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ISSUE 116 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/1/2002

Safehouse offers refuge

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor

Friday, November 1, 2002

This is the first year that there has been a WomanSafe House on St. Olaf Avenue. As a support group, the nine residents of the house are trying to increase awareness of dating violence on campus and in the community.

“We want to open a dialogue about this subject,” said co-president Emily Sandgren ‘03. “We want to make people stop and think.”

As trained advocates, the girls form a confidential support group open to all St. Olaf students who can be contacted through phone or email. As a part of their mission they also volunteer to be on the answering end of the Safeline, a Faribault-based help line for Rice County.

“We empower survivors of violence; we never tell people what to do,” said co-president Sonja Clark ‘03. “If there’s one word that can sum us up, it’s ‘empowerment.’”

One of the main goals of the WomanSafe House is to educate students about the resources that are available for them and the different options that they have for reporting dating violence.

“Unhealthy relationships are more pervasive than most people realize,” said Clark. “We should all be aware that everyone is affected.”

In addition to the emphasis on the fact that the WomanSafe House is a separate organization from SARN, they also stressed that the house does not exclude men.

“It’s not just a house for women or just for men. It’s a human house,” said Clark. “We acknowledge that men can be survivors [of dating violence].”

Another one of the goals of the house is to actively publicize their mission with awareness-raising posters.

“Everyone throughout his or her life will meet or know someone who has experienced dating violence,” said Mary Schmidt ‘04. “We want students to know that we’re here, that we’re a safe zone.”

Through working with survivors on the 24-hour Safeline, the members of the house are involved in finding victims a place to live, aid with legal services, and general support.

“We must understand our rights,” said Sandgren. “For these women, their power has been taken away, but we give back the power.”

Currently the members of the WomanSafe House are working on mentoring programs, both for younger girls and youth groups, in the Northfield Community.

“We plan activities for them and foster positive relationships,” said Clark. “We teach them about healthy relationships and about rights one has within them.”

Many events sponsored by the house have already occurred this year. The members of the WomanSafe House held an in-service with all of the JCs and RAs as a part of their continuing education program at the start of the school year.

“Dating violence and sexual assault enters into their world,” said Sandgren. “There are resources available for them, and they don’t have to handle it by themselves.”

On Family Weekend the members organized an open house for the student body and their families and set up the Clothesline Project in front of the house. All of these activities were a part of their promotion of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For the future they have planned a coat drive in December, the play “The Vagina Monologues” in February and a discussion with the author of a rape memoir in April.

The other members of the house are Anna Kiel ‘04 and Betsy Baumgarten ‘03 Amanda Febey ‘03, Heather Heyerdahl ‘03 and Brooke Lee ‘03.

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