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  • September 18, 2017 9:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Guest post by Ashley Sturz, MNCASA Membership and Advocacy Services Specialist

    Many of our member programs are embarking on primary prevention efforts, but feel restricted by staffing, funding, and the challenge of changing community culture. At MNCASA, we are committed to supporting member programs in their mission to eradicate sexual violence. Because of this, Prevention took center stage at MNCASA’s 2017 Symposium: Real Connections. Read below to learn and/or review the key take-aways from the prevention-focused sessions at the Symposium, and click the hyperlinks to read more in-depth content about the sessions.  

    Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape Among U.S. Adults
    Click on this link to read more about the Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape Among U.S. Adults

    Cora Peterson, U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention


    • Advocacy organizations can discuss the financial burden of rape can be used when requesting funding
    • Information gathered positions sexual violence prevention within the Public Health/Health Equity framework

    Developing Media Literacy Skills for Prevention

    Click on this link to read more about Developing Media Literacy Skills for Prevention

    Tyler Osterhaus and Laurie Nordahl, Cornerstone Advocacy Services


    • Analyzing media is important in our work of preventing sexual violence because media is power. Through media, norms around sexual violence are portrayed, created, and influenced.
    • A wide audience needs to feel connected to our messages around sexual violence prevention.
    • Our audiences absorb our message if they connect with it emotionally. Yet, we need to be considerate of how certain media will make people feel, and how they will process the message.


    Be Brave Not Bogus with the Sexual Violence Center’s B&B Justice Factory: New masculinities in sexual violence prevention and response
    Click on this link to read more about Be Brave Not Bogus

    Brett Goldberg and Brian Heilman, Sexual Violence Center


    • Young men need to be given space to talk about masculinity and being a man in order to better navigate romantic relationships.  
    • Programs across the state should work together to provide and sustain support groups for male-identified survivors.


    From Advocacy to Education, Shifting the Paradigm
    Click on this link to learn more about From Advocacy to Education, Shifting the Paradigm

    Kasey Baker, Safe Avenues; and Melissa Hoffman Bodin, DREAM Technical Academy


    • While conducting outreach to schools, individualized relationships with school staff are needed.
    • Team-building activities are a must—no matter how much time you have slated.
    • When students feel safe they will learn, so work to cultivate a safe environment.

    Learn More About the Sessions

    Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape Among U.S. Adults

    Cora Peterson, U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention

    Cora Peterson (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) outlined a new report from the CDC that tabulated the financial burden of rape over the course of a lifetime. You probably already knew this, but the financial toll is astronomical—totaling $122,461 per victim/survivor.

    Putting monetary value on sexual violence can feel wrong in some ways, but doing so has benefits. While most advocates do not pour their blood, sweat, and tears into sexual assault prevention so our society can simply forego a chunk of money (albeit a substantial chunk of money), information on costs and benefits is definitely currency to funders.

    Throughout the conference, we heard folks strategizing about how to position sexual assault prevention in the realm of Health Equity/Public Health. Utilizing the report from the CDC can be incredibly helpful in this regard.

    Developing Media Literacy Skills for Prevention

    Tyler Osterhaus and Laurie Nordahl, Cornerstone Advocacy Services

    Analyzing media is important in our work of preventing sexual violence because media is power. Through media, norms around sexual violence are portrayed, created, and influenced. Finding examples of healthy relationships and sexuality within the media, or equipping ourselves to talk about portrayals of unhealthy relationships and sexuality, is integral to our prevention efforts.

    A wide audience needs to feel connected to our messages about sexual violence prevention. We need to be inclusive and bring more people to the movement who are experiencing sexual violence in their communities. When training new staff and volunteers, this shows them that the agency recognizes sexual violence is present in all communities and has new staff thinking about ways to work with all populations.

    Our audiences absorb messages when they connect emotionally. Yet, we need to be considerate of how certain media will make people feel, and how they will process the message. A fine line exists between provoking feeling and exploiting the topic of sexual violence and the audience. Using media that will make people feel the need to prevent sexual violence is the optimal strategy when selecting material.

    Be Brave Not Bogus with the Sexual Violence Center’s B&B Justice Factory: New masculinities in sexual violence prevention and response

    Brett Goldberg and Brian Heilman, Sexual Violence Center


    Brett and Brian (B&B) delved into a phenomenon most advocates believe to be true - young men do not often get the space to talk about masculinity of what it means to be a “man.” Through their prevention initiatives, B&B are hoping to change that, posing that exploring these topics can enable men to navigate healthy romantic relationships.

    Not only do B&B engage in prevention with male-identified folks, but they facilitate support groups with male-identified survivors. As many in this field know, support groups for male identified survivors of sexual violence can be difficult to find and/or sustain. B&B encouraged programs across the state to work together whenever possible to fill this gap.

    From Advocacy to Education, Shifting the Paradigm

    Kasey Baker, Safe Avenues; and Melissa Hoffman Bodin, DREAM Technical Academy

    Advocacy work, especially prevention-centric work, is more powerful when able to utilize relationships. Many advocates in prevention work seek to partner with schools to engage young people. Kasey and Melissa emphasized that building relationships with individuals within the schools you are connecting with is foundational to a working partnership.

    When advocates are given time to present to youth—it’s often not much time—so there is temptation to spend the sparse time cutting right to the message. Kasey and Melissa emphasized the importance of incorporating team-building activities to create community. A sense of community will enhance the presentation, and orient the crowd to the message.

    Engaging youth requires us to be considerate of all their lived experiences to cultivate a learning environment. We know when youth feel safe they will learn better, so we must recognize some youth will themselves be survivors, have a diagnosed mental illness, and much more. The presenters drew on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to illustrate a student’s ability to connect with prevention messages presented by advocates.


  • September 05, 2017 8:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    College sexual assaults have recently made major headlines across the country. Our own state of Minnesota had two colleges, St Olaf in Northfield and U of M Minneapolis, with high profile sexual assaults in the past year. As a response to increased publicity on this crucial issue, many colleges have been working hard to create stronger Title IX work groups and positions. Furthermore, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is creating policy change to prevent sexual assaults on campuses in regards to athletes.

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a non-profit member led organization with the purpose of supporting the well-being and success of college athletes, is taking action to educate their members’ athletic departments about preventing sexual violence this school year. They recently announced a new policy that will be followed by their members’ athletic administrators, coaches, and student athletes. In Minnesota, there are 30 member universities, including University of Minnesota Twin Cities, St. Olaf College, St. Cloud State University, Macalester College, and Minnesota State University Mankato.

    So what does this new policy mean? As of now, it is still a little unclear. The NCAA is asking that student athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators be educated annually on sexual violence prevention. Yet, there are no set guidelines or specifics on what that education would be. The two other conditions are that athletic departments will be knowledgeable, integrated, and compliant with the universities policies and processes around sexual violence; and their Title IX coordinator’s information must be readily available. Each year, the Board of Governors will release reports from the schools that were in compliance with the new policy. This report will be a resource for students (current and future), parents, sexual assault agencies, and the public to know which universities’ athletic departments are following through with prevention work and policy change.

    In 2016, the NCAA released a tool kit titled Sexual Violence Prevention An Athletics Tool Kit for a Healthy and Safe Culture. This tool kit was part of a call for action for colleges to address campus sexual assault in connection to student athletes. It focuses on culture change and how to achieve that change within college athletics. The tool kit encourages collaboration, student athlete engagement, and education. At this time, it is just a tool for athletic departments but not a requirement to implement in universities. 

    On August 15, 2017, five days after the policy announcement, US Senators, including Al Franken of Minnesota, composed a letter to the NCAA. In the letter, they requested that the NCAA create a more uniform policy around sexual violence prevention for universities, and that they review University of Oregon’s and Indiana University’s current policies because both have created policies around transfer students due to conduct at their previous university, which could include sexual misconduct.

    We know a huge part of primary prevention is making policy changes. These are small steps being taken, but hopefully they are steps towards bigger change. It is hopeful to see the NCAA moving towards a change in sports culture around sexual violence.

    Besides the NCAA’s tool kit, there is Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM), an evidence-based program that trains and educates coaches on how to teach young male athletes healthy relationship skills with a focus message of violence does equal strength. Coaching Boys Into Men offers a coach’s and advocate’s tool kit, which includes steps and advice on how to get this program started, build partnerships, and evaluation. Their website offers access to the tool kits, train the trainer webinars, and many other printable resources. Though CBIM has been proved effective with male high school students, it is a great starting place for shifting sports culture and could be even more effective if the messages were supported by college coaches too.

    If you have a college in your area, do you know their current sexual violence policies or their Title IX coordinator? Do you know whether that university is providing prevention or bystander intervention education?

  • August 16, 2017 8:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hello All,

    My name is Adrianna Perez and I am MNCASA’s new Prevention Specialist. Part of my role is to host Be the Change, this lovely little blog. This blog is here for you as a tool, a resource, and a potential platform. I am aiming to have a post out monthly on a wide range of prevention topics, please feel free to comment or e-mail any topics you would like to know more about. It is also a goal of mine to have others, you or your wonderful co-workers, write posts for this blog too. After all, together we can be the change.

    If you would like more information about me, my role, or our prevention services check out the Meet Our Staff or the Prevention page.

    I worked in direct services for over 3 years, but it was very recently that I began to truly think about myself within advocacy. I have worked with diverse populations, people who are different ages, different races/ethnicities, different gender identities, spoke different languages, and had different social, political, and spiritual views. I always recognized that each individual had their own specific needs, and I would always focus on ways to help them take care of themselves. Yes, this is secretly about self-care.

    For everyone I worked with as an advocate, and as a co-worker, I was making sure to provide ways to do self-care. I can guarantee you I suggested or encouraged therapy services to almost everyone I interacted with. I talked about trying yoga, meditation, going outside, journaling, physical exercise, taking a bath, doing deep breathing, thinking and talking about your relationships, finding a hobby, and making doctor appointments. I have a whole Pinterest board on self-care/health. At my previous position, I was known for saying “there is an app for that!” because you bet there is an app for almost any type of self-care. The problem was that I was not fully or truly practicing what I was preaching, because turns out all of that is actually very hard to do.

    No matter what your role is in being the change and moving towards a violence free world you have stress and trauma, we know this is common for all people. We also know the saying “you cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself,” which I find to be true if we want to be good at taking care of others. Actual self-care is important. Actual self-care is also more than a pretty pedicure, a good nap, or a cold adult beverage. It is taking care of yourself in the simplest and truest ways. Think about the ways you encourage people to self-care or relax, are you doing any of those activities yourself?  It has taken me a long time, pretty much my entire life, to realize how to take care of myself on all levels. I am now beginning to practice what I preach. Below are some helpful tips and resources:

    • Ø  Here is a mini list of Self-Care Practices if you need somewhere to start from.
    • Ø  If you are interested in therapy or a similar service you can search for the best one for you here. Remember that annual doctor and dentist appointments, messages, and chiropractor visits all count as self-care too.
    • Ø  You can find a number of different types of journals! So, if you are just a notebook journaler, great, check out some apps that provide a daily prompt (Paperblanks, Day One, Journey) or get creative and cut up prompts to pick from a jar. Or you can invest in one of these interactive journals, Start Where You Are or I Am Here Now.

    This is all just something to think about, mostly because I have been a lot lately. Again, no matter how you are doing prevention work we do our best when we are overall healthy and cared for.

  • April 07, 2017 12:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is here again! This year MNCASA developed a Minnesota-specific SAAM toolkit. Here you will find printable event posters, postcards, and a twibbon (which is a social media badge for you tech challenged folks like me :) Many of you have probably been busy at work planning your events. SAAM is a great time to make your services known, to reach out to the media, to host fundraising efforts, and to celebrate your organization with open houses.


    It is also an opportunity to talk about reducing sexual violence and promote your prevention efforts. This year's SAAM theme is Engaging New Voices. As the National Sexual Violence Resource Center points out:


    "During Sexual Assault Awareness Month survivors and advocates engage the greater community in prevention efforts. We know that one month isn’t enough to solve the serious and widespread issue of sexual violence. But the attention April generates is an opportunity to energize and expand prevention efforts. There’s no better way to expand the scope of SAAM than by reaching out to a broader audience.


    That’s why Engaging New Voices is the theme of the 2017 SAAM campaign. Because we can’t reach everyone. But we can identify key leaders who will -- leaders whose influence is necessary in achieving cultural change not just in April, but all year long."


    Check out how one of your fellow programs is embracing this year's theme:


    "As an agency that provides sexual violence victim advocacy in five different rural counties, our goal is to have a coordinated campaign with consistent messaging throughout those communities. One of the most useful tools at our disposal has been the SAAM Campaign resources put out by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. 


    This year’s theme, “Engaging New Voices” is something that really resonated within our agency. Over the last year, our agency has embraced primary prevention as a key to changing the culture for generations to come. The 2017 NSVRC materials will help us promote that within our communities. The materials are comprehensive, professional, and come in English and Spanish. These materials provide talking points that we will utilize as we have conversations throughout our communities- on college campuses, in churches, at schools, on our airwaves and through print media as well. This year, we also took advantage of the postcards that NSVRC put together.  We will also continue to use the artwork for a window cling that NSVRC put together for a campaign several years ago.


    During April, we will be hosting our 11th Annual “Hope for Tomorrow” Gala, a large fundraising and awareness event.  We will also be participating in Health Fairs on College Campuses, at community events hosted by Chamber of Commerce organizations and Child Protection Teams.  We will be engaging in further conversations with school administrators, training teachers and human service professionals, talking with students about healthy relationships, and engaging coaches in conversations about how to be positive role models. "

    Kasey Baker, Community Outreach at Safe Avenues in Willmar    



    We are always excited to hear how you are embracing SAAM. If you have SAAM plans you would like shared, please email me, at hlaniado@mncasa.org and I will be happy to pass it on! 

  • February 01, 2017 12:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    First, I am not the sole authority on the LGBTQ community. There are many voices and many identities that I do not represent. I use my position and the things I have learned through my education and work experience to inform the work of sexual violence prevention in the LGBTQ community. In order to talk about prevention among adults, we have to trace back the roots of cultural messages that kids receive about their bodies, identities, and sexualities. We have to consider the larger picture in which sexual violence occurs.


    1. Recognize and dismantle the systemic construction of LGBTQ status as problematic or outsider. That’s a lot of big words. What this means is that every element of our culture—family relationships, education, religion, media, etc.—needs to change the messages they send about sexual and gender identity. It’s not just changing the idea that being LGBTQ is bad; it’s bigger than that. This is about changing the narrative and assumptions that being heterosexual is fundamentally normal and good—this kind of thinking creates a narrative that still places LGBTQ as outsiders to what is “normal” and thus, deserve to be marked as different—even if that’s not a bad thing being marked creates greater potential to harm. This video can be a good starting place to help put things in perspective.


    2. Create/Teach a Sexual Education Course That Includes Gender and Sexuality Diversity. This normalizes LGBTQ existence and it doesn’t make assumptions about what is normal. Providing a truly comprehensive curriculum removes the stigma of being LGBTQ, which removes the power to use LGBTQ status as a weapon of control. Sexual violence is about the exercise of privilege, power, and control over another person. Fear of being harmed, losing your job, housing, or loved ones is a powerful tool to keep people compliant and all are completely legal in some states; these are ideal conditions to allow sexual violence to be ongoing and/or unreported. This tool might help!  


    3. Understand that Intersectional Identities Matter. When working to prevent sexual violence, it is important to be thinking through and taking steps to address how different intersections of identities might increase or decrease the likelihood and long term effects of sexual violence victimization. Other structural oppressions like race or disability status or social-economic status might impact victim/survivors. These elements matter in addressing prevention work especially within the LGBTQ community.


    4. Grasp the legacy and prevalence of violence against LGBTQ identified folks. It is essential to understand that the rates of violence against LGBTQ folks are off the charts. Specifically, understanding that the rates of sexual violence against Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay identified folks are (almost all) higher than their heterosexual counterparts. For trans-identified folks, the rate of sexual violence are as high as 1 in 2. It’s still legal in 28 states to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the arenas of employment and housing. Meaning that you can be fired or refused the right to housing based solely on LGBTQ status. In 29 states, public accommodations discrimination is legal. For credit and lending practices, it’s legal in 37 states to discriminate. These maps can help you see what this looks like in reality.

    That’s a little big for just us, right? So, focus on what you can control! What changes to education curriculum can you make in your community? How does your organization unintentionally create subtle messages that privilege heterosexual relationships or does not acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ status? Sexual violence prevention in the LGBTQ community starts so much earlier than in late adolescence or early adulthood. More importantly, sexual violence prevention for LGBTQ identified folks isn’t just a problem for LGBTQ folks. This is stuff that everyone needs to know about and work towards.


    Final helpful hints about doing prevention work within the LGBTQ community:


    1.  our best tool will always be to listen and honor the information give to you by those in the LGBTQ community.


    2.  Work with community leaders and be a public ally to the LGBTQ community, whether or not the communities are visible in your area. Remember that living as an out-and-proud LGBTQ person can literally endanger someone’s life, livelihood, housing, etc.


    3.  When doing prevention and advocacy work, do not out people. Ever. Ever. EVER.


    4.  Use the pronouns and names people give you. You do not decide what is or is not valid for anyone other than you. Be a mirror and reflect back what you hear from the folks right in front of you. Do not carry over every lesson and apply it to every situation.


    Carry on and keep doing great work, prevention friends!

    Featuring Guest Writer: Johnanna Ganz

    Rural Projects Coordinator @SVJI, MNCASA

    Contact at jganz@mncasa.org


  • December 23, 2016 11:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    January is right around the corner. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Many programs are beginning to host events or engage in other efforts this month. If you are looking for ideas or are feeling overwhelmed with what to do for Human Trafficking Awareness Month, read on. Below are three simple steps you can follow to ensure your Human Trafficking Awareness Month is informed and also includes prevention. This month features a guest writer, Noelle Volin. Noelle is MNCASA's Trafficking Policy Coordinator and Staff Attorney. She will start us out with step one in our journey.



    Step One: Be Aware

    “That Doesn’t Happen Here.”

    by Noelle Volin, Trafficking Policy Coordinator/Staff Attorney

    January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and a great opportunity to educate community leaders, service providers and systems professionals, and the general public about sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

    Minnesota has made radical changes to the way our state treats victims of sexual exploitation, from important legislative changes, to the development of a statewide services model, the engagement of the hospitality industry, and helping communities across the state build an on-the-ground systems response  that will meet their specific needs.

    Nevertheless, one of the most common – and most frustrating – conversations that many in this work continue to have is the conversation that starts with “That doesn’t happen here.”  If your first reaction is, “Yes it does!” then you are not alone, and your frustration is understandable.

    But let’s take a step back.  Maybe they have a point.  Maybe “that” – the typical narrative or story used in most training and awareness materials – actually isn’t the way sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are happening in your community. 

    Consider the following examples:

    Typical Narrative

    Minnesota Narratives

    A sex trafficking victim finally escapes when one of her traffickers, a 35 year-old black man, beat her so severely she required medical attention. The trafficker and his accomplice, another black man, would approach women in an SUV, comment on their attractiveness then recruit them with talk of starring in music videos and movies before bringing the women back to their apartment.  At the apartment, the two traffickers would coerce the women into prostitution with enticements and physical violence.

    A 66 year-old white male, and assistant county attorney, recruited victims into prostitution and operated a website connecting wealthy buyers with victims. 


    A homeless youth engages in “gay for pay” – a form of survival sex by which young heterosexual men have sex with older men in order to earn cash for food and other basic living expenses.


    A young male student tells his girlfriend that if she really loved him she would have sex with some of his friends in exchange for drugs and entrance to an exclusive party. 


    The Trouble with the “Typical” Narrative

    In the beginning of the global movement against human trafficking, most of the narratives used to spread awareness about sex trafficking tended to depict an international component – either trafficking took place overseas, or the victims were transported to the US from other countries. 

    Since then, narratives have evolved to reflect an understanding that trafficking is both an international and domestic problem.  But even the more recent portrayals of domestic sex trafficking often fail to address the complexities and nuances of sex trafficking as it occurs in rural, suburban, and tribal communities compared with their urban/metro counterparts, and overlooks contributing factors such as sexism, racism, economic disparity, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression.

    Narratives around sex trafficking and sexual exploitation have a significant impact on victim identification (including the ability of victims to self-identify!), services eligibility, investigative methods, outreach and education, and the overall systems response.  If we reduce sex trafficking to a single narrative, we inhibit our ability to recognize sex trafficking and sexual exploitation as it is currently occurring in our communities - including survival sex, peer recruitment, cases involving adult, male, or transgender victims, and intersections with domestic and sexual violence.

    Using a Better (and More Accurate) Narrative

    The key to building awareness about sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is to share an accurate narrative – one that actually reflects what is happening in the community.  

    Here are some key questions to ask when developing awareness materials and planning events:
    • Are you using the right definitions?  The definition of trafficking under Minnesota law does not include a requirement of “force, fraud, or coercion.”  A person can be trafficked “by any means.”  And, sexual exploitation does not require a third party pimp or trafficker. These aspects of Minnesota law are different from federal law.
    • Do your images reflect reality? Pictures depicting bound hands, taped mouths, chains, and other obvious forms of “captivity” and abuse, images of the “sympathetic” victim (young, white, female wanting to be rescued), and portrayals of traffickers that play to racial stereotypes, do not necessarily reflect how sex trafficking and sexual exploitation occur in your community and can distract and confuse both service providers as well as victims.  Ensure that imagery used in education and awareness materials accurately reflect what victims (adults, children, male, female, or transgender individuals, U.S. citizens or noncitizens) and perpetrators (both buyers and traffickers) look like in your community.
    • Are you consulting the experts?  Survivors, regional navigators, and services providers who work with victims of sexual exploitation will be able to help you share a narrative that accurately reflects what they are seeing on the ground in your community.  These stories may be different from the “typical” narrative, but are just as compelling, and more importantly, will help to open your community’s eyes to the way sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are actually happening at the local level.
    • Does your narrative also address demand?  Too often, buyers – and the attitudes and beliefs that contribute to demand culture – are left out of the narrative.  In order build a better response to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, narratives must address the role of demand and must be willing to acknowledge that buyers - typically men who have the means to exploit individuals using their positions of power, economic or otherwise - are coming from within the community.  

    Step Two: Support Service Providers Who Work with Survivors

    If you are currently wanting more information or resources when it comes to services for people being sexually exploited or trafficked, reach out.

    No Wrong Door is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and multi-state agency approach. It ensures communities across Minnesota have the knowledge, skills and resources to effectively identify sexually exploited and at-risk youth. Youth are provided with victim-centered trauma-informed services and safe housing. To learn more about the network being implemented in Minnesota to support victims, see Regional Navigators, Housing, and Protocol Development and Training.

    If you or someone you know is being sexual exploited or trafficked, please contact your Regional Navigator or contact the Day One Hotline to learn more about services available in your community at 1-866-223-1111.


    Step Three: Prevent

    Just as we can prevent other forms of sexual violence, sexual exploitation can be prevented. In addition to supporting sexual health promotion (such as utilizing curriculum like FLASH and teaching about healthy relationships) there are also resources more specific to sexual exploitation:
    • Men as Peace Makers will be launching a new prevention campaign in 2017 that works to engage men as allies and partners against all forms of sexual exploitation.
    • We can educate the public on how pornography feeds a culture where sexual exploitation is normalized.
    • Read Voices of Safe Harbor: Survivor and Youth Input for Minnesota’s Model Protocol on Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Youth to learn more about what youth are asking for in order to stay safe; which includes information on healthy relationships and sex.    


    Want to talk through some of this one-on-one? That’s what I am here for! Send me an email or give me a call, I would love to talk with you! Contact Hannah at 651.288.7446 or hlaniado@mncasa.org.
  • November 29, 2016 3:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    I first learned about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) a few years back while I was a direct service advocate working with survivors of various forms of violence. I don’t remember exactly how I heard about the then ground breaking research which stated that experiencing ACEs can contribute to later health disparities including physical health, mental health, and addiction. But I do remember having some strong resistance to my introduction to the concept which basically went something like this: the more harm you experience as a child the more likely you are to encounter later health problems and possibly early death. End, finito, that’s it.  While these connections have been well researched it is a very limiting view of the power the concept of ACEs truly holds.


    A major shift ACEs research can provide to professionals working with traumatized communities or individuals is in our approach. Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?” we can ask “What happened to you?”. While the research supports that trauma has a real effect on people’s life it does not have to suggest that someone with a high ACE score is doomed. People are resilient, anyone working with trauma survivors knows this to be true. People can thrive, and they do when they have what they need to do so. Many of us may personally have a high ACE score and feel healed and whole. And we certainly encounter vibrant, healthy folks every day who experienced trauma early in life.


    The ACE study is, perhaps above all, a cry for more primary prevention efforts. People who have experienced trauma can be robbed of their full potential. We know for many people, but not all, the violence in their lives starts as a child or young adult. We have a responsibility as communities to interrupt the cycles of violence that currently exists and promote healthier and safer options. Violence can be intergenerational and effect families for generations. We must interrupt this legacy by connecting people with healthy parenting classes or curricula and information on how to teach children about boundaries and consent. It is also vital to be aware that historical oppression and violence impacts ACE rates in different communities. Some communities experience higher ACE scores on average. This is not indicative of the people in a community, but instead it is indicative of the oppression and violence the community has and is currently experiencing.


    If you want to utilize ACEs more in your practice, here are some things to consider along the way:


    1.)    Know your ACE score. Whether you decide to share it or not is your business, but it is helpful to understand where you fit in the spectrum.

    2.)    Believe that resiliency is the most common reaction to trauma and that people who have experienced great harm can heal and thrive. This does not mean we should ignore the causes or conditions that lead to violence in people’s life. We should still work to interrupt violence as it certainly does have negative consequences. However, people who have experienced trauma can live vibrant lives. Often time with children a caring adult can be the difference between struggling or thriving later in life. The more positive, caring relationships people have the better people do.

     3.)    Understand how intergeneration trauma and historical trauma affect ACEs in different communities. Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart is credited with the concept of historical trauma. Check her out and read her stuff. She’s amazing and so is her work. You can also learn more about intergenerational trauma here.

    4.)      Believe that prevention is possible and weave as many primary prevention concepts into your work as possible.


    Primary prevention is the key to reducing ACEs. You each have access to unique doors. Go find those doors and if you get lost along the way reach out to your primary prevention community!  


  • October 31, 2016 11:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy Halloween, ya'll! Today's a day that people all over purposefully engage in situations that make them a little bit uncomfortable, anyone who's worn a wig as part of a Halloween costume understands this intimately. People may even put themselves intentionally into scary settings today. So, in that way, it's a perfect time to engage in another situation that makes many folks uncomfortable or scared: conversations about sex, specifically consensual and mutually pleasurable sex.

    As people who work in the sexual violence field, whether in response or prevention, we get pretty used to talking about terrible things without blinking. The stories we hear and the things we know would upset many people. Ironically, however, we do not get much practice talking about healthy sex. And so while talking about violence becomes common, what should be considered common (good, mutually pleasurable, healthy sex) stays taboo and uncomfortable. It's no mystery why many people have a difficult time talking about sex; many of us might not have had opportunities to learn how to talk about sex while growing up.

    Yet, if we are working to promote sexual violence prevention, then the reality is we are also working to promote healthy, good sex. Sexual expression and pleasure is one of the most basic human rights; people have the right be able to control how their sex life looks and who is involved in it. Teaching survivors and others that they should have control of their sexual and reproductive lives is empowering. Informing children and youth about their bodies and their sexuality is also paramount in not only preventing sexual violence, but also in promoting a happy and full life.

    I had the opportunity to visit Portland earlier this month, where they were hosting a state wide conference on this very topic: Sexual Health Promotion and Sexual Violence Prevention. Although the work has often been separated, it of course makes sense for us to combine efforts as we are two sides of the same coin. Sexual health promotion goes way beyond just pregnancy prevention, STI preventatives, etc. It also includes anything that promotes mutually pleasurable, consensual sex. Below are some helpful resources.

    1.) Amaze.org has lots of resources that help to “take the awkward out of sex ed.” This includes videos for girls and boys going through puberty, information about healthy relationships, identity and expression, and more.

    2.)It’s All One is a curriculum that weaves together sexuality, gender, HIV, and human rights education.

    3.)There is a guidebook on A Trauma Informed Approach for Adolescent Sexual Health.

    4.)The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has resources for Safer Sex for Trans Bodies.

    5.) Since getting into schools to talk with teens about sex ed. is nearly impossible for most of us, there’s an online space you can direct youth and emerging adults to get incredibly useful information about sexuality and relationships called Scarleteen.

    6.) Also, if you are looking to get more information in Minnesota about sexual health promotion, you can join SFLE, Sexuality and Family Life Educators. The meetings are super informative and a great way to network. They take place monthly in the metro area.  

    It's no secret that talking about sex is difficult to do in many situations, however there are always ways to weave in these concepts as you do your work. Let's help eradicate sexual violence by promoting healthy, consensual sex!

    Do you have favorite resources? Are you a fan of Laci Green or other You Tubers? Leave your thoughts in the comments and share the wealth!

  • September 30, 2016 11:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Conversations around Title IX in colleges and universities have been plentiful lately thanks to the well deserved media and societal attention around campus sexual violence. But did you know Title IX applies to K-12 public schools as well? Title IX is a great conversation starter for those of you who may be wanting to provide healthy relationship education or other sexual violence prevention curricula in your local schools. Title IX states that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence.Title IX applies to most grade schools, middles schools, high schools, charter schools, and colleges or universities.


    Recently the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released "Consideration for School District Title IX Guidance" to remind K-12 school districts of their ongoing obligations under Title IX. The document recommends that every school district engage in a process to develop a sexual misconduct policy with relevant stakeholders including rape crisis center. To go along with the White House Task Force's K-12 document on sexual misconduct policies, the Department of Education has released the "Safe Place to Learn" resource package which looks at preventing, interceding in, and responding to peer-to-peer sexual harassment in schools. To learn more about compliance in K-12 schools around sexual harassment click here. Whether you are just approaching schools or are hoping to deepen your relationship, Title IX can be a great frame.

    Voices from the Field: Who Knew Title IX Could Lead to Prevention?

    Edith Sanchez

    CLUES, Minneapolis

    "My name is Edith Sanchez, Domestic/Sexual Violence Prevention Program Coordinator at Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES), a non-profit in the Twin Cities. Our organization is a recipient of the Community Primary Prevention Partnership Grant (CPPP) from MNCASA. We have been working with a Twin Cities charter school for two years. Our goal is to create a change in Latinx students’ beliefs, norms, attitudes, and behaviors towards preventing sexual violence.


    Initially, I had some struggles starting the project. I had two notable challenges:


    First, the curriculum wasn’t culturally specific. The material I was provided didn’t properly address the situations specific to what a Latinx will face. It didn’t account for machismo perspective, familismo and respeto constructs, or the religious overtones present in Latinx culture. As a result, I had to write my own curriculum to properly address the needs for this course. I drew from my understanding of Latinx culture to create activities and exercises relevant to the scenarios Latinx youth face. My curriculum needed a lot of work at first, but feedback from my co-facilitator and even the students helped me develop it and mold it into what it is today.

    Second, it's unsurprising that the school needed the course to be flexible for a variety of time frames, from as long as a semester to as brief as a three week summer course. The feedback other teachers provided was important: they know how to adapt curriculum, and they know the students.   


    As year two drew near, I looked into sustainability for the program. I studied sexual violence policy for schools and realized that under Title IX, all school districts that receive federal funds must have an appointed staff member to address sexual violence and sexual discrimination. With this information, I leveraged the school’s administration to implement mandatory staff training on identifying and handling cases of sexual violence. During the staff training, the teachers brought up how little they knew about their own school’s policies on the consequences for sexual violence. Several teachers were eager to incorporate sexual violence prevention into all curriculums. One is now teaching gender studies to dismantle machismo attitudes and gender norms. Another is adding curriculum covering sexual violence as a form of power and oppression: generational trauma stemming from colonization.


    Working with a charter school has been challenging, but rewarding. Although sexual violence prevention in the Latinx community is at its early stages, one school’s administration and policies are better equipped. And more importantly, I’ve watched the students begin to identify forms of sexual harassment and take a stand against it. It’s very encouraging to see students come to me out of their own concern to get answers on unhealthy relationships and sexual violence, and how they can use this information to help their communities."

  • September 02, 2016 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Often when at meetings or conferences, I hear people asking questions around how to best work with schools. The struggle is real folks! Schools have a lot on their plates already and often when the word sex enters the conversations (even if you don't use that exact word) schools get a little squirmy. Perhaps they fear what some parents may say or are themselves unsure about how to talk with children and youth about sex, sexual health, and healthy relationships. Below you will find one member program's real life lessons learned. Here are also a few ideas that may help you move along.


    1.) Think strategically about who in the community and in the school can help you achieve your goals-whether that is coming in with an evidence based curriculum like Safe Dates or trying to launch Green Dot in your high school. Who knows who matters, for better or for worse. Find people who are interested in what you are doing and have a fair amount of influence or know those who do. With their influence they can help to attract others who have more sway to your efforts. Having people in places of power helps a lot!


    2.) Don't count anyone out on initial biases; sometimes our best partners show up in unexpected ways. Someone who is not one of your usual suspects may be a huge supporter of healthy relationships. When I was doing community based prevention work I found key stakeholders in law enforcement, bar managers, child protection, and a Refugee Consortium. Keep an open mind and approach people you may normally rule out. People do not have to identify as feminist or even believe rape culture is real to help you achieve your goal.


    3.) Call people in, not out. When collaborating with people who may not come from the same framework as you it is likely they will say things that make you cringe occasionally. This does not mean they support violence or want anyone to be hurt necessarily. We all grow up in a society that sends many messages about sex, relationships, and gender roles. Take a deep breath and be gracious in those instances. Remember, we all have many things to learn and there was a time where we ourselves did not know what we do today.


    4.) Ask people to commit to action steps when they are in support of you. If meeting with a teacher who may support your education efforts in the school, ask them to do something that will help move this forward. Whether it is to send an email to their administration or attend a meeting. People often want to help, we just need to ask.


    5.) Use evidence based or informed materials whenever possible, but be flexible enough to get in the door. This can be a difficult line to tow; and yet is an important strategy. Curriculum can be a barrier for schools who have a lengthy approval process. Perhaps schools can’t commit to ten sessions, but are willing to allow three sessions (I'm dreaming big here people). Do what you can and think of ways to move forward as you go.

    I now leave you to the words of wisdom of others doing the work.


    Voices from the Field

    Steph Coffey and Amy Swensen

    North Shore Horizons, Two Harbors

    “When we started with the high schools, we were starting at square one with not a lot of experience.  One positive was that we had school counselors who were supporters. Everything was moving right along and then three out of the five contacts we had moved on to new positions. Suddenly we had new people in the driver's seat that we asking "Why are we doing this with students?". Needless to say, it was an opportunity for learning!

    Here's some lessons we learned:

    • 1.)  Define the need for education and skill building around healthy relationships to all the stakeholders and give them an opportunity to offer their perspectives. 
    • 2.)  If you do not have the proven experience in the classroom, partner with an agency who does. The partnership not only adds credibility to the program, but can also help mentor the staff needing more experience.   
    • 3.)  Research based curricula and a detailed presentation plan approved by all major stakeholders is a major advantage. For us, the stakeholders were counselors, principals, and teachers. They wanted the opportunity to provide input and often they know the students best.
    • 4.)  Don’t let off putting comments get in your way of involving stakeholders. Even though you may get comments that are victim-blaming or people don't 100% agree with you, keep in mind they are there because they really care about the students.  There's some common ground and that's where it is the best place to start. You can move forward in a positive direction from there.
    • 5.)  Provide updates to school board members about the work you are doing. This can create an ally that can advocate on your behalf if you run into a speed bump.
    • 6.)  Don’t avoid stakeholders you may feel present a barrier, engage them in a conversation. Each community is unique and has certain influential groups. One of our stakeholders with a lot of influence in the schools was a religious community.  In the past they had pulled students from any healthy relationship programs at the school; which accounted for about 1/3 of the entire student population. To work through this our educator and the school principal met with them to talk about the details of the program. We were able make some adjustments the community felt was needed to involve their students without compromising the program. Students are no longer pulled from classes around healthy relationships and are now getting that much needed information and skill building.
    • 7.)  Evaluations help and show you know what you are doing! And that the education is making an impact on attitudes and more importantly behaviors. We did pre and post tests to show the impact. MNCASA can help you with evaluations if you are wanting to start.
    • 8.)  We end each year with a wrap-up meeting with stakeholders.  What worked? What needs change? What is missing?  We also present the data from our surveys and include quotes from the students.”
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