In 1975, when the first policy and procedure for handling suspected rape cases on campus was developed, the idea for S.O.S. was born. The late Dr. Majorie McKusick, then Director of the Health Service, was a driving force behind the idea to provide services to survivors of sexual assault. Dr. Marge Kingdon of the Counseling Center played an important role in the development of S.O.S. training as well. A formal plan was approved by the Vice President for Student Affairs, John Worthen, on September 15, 1976, and the Support Group for Victims of Sexual Offense (S.O.S.) went into operation. The group consisted of 2 coordinators and 6 members and was under the administrative umbrella of the Division of Student Affairs.
In that decade, S.O.S. worked with the Harrington Theatre Arts Company, the DuPont Company, and the Health Service to create one of the first date rape prevention videos entitled “Among Friends”. Administrative responsibility for SOS transferred to the Health Service in February, 1977. Men became members of S.O.S. in 1979 for the first time, when Paul Ferguson, Assistant Director of the Student Health Service, joined the organization. He went on to serve as Coordinator from 1986 until 1992. Male involvement allowed S.O.S. to more successfully broaden its services and programming for men.
In 1988, SOS developed a brochure focusing on Date Rape entitled “Sex and Aggression in Relationships” which was highly utilized campus-wide at that time for prevention programming. In 1989 the group also played an instrumental role in the development and instrumentation of a survey on Gender Relationships/Campus Sexual Assault and that same year served on key committees of the President’s Solutions to Sexual Violence Task Force.
In the early 1990s, SOS developed a poster/table tent series entitled “Date Rape Is No Myth.” In the early 1990s, SOS was actively involved with other campus professionals and organizations in the planning and presenting of the University’s annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week activities, which at that time was held over a week in October. S.O.S. provided presentations every semester in the IFST course “Introduction to Human Sexuality” until that course changed format in the 2001. In 1994, S.O.S. was awarded a grant from the Delaware Women’s Fund to expand its services into community high schools. In 1995, SOS again shifted administrative homes. No longer housed under Health Services, SOS came under the direction of Wellspring: Health Education which at that time was an adjunct office of the Center for Counseling and Student Development.
In the Spring of 2003, S.O.S. officially joined the Sexual Assault Network of Delaware, a fairly newly established organization sponsored by Rape Crisis CONTACT Delaware and aimed at bringing together all the various types of organizations within Delaware which work with survivors of sexual assault. The goal of SAND at that time was to raise awareness of the problem of sexual assault, as well as to provide a better coordinated response to sexual assault within the state. In Spring 2005, S.O.S. began having representation on the Delaware Victims’ Rights Task Force and later, on the Domestic Violence Task Force.
After Paul Ferguson, through the years of 1993-2002 S.O.S. was coordinated by Nancy Nutt, then Assistant Program Director of Wellspring, and by Anne Lomax, then Director of Wellspring. Angela Seguin assumed the role on a part-time basis 2002-2004 and full-time starting in April 2005, when the first full-time dedicated S.O.S. Coordinator position was initiated. In 2005, Wellspring, and S.O.S., experienced major changes. In June 2005, the name of the office changed from “Wellspring: Health Education” to Wellspring: Student Wellness Program and the offices of Wellspring and S.O.S. physically moved from the Student Health Service to the current location at 231 South College Avenue. On November 2, 2005, S.O.S. was presented with the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award as a statewide outstanding volunteer group. The award was presented by Lieutenant Governor John Carney, as Governor Ruth Ann Minner was unable to be at the Banquet due to illness. 2005 was S.O.S.’ 30th year providing service to survivors of sexual violence on UD’s campus; receiving the Governor’s Award was a sweet punctuation to the anniversary.
In 2010, S.O.S. joined social media with a facebook page. In September 2010, S.O.S. members had the distinct honor to attend Vice President Joe Biden’s celebration event recognizing the 16th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. The event was held at the Vice President’s residence in Washington, D.C.
In 2012, S.O.S. created a video about consent and our services, that was posted on UD’s YouTube Channel and used in many campus programs and events.
In September 2014 we sponsored our first ever “Keep Moving Forward” 5K. In October 2014 two of our long-time volunteers, Cheryl Stump and Lauren Gibson, were honored at the Governor’s Awards as Outstanding Volunteers in Delaware. In October 2015 S.O.S. sponsored the “Glow for Hope” 5K.
In May 2016 we started our instagram feed. In June 2016 we celebrated our 40th Anniversary with a celebration event during UD Alumni Weekend.
SOS had a red-letter year in the 2016-17 academic year! Starting in the Fall of 2016, the SOS service went through a major transition to operate through the new UD Helpline 24/7/365. The Helpline was created to provide UD students with 24 hour and year-round crisis services. Students who call the Helpline and press 1 get connected with an SOS Victim Advocate and if they press 2 they can speak with a mental health clinician to address immediate mental health needs. SOS also introduced our hugely popular survivor support poster campaign, which you can see in full here. Meanwhile, the coordinator worked to increase SOS’ training program from 30-hours to 40-hours and completed the steps for our training to be the first in Delaware to be recognized as a National Advocate Credentialing Program (NACP) approved training program. NACP is a program of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). With this designation, any volunteer who completes S.O.S.’ 40-hour training program now is eligible for NOVA certification as a certified advocate at the provisional level.
In April 2017, one of our volunteers, Katie Pifer Morrison, was honored with the Delaware Victims’ Rights Task Force’s Outstanding Professional Award, which was presented to her at a ceremony at the Governor’s Office in Legislative Hall, Dover.
In the fall of 2018, UD updated our logo to what you see currently. In April 2019, student Lindsey McAleer, was recognized with the Delaware Victims’ Rights Task Force’s Outstanding Volunteer Award, which was also presented at a ceremony with Governor Carney in Legislative Hall. Also in April 2019, S.O.S.’ Coordinator, Angela Seguin, was given the “Visionary Voice Award” by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. She was nominated by the Sexual Assault Network of Delaware (SAND) and the award was presented at Governor Carney’s Office in Wilmington. And in June 2019, S.O.S. received the Lt. Governor’s Wellness Challenge Leadership Award.
In 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, some services like the UD Helpline continued to operate as normal. But other services required a dramatic shift. S.O.S. programs were modified to be delivered in a virtual format. S.O.S. recruitment and interviewing in fall 2020 and training in January 2021 were held entirely virtually. We created an IGTV channel to be able to share self-care videos through our Instagram feed and as a way to continue to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Over the years S.O.S. has been in existence, the group’s focus has continually expanded to address the changing trends and better meet survivors’ needs. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the focus broadened from stranger rape to date and acquaintance rape to childhood sexual abuse to drug-facilitated rape. In the early 2000s, the group added services related to dating & domestic violence and stalking. In 2015, after changes to Title IX procedures were enacted at UD, S.O.S. added advocacy regarding sexual harassment as well. We continue to learn more, educate the UD community, and offer new services based on new trends and issues. Reproductive coercion, sex trafficking, stealthing, and various forms of sexual exploitation have been more recent areas of concern. Over the years, the group has had more than 600 members. Many of our volunteers have gone on to work in the field of victim advocacy or have utilized their knowledge for careers in public policy, law, medicine, non-profit work, social justice work, higher education, and more. We are very proud of each and every person who has ever served as an S.O.S. volunteer.