Hailey Vincent“My role, more than anything, is to empower survivors and be a resource for them,” says Hailey Vincent, Sacramento State’s new victim advocate. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

As a child, Hailey Vincent – now Sacramento State’s victim advocate – believed she would someday, somehow, make a real difference in the world.

She never forgot her dream as she grew up, went off to Chico State (where she majored in journalism and minored in sexual diversity), moved to South Korea for six months, and then took a job with a small Sacramento marketing firm. Her boss encouraged her to volunteer at a local nonprofit, so Vincent chose WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment).

The decision eventually led her to Sacramento State, which in 2000 was the first CSU campus to hire a dedicated victim advocate. Vincent is the second person to hold the position.

“I’m so lucky to have come into this position at a university that has put so much value on it,” Vincent says. “It shows how eager Sac State is to help survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking. And I’m really busy, which is a good thing, because that means (victims) are seeking out the support they need.”

Typically, 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses never report the crime, she says.

“It’s really important that the campus community has an understanding of my confidentiality,” Vincent says. “You can come to me and talk to me. You don’t have to worry about reporting. You don’t have to worry about police. You don’t have to worry about anything that you are not comfortable with. My role, more than anything, is to empower survivors and be a resource for them.”

The victim advocate hotline is (916) 217-5271.

Making 'small, impactful differences'

Vincent was born in Canada and later lived in Dallas and finally Truckee, where she graduated from high school. She changed her major “about 10 times” at Chico State before settling on journalism because she loves to write. She was one of the first at Chico State to minor in sexual diversity.

“Getting involved at WEAVE made me realize that it’s not about making a big difference in the world,” she says. “It’s about trying to make small differences in the community – the small, impactful differences I could make in survivors’ lives,” she says. “And, beyond that, how do I change narratives for people who are perpetuating violent behavior?

“I fell in love with everything about the work, and it gave me a sense of purpose.”

Vincent went through WEAVE’s peer-counselor training, became a member of the sexual assault response team, and spent time working at the safe house. While at WEAVE, she considered pursuing a career in law enforcement as a way to indirectly help victims.

Instead, though, she applied to the University of San Francisco’s Human Rights Education Master’s Program and expects to graduate in December. The focus of her study is the rape culture on college campuses as a human rights violation.

At the end of her first semester at USF, she applied for the victim advocate position at Sacramento State. Her first day on campus was Feb. 20; her office is in Student Health and Counseling Services at The WELL.

“I was impressed with Hailey from the beginning of the selection process,” says Reva Wittenberg, associate director for Campus Wellness at Sac State. “It was very clear that this wouldn’t just be a job for her. This position would be her life’s work. Her passion for human rights, social justice, and addressing rape culture on college campuses made her stand out as the perfect candidate for the Sac State victim advocate.”

Sacramento State not only pioneered the role of victim advocate for the CSU but, in 2005, became the first in the 23-campus system to write a sexual misconduct policy. And, in 2014, Sac State continued its commitment to prevent, respond to, and resolve incidents of sexual violence and sexual harassment by introducing the “We Care. We Will Help” campaign (csus.edu/titleix).

“My time spent at Chico State was some of the best years of my life, being in that college environment and at the same time learning so much, evolving my perspectives, and really figuring myself out,” Vincent says. “A lot of college students go through awful stuff, and they need support and encouragement to have rewarding, life-changing experiences.

“I’m looking at all of the systems of oppression that allow a rape culture to thrive, the successful prevention program methods, the resources on college campuses throughout the nation – and how federal and state policies play a role. You have to look at all of these things together to be able to attack sexual violence as an issue. I’m working as hard as I can every day, and it’s been the most amazing experience.” – Dixie Reid