In 2014, Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) started a cutting-edge program to aid victims of sexual assault called the Survivor Fund. The purpose of the fund — and what makes it unique both in Montana and across the country — is to provide money for victims of interpersonal violence during critical times, to help them either get out of a bad situation or to make the process of investigation easier on them. Other colleges in Montana and across the nation are contacting the VOICE Center and SASA about how to start similar programs of their own to fight this issue, and Montana State’s SASA should be applauded for being at nationwide forefront in combating this issue.
If a victim needs to get out of an abusive relationship but they cannot immediately afford a new place to stay, they can contact the VOICE Center, Help Center or Haven. These organizations will then contact the Survivor Fund board, who will review the case within 24 hours — usually approving it in less than three hours — and in this particular case provide the $106 needed for a housing application that doubles as a deposit with Family and Graduate Housing.
The fund can also provide support for victims already in the process of legal investigation by doing simple things like providing them with gift cards to replace clothes that were confiscated as evidence. This kind of outreach, which more communities must adopt, is crucial when dealing with domestic or sexual violence, because it makes the victim more comfortable in dealing with authorities on the issue, as well as reaching out for tangible support.
In the short time since its inception, the Survivor Fund has been able to provide financial support for over 50 victims of sexual assault and abuse in the Gallatin Valley. At this time, money for the Survivor Fund is gathered through events and fundraisers run by SASA. Their most popular event, the Bozeman Monologues, is coming up on March 8. The purpose of the Monologues is for members of the community to share speeches about sex, gender, relationships and everything in between. Fundraisers like the monologues provide a compelling way for the general public to both learn more about this issue and choose to get involved. These public events act as a way to make these taboo issues more understandable as well as offering the community a chance to be part of the solution.
The original purpose of SASA, which is one of the oldest clubs at MSU, is to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence. Now, with the Survivor Fund, they are truly taking action against this epidemic. This gives the Bozeman Monologues a two-fold purpose — to raise awareness about the issue, and the money to solve it.
Aryn Phillips, the chair of the Survivor Fund board, stressed that the Survivor Fund “is something that is only possible because of the joint efforts of students, staff and the community who generously donates to it.”
This group effort is successful because of the streamlined and desperately needed infrastructure that supports it, and it is this infrastructure that MSU is helping other schools start. The Survivor Fund, VOICE Center, etc. are so great because they work, and work incredibly well. When other schools begin to build resources like the VOICE Center, then they will easily be able to in-turn create a resource like the Survivor Fund, which is an incredibly awesome resource for any school to have. In this sense, MSU’s community effort to stop sexual and domestic violence will have a much more global effect on the issue.