History of the CARE Center

The Saint Mary's College CARE Center would not be here today without the hard work of many faculty, staff, and students who in the early years, fought for a Women’s Resource Center to be created and sexual assault services to be offered.  

History of the Women's Resource Center

In 1971, women were first admitted to Saint Mary’s College; yet, there weren’t any institutional structures in place to support these new students. In 1996, the Women’s Advocates Group (faculty and staff at SMC) formed. They supported training for students as peer counselors for sexual harassment and sexual assault through collaboration with the Women's Studies Department and the on campus Counseling Center.

In 1998, the Women's Advocate's Group sent a letter to the college administration requesting more lighting on campus for safety, a crime board to publish crime statistics and more public safety officers. On March 10th of that same year, a campus-wide march was organized by Women's Studies students. Approximately 300 students participated as a way to present their concerns in an open forum and request a Women's Center on campus to be formed. A tradition was started this year of providing pink gloves at graduation. As a result of their hard work, the Women's Resource Center (WRC) was established in 1999. 

In 2001, Women's Studies students staged a hunger strike on Chapel Lawn with demands to:

1. Revise existing policy on and student handbook language about sexual assault about the issues of sexual assault

2. Provide public information about crimes on campus and blue light emergency phones per Clery Act

3. Make the Coordinator of the WRC a full time Director

4. Hire a Sexual Assault Educator  

On November 8, 2001, a special hearing of the Academic Senate was held and Brother Craig, then President of the college, created a Focus Group on the WRC and the Special Task Force on Sexual Assault and Student Safety.

In 2002-2003, local media outlets ABC and KGO conducted an investigative report into sexual assaults on campus. Throughout the next eight years, the WRC continued to face location problems and many felt that the needs of students were not met regarding sexual assault reporting.

In Spring 2010, students protested by staging a solidarity fast on Chapel Lawn with the title “Our Struggle is Tied to Yours.” One of their concerns echoed that of earlier protests: the desire for a clear policy on confidentiality in reporting sexual assault and a survivor bill of rights. By the end of 2010, there was the installation of blue lights for safety at night, more clarity on sexual assault reporting procedures, and the WRC created a Director position and hired a coordinator for sexual assault prevention and response. 

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Title IX and Dear Colleague Letter

Coinciding with the fight for equal rights and awareness of gender related issues on campus, nationally the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was inacted. Signed into law in 1994, it initially aimed to create a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking crimes by providing funding for victim advocates within the court system, and training for law enforcement with a goal of increasing and making easier the prosecution of cases of violent crime against women. Additionally, it strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders, allowed victims to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes, and created legal relief for battered immigrants.

In 1998, the Higher Education Amendments authorized grants to combat Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program.

President Clinton signed the VAWA Act of 2000 which reauthorized critical grant programs and established new programs such as training to law enforcement and prosecutors on elder abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against individuals with disabilities and grants to provide supervised visitation and safe visitation exchange for victims of domestic violence. Additionally, it expanded interstate stalking laws, allowed funding to be used to train sexual assault forensic medical personnel examiners, and added "dating violence" as an area of focus for the grant programs.

In 2005, President George W. Bush reauthorized the VAWA to include numerous new programs with an increased emphasis on violence against Indian women, sexual assault, and youth victims. In 2007, the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline is launched and received its first call

In 2009, President Obama became the first U.S. President to declare April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In 2011, the national climate changed in response to sexual assaults on college campuses when President Obama released his “Dear Colleague Letter.” It served as a reminder of Title IX’s stipulations around sexual violence and about university’s responsibilities. The letter provided guidelines and requirements of the university to take action when sexual violence occurs.

The reauthorization of VAWA in 2013 most notably included protections for same-sex couples. 

During the past few years, the sexual assault and violence prevention services program at SMC has continued to grow. In 2016, the coordinator of sexual assault prevention and response position was upgraded and the first Director of sexual assault programming was hired, further indicating the advances in support of students on campus. Coinciding with this, the national climate around sexual assault and intimate partner violence awareness has increased, partly due to the revisions to VAWA and the #Me Too movement.

In 2017,  Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos changed policies of Obama's letter to be more equal to the side of the accused and to require more substantial evidence. Regardless of this federal change, California is still an affirmative consent state and SMC responds accordingly. 

Students are increasingly more aware and interested in violence prevention work. The SCAAR (Student Coalition Against Abuse and Rape) team has expanded. The services the program offers have increased. Also, the Student Life Department launched their Wellness Initiative for the 2018-19 academic year. Because of these and many other factors, SMC introduced the new Campus Assault Response and Education Center (CARE) Center in the Fall of 2018.