Child Welfare class puts on Abuse Awareness March

Ren Gennerman, Features Reporter

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On Wednesday, April 24, Professor Ruth Charles and her Child Welfare class hosted a Child Abuse Awareness Walk from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The walk, which circled campus and the surrounding area, took about 35 minutes and consisted of just over two dozen blocks of walking. Snacks were offered to participants after the event.

Charles, who has served on the Child Abuse Prevention Council for Winona County for several years, took on the task of the walk three years ago. Her class organizes the event as a final project every year and are therefore responsible for planning it.

Kendra Swenson, a social work major, was a student in the class who helped plan the event this year.

“Very few people know that April is Child Abuse Awareness month, so right now is the perfect time to host this event,” Swenson said. “It is a great way to get the community of Winona involved with [Winona State University] students and raise awareness for an issue that goes unreported in a lot of cases, and unfortunately is very prominent.”

Students in Charles’ class chose a speaker to start off the walk on a positive note. Megan Dawson, a graduate of Winona State who now works at Legacies in town, was chosen to speak before the walk. Charles especially appreciated her message.

“As part of our introductory piece, she told people that if they went through this, they aren’t alone.” Dawson said. “Part of our message isn’t ‘It’s bad what happened to you,’ but more of ‘We see you and you aren’t alone, This happens to a lot of us.’”

Though this was a class project, the community showed up in support of these students and the victims they represent. There are fewer than 15 students in the class, and over 60 people showed up in support. Many of the participants brought signs, friends and even their own children, which is what the class was hoping for.

“We think it is so important to have children attend because they can learn for themselves what is right and wrong and that overall they have rights–one of which is to be safe and not harmed,” Swenson said.

While the class did not discuss how to avoid triggering survivors of abuse, Swenson pointed out how their education played into how students ran the event.

“We did not discuss triggers a whole lot,” Swenson said. “We have talked extensively throughout the semester to see warning signs of abuse and how to handle conversations and encounters with survivors.”

Charles also pointed out how the focus is less on avoiding triggers and more on letting victims feel seen and heard.

“If people want support, they come with friends,” Charles said. “Rarely do people come alone. Our goal is mostly to help people who experienced this feel heard.”

Because April is Child Abuse Awareness month, the city of Winona has done a few things to honor those who have faced abuse as kids. 

On Thursday, April 4, the Winona National Bank held a kickoff event where people filled in the blank for “Hands are for…”

As the walk is now completed and April approaches its end, Charles had a few words of advice to people in the community, including survivors of child abuse.

“Be educated,” Charles said. “Some people don’t realize what happened to them is not them, it’s what happened to them. It’s not their fault if they experienced abuse and you’re not alone if it has happened to you.”