New counselor at SIUC aims to help sexual assault victims - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

New counselor at SIUC aims to help sexual assault victims

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is getting on board with a new employee aimed to help survivors. (Source: Sherae Honeycutt/KFVS) Southern Illinois University Carbondale is getting on board with a new employee aimed to help survivors. (Source: Sherae Honeycutt/KFVS)
Rebecca Gonnering is SIU's confidential advisor who says her job is an attempt to give victims and survivors what they need. (Source: Sherae Honeycutt/KFVS) Rebecca Gonnering is SIU's confidential advisor who says her job is an attempt to give victims and survivors what they need. (Source: Sherae Honeycutt/KFVS)
Her job was created out of Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act. (Source: Sherae Honeycutt/KFVS) Her job was created out of Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act. (Source: Sherae Honeycutt/KFVS)
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -

A new Illinois law is backing sexual violence victims in higher education.

Now, Southern Illinois University Carbondale is getting on board with a new employee aimed to help survivors.

Rebecca Gonnering is SIUC's confidential advisor who says her job is an attempt to give victims and survivors what they need.

Many students said the didn’t even know about SIU’s new counselor.

“No, I had no idea," sophomore Leah Wayne said.

“I did not, no," sophomore Katie Collins said.

“No, this is the first time I’ve heard about it," freshman Eric Handley said.

Something Gonnering is hoping to change.

“We are ready to see clients and we are currently taking appointments.”

Her office is in the university’s Health Center.

A job that she – and lawmakers – feel is vital.

“Putting those support systems in place can help keep them here and help them regain that power and control and move beyond traumatic experiences," Gonnering said.

Her job was created out of Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act.

It requires her position at all Illinois university campuses and it’s something students seem to be pleased with.

“It’s good that they have somebody that you can talk to now," Handley said.

“I think it’s good that they’re trying to do something about it," Collins said.

“It’s good that they finally did something about it, but I feel that last year when this was a big issue they could have taken more action and addressed it more," Wayne said.

Sexual assault is not new to SIUC.

In 2014 there were 13 reported on-campus rapes, much higher than in 2013.

Gonnering said if you are a victim on their campus her door is open.

“I don’t care if it happened last week, yesterday, or three years ago when you were a freshman on this campus.”

Her position can help a victim get out of a negative living situation or learning environment.

Gonnering said she wants students to know she's ready to help.

“I’m here for them. That student health services is here for them. That the university is doing everything in our power to support survivors and to create a victims centered environment."

Many students said while they appreciate the new advocate on campus, they still have concerns when walking to and from class at night.

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