SAPAC launches online chat to increase connection with clients


The Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center is expanding its advocacy and crisis-support services to clients.

Beyond SAPAC’s existing in-person meetings, peer-led support group, and crisis hotline, Advocate Chat is an online, real-time communication tool that allows U-M students, staff, and faculty to contact trained advocates via the Internet.

Unique among colleges and universities, Advocate Chat is modeled after national online chat programs for sexual assault, teen dating violence and suicide prevention. Individuals can connect with trained advocates in a confidential environment for information about sexual assault, interpersonal violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, as well as emotional support.

Students, staff and faculty may log in to the Advocate Chat using their university passwords and be connected to an advocate.  No identifying information will be visible to the advocate during a chat session.

“It can be hard for people to talk about personal things out loud, so it’s great that they’ll be able to type it out instead to talk about it,” said James McNulty, an undergraduate student.

Pilot-tested over the fall semester, the service was officially launched last week.  It was developed in collaboration with SAPAC staff, graduate-student interns and Student Life Technology Services. Advocate Chat was created as an effort to increase the accessibility of SAPAC advocates and services to students and staff and provide live, interactive resources in a technology platform commonly used by 18- to 24-year-olds.

“We really wanted to ensure all survivors — especially those who may feel less comfortable discussing things over the phone or in person — have easy access to our services,” said Amy Burandt, program manager for survivor care.

Advocate Chat is available winter semester during SAPAC’s office hours from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays.  SAPAC advocates can also be accessed by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 734-936-3333.


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