From a one-woman space to a fully supportive place: SHARE marks its 10th year

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SHARE staff members John Criscuolo, Sherine Powerful ’10, Jennifer Czincz, Christy Cantu, and Carole Goldberg. SHARE is marking its 10th year at Yale. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Ten years ago, Carole Goldberg singlehandedly ran Yale’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center (SHARE) from a small office on Whitney Avenue, at one edge of the campus. She was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to any member of the Yale community who needed her help. One way that she made her services known to the campus community was via a website that she created and updated herself.

At a celebration of SHARE’s 10th anniversary on Oct. 14 at Yale Health, Goldberg introduced the two newest staff members at the center, whose recent appointments bring the total number of SHARE staff to five. Newly hired are Sherine Powerful ’10, as the program coordinator, and Christy Cantu, as a part-time counselor. They join Goldberg, who directs the center; assistant director Jennifer Czincz; and John Criscuolo, who oversees SHARE’s Conduct Awareness Program (training for students who seek to gain a better understanding of consent and respectful sexual encounters.) Czincz and Criscuolo have been on the staff since 2012. All staff members have advanced degrees and offer emergency and on-call counseling services for SHARE.

While SHARE’s mission hasn’t changed from its beginnings, Goldberg says the center has evolved to better support the Yale community. She recently sat down with YaleNews to talk about the center’s purpose and its future. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

What is SHARE?

SHARE stands for Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education. We’re here 24/7 for anybody in the Yale community (students, staff members, and faculty members) who has experienced any kind of sexual misconduct: assault, harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking. Individuals can walk in 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays or they can call ahead and make an appointment. We generally encourage people to call ahead to ensure they won’t have to wait to see one of us. They can also call us in any emergency situation, day or night.

We see more students than non-students, and we see people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Why was SHARE started?

SHARE was started because while we had crisis response covered through our Mental Health and Counseling department at Yale Health, students didn’t necessarily see being assaulted as a mental health call. So we felt we were losing people. Students were also getting inconsistent information depending upon who they first spoke with — their dean, a faculty member, etc. After thoughtful consideration, a committee made up of administrators, students, and faculty decided that we should have a freestanding department, which student advocacy groups also supported.

I’ve been a psychologist at Yale Health since 1997, and was asked to direct the new center. I had already been doing some work as a sex therapist at Yale Health, and in 2001 I had joined with Yale’s sister campuses to form the Inter-Ivy Sexual Assault Conference, an annual event at which we compared our response services, talked about what was working, and shared information about speakers, programs, professional materials, and so forth. We continue to meet yearly.

Later, in 2006, it was determined that SHARE would best be located in the Yale Health facility. We first shared a space on the first floor with Health Education. In 2011, we moved to a larger and more private space in the lower level, and then hired additional staff for the center. That was a good move. At the same time, we also updated our website to be more comprehensive, a major upgrade.

What happens when someone comes to SHARE?

Whoever on our staff initially helps [the visitor] will be the person who continues to support the student or staff member in need of help. That saves the person from having to tell his/her/their story more than once. When I greet someone, I invite the person into my office and ask how I can help. Sometimes those who come in know exactly what they want to say and sometimes they don’t know how to say what’s bothering them. Sometimes, people will come and say, “How does this work?” So I ask them to tell me what they’ve been dealing with and/or to share whatever they feel comfortable talking to me about. We [SHARE counselors] want to listen. We don’t ever tell people what to do.

How do you help put people at ease in a difficult situation?

When someone comes to tell us about an experience of sexual misconduct, we point out that he/she/they are not responsible for the actions of someone else; the other person decided on their own course of action and pursued their own agenda with little or no regard for the person they are with. A lot of the times people think, “Well, I should have or I could have or I might have done something another way and then this would never have happened.” What we tell people is that it’s not their fault. We tell people not to blame themselves, because they are not in control of another person’s behavior or choices. We really stress that.

What happens next?

What happens next depends on what someone wants to do in response to an experience of sexual misconduct. Some people choose to just continue to meet with us for ongoing support. If it’s an acute situation, we might see someone every day, if necessary. We explain the processes for following up on a complaint if the person is interested in doing so. A person may choose to file an informal or formal complaint through the university or meet with the Yale Police Sensitive Crimes and Support Coordinator to discuss legal options. If someone chooses to pursue a complaint, we talk with her/him/them through that process and explain what will happen. We will accompany them to the emergency department at Yale-New Haven Hospital if they wish to have a forensic exam (the cost of which is covered by the state), and we serve as advocates for them if they wish to file a formal complaint through Yale’s University Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) or an informal complaint through the Title IX office. We support them throughout the entire process — assisting with written documents, being present at factfinder interviews, accompanying them through hearings, and then being an in-person support when they receive any updates or outcomes related to their case.

We can work closely with Title IX coordinators, the UWC, the Yale Police Department, and other resources when needed, but the decisions of whether we do so are entirely up to the person seeking our help.

What if the person who calls or comes in isn’t sure how to respond to the sexual misconduct?

In some situations, those who come to us really haven’t defined the experience yet for themselves, and we do want them to know that they can reach out to us for support in processing the experience and deciding what, if anything, they’d like to do. They do not have to feel they have a clear path when they come to us.

The process is student driven and confidential. No action is taken without the student’s permission. The process can also be anonymous: We have people who call or come in who don’t give their names. The only information we might ask is whether or not they are a student (we have different protocols for students than for non-students) and whether the alleged offender is a student or Yale affiliate. We might ask if the incident took place on or off campus. Beyond that, we don’t take notes.

Sometimes we also have people who call or come to us to discuss a situation experienced by a roommate or a friend.

So you aren’t legally required to file a criminal report if someone claims they were sexually assaulted?

No. We are designated as a rape crisis service. As such, SHARE counselors do not need to make reports to the police or to the Title IX system. We do have to inform the Yale Police, in accordance with the Clery Act, but we do not pass on any details or identifying information.

Some of the students or Yale affiliates who come to us want to talk about an incident that happened in their childhood or before they came to Yale, or about something that happened to them on summer break or outside of Yale. We also meet with and support those students as they process their experiences. There is no time limit in terms of what we can talk about.

Do you encourage students and Yale affiliates to contact SHARE first in cases of sexual misconduct?

There’s no one right place to start — people’s needs vary. Still, many people do turn to SHARE first, to talk through their experiences and learn more about their options.  

Does SHARE offer support groups for students who have experienced sexual misconduct?

Yes. We send out a message to students at the beginning of each semester and invite people who are interested to call SHARE. We try to have separate groups for undergraduates and graduate students, and we interview interested persons to make sure that they are compatible with the group, as people have had different experiences. Groups generally meet once a week for six to eight sessions, and at least one SHARE counselor facilitates the group.

Support groups are a useful way for people to deal with their concerns. Just to hear that someone has had a similar experience, or to share what works or doesn’t work as one processes an experience, can be very beneficial. Support groups are held in a confidential setting.

How challenging is it to be SHARE counselor, working with individuals who have been harmed?

The work is really meaningful. It’s very rewarding to feel that I and the other counselors can make a difference. Those who are helped by us are grateful. Some of them might have been holding in an experience for years and years before they could tell anybody or feared they would not be believed. I think it is important for students and others to hear from those of us who do this all the time to know they are not to blame. Experiencing sexual misconduct is different from experiencing many other forms of mistreatment: If you are mugged, you’d immediately tell someone about it. If someone breaks into your house, you tell people about it. But to be touched in a way you haven’t given consent to, to be harassed in social or academic settings, to be made fearful within an intimate relationship — these experiences can be really hard for people to talk about. It’s wonderful when we can help someone take that step.

Are there ways you’d like to see SHARE expand its role in the future?

There is always more that needs to be done. We’re pleased to have Sherine, who has a master’s degree in public health, join us here. The public health aspect of sexual misconduct is an important one in terms of the way trauma impacts one’s health. Sherine is going to be very involved with various student groups and cultural houses, and we are excited about that.

Of course, we are always trying to raise student awareness about SHARE. Among other events, we take part in orientation sessions at the beginning of the year to talk about our services. We work closely with the Communication and Consent Educators [a group of undergraduates who aim to foster a more positive sexual and social climate on campus] and are very grateful for their work.

In the future, we would like to be even more involved in programming on campus and aim to work with a large number of student groups and organizations. 

Most importantly, we want everyone here on campus to know that they are welcome here. We are continuously working to get out the word that no one needs to go through an experience alone. We are here to help.

SHARE is located on the lower level of Yale Health, 55 Lock St. The phone number is 203-432-2000. For more information, visit the SHARE website.

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