What Happened at SAFE: A Community Exchange on Sexual Assault

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Laura de Rosier is CVT major gifts and events associate

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, a topic that’s particularly significant for me after recently attending SAFE: The Sexual Assault Fundamentals Education Conference. Concerned that sexual violence was not adequately addressed in their curriculum, a group of University of Minnesota medical students created SAFE to learn more about the consequences of sexual violence, and how to provide sensitive and appropriate care for survivors.

CVT participates in SAFE annually as a community resource to highlight connections between topics discussed at the conference and the care we provide to survivors of torture. As the coordinator of CVT’s speakers’ bureau, I represented the organization this year. My role was to share relevant information about CVT with individuals who likely hadn’t encountered us, but will certainly and even unknowingly encounter victims of torture and severe trauma in their future work as medical professionals.

I didn’t just attend SAFE to share information, though. I learned a lot as an attendee. One session of the conference that really stood out to me was the survivor panel. During this portion of the program, five survivors of sexual violence gave us insight into the difficulties they confronted when seeking help from medical and mental health professionals. Many of these interactions actually re-traumatized the survivor, which was heartbreaking to hear about, knowing how much he or she had suffered already. And yet witnessing the number of students who were there to learn from past providers’ mistakes in order to create a warmer and more individualized experience for survivors seeking care was inspiring. It also made me more aware of the fact that at CVT, clinicians in Minnesota and around the world are consistently mindful of providing as positive a healing experience as possible for our torture survivor clients.

Understanding that sexual violence overlaps with so many other issues was, for me, the most important takeaway from the conference. For example, at CVT we know that almost half of our U.S.-based female clients who have been tortured have also endured rape, a horrifying weapon of war. The effects are deep and wide-ranging, but there is hope for recovery. That’s why I’m grateful that a conference like SAFE exists -- to not only educate students who will one day encounter survivors of sexual assault and other traumas, but to show these future health professionals how many community groups are working alongside them to heal the effects of sexual violence. That one of those groups is CVT, where survivors receive care to restore their dignity and find their voice in the healing process, is especially gratifying. I’m so proud to work here.

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