“Here’s My Story: Experiences with Sexual Violence”

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“Here’s My Story: Experiences with Sexual Violence”

Sexual Assault Awareness Ribbon

Sexual Assault Awareness Ribbon

Courtesy of Montclair State University

Sexual Assault Awareness Ribbon

Courtesy of Montclair State University

Courtesy of Montclair State University

Sexual Assault Awareness Ribbon

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Norse Against Sexual Assault and the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement hosted “Here’s My Story: Experiences with Sexual Violence,” a panel in which three individuals shared their experiences with sexual violence on Oct. 16 in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall.

Counselor Stu Johnston introduced the three panelists before they spoke. Each shared their experiences with the emotional and physical effects of sexual assault and the skepticism survivors can encounter from friends, family, law enforcement, and others following these assaults. The panelists emphasized the importance of listening to survivors and believing their stories as the most important actions allies can practice to assist with survivors’ healing processes.

NASA member Colin Cosgrove (‘20) says the organization wanted to hold this event because of the success of previous “Here’s My Story” panels. Cosgrove has participated in these events before and believes the panel is a productive way to

create further conversation on the topic of sexual assault at Luther.

“The NASA executive board and I concocted the idea and brought it to the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement as a pitch,” Cosgrove said. “We were the primary contacts from that point on. I participated in a “Here’s My Story” panel for queer identities, and it went exceptionally well. It generated a lot of conversation in ways that I thought would assist the effort to generate healthy conversations regarding sexual assault on campus.”

Counselor Bobbi-Jo Molokken says Counseling Services helped the organizations develop the event in a way that allowed panelists to share their experiences in a trauma- informed manner, which emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for survivors and their supporters.

“When [NASA] approached us, we had a deeper conversation about what their goals were with this event and what it would look like,” Molokken said. “My role personally has been helping to structure the event and helping to

prepare our panelists so they can share their stories in a trauma-informed way.”

After the panelists spoke, Johnston invited attendees to form small groups to discuss various aspects of sexual violence. Many participants voiced concerns that conversations on sexual assault are often cut short due to the stigma surrounding the topic or joked about due to a culture of toxic masculinity and an unwillingness to consider the consequences of sexual violence.

Attendees also spoke about their appreciation for the resources available to victims of sexual assault at Luther. Abbie Grinager (‘20) believes the panel helped dispel the perception that only certain groups are at risk of assault by people they do not know.

“I’ve learned that it can happen to anyone at any time,” Grinager said. “I think there’s a perception that a lot of sexual assaults may come from strangers, but I think in actuality it happens more with people you know.”

Counselor Carol Hagen attended the panel to show her support for her Counseling Service colleagues. Hagen says life after sexual assault is challenging, but recovery is possible for all survivors.

“I believe the panel affirmed that [sexual violence] is very painful,” Hagen said. “It’s life changing, but it doesn’t define people.”

Health Education and Promotion Coordinator Jessica Jepsen-Rupp serves as NASA’s faculty advisor and says the organization wanted to raise further awareness for sexual violence on campus.

“The goals when we were setting up the panel were to increase visibility for survivors on campus, to start these conversations, and to personalize the experiences rather than statistics,” Jepsen-Rupp said.

Students who wish to report a sexual assault can speak to Title IX Coordinator Kasey Nikkel, the Student Life Office, hall directors, resident assistants, and the Campus Safety and Security Office. Those seeking emotional support following an assault can speak to confidential on-campus resources, including campus pastors, licensed mental health counselors, and college nurses and physicians.

However, resources for victims of sexual assault go beyond those provided at Luther. For four years, Jepsen-Rupp was an advocate for Riverview Center, a non-profit organization that serves 14 counties in Iowa. She wants students to be aware of the various support the center provides for survivors in the event they experience sexual or domestic violence of any kind.

“They provide free and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence,” Jepsen-Rupp said. “What that means is that they meet with survivors, and help them navigate the different systems. They help them navigate getting medical care, going through the criminal justice system, navigating the title IX system, and they can help with general resources and getting connected to other services, like financial aid. Other survivors may need to access the immigration system because they were a victim of a crime or trafficking.”

Assistant Director of the CEPE Krista Holland encourages students to propose ideas for future “Here’s My Story” panels like this to generate open conversations about other important topics that impact members of the Luther community. “I think the purpose of any “Here’s My Story” offering is to connect us,” Holland said. “Those who shared were courageous and offered their stories in good faith, hoping to educate and create a starting point for further conversation.”

Anthony Hamer (’21) Photo Bureau
Stephanie Kolden (’22) leads one of the small discussion groups at “Here’s My Story: Experiences with Sexual Violence” panel on Oct. 16.

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