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Grinnell Advocates provides confidential trauma response

Grinnell Advocates offer confidential services to students affected by sexual harassment or assault. Photos by Sofia Mendez.

Grinnell Advocates is a staff-supervised student group that serves as a resource for students who have been victims of trauma, including dating violence, sexual assault or sexual harassment. This group is different from other campus resources, such as Title IX, because it is completely confidential.

Aside from being a confidential source, Grinnell Advocates has a 24-hour confidential hotline run by the students involved in the group. Additionally, the group provides support and can direct students to supplementary resources on and off campus.

“We try to tailor the resources to each person’s situation, so if people need something that we can’t provide, we try to refer them to whatever the best resource would be,” said Elizabeth Lane ’19, a member of Grinnell Advocates.

Grinnell Advocates receive their training from Crisis Intervention Services, an organization based in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Crisis Intervention Services covers 14 counties, including Poweshiek County. Two state organizations, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, support the Crisis Intervention Services.

“[Without Crisis Intervention Services] we would not have a campus advocates program that was confidential, because that umbrella comes from them,” said Deanna Shorb, dean of religious life, chaplain and staff leader of Grinnell Advocates.

The training sessions are extensive: they discuss a broad range of subjects such as prevention, phone call conduct and resource education, among others. These training sessions prepare the Advocates to both help victims of trauma and make them aware of their choices going forward.

“We don’t direct choices. It’s very important that the victim/survivor drives the bus for care. It’s really their first step in feeling less vulnerable and taking control when they feel that control has been taking from them,” Shorb said.

Currently, the Grinnell Advocates are trying to think of new ways to be more accessible to students. The group is now working on creating a chat that students can use to communicate with the Advocates without needing a cellphone number.

Additionally, the Advocates have been making a conscious effort to become more visible on campus.

“We really hope that people would know more about Advocates, because it’s such a great resource and we’re there to help people,” Lane said. “I think a lot of people just don’t know about it, so they don’t reach out as much, so we’ve tried to be more noticeable on campus. … I think [the Advocates are] an underutilized resource.”

“Has it been intentional [to become more visible on campus]? You bet. We forget that people don’t know [about us],” added Shorb.

Another goal of the group is to be more involved on campus. The student participants want to increase overall visibility of Grinnell Advocates, and they want to become more involved with other organizations, such as by collaborating with other groups on campus or attending talks that may discuss more sensitive material.

Any student who is passionate about helping their peers can become an advocate. Nicole Mendez ’21 joined Grinnell Advocates because she wanted to learn more about the issues of sexual violence in order to become more educated and help those around her, especially at home.

“When I go back home to Bolivia, these are things we don’t really talk about. Getting to learn more about [these issues would allow me] to help friends. … I thought it was really important for me to be exposed,” she said.

Students can contact Grinnell Advocates by emailing [advocates] or calling the on-call Advocate at 641-260-1615.

Grinnell Advocates offer confidential services to students affected by sexual harassment or assault. Photos by Sofia Mendez.
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