At Swarthmore, sexual health advocates are the go-to people for finding resources for safe sex, including condoms and other contraceptives, learning about healthy relationships, and navigating sexuality. This year, however, the SHA organization’s mission is struggling after SHA mentor and Violence Prevention Educator Hillary Grumbine suddenly departed from the college at the beginning of the semester.
The SHA cohort is specifically designed to help promote safe sex and healthy relationships on campus. Every year, students apply to the SHA team and are selected by the executive board. In the past, the executive board and Grumbine trained prospective SHAs. These volunteers help students find the correct resources they need to maintain sexual health. Students also receive emails every year about who the SHAs in their dorms are.
There are, however, some limitations to what they can do to help students this year. SHA Treasurer Nina Robinson ’23 spoke with The Phoenix about some of the current limitations of the SHAs in their capacities to help students.
“We work closely with the faculty mentors, and though we’re given the right language to use when talking to students, our responsibility is to connect students with the right resources … We don’t have the training to diagnose or give the correct advice to students who are in unhealthy relationships, dealing with sexual health issues, etc,” Robinson said.
In the past, Grumbine and Tiffany Thompson, associate director of gender and sexuality initiatives, worked with the SHAs to provide a space for students to talk about their concerns related to relationships and sexuality. Grumbine had been one of the few confidential resources that student volunteers could guide other students to if they had a question about relationships or sexual-related diseases.
According to Robinson, many students have the misconception that the SHAs work closely with the administration even though the student advocates function independently.
“We are a student organization. We’re not part of [Residential Peer Leaders] and we don’t work closely with the administration,” Robinson stated.
The SHA has always been considered a safer resource because of its confidential nature and specificity of dealing with sexual relationships, unlike the college-run organizations. C.A.P.S., for instance, focuses more generally on mental health.
Robinson commented on some of the issues students have when reporting to the Title IX office.
“[Title IX] is incredibly constrained by the procedure they have to go through. They can’t act on situations without specific information from the students,” she said.
Unlike the Title IX office, the SHA organization is not affiliated with administration. Even Grumbine and Thompson serve as figures that the organization can consult, but they do not play a primary role in the organization itself.
Another resource for survivors of sexual assault is Lauren Godfrey, a nurse practitioner at Worth Health Center.
“I am currently participating in a training course to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, which will allow me to further support students,” said Godfrey.
While Godfrey is a helpful resource at Worth Health Center, students will most likely continue to turn to Thompson as a support system. Thompson’s focus, however, is more related to the LGBTQ+ community. Thompson explained in an interview with The Phoenix how she assists the SHA organization in training.
“I believe in comprehensive sexual health education that is inclusive to all bodies, skin tones, genders, and sexual orientation. This has always been my focus before and will remain so,” she said.
Furthermore, according to Thompson and Robinson, the SHA organization will continue to work closely with Thompson to encourage an inclusive, positive conversation about sexual health and relationships.
According to Robinson, the SHAs are currently looking to work with Worth Health Center, which can provide additional resources to students. Godfrey, whose specialty is in sexual health, will be a resource for the SHAs to direct students to. She spoke about her role in the SHA organization and the Swarthmore community in general.
“I have partnered with the SHA organization to provide STI education and review the resources available in our community and at the Student Health Center,” she said.
Godfrey only works at Worth Health Center twice a week, which can limit opportunities for students to contact her. Though Godfrey’s primary focus is on sexual health, she commented on her ability to communicate about healthy relationships with students when they schedule appointments with her.
“During many sexual health focused appointments, we have a holistic discussion reviewing an extensive questionnaire. Included in this questionnaire are items related to the student’s sexual history, including whether they feel safe in their current relationships,” said Godfrey.
Worth Health Center will continue to provide the SHA organization with appropriate sexual supplies, according to Godfrey.
“The SHA co-presidents have reached out to help coordinate distribution of supplies as well as to provide STI training during one of the first SHA meetings,” she said.
As of right now, the SHA organization will definitely look different this academic year, but the organization will still readily provide physical resources for safe sex.
Contact the SHAs:
Executive Board Contact Information:
Sovandarid Prom: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrianna Belskis: email@example.com
Shadae Rashawna Chambers: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Courtesy of Emma Ricci