Board of Directors
Heidi Goldstein, Executive Consultant, Human Resources, Berkeley CA
My passion for changing societal attitudes, practices and accountability around incidents of sexual harassment and assault was sparked by the experiences of my children and their peers as they progressed through middle and high school. The need for student awareness and education about their rights to a safe learning environment, and how they can act to influence school culture around harassment, is compelling. The obligation of schools – boards, administrators, teachers and staff — to build the capability and capacity to support students who have experienced sexual harassment, enact prompt and equitable remedies, and implement policies and practices to improve school climate for all students, is urgent. I have joined with Stop Sexual Assault in Schools to build on the momentum that has put the issue of sexual harassment at the forefront of the national discourse; and to foster collaborations to make meaningful change in the way K-12 schools understand and execute on their responsibility to ensure access to a full range of educational resources for all students.
Heidi Goldstein’s professional and personal advocacy work is centered in creating environments, systems and processes that support people in recognizing and pursuing their full potential. She is a vigorous advocate for gender and economic equity. In 2014 she collaborated with students at Berkeley (CA) High School to found the grassroots advocacy group BHS Stop Harassing (BHS SH), whose work to support targets of sexual harassment, state and local policy change, and education and empowerment of students to improve school climate has been recognized by awards and grants from national organizations including Equal Rights Advocates and Futures Without Violence. In addition to serving as an Adult Advisor to BHS SH, she has been an active member of the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee since 2014 and was appointed by the CA Superintendent for Public Instruction in 2016 to serve as the neutral appointee to the BUSD Personnel Commission. Her human capital development consulting practice includes pro bono support for youth-oriented and social justice organizations.
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. Although 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.
Jules Irvin-Rooney, JD, VA
As both a student who survived sexual assault and an 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 a passion to help others.
While we will never be able to fully 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. Since its beginning, SSAIS has not only sought 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. Through my work with SSAIS, my goal is to help change the narrative about sexual violence in K-12 schools, promote awareness, and incite dialogue. I work 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.
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, K-12 education law, gender law, FERPA, ADA, and Special Education issues. Ms. Irvin-Rooney facilitates training for schools, both K-12 and higher education, as well as advocacy groups regarding compliance issues; additionally, she implements discussions of “best practices,” advocates/educates in online and in-person trainings, collaborates with domestic violence advocates, police officers, commonwealths’ attorneys, among others, and assists students filing Title IX complaints. 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. Before law school, 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.
As a survivor, parent, and high school educator, I know first-hand the importance of Title IX for K-12 students. Too many K-12 schools either don’t know about their obligations under Title IX or fail to prioritize the safety of students as it relates to sexual harassment. I wholeheartedly support SSAIS in their mission to make sure all students have equal access to their education and are aware of their civil rights.
As an advocate and survivor of sexual violence, Dani seeks to disrupt the culture of shame and silence surrounding sexual abuse and sexual assault. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and NBC Opinion, among others. Dani has been recognized as a TED-Ed Innovative Educator and has two TEDx talks related to trauma and sexual violence.
Karen Truszkowski, JD, MI
After leaving a law-school teaching career, I received a phone call that changed the course of my law practice. The call came from a mother whose daughter had been sexually assaulted at school. The school had suspended the daughter for the non-consensual sexual activity. Although the mother tried everything she could to get her daughter back into school, no one listened. By the time she eventually returned to school, it was too late: the damage had been done. Feeling as if no one would ever believe her, she engaged in high-risk behavior and self -harm.
After my experience with this family, I decided to dedicate my practice to helping students and their families address the aftermath of sexual harassment and assault at school. Now, more than ever, we must stand by our children and their families in the wake of rampant violations of students’ civil rights.
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. In addition to holding schools accountable to Title IX, Karen continues her advocacy work in elder law and elder abuse prevention.
Susan Moen, Executive Director, Jackson County (OR) SART
Susan Moen has worked in the field of sexual assault since 1995, first as an advocate with the LA Commission on Assaults Against Women and then as co-founder in 2004 of the Jackson County SART in Jackson County, Oregon. As JC SART’s Executive Director she oversees her county’s SANE program, sexual assault support groups, Victim Resource Specialist program and the adult sexual assault multi-disciplinary team meetings; she also does primary prevention education for local schools and community groups and direct advocacy with survivors. In 2010 Susan was awarded the state SART award, and received the Jan Hindman Memorial Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Victim Services” in 2014. Susan is a Founding Board Member of the You Have Options Program and contributes to the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force; she received her AB from Harvard College.
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.
Otis McGresham, primary coordinator of bystander intervention and healthy masculinity programming, Vanderbilt Univ. Project SAFE Center, TN
I have been working throughout my career to create learning environments that engage students fully and authentically in the learning process. Incidents of sexual assault can decimate a student’s experience and have no place in our communities. By working to connect all members of our communities to the insidious cultural norms that can support violence, minimize survivor support, and normalize abuse, it is my hope that as a collective we can intentionally reshape our communities to reflect individual ideals of safety, respect, and care. Working together as a community, I believe that we can demand the systems and policies in place provide education for all members of our community, protect all members of our community, and actively work to create and maintain educational spaces free from all forms of sexual violence. I am excited about the work of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools and creating this expectation from an early age.
I believe that the only way to end violence is by ending oppression and I also believe that ending oppression means that we have to start much earlier in the stages of human development. We must be intentional about the way our children are taught to co-exist, share space, and thrive with others. We must be intentional about how they develop language around personal autonomy and a person’s rights to their own bodies. We must also be intentional in our collective unraveling of concepts of superiority that lead to systemic and societal discrimination of people because of the color of their skin, religion, sexual orientation, ability, citizenship, etc. I believe in SSAIS because it understands this and is ready to do the work of keeping all children safe from harm and abuse.
She has been deeply embedded within the anti-violence movement as a professional practitioner for over 15 years and her work has spanned across higher education, corporate and state governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations. As both a curator and co-conspirator of systems and research that informs her field of practice, Wanda currently holds co-founder and leadership roles in professional organizations like Campus Advocacy and Prevention Professionals Association (CAPPA) and The Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Education and Response Knowledge Community (NASPA). She is also a technical assistance provider and consultant to several state coalitions and national organizations. Within this capacity she has trained advocates on the benefits of adopting an anti-oppressive trauma-informed advocacy framework to better support historically-marginalized survivors of violence.
Wanda currently serves as Founder and Executive Director of The Swan Center for Advocacy & Research, a Georgia-based 501(c)(3) that prioritizes Black and/or African-American survivors of violence. She is also an anti-oppression coach and works with organizations and executive leaders who are interested in interrogating their relationship to anti-Black rhetoric and white supremacist office cultures.
Charlotte Smalls, MSW, LICSW, Clinical Director, Juvenile Justice Field, MA
My interest in education equality work stems from my sister’s 10th grade sexual assault during a school basketball game. The impact of this assault on my sister and our family was devastating. Even more appalling was the way the school responded. My sister was not protected by the school and was harmed during school hours by the perpetrator’s friends. My mother had to make the difficult choice of pulling her daughters out of school for their own safety. This appeared to be a relief to the school administration, as the perpetrator was protected and able to continue his education and participation on sports teams. While my mother battled the school district in court for its unlawful response, my sister and I were homeschooled (since the principal would not allow us to return to the school), and we received our diplomas from an attorney’s office. The perpetrator, on the other hand, continued his high school career as planned, attended the prom, and walked across the stage to receive his diploma with his graduating class.
Stop Sexual Assault in Schools is an organization that is doing the work that I support and feel strongly about. My sister is a survivor of this type of violence and the school personnel that should have been on her side, simply were not. Our rights were fought for by our mother. Today, and every day moving forward, I hope through sharing my story and connecting people to resources, this work will become more and more preventive as opposed to reactive.
Thomas Baxter, MA Engineering, MBA, entrepreneur, and Title IX advocate, PA
I have seen first hand how a K-12 public school district’s ignorance of and lack of compliance with Title IX obligations can create a hostile learning environment and can add a second tragedy for victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, compounding the already devastating effects. I am, along with a team of caring volunteers, committed to effecting seismic change in the western Pennsylvania area. SSAIS has provided a wealth of information and support, and we are enormously grateful for their partnership and passion.
Thomas Baxter received a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Masters of Engineering from Cornell University, and a Masters of Business Administration from Northeastern University. He had a long career managing consumer healthcare brands in the areas of smoking cessation, respiratory and oral care, and has led start-up businesses. He is the holder of five patents and has coached youth baseball and softball for 15 years.
When my child was sexually harassed at school, I thought our school would protect her and that my school board experience and legal expertise would help. Neither happened. SSAIS was there for me, answering questions on the weekend before our first meeting with the school. I’m now dedicated to helping others as SSAIS helped me.
Amy is an attorney who uses her experience to help K-12 victims and their parents better understand their state and federal rights. She’s passionate about empowering parents and encouraging schools to create and follow clear and thoughtful Title IX processes and procedures. She’s particularly focused on the intersection of K-12 students’ federal rights under Title IX, FERPA and the IDEA.
I look back at my life—a time before the abuse—recollecting memories of true, rightful freedom from trauma. I did not always live with physical, psychological, and sexual trauma from a domestic and sexual violent relationship. My abuser violated my basic human right to freedom from oppression which is not easily restored. Although I recognize my resilience as a survivor of these heinous crimes, the violence inflicted from my abuser can never be undone. The ultimate betrayal, however, was not the abuse in itself, but the failure of core institutions in their prevention and response to interpersonal violence, which I had to experience first hand. In all my years of education from K-12, not once was I educated on the insidious truth of glorified, rigid gender roles perpetuating gender-based violence. As signs of my abuse were apparent throughout my years of high school, the critical recognition and response to these signs never occurred. And when I sought justice through the court system following my escape, I only found a broken truth—the law is inherently male, written to protect and serve men while female victims like myself are betrayed by the very system designed to achieve justice. I look at my life today—a time after the abuse—determined to right these wrongs in each institution, seek justice for survivors, and empower advocates to secure the rightful freedom from oppression which each human being intrinsically deserves.
Sharlene received a Bachelors of Science in Public Health from Rutgers University, recognizing that domestic and sexual violence is a rampant, public health disaster. She focuses her skills to raise awareness of survivors’ resources, educate on sexual and gender-based violence, and demand change in the broken criminal justice system. Sharlene has trained as a Peer-Educator, Crisis-Response Advocate, and interned as a Special Programs Event Coordinator at the Rutgers Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. Through her love of dance, she frequently combines artistic programs with awareness initiatives. Sharlene is currently pursing a career in law, and plans to one day launch her own non-profit organization.
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 effect 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 college junior, has 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, Women’s Media Center, and Teen Voices. She is the recipient of the 2017 Anne Frank Humanitarian Award and a JWA Rising Voices Fellowship, and the 2018 Diller Tikkun Olam award. 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. While in high school, she promoted a county-wide sexual harassment/assault and Title IX educational program for K-12 using the SSAIS video Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School! and the documentary It Happened Here.
As a sophomore at a large public high school in the Northshore suburbs of Chicago, I had my “eyes opened” to the pervasive undercurrent of sexual harassment and potential for assault associated with high school culture. With the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation imprinted on the national consciousness, I began to internalize how prevalent and consuming these sexual harassment and assault issues are in our society. I was invited to speak on CBS about my opinions as a teenager on the Kavanaugh allegations. Preparing for the discussion group helped clarify my view that sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter age, race, or status. When the question “Raise your hand if you know someone that has been sexually harassed or assaulted by a peer? was asked, two other female interviewees and I raised our hands. I was shocked to discover that their stories were very similar to what happened to one of my friends. “How could this happen?” asked in the interview. I knew I had to channel the feeling of the loss of control into advocating for and educating high school kids on this topic. Discussions on sexual harassment and assault need to happen in schools. It is my belief that addressing the issue at an early age is the best way for preventing sexual harassment and assault and igniting positive change.
Maya Behl is a seventeen-year-old senior at Glenbrook South High School where she is implementing SSAIS resources. Maya is an honor roll student, an award-winning tennis player, and aspiring singer-songwriter. Her passion for music includes composing songs, performing covers, posting her work on social media, and appearing at local events. In school Maya is involved with Model UN, Onward House Tutoring, and Key Club.
I am a survivor of high school sexual assault. The assault, and how the school mishandled it, changed my life completely. I never got to have a normal high school experience. Besides the emotional pain, I suffered intense physical pain. I’ve been hospitalized with medical problems seven times because of what happened that day. For a year and a half, I lost the ability to go to school with my friends because the PTSD flashbacks were so strong when I knew my attacker was close by. There were times in that year and a half that I wasn’t sure I could go on, but now I’m finding my voice and I am ready to take back my life. I am back in school for my senior year and I want my pain to mean something, to bring something good. I want to make a difference in my school, in my community, in the world.
In addition to joining the SSAIS Youth Leadership Board, I founded a chapter of Students Against Sexual Harassment (SASH) and am working to change the culture in my school. My time in the hospital taught me that a good nurse can make a world of difference to a child in pain. I have decided to study nursing in college, and plan to become an RN. My dream is to work at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh because they have been so amazing and supportive to me since the assault. I want to work with sick and injured children, and to be there at their time of physical and emotional need.
Ana is a senior at a public high school near Pittsburgh, PA. She plays the flute and piccolo, and is a softball pitcher who played travel softball for eight years and hopes to play in college. Ana is the founder of a Students Against Sexual Harassment (SASH) Club at her school, which brings together students of all genders to work to end sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, and to show students that they have a voice. With her involvement in the SSAIS Youth Leadership Board, she hopes to reach out to students in other high schools and inspire them to band together to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault in their schools.
Kathryn LaLonde, high school senior, MD
My experiences with sexual assault changed me forever. They caused me trauma and difficulty but also gave me strength and power. My school handled my case of sexual assault terribly, so much so that my perpetrator found out that I had reported him. I was so angered by a system that had failed both in its teaching about sexual misconduct and in supporting survivors of sexual assault, that I was driven to influence the way my county handles these cases. I have channeled my energy into research that addresses the pervasive culture in our schools and how school policies contribute to this culture. I have been investigating why sexual misconduct cases have been handled insufficiently by school administrators as part of my work on the student newspaper. We must work so that all survivors feel protected by their school. We must also hold each other accountable to ensure that this culture is transformed for future generations.
As a senior at Montgomery Blair High School, Kathryn works with her peers to address policy changes for reporting sexual misconduct in Montgomery County. She serves as the Ombudsman for her school newspaper, Silver Chips, and is a member of the Spanish and English National Honors Societies. Kathryn is a passionate actor and violinist, and her love of performance provides her an outlet for creativity and exploration. She has enjoyed spending the past few months volunteering for several campaigns, both local and national. Kathryn is a dedicated activist and hopes to live in another country one day and inspire young girls to become independent, strong women who will fight for justice, peace, and their own futures.
Cate Bikales, high school junior, OR
I joined SSAIS because I believe that students deserve a schooling system free from sexual harassment. The first step is education. Many individuals believe that sexual assault cannot happen to them, so they do not choose to learn about the topic. But because abuse is a very real, very common issue, I believe students and families must become educated about it. Sexual assault is too often overlooked in our education system and that needs to change.
Cate Bikales is a junior at Lincoln High School in Portland, OR. This past school year, she was a member of the Lincoln Constitution Team. She is also one of the presidents of Lincoln Asian Student Union and a member of Rose Haven’s Youth Outreach Board, a group of high school students working to spread awareness and provide support to women and children challenged by houselessness and abuse. As a Managing Print Editor of the school newspaper, the Cardinal Times, she is passionate about empowering those who feel marginalized or excluded, especially in the education system. This passion also led her to join and become the Communications Director of Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.
Xinyi He, graduate student, NJ
I have seen many cases of campus sexual harassment in the media and in my daily life. Many students dare not talk to their parents when they are sexually harassed. Some students do not even know what constitutes sexual harassment. I would like to know more about the causes of sexual harassment on campus and how to prevent it so that students can learn in a safe, healthy, and happy environment. I joined Stop Sexual Assault in Schools so that I can help people pay more attention to sexual harassment and help teenagers learn more about it before they go to college.
Xinyi He is a master’s degree candidate in United Nations and Global Policy Studies at Rutgers University. She worked as a reporter in the Washington D.C. area for five years and focused on local government and Asian American Community news. She traveled frequently between the Maryland Legislature and Washington, D.C. City Council, interviewing members about policy making.
In graduate school, Xinyi studies global problems such as women’s rights, human trafficking, racism, xenophobia, and intolerance. She also writes about child marriage in Afghanistan and child sexual assault in China. Her current interests center on gender equality and the rights of women and children to education and economic security.
Kylee Linnell, high school senior, OR
“Our small town doesn’t have a lot of resources and so oftentimes sexual harassment gets overlooked. I joined SSAIS with the help of Oregon Student Voice to help ensure that no matter what, no student is ever left feeling alone or powerless because of sexual harassment while in school. Every student deserves to feel safe and be heard, and the first step to make that a reality is to raise awareness and advocate for change.”
Kylee Linnell is a senior at Phoenix High School in Phoenix, OR. Following the devastation in her community brought on by Covid-19 and the Almeda fire, she reevaluated her priorities and decided to make an impact by joining as many advocacy and volunteering organizations as possible. She became an ambassador and social media team member for My School Votes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to close the race and age voting gap, and worked with its parent organization When We All Vote as a text team leader to get out the vote across the nation. She volunteers as a side-walker and horse leader at the local Foundation of Southern Oregon, a nonprofit ranch dedicated to helping non-neurotypical and disabled children and adults have a safe space to grow through interaction with various small animals, outdoor exploration, gardening, and riding horses. Additionally, she is a student representative for her school district’s board. She hopes to major in communications and use her skills to help others.
Ben Stern, high school junior, OR
Sexual assault has defined my life and the lives of so many around me. I have had the privilege of being able to tell my story and I want to empower other students and teenagers around me to do the same. Youth are statistically more likely to be victims of sexual violence, specifically young women of color and queer folk. This is unacceptable. I have joined SSAIS because I believe we all have the right to an education unmarred by sexual violence. By putting pressure on administration, legislators, policymakers, and lawmakers I truly believe we can stop sexual assault in schools.
Ben Stern’s passion is equity. In 2018 while a high school freshman, Ben became involved in policy making and later worked for Stand For Children as their youngest fellow, focusing on high school drug policy. Currently, Ben is working with BLM organization in Portland, and is dedicated to making the world a better place step by step, no matter how long it takes.
Neil Behl, high school sophomore, IL
I believe that the ability to attend school without fear of sexual harassment or violence is a fundamental right, yet unfortunately this right is not always granted. As a young man and brother of two sisters, it is of utmost importance to me that I engage myself and other young men in programs such as SSAIS. As my older sister, Maya has been on the Advisory Board of SSAIS since 2018, I have had the privilege to learn about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in high schools and how my actions can make a positive difference. Many of my male peers are unaware of the frequency of incidents and long-term negative impact that sexual harassment and assault can have on a person. For this reason, I believe that educating young men about this topic is an important first step in creating positive change.”
Neil Behl is a fifteen-year old sophomore and honor roll student at North Shore Country Day High School in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He is president of his school’s medical club, a tournament level tennis player, coach for his middle school’s Science Olympiad team, participant on the Model UN team, and member of the Student of Color Affinity group. He enjoys playing fantasy sports, tutoring middle schoolers, volunteering in the community, and writing poetry.
Jacob Stein, Dollar Donations Founder, FL
My sister Minnah has served on the advisory board of SSAIS since 2015. I believe more young men should get involved with the work SSAIS is doing to end sexual harassment and assault in K-12 schools. One way I’m helping is through my nonprofit Dollar Donations. We encourage and enable more first-time givers and small-dollar donors to drive real and lasting change – even if they don’t have a lot to give. At Dollar Donations we’re partnering with other nonprofits whose work we believe in – like SSAIS. Through micro-transactions we are poised to make a meaningful impact on the nonprofit world by pooling our small collective dollars to drive something much bigger. We are eager to do fundraising to support the work of SSAIS.
Jacob is a junior at an all gifted high school in Florida where he is a member of National Honor Society, president of Investors Club, a member of Mu Alpha Theta math club, and a member of the soccer club. Jacob also volunteers weekly as a mentor at the Pearlman Price Young Entrepreneurs program, where he was a 2018 winning recipient of seed money to help start his nonprofit. He was a 2020 NFTE World Series of Innovation global finalist – chosen from tens of thousands of entries! In his free time Jacob enjoys playing piano and guitar, coding, and taking online courses. A longtime supporter of SSAIS, Jacob will now be fundraising for SSAIS using the Dollar Donations platform he has developed.
Cheryl Ann Graf, 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.
Laura Armand, Masters in Engineering, Safety/Risk Management, TX
I have witnessed the destructive aftermath, the secondary victimization, and the heartbreaking retaliation sexual assault survivors experience. I stand determined to change the educational environment that potential victims and survivors face in K-12 schools nationwide. When a young boy or girl doubts his or her self-worth after being assaulted, when the traumatized student withdraws or drops out of school, not only is this a terrible loss to the victim, it’s a loss to their family, community, and to our country. We all have a stake in preventing sexual assault and supporting those who were tragically scarred by sexual violence.
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Jeffrey R Caffee, Attorney at Law
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 Offices of Jeffrey R. Caffee. Jeff currently represents individuals in matters related to sexual assaults, sexual discrimination, government misconduct, and traumatic injury.
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.