CSUN and counseling center provide help for rape victims

Jeff Ishuninov

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California State University, Northridge and Valley Trauma Counseling Center are working together to provide counseling and intervention care for victims of interpersonal and sexual violence.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), somebody is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. That’s about a quarter of a million people each year.

Valley Trauma Counseling Center is a non-profit organization that helps victims of abuse through counseling and intervention, the center also sets up prevention education to avoid abuse in the first place.

Since 1985 CSUN students have been directly involved with the Valley Trauma Counseling Center (VTCC).

Students work as volunteers and interns to provide counseling and support to the victims of abuse. Charles Hanson, executive administrator of the VTCC and professor at CSUN in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, supervises graduate students in practicum classes, where they learn basic counseling skills while provide services at VTCC.

“There are many ways students are involved with the Trauma Center. They provide support to the victims of abuse over the phone using our 24-hour hotline; students also accompany people to the hospital. For example, if a woman is raped, police will call the center and we send an advocate to accompany and support that person at the hospital,” Hanson said.

Students looking for an internship or community service from Psychology, Sociology and other departments, attend 60 hour training to become rape crisis advocates. Students gain practical experience for future careers while VTCC gets qualified employees.

Graduate student Alejandra Villeda is studying for a Master of Science in Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy.  She began to work at VTCC as an undergraduate student in fall of 2007. After completing required training, she was working on the phone hotline, which requires a six and a half hour shift per week and currently she is a counsel trainee.

“I started as a rape crisis advocate. Later, practicum class training and supervision helped me feel ready and confident, so in spring 2009 I was working as a counsel trainee, helping out clients to cope with stress,” Villeda said.

VTCC oversees multiple programs, including project D.A.T.E. This program, which interfaces with University Counseling Services, is a date/acquaintance rape prevention program.

“This program works on campus, it is a peer education program. We get a group of 10 to 12 students, meet once a week and they get trained and prepared to do the Rape Prevention Education Program in classrooms on campus and local high schools,” Hanson said.

Other programs deal with children who were abused or are in the process of adoption, family support counseling, helping survivors of gang violence, serving deaf or hard of hearing, the LGBT community and anyone else in need of help. VTCC provides services to over 15,000 people annually.

Valley Trauma Counseling Center has three different locations – Northridge, Van Nuys and Santa Clarita. All offices are open six days a week.  Their 24-hour emergency telephone hotline provides support 365 days a year.