Samantha Winter, Stony Brook University’s new complainant navigator/advocate position, extends her ear, shoulder and expertise to those in need.
As the school’s complainant navigator, Winter, who was hired two months ago, serves as a confidential resource for students, staff and faculty who have experienced interpersonal and/or sexual violence. She meets with individuals to discuss available resources on and off campus, in addition to reporting options that may be available to them. Winter is also able to help students report incidences to the University Police Department and the office of the Title IX coordinator.
“I also participate in many of the events, hosted by the University and its students, surrounding these issues,” Winter said in an email.
One example is the “Take a Stand: Walk with Me” march for domestic violence awareness in which Winter participated in October. Other examples are the “Take Back the Night” sexual assault awareness program in April, as well as the “Monument Quilt” event in October in which survivors of assault create quilt squares with their stories and messages of support and empowerment.
Winter said that she has always enjoyed working with young adults and students, adding that as she went through her college years, she noticed that people in her own social group had experienced interpersonal/sexual violence.
“Realizing how prevalent these issues where [sic] within my own support system and social circle gave me the drive to continue my education and pursue a career that will help not only the people I knew but others in my community,” she said.
Winter earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in forensic psychology at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She worked as an educator at The Safe Center LI, a Nassau County agency that serves victims of rape and domestic violence. As an educator, she trained community members, students and professional staff on how to respond to sexual assault and domestic violence. She also volunteered as a New York state rape crisis counselor through VIBS, a Suffolk County rape crisis center, for four and a half years.
“Just like others in our society today, I grew up watching lots of criminal drama TV shows and found myself drawn to helping those who need help,” Winter said.
Her goal and mission is to raise awareness while providing the best possible care and support to members of the Seawolf community so that they have access to emotional, medical and reporting resources campus and community-wide, she said in an email.
Part of the confidentiality agreement that comes along with Winter’s services is that she can listen to students, staff and faculty without necessarily reporting their cases to the Title IX coordinator or UPD.
“Confidentiality is very important to my position because it facilitates an environment of safety and ease,” Winter said. “I have seen people feel more equipped to make a decision about reporting after meeting with me and exploring the process. Once the incident is reported, I can help the complainant navigate the campus judicial or legal system.”
Winter said she wants victims to feel in control and calm about the Title IX process. From the Center for Prevention and Outreach providing students with training to prevent power-based personal violence to the Green Dot bystander intervention program, there are a number of resources available to students who need them. The Violence Intervention and Prevention committee also holds workshops during Campus Lifetime.
“[The university is] firmly committed to creating and fostering a learning and working environment in which all members of our community can thrive,” she said. “We’re actively focused on developing targeted initiatives and offering resources to educate and inform our campus about sexual violence, discrimination and misconduct.”
Winter hopes that campus members gain comfort in speaking with her and coming to her with questions and concerns. She can be contacted via cell phone at (631) 457-9981.
“Hearing ‘thank you for being there’ is the most rewarding part of my position, and that is what keeps me motivated,” Winter said.
Correction: Nov. 29, 2015
A previous headline for this story erroneously stated that Samantha Winter’s title was “Title IX complainant navigator.” The headline has been corrected to reflect that Winter is not always affiliated with the Title IX coordinator’s office because Winter’s clients can report their cases through channels other than the Title IX coordinator’s office.