Free CMHC support is needed now more than ever

Julia Zaksek

You’re a sexual assault survivor. The last few weeks haven’t been easy for you. The Kavanaugh allegations have brought painful memories to the surface. And you can’t seem to avoid hearing about it. You want help, but you’re worried about the resources available to you. UT needs to offer free, individual counseling sessions until the end of the semester, no matter a student’s financial circumstances.

Leah Leeds, the Voices Against Violence clinical coordinator, said the Kavanaugh allegations have impacted survivors.

“Anytime there’s any national event where sexual assault is brought into public consciousness, I’ve seen an increase in distress,” Leeds said.  

Currently, the Counseling and Mental Health Center offers six free individual counseling sessions for qualifying students, free group counseling, an emergency fund for qualifying students, a hotline and information about legal processes, such as filing a report.

Sexual assault and harassment can severely damage an individual’s mental, physical and emotional health. Students cannot ignore the Kavanaugh confirmation. And the recent confirmation hearing could have caused an emotional response that many students need extensive help to properly deal with. 

Psychology sophomore Kylie Brooker said the recent allegations against Kavanaugh, as well as the recent demonstrations on campus, upset many survivors of sexual violence.

“Seeing these protests is setting people off,” Brooker said. “They can’t just turn off their phones, not look at the news and not have to hear about the confirmation hearing. The hearing is impacting our campus.” 

Voices against Violence is a program on campus dedicated to sexual assault survivors, sponsored by the CMHC.

Voices Against Violence currently offers survivors a general crisis line, free group counseling and a set number of free individual counseling sessions. The number of sessions is based on the student’s eligibility, the student’s needs and counseling availability.

Leeds said since the beginning of this fall, the Voices Against Violence program has tried to be slightly more flexible when allocating individual counseling.

The six free counseling sessions can be slightly extended, but an important part of the VAV’s services is still referring students to outside resources. 

While VAV tries to offer more than the six free sessions students normally receive, students who need eight or even 10 sessions and can’t afford counseling anywhere else, are left at a loss. 

Other services, such as the hotline or group therapy are helpful, but they aren’t a substitute for one-on-one, specialized counseling with a professional.

“Having access to services that support you as a sexual assault survivor is incredibly important, and having that support right now is more important than it may ever be again,” Brooker said. 

The CMHC, and subsequently VAV, need to offer students free, individual counseling sessions for the rest of the semester in order to properly support students. In light of troubling national events, survivors need their University behind them.

Zaksek is a Plan II and women’s and gender studies freshman from Allen.