Kyler Steffe: A student advocating for victims of gender-based violence

Allison Mueller

Kyler Steffe showcases some of the campaigns she has helped organize with the RE Initiative on campus. (Photo by Emma Masiulewicz)
Kyler Steffe showcases some of the campaigns she has helped organize with the RE Initiative on campus. (Photo by Emma Masiulewicz)

Dana Scott/Winonan

Senior Kyler Steffe, a communication studies major with a leadership and advocacy emphasis, and a women’s, gender and sexuality studies minor, is the president of Winona State University’s RE Initiative.

Steffe hopes to attend law school with the intent of becoming an attorney. She sees herself moving to the west coast for law school because she wants a change and feels she was made to travel.

“I want to be an advocate for those in poverty and those who don’t have a voice,” Steffe said.

Steffe was drawn to Winona because of its scenic features: the bluffs, lakes and the river. Steffe said she enjoys the outdoors. She explained how she liked the size of Winona State’s campus and the city reminded her of home.

The RE Initiative supports survivors of gender-based violence and works to create a safe campus environment.

“The purpose of this club is to get a vast majority of students together to create a safe campus for everyone, to see harmful things and injustice and have a passion to change the culture,” Steffe said. “It’s students watching out for other students.”

There are many ways to get involved with the RE Initiative. One way is to be a peer educator who leads educational sessions about gender-based violence and bystander intervention.

Steffe discussed PACT (prevent, act, challenge and teach) trainings that take place on campus. These are bystander intervention trainings that anyone on campus can participate in.

Steffe said there have been about 50 hours of PACT training since they started being offered last January. She said a diverse group of participants have attended the training sessions: from Greek life to athletic teams to class presentations.

Another way to be involved with the RE Initiative is to be a peer advocate like Steffe. Advocates answer questions and provide services about gender-based violence. This includes operating a 24-hour gender-based violence helpline, which can be reached at 507-457-5610. Steffe explained that advocates must complete 45 hours of training.

“Being an advocate is being awake and up in the middle of the night, calling law enforcement, going to a safe place and being an active listener, getting rid of shame and giving support,” Steffe said. “Being an advocate means constantly reshaping your own views.”

Steffe said there are currently seven Winona State students trained to hold the gender-based violence helpline cell phone. Steffe said the number can be called at anytime, it will always be another student at the other end and one does not need to be in crisis to call, the students on the helpline can answer simple questions.

“People are never alone and never have to be,” Steffe said.

There are also paid student help positions available with the RE Initiative, another way to be involved with the club.

“I freaking love my job,” Steffe expressed. “I love it.”

Steffe’s passion led her to being involved with the RE Initiative; she explained she is drawn to the subject matter the club deals with because of personal experience.

“I wanted to be involved with survivors and victims to help them throughout the process, because it’s scary,” Steffe explained. “[I wanted] to be the person to help them understand how they can help themselves, and empower them to help others.”

Because the club is recently new to campus, Steffe said they are still working on gaining members and getting their name out there. She also mentioned a mentor and mentee program that is in the club’s future plans.

Steffe said she thinks the RE Initiative has been well received by campus, and overall she hopes to see the RE Initiative grow, get its message out there and have violence on campus recorded correctly.

Steffe said according to the climate survey from fall 2014, 19.9 percent of students at Winona State have experienced sexual violence on campus.

Steffe also said there are two and a half hour PACT trainings every other Tuesday night, and anyone can attend. To inquire when and where the next PACT training will be hosted, contact peer education graduate assistant Rebecca Johnson at [email protected]

“I know our campus is ready to be one of the leaders to talk about the issues of this violence,” Steffe expressed. “The campus is ready to make it comfortable and okay to talk about these issues.”