Counseling Center trains volunteers to aid students of sexual assault

Audrey Cleary leads several programs at the University's Counseling Center, including the Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART).

By Ashley A. Williams

Audrey Cleary leads several programs at the University's Counseling Center, including the Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART).

Counseling Center trains volunteers to aid students of sexual assault

By Ashley A. Williams
Audrey Cleary, a psychologist with the University of Miami Counseling Center, readies graduate students and faculty and staff members to work for the Sexual Assault Resource Team, which offers counseling and support to students.

Twelve years ago, Audrey Cleary was a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Miami’s Counseling Center. Impressed by the center’s level of attention and service, she was motivated to return to the center once she earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Today, she leads several programs at the center—most notably the Counseling Center’s Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART). 

Created in 1992, the SART program is a telephone resource line exclusively for University of Miami students. Those who have been sexually battered, assaulted, or molested—recently or in the past—may anonymously speak with a trained volunteer about their experience. Cleary coordinates the program and orients graduate students and faculty and staff members to support students regarding these issues. 

“I never heard of a hotline where students could speak to someone ‘in-house,’ ” said Cleary regarding the SART hotline. “I like working with SART because it’s rewarding to train the volunteers and to make a difference during a crucial time in someone’s life.” 

Manuela Jaramillo, a third-year clinical psychology doctoral student from Boca Raton, Florida, has been a volunteer for the program since her first year of graduate school. Coming to the University from a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, the hotline was something she had never heard of. 

“It’s an incredible resource to help students feel safe and supported in a very difficult and uncomfortable time,” said Jaramillo. “I know that many people would have benefited from having a similar hotline at my undergraduate university, so it means a lot to me to be able to volunteer with SART now as a psychology graduate student.” 

Leslie Leonard, business operations manager of the Faculty Senate Office, is also a volunteer for the SART hotline. A mother of four—she decided to become a volunteer for the hotline when her youngest was settled into his new life as a college student away from home. 

“It was an opportunity for me to be available for students who might need a good listener willing to talk through a difficult situation,” said Leonard, who is proud of Cleary for providing and sustaining a program and team that is essential for all college students.

“The training is detailed and experiential,” said Leonard. “It was very helpful to have the opportunity to practice with each other and to hear about experiences from other SART volunteers and front-line professionals that respond to sexual assault situations.” 

Throughout April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the University of Miami’s Title IX Office, It’s On Us student ambassadors, and campus and community partners, including the Counseling Center, will work together to host educational and interactive events to raise awareness about sexual assault, support survivors, and guide individuals on how to prevent a physical attack. 

See a list of events being held this month. 

If you are interested in volunteering, training is once per year (typically in the spring), but Cleary accepts inquires throughout the year. You can reach her at the Counseling Center. In case of an after-hours emergency, call 911. For non-emergencies, you can reach the University of Miami Police Department at 305-284-6666 on the Coral Gables Campus, or Medical Security at (305) 243-6000.