Meet the Members
One in four college-aged women report experiences that meet the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape.
With some of the highest statistics for sexual assault, college campuses around the country are working harder to provide safe resources and advocacy for their students, and Gustavus is no exception. Gustavus’ Sexual Assault Response Team, (SART), is made up of seven members of staff and faculty that, by definition, are available to provide support, information and assist with resource referrals. With a member on-call every hour of the day, SART hopes to show students that there is always someone to talk to.
“We want to make sure all students understand that we are completely confidential and that we don’t have an ‘agenda’—We are simply there to provide possible courses of action and support them in whatever course they choose. It’s never too late or too early to call,” SART member Kristen Nelson ’06 said.
“Being advocates, we are glad that students get help and reach out to whoever and however they feel comfortable,” SART member Jill VanOsdol ’10 said. “Being that we are one of the few resources on-campus that is completely confidential, safe, free, and available 24/7, we hope that students feel comfortable reaching out to us.”
The seven members are passionate about helping students feel safe to talk about their experiences, and hope their usefulness continues to grow.
“I think students are starting to realize that we are here, that they have access to us. I think we could be utilized even more by students who haven’t come forward or aren’t ready to talk about it yet but they should know that they can come to us and we will be confidential,” SART member Kelli Miller said.
Assistant Professor in Classics and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Yurie Hong deals often with students that come to her with similar problems. Classic ancient texts often depict various forms of sexual assault, and being a teacher of texts such as these makes Hong very familiar with the pain that these issues bring to the surface.
“Recently there was an article where a professor talked about the fact that every time she taught certain texts, the issue of rape in its modern context would come up because of its reference in the stories. Students say to me as well as that professor that they are traumatized by the text and want to talk about the issues in both ancient and modern contexts,” Hong said.
Seeing these issues in our loved ones, classes, and everyday life can be extremely difficult, but for these members it makes their sense of urgency to help others even stronger.
“While in college, I was able to help a close friend through a terrible experience by helping her find the support and help that she needed, [and] that is where my interest in being a member of SART really came from,” SART member Sara Sletten said.
As well as being a place to get further resources, a place to talk and not be judged, and a place to get unbiased support, SART is first and foremost an advocacy group. They advocate for your wellbeing, and your rights.
“We are not counselors or health care providers, we are advocates— we are there to walk hand in hand with students to help them work through issues regarding what happened to them,” Team leader Patty Dawson said.
SART leader Patricia Dawson, known to many as Patty, has been passionate about helping victims of sexual assault since her first days of working in Health Service. As one of the first members of this group at its formation five years ago, she believes that there is a need for advocacy on our campus and more support for victims of sexual assault. Patty received her training as a licensed practical nurse at St. Mary’s School of Practical Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota.
Gustavus alumni Kristen Nelson graduated in 2006 with a History and Gender, Women and Sexuality studies double major. Before becoming the Assistant Dean of Admission and the Coordinator of Admission Marketing, Kristen was a student who was connected with an earlier version of SART to deal with sexual harassment. She currently lives in St. Louis Park with her husband and Boston Terrier.
Being a professor of Classics, Yurie Hong feels a strong tie between various forms of sexual assault in classical texts and the importance of realizing effects of sexual assault in modern times. Yurie is an assistant professor in Classics as well as Gender, Women and Sexuality studies.
Recent graduate Jill VanOsdol ’10 currently works in the Center for Servant Leadership as the office coordinator as well as being a member of SART. Jill’s background in sexual assault consulting stems from her studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she is working on her Masters in Counseling and College Student Affairs.
Since 2005, Sara Sletten has been volunteering in an international women’s organization and has watched her passion for helping victims of sexual assault grow. Sara has been a member since 2009 and has worked at Gustavus since 2008 as an Administrative Assistant in the Center for Servant Leadership.
The only current male member of SART, Sean Easton has been a member since February, 2012. Although he began not knowing much about the group, he has taken a serious interest in helping and providing support for students. Sean teaches various culture and language courses in the Classics department.
Kelli is a member of the Health Service team. Her time as a medical assistant has led her to have many interactions with sexual assault victims that she hopes to help by being in SART. Kelli Miller has been in the group since its formation in 2009, and currently lives with her husband and four kids in St. Peter.
Headshots taken by Mara LeBlanc