Letter to the editor: Grinnell Advocates are a unique resource

Dear fellow Grinnellians,

I am writing this letter now as a representative of the Grinnell Advocates. In recent years a lot of work has been done to educate students, staff and faculty about the dynamics of sexual assault and dating violence. We want to ensure that this campus is aware of all the resources available as well as the role that Grinnell Advocates plays in providing support to survivors.

Advocates are students on campus who are passionate about supporting individuals who have experienced sexual assault or dating violence. We undergo a 32-hour training and certification process, during which we learn about and discuss diversity, gender and sexuality, sexual assault and dating violence dynamics, the law and court systems, advocacy, crisis counseling, trauma and trauma response and how all of these fit specifically into Grinnell’s campus community. We are certified by the state of Iowa as advocates of victim/survivors of sexual assault and legally empowered confidential resources.

As advocates, our primary concern is providing support and options for the individual survivors who reach out to us. This makes us a somewhat unique resource, as many resources on campus must take into account the welfare of the campus community as a whole. Our goal is to provide a safe, confidential space which provides unbiased information and allows the survivor to dictate the flow of the relationship. We want to allow the survivor to determine all their options before deciding what action (if any) to take as well as ensure they have total control over any information which they choose to share. Many individuals who experience dating violence or sexual assault feel a loss of control. Our goal is to empower survivors and give them back their sense of control and self-efficacy.

Advocates are directly accessible through a 24-hour crisis line, the number of which is posted in the bathrooms (641-000-1615). We welcome calls and texts and can arrange to meet in person. We understand that coming forward and talking about experiences is often difficult and frightening, and we encourage individuals to stay within their comfort zone. If a survivor wants to speak or follow up with an advocate who is not a student, we can provide contact information for Iowa DVASAC advocates who specialize in college campuses. In addition to taking calls, advocates can act as an external support and accompany a survivor to any other resources they wish to access on or off campus (eg. hospital, Title IX, police).

In addition to Grinnell Advocates, there are several other excellent resources on campus to assist survivors. Other confidential resources include:

Chaplain’s Office

Open Monday-Friday, 8-5 p.m.

Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice (CRSSJ), 1233 Park Street

(641) 269-4981

Ombuds Office

Open Monday-Friday, 8-5 p.m.

Joe Rosenfield Center 311, 1115 8th Avenue

(641) 269-9399

Crisis Intervention Services (CIS)

On-Call, 24 hrs.

(800) 270-1620

Non-confidential resources include:

Residence Life Coordinators

Student Advisors

Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS)

Open Monday-Friday, 8-5 p.m.

Lower level of Forum, 1119 6th Avenue

(641) 269-3230

I recently attended a Title IX presentation in which I was told that if one person leaves Grinnell as a result of a sexual assault or dating violence, it is one too many. It is a powerful claim and one I ardently support. A week later, I learned that one of my classmates was leaving Grinnell. He had struggled to find the support he needed from the College after enduring a violent assault and could not stay. All I could think was that we had failed him. I had failed him as a community member, as an Advocate, even as a friend. Grinnell and our support systems are not perfect, maybe not even adequate. But I know that as advocates and members of our community, we will strive to give survivors the support they need and deserve. Because one is too many.    

—Krista Matthews-Saugstad ’16

and Molly Shortell ’16, on behalf of Grinnell Advocates