RE Initiative receives renewed grant

RE Initiative receives renewed grant

Allison Mueller

Kilat Fitzgerald / Winonan

The battle against gender based violence takes many forms to make campus a safer place.

Spearheading the effort is the RE Initiative, a grassroots organization on campus. The network of certified peer advocates act as support for survivors of sexual violence, and provide resources to help recovery.

The first grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women was allotted in 2013 in the amount of $300,000 over the course of three years, with an option to renew the grant succeeding a total of nine years. Recently, that renewal has been received, ensuring that the organization will still be around to stand against gender based violence in future years.

“That grant is absolutely monumental for this program,” graduate assistant Michael Krug said.

One weapon against rape culture and the violence it perpetuates is education. In response, the peer educators of RE Initiative help students understand the fundamentals of consent and sexual violence awareness.

Though there are factors that would discourage someone from acknowledging the problem or reporting an incident, RE Initiative takes steps to make a difficult process a little easier.

The confidential 24/7 GBV Helpline provides information, counseling and advice in an array of situations.

“Medical amnesty can be requested, and it sets off a process to where you don’t get a minor consumption ticket. Even if you don’t do it during the first initial contact, any time during the investigation process you can request medical amnesty,” peer educator Mack Carter said.

Medical amnesty extends to the person who calls, and the person who needs the medical attention. Other minors in the area, however, may still be subject to legal penalties.

There are two medical amnesty policies from different authorities. The state of Minnesota’s amnesty policy protects the victim from receiving minor consumption citations from law enforcement and Winona State’s amnesty policy deals with sanctions from the university. Victims who report the incident would not be subject to punishment such as housing termination.

“Everyone should go through a two-and-a-half-hour PACT training session, and recognize what it means to be an active bystander,” Krug said. “It can be as simple as challenging the language that someone is using, all the way up to calling the police in a dangerous situation. What we want to do is create a campus community where we look out for one another.”

PACT stands for prevent, act, challenge and teach. Through these methods, the root of the sexual violence can be restrained on a cultural level before it turns into harmful actions.

“It’s the initiator’s responsibility to get consent,” Carter said. “In order to give consent, you cannot be incapacitated in any way, shape, or form.”

Although much of what the RE Initiative represents was covered in the D2L Sexual Violence and Awareness course, the material had lots of room for improvement.

“We think that it could have been a lot better,” Krug said. “It was very unorganized, and it danced around the true issue. I would’ve focused more on the active bystander piece.”

“It’s a step in the right direction, but we’re not there yet,” Gender Based Violence Coordinator Heather Gerdes said. “It’s showing the culture is changing… I think we’ll get there, it’s hopeful.”

The issue of rape culture is not something that can be solved overnight, because it is often embedded within issues on campus that cannot easily be extinguished.

“We don’t teach against drinking alcohol, because it’s not on you to prevent getting raped. Drinking alcohol is not going to prevent that. It’s not a ‘you’ thing, it’s a ‘them’ thing,” peer educator Holly Loberg said.

-By Kilat Fitzgerald