from various Greek organizations with the help of Eric Lacharity, interim associate director. She also added students have also improved their bystander intervention efforts over the past several years.
“The students as bystanders, as supporting their peers have really stepped up, in terms providing that support and intervention,” said Christie. “I have seen an increase over the past three years, they are amazing. That is what it is all about because students really react best to their peers.”
Christie added there are a multitude of ways students can intervene as a bystander safely, whether its students saying something when they hear someone victim blaming or intervening when witnessing someone in an unsafe situation, by calling someone for help or creating a distraction.
Christie said VPAS encourages collaboration from everyone on campus and from those relationships can help build a more reverent, safer Southern.
“Employees and students can place SART brochures in their offices, departments, etcetera and everyone can contact us if they would like to sponsor a presentation, collaborate on a program or volunteer in our Center,” said Christie. “We welcome the opportunity to work with everyone to create a safe and respectful campus community.”
Photo Credit: Melissa Nuñez – Opinions and Features Editor