Board of Directors
Jeffrey R Caffee, Attorney at Law, Van Siclen, Stocks & Firkins, Tacoma, WA, Board Chair
Once a sexual assault victim gathers the courage to stand up and fight for justice, she or he is often subject to secondary victimization. They are shamed for engaging in sexual activity and blamed for “provoking” sexual assault. Sometimes schools, businesses, or other organizations apply pressure to victims in an effort to have them lie to protect an assailant. Such actions not only tolerate sexual assault, but place public relations and profits over people. I serve on the Board of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools because of its commitment to helping change a system that works to suppress and ignore victims of sexual assault. We cannot be a society that tolerates sexual harassment and assault.
Jeff Caffee has spent his entire career protecting the rights of individuals. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School as a Dean’s Fellowship Scholar and quickly gained recognition for his trial skills. In 2009, he was honored by The International Academy of Trial Lawyers with an Award for Advocacy for distinguished achievement in the art and science of advocacy. While at the University of Notre Dame, Jeff was an active student member of the University of Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic representing low-income individuals in landlord-tenant, mortgage, and estate planning matters. He continues his efforts to assist low-income individuals with legal matters through his volunteering at the King County Family Law Information Center. In 2013, he was honored to receive The National Trial Lawyers “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” award. He has received this honor each year since. Jeff is an Eagle Member of the Washington State Association for Justice and an attorney at the law firm Van Siclen, Stocks & Firkins. Jeff currently represents individuals in matters related to sexual assaults, sexual discrimination, government misconduct, and traumatic injury.
Joel Levin, Ph.D, Director of Programs, and Co-Founder of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools
I learned first-hand about the devastating effects of sexual assault on families when our daughter was raped on a high school field trip. In the aftermath of the assault, shock turned to frustration and anger at the school district’s lack of fairness, respect, and compassion toward our daughter, and its ignorance of its Title IX obligations that effectively ruined her high school education.
The more I’ve learned of the plight of other families in similar circumstances, the more I recognize the urgent need for educating students, families, educators, and administrators about honoring and protecting the rights of all students to an education free from sexual violence.
Dr. Levin (Ph.D in Education, University of Washington) is an education and learning consultant with over 25 years’ experience analyzing, designing, and developing curricula and educational programs with positive, lasting impact. He has been engaged in all facets of education and training design, development, delivery, and evaluation for large and small organizations in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. He has extensive experience with learning needs analysis, and developing e-learning, classroom-based training, and virtual classroom support materials. His background also includes video and audio media development, broadcast documentary production, and marketing copywriting. After Dr. Levin’s daughter was raped on a school field trip, he relentlessly held the Seattle School District accountable by authoring numerous complaints at the district, state, and federal levels, and through interviews with media outlets. As Director of Programs for SSAIS, Dr. Levin is designing trainings for national distribution to address sexual assault in schools for students, parents, and K-12 school staff.
Esther Warkov, Ph.D, Executive Director, and Co-Founder of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools
As a parent who witnessed the nightmare of a peer sexual assault that devastated the victim, her education, and family life, I am compelled to warn others that someone they know will likely be sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, or discriminated against for reasons of gender, sexual orientation, or parenting while in school. While families rarely consider a life-scarring sexual harassment and sexual violence upon their child, the stark truth is that victims’ parents tell us how they never imagined something so horrible could have happened to their own child. Even more shocking is that the sexual harassment or assault often occurs on school property or during a school sponsored activity.
Regardless of where the violation occurred or by whom, when the survivor wishes to return to school, the school must protect the student under Title IX. More likely than not, a school will regard the victim as an adversary rather than a valued student entitled to an equal education under Title IX. The nightmare of sexual harassment and assault is magnified when the school district employs every imaginable tactic to shut down the complaint and deny the student’s federally mandated civil rights, in violation of Title IX.
In spite of these obstacles, our persistent advocacy caused the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to open an investigation of the Seattle School District. We now share our experience with families nationally, to spare them the agony that accompanies sexual assault/harassment and the destruction of the victim’s education. We undertake this work after hearing from numerous families how their experiences mirrored ours. Their support for this initiative to spare students such trauma has compelled us to form this non-profit to serve students, families, organizations, and schools nationwide.
As a woman who attended high school and college in the 1960s and ‘70s, I witnessed numerous instances of sexual harassment from men in positions of power. For example, I recall middle and high school teachers crossing boundaries with students, a university staff MD showing up on my doorstep, and professors known for unashamedly having sexual relations with students and staff. As an ethnomusicologist who conducted research in the Middle East, I experienced first hand the ways in which women are blatantly harassed, even in the academic environment. Still, these experiences pale by comparison with the treatment our family received, which led to the formation of this organization. Students and families must realize that this could be their nightmare—anyone’s nightmare—and take proactive steps so that we can both prevent assault and compel lawful and compassionate responses to sexual harassment and violence.
Dr. Warkov tenaciously demanded accountability from the Seattle School District after negligent chaperoning permitted an environment where sexual assault could occur. Beginning as an ordinary parent unaware of Title IX, she experienced the full spectrum of unacceptable and often unlawful responses. She meticulously documented the district’s responses at each juncture and archived correspondence and complaints for the benefit of other families. Dr. Warkov participated in numerous media interviews, organized demonstrations against the Seattle School District, and worked with education activists. Her unrelenting campaign for media and public awareness of the Seattle School District’s systemic failures has compelled the District to comply with Title IX. She is currently building a national network of parents, advocates, students, and organizations dedicated to the mission of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools. Prior to this advocacy work, Dr. Warkov received several awards including a Fulbright-Hays grant for original research in Wales, a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to study the performance of Middle Eastern music, and dissertation grants to research Arab and Jewish musicians in the Middle East. Dr. Warkov’s experience with music students, with professional musicians from a variety of socio-economic groups, and her passion for education combine to create a unique foundation for her advocacy work.
Cheryl Ann Graf, Board Secretary, Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science Nursing, MBA, WA
The consistent and compassionate care of all sexual assault and domestic violence patients in WA State has been an overriding theme that I have embraced and promoted for the past 20 years. In partnership with my husband we have four daughters and realize how fragile and difficult growing up for a child/teenager can be on a good day. Add a sexual assault event and that difficult day can quickly become a nightmare for the child and parents.
Every patient and their family deserves and is rightfully entitled to care at every step of the process. Children need safety in all aspects of their life including in their schools. Often victimization is met with re-victimization and further pain which leads to real suffering. Pain can be pronounced as well as subtle. I am continuing to learn that pain respects those who are willing to get involved and take a risk. Getting involved requires facing pain directly. Victimization is real and around each of us; we can’t fix or change every event but we can’t stand still and do nothing. So it is in that theme of getting involved that a decision was made to join the worthy cause of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools.
I have devoted my professional career to many aspects of Emergency Patient Care over the past 25 years. This dedication early on led me to embrace the care of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors that come to the Emergency Departments where I have worked. The many years of service have included being Director of Emergency Services, Nurse Practitioner roles in a variety of Emergency Departments (ED) and Urgent Care (UC) settings.
The most profound role I have had the opportunity to lead and develop was the Clinical Coordinator of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE) at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton, WA where I performed acute and chronic care examinations on sexual assault/domestic violence victims of all ages. This SANE program changed the course of sexual assault care in Washington State as well as the community where I lived and worked.
The SANE role begun as a seed that would grow in time for sexual assault and domestic violence care in the first Emergency Department where I worked. If nurtured, the seed could flourish and benefit the community and begin the healing process for the patient and family. One afternoon early in my nursing career I was asked to go and discharge a child who had been sexually assaulted by a babysitter. The single mother had come home from work to find her beautiful girl assaulted, broken and she brought her to our ED. When I went in to discharge the child the mother sobbed with a shattered heart and I quickly learned that she too as a child had been victimized. She thought she could keep her child safe for always. I realized our community had little to no real services for families or patients when it came to sexual assault and domestic violence. That single day in the ED impacted me so profoundly that I vowed to be part of a solution and part of the healing, one patient at a time. Several years passed and I realized quickly that I must be part of a wider healing in my community. Each sexual assault/domestic violence patient I cared for had ripple effects like a pebble being tossed into the lake, touching and eroding the shores of families and individuals. No shore goes untouched when the pebble of assaults plunk into the waters. Passion alone can’t carry the load of the burden I felt so I went forth to find out how to begin the process of better care in my community.
Seeking a better model I looked to the community to find out the extent of our needs, and in this quest of developing the SANE program at Harrison Hospital I met and was mentored by the late Dr. Naomi Sugar, who headed up the medical team at Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress (HCSAT) in Seattle, WA. This relationship grew into a deep friendship that expanded into working in the training department as a nurse practitioner with the Community Training Program and co-authoring the first SANE trainings in WA State with Dr. Sugar. The SANE core trainings are still provided for all of WA State to this date, including training across the entire state which encompass the rural communities.
Cheryl Ann Graf completed her training as a family nurse practitioner at Pacific Lutheran University, WA, and graduated with BSN, MSN and nurse practitioner degrees/national certifications. She also completed an MBA at the University of Washington. Cheryl is an involved lifetime member of the ENA (Emergency Nurses Association) and continues to work closely with HCSAT to further the development of the SANE Core Training course in WA and guidelines for sexual assault care.
Karen Truszkowski, JD, MI
The universe works in mysterious ways. After leaving a law-school teaching career, I received a phone call that steered me in a direction that I never anticipated. The call came from a mother who desperately needed to find out how her daughter, “Jane,” could continue her education after being sexually assaulted at school. The school had suspended her even though Jane maintained she did not consent in any way. Mom tried everything she could to get her daughter back into school. Nobody listened. By the time Jane returned to school, it was too late: the damage had been done. Jane felt like no one would ever believe her. She engaged in high-risk behavior and self harm.
After my experience with Jane and her family, I decided to dedicate my practice to helping students and their families deal with the aftermath of sexual harassment and sexual assault in schools. Now, more than ever, we need to stand by our children and their families in the wake of impending changes in publicly funded education.
Karen Truszkowski is President and Senior Counsel of Temperance Legal Group, PLLC. Her practice focuses solely on Title IX cases–primarily at the secondary level, but also at the post-secondary level.
Karen began her career as a staff attorney for the United Auto Workers (UAW) Legal Services. Thereafter, she went into private practice where she handled personal injury matters, other civil litigation, and municipal defense for the City of Flint, MI. Her teaching career began in 1999 immediately following graduation from law school; her focus was Elder Law at the graduate school level. Karen achieved her dream of becoming a faculty supervisor in the Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where she had interned as a law student. In addition, Karen served as a District Court Magistrate in Oakland County, MI. Karen continues her advocacy work in elder law and elder abuse prevention.
Cara Tuttle Bell, JD, Director of Vanderbilt Univ. Project SAFE Center, TN
I strongly support the efforts of SSAIS. I know from my experience working with college students that it is crucial that we start sooner in addressing the issues of interpersonal violence. The more effectively we can raise awareness of the scope of the problem and reach these younger populations (and their parents and educators) through prevention education and victim advocacy services, the healthier and safer our communities and schools, at every level, will be.
Cara Tuttle Bell is the Director of Vanderbilt University’s Project Safe Center for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response. Cara previously served as the Associate Director for Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity at Vanderbilt University and as Director of Programs for the Women’s Center at Northwestern University. Cara holds a JD from Vanderbilt University Law School, Master of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Louisville, and her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Ball State University, where she graduated summa cum laude.
Cara was recently named the 2015 recipient of the Mary Jane Werthan Award, which is presented to a member of the Vanderbilt community who has contributed to the advancement of women at Vanderbilt on a systemic level. The award is named in honor of Mary Jane Werthan, the first woman member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust. Also in 2015, Cara was recognized by Ms. JD, a professional organization for women law students and lawyers, with their Road Less Traveled award, which honors a woman lawyer who has contributed significantly through work in non-traditional legal career path. In 2016, Cara received the K.C. Potter Outstanding Service to Students Award from the Vanderbilt University Office of the Dean of Students. Cara serves as a lecturer in the College of Arts and Science Women’s and Gender Studies Program, for which she teaches the Seminar on Gender and Violence.
Minnah Stein, EMPOWERU Founder and Community Activist, FL
In 2014, I heard a story on National Public Radio about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in America. I could not believe that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 16 boys will be assaulted at college and that most don’t report the crime, so it’s likely those numbers are much higher. Then I learned that the statistics are equally shocking in K-12 schools. The more I learned, I became acutely aware that these shocking numbers were actually girls just like me. I knew right then and there that I had to do something to try to affect change and prevent as many people as possible from becoming a victim. If we don’t start the discussion in schools, students will not fully understand the risks or their rights.
Minnah, a high school senior, has already developed a strong passionate voice to address sexual violence. Her exemplary work has reached a national audience through her appearance in Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School!, interviews with experts such as Emily Lindin, and her publications for Our Bodies Ourselves, MTV, jGirls, fBomb, Women’s eNews, and Teen Voices. She is the recipient of the 2017 Anne Frank Humanitarian Award and a JWA Rising Voices Fellowship. Minnah serves SSAIS by creating school outreach initiatives, interviewing subject experts, and promoting its mission locally and nationally.
In 2014, Minnah formed EMPOWERU, a program designed to provide education, resources, and tools that motivate high school students to address relevant issues such as sexual harassment and assault. Minnah launched EMPOWERU with a weeklong campaign that encouraged local high school students to take a pledge against sexual assault. After over 200 students took the pledge, she was awarded the Global Youth Service Day grant. She followed this initiative with screenings of the documentary It Happened Here at every high school in her county. She is currently working on a countywide sexual harassment/assault and Title IX educational program K-12 using the SSAIS video Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School! and the documentary It Happened Here.
Chellie Labonete, WA
Gender equity has been a lifelong passion of mine. Like many other gender equity activists, I am horrified by the occurrence of sexual assault. Even more so, I am horrified by the response to sexual assault in our culture which supports assailants while humiliating survivors. We have a pressing duty to protect our K-12 students from the tragedy that is sexual violence and violation of Title IX rights. If these protections fail, we have a further duty to support survivors, legally and emotionally, in the aftermath of their experiences. I am proud to stand up as an ally and advocate for all those impacted by sexual violence, sexual harassment, and gender based discrimination.
Chellie Labonete graduated from Central Kitsap High School in the class of 2016. During her senior year of high school, she created Gender Equality Today, a club dedicated to education and action based in gender equity and representation. The club’s biggest project of the year included creating menstrual pads that were then sent to a group of young women in India, aiding in the fight to end the stigma surrounding women’s bodily functions. Currently enrolled at Olympic College, Chellie is preparing to enter the nursing program. She hopes to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and use her career as a nurse to provide affordable and accessible care to survivors of domestic or sexual violence.
Gloria London, Ph.D.
As a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, I received a first class education at the oldest public high school for girls in the U.S. Schools must present a rigorous education setting where students pursue the goal of a quality education in order to succeed in life. But unless they provide a safe environment for students and offer unique opportunities, they fail as public institutions. Because an increasing number of school districts have failed to provide equal education under Title IX, I am joining the movement to support a safe environment so all students may thrive.
As the proud mother of a daughter pursuing a graduate degree in electrical engineering, I want to see more young women studying STEM subjects. Over the years I have volunteered in schools in many capacities and advocated for safe school environments. I was part of the early (1996) planning for the Seattle Girls School. In my view, if girls cannot have an equal opportunity to succeed in a classroom with boys, they deserve their own school. For example, if teachers are unable to see girls as mathematicians, then the girls need a single gender environment where they can pursue their dreams without discrimination or male intimidation. Too often I have seen teachers underestimate capable girls in the earliest grades. This attitude predisposes girls to lower their expectations and ambitions. Similarly, students of any gender identification and sexual orientation must be given the opportunity to thrive and learn at school so they may fully contribute to society. We need to assure that all citizens benefit from education equality by informing students, families, and schools of the right to an equal education under Title IX.
When sexual harassment and violence begins in the school and goes unacknowledged, and unaddressed, the impact is long lasting for all involved. In particular, girls and other frequently victimized groups learn that they are not valued by society. Victims need immediate support and protection as guaranteed under Title IX. Perpetrators must learn they can commit offenses with impunity. Unless they are stopped from committing abuse and violence in school, they have license to continue their abusive behavior in college and their own adult families. All peer perpetrators must be lawfully sanctioned and receive immediate, intensive professional counseling to address their heinous behavior.
Schools, while trying to do they job of educating students, must address the social issues that are playing out on their own campuses rather than fostering a culture of sexual violence. We must all help change attitudes towards sexual harassment and assault so that every victim has the support to come forward without shame or blame. Only then can we eradicate the raging problem of sexual harassment and assault in our schools, colleges, and universities. Let us empower students K-12 to prevent the trauma of gender based violence and discrimination.
Dr. London has advocated for student welfare in the Seattle School District for well over a decade. Since 2012 she has closely followed the events that led to a Title IX investigation of the Seattle School District and registered several complaints with the Seattle School Board. She was prepared to demonstrate in the summer of 2014 when the Seattle school board president cancelled her community meeting owing to growing public criticism.
Dr. London is a widely published archaeologist who has received numerous awards for her scholarly and humanitarian work. She received a Fulbright Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to pursue research among women potters that led to the creation of her Bicommunal Workshop for modern potters from all across Cyprus. Her commitment to teacher education included directing two NEH Summer Institutes for School Teachers. She earned a Membership Service Award for her efforts to educate the general public and recent research in Middle Eastern archaeology from her professional organization, the American Schools of Oriental Research. In recent years she has taught at the Lifetime Learning Center in Seattle dedicated to seniors and homeschoolers. In 2014 she helped create a new Cultural Center and Museum of Traditional Technology in Ayios Dimitrios, Cyprus.
First Board Chair
Jules Irvin-Rooney, JD, VA
As both a student who survived sexual assault and activist advocate involved in working for sexual assault survivors rights since my undergraduate career, I have witnessed the atrocities, heartbreak, and frustration that obstructs healing and justice. I have also witnessed the compassion and strength demonstrated by fellow survivors, their families, and fellow advocates. These qualities have always inspired hope, determination, and the passion to help others.
While we will never be able to eradicate all the injustices that impact our students, when we start by helping one person, one group, and one school system—we are effecting change. SSAIS not only seeks to inform and provide training tools: it aims to foster lasting change in the way our society views sexual harassment/assault and its impact on students’ education, family, and the community. My goal is to help change the narrative about sexual violence in K-12 schools, promote awareness, and incite dialogue. As Board Chair I fight for full Title IX protections to our nation’s students, leading all involved in the process to create effective change — step by step — so that heinous events, like those I experienced and those that gave rise to this organization, do not continue. In order to see true change, we need to unify our efforts to address students’ civil rights under Title IX K-12. Stop Sexual Assault in Schools is the vehicle to do this. Being the Chair of the Board for this non-profit is not only a great honor but also a challenge that I take on with fervor and dedication.
Julie (Jules) Carter Irvin-Rooney, President of Title IX and Clery Act Consulting, is a legal consultant, analyst, Title IX /Clery Act expert, and advocate. Ms. Irvin-Rooney’s concentration areas include higher education law, reproductive justice law, gender law, FERPA, ADA, and Special Education issues. Her specific interest area is combating sexual assault by focusing on healthy relationships, promoting ongoing dialogues and information about sexual violence, and addressing consent issues. Ms. Irvin-Rooney facilitates training for schools and advocacy groups regarding compliance issues, implements discussions of “best practices,” advocates/educates via social media, collaborates with domestic violence advocates, police officers, commonwealths’ attorneys, among others, and assists students filing Title IX complaints. These duties, with her work as SSAIS Board Chair, fulfill her life calling to address education equality and serve assault survivors. Ms. Irvin-Rooney holds a J.D. from William & Mary Law School where she was awarded the National Association of Women Lawyers Award along with the Dean’s Certificate for special and outstanding service to the law school community. While in law school, Ms. Irvin Rooney served as a leader in promoting more scholarship and awareness on gender, sexuality, and the law, which led to her coordinating and organizing a Reproductive Justice Conference, worked with both the undergraduate school of William and Mary, along with the law school to advocate for those sexually assaulted and/or harassed. In addition, she designed learning seminars and small-group meetings for deans and advisers regarding compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act. Ms. Irvin-Rooney graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Communications Studies and Sociology from the University of Richmond. She earned a master’s degree in English Rhetoric and Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University and taught at the secondary and post-secondary levels.