St. Cloud, MN – When Dr. Dorothy Edwards addressed University of California staff and administrators about Green Dot in San Francisco last fall, she stressed the importance of investing time and energy to develop meaningful relationships with campus partners/allies working to end campus violence. As a social worker interested in community-based/participatory paradigms, I find Dr. Edwards’ notion of connecting with campus partners and allies relevant given that people are more likely to participate in social change when bonds are created over time specifically when there is a common language and trust.

Meeting Lee LaDue, the Project Director of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant to reduce sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, and stalking on campuses, Sheila Johnson, the Project Coordinator, as well as other campus partners reminded me of the challenges faced by campuses in small communities where people know each other.  Nationwide, sexual assault is a highly under-reported crime but particularly in small, rural communities where survivors often fear for their safety and privacy should they report their experience to local police.  What most struck me during the visit, besides seeing students wearing shorts and flip-flops in chilly 60 degree weather, is how St. Cloud State benefits from having a project coordinator familiar with how individuals in law enforcement speak and relate to each other.  Knowledge of how to communicate with law enforcement is critical when collaboratively developing survivor-centered training curriculum on sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
Over the course of two days, I met with administrators interested in furthering the university’s efforts surrounding training opportunities and prevention efforts and students committed to challenging and changing social norms on their campus surrounding gender, sex and violence.  I also had the opportunity to listen to Suzanne Koepplinger, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, talk about her agency’s recent research study that examined trafficking of Native American girls and women in the state of Minnesota.  The study involved survivors throughout the research process and in the crafting of recommendations for combatting trafficking in Indian country.
Watch the above clip with interviews of St. Cloud State students and staff talk about activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and what brought them into the movement to end sexual violence.