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Starting in the 2023 spring semester, Saint Ambrose University will launch a Global Gender-based Violence & Survivor Advocacy course. The course is a collaborative effort between the Women and Gender Studies Department, the College of Health and Human Services, and Family Resources Inc. Survivor Services Program. Organizers say the course aims to empower the students with knowledge and practical training to handle any sexual assault or physical violence as a SAAT (Sexual Assault Awareness Team) trained advocate on campus.

The SAU Course Designer is Dr. Danielle Hoffman, nursing faculty member and Masters in Public Health student, in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Sharer, the director of the Masters in Public Health program at SAU. Dr. Hoffman explains that “since safety and confidentiality of students is the first priority, SAAT advocates can guarantee a safe zone for survivors.

“The advocates are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. With their survivor-centred approach, SAAT advocates are ready to provide personal assistance for the students to take further actions if they choose such as contacting law enforcement and going to the hospital.

“The well-trained SAAT advocates would be an alternative aid that student survivors can get, apart from many other assistance students can get from the Security Department. Advocates are specially trained in trauma informed practices for such particular situations and know how to support someone like a peer with knowledge of what to do, where to go, and how to access resources in any situation.”

Just by calling 866-921-3354, students can access their certified peer advocates who are just one call away.

Dr. Hoffman also says this course contributes to the university’s mission towards social justice. “Every person who works out in the community could be impactful to someone who is living as a survivor and this course will open their eyes and provide the skill set to be an advocate.”

There are no prerequisites required to join the class. Any students are welcome to register under the Health Sciences even if it is not their major field of study. Through course planning, students can search WGS333 and/or HS333 and register under what fits their Major/Minor either Women Gender Studies (WGS) or Health Sciences (HS). Upon the completion of the course, students will earn the certificate recognized by the Illinois and Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Furthermore, Dr. Hoffman highlights that a part of the inspiration of creating this course comes from Dr. Sharer’s friend and a colleague, Jennifer Schlecht who dedicated her career to championing the rights of women and girls in crisis situation. This course is in honour of her work and passion. She and her daughter were victims in a 2019 domestic violence crime. Dr. Hoffman recalls one of Jennifer Schlects’ remarks referring to the crisis of violence in our communities: “I think there is an increased acceptance or understanding that crises are not something that happen elsewhere or to other people. This is a human condition, a circumstance, operating in our own culture.”

Referring to the number of gender-based violence cases, Dr. Hoffman notes, “Globally one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted or have experienced of former abuse. Highlighting how such cases are more prominent than we think and by introducing this new course, Saint Ambrose is making effort to move the social needle much further to build safe communities for all, men, boys, women, and girls.”

Sandar Linn is a staff writer for The Buzz.