New Director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy Plans for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Heidi Freedland-Trail

The Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy has a new director: Heidi Freedland-Trail. She arrived at Conn already Green Dot certified, having previously worked at Lebanon Valley College in a Green Dot and Title IX Advocacy Program. This October, Freeland-Trail and the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy are ready to launch a series of events for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Though her title is singular, Freeland-Trail has a few different roles on campus. She serves as a personal, confidential resource for students who need to discuss issues of power-based violence. Because Freeland-Trail serves as a confidential resource, a student’s information does not have to leave her office; it is always a student’s decision where personal information goes, whether they just have a conversation or engage off-campus law enforcement. But there are other resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence that Freeland-Trail stressed in conversation with the Voice, such as the confidential Counseling Services, Health Services, and the religious chaplains as well as community organizations like Safe Futures and the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut.

Freeland-Trail’s office specifically focuses on interpersonal violence—which includes stalking, sexual assault, and dating violence—the three primary types of violence by which college students are affected. The Office works closely with the Green Dot initiative on campus, and while Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October is an important time for the Office, Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April is also an essential time for programmatic efforts and prevention.

Freeland-Trail shared that she has several long-term goals that she is looking to accomplish at Conn, as well as changes to and new expectations of the Green Dot program and its involvement. Freeland-Trail asserted that having students connected to the Green Dot program throughout all four years is crucial to the success of the program, as well as the advocacy that the initiative promotes.

“What we find is that if someone went through Green Dot training freshman year, and then never interacted with Green Dot again until senior year, those skills that we build, it’s not that they might go away, but they might not be as easily accessible,” Freeland-Trail said. “What I would like to see is some type of plan instated. I’m going to be working on that this year for the future. Essentially, what does Green Dot look like year 1? What does Green Dot look like for somebody who’s a sophomore? What does Green Dot look like for someone who is a transfer?”

Freeland-Trail is looking to eliminate large gaps of time during which students go without Green Dot interaction. “I’d really like to create a Green Dot Track. There would be ways in which we engage with students based on their year here and kind of what’s feasible for them during those years, as well,” she stated.

“After talking to her and with my supervisors, we really wanted to make sure that the Green Dot games kind of get back to what they originally were. What they were originally meant to be, and what we’re working towards now, are that they are student-initiated, because that is the big focus of Green Dot. We need them to be on board. We need them to understand what Green Dot is, understand the mission and really ultimately live the Green Dot life. We want them to be a part of the planning process. We don’t want it to be that the office shows up and plans an event for them, we want them to be apart of the process. One, it says that they’re committed, and two, I think that allows them to learn through the process with us.”

Freeland-Trail expressed the need for student athletes to be interested and value the importance of the Green Dot initiative. She and the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy hope that student athletes and other students on campus ask what they can do to work on a project for a game, wants input on what they hope to see, show a strong level of commitment to the program, and most importantly, enforce that about 60% of the team be Green Dot certified.

“If they’re repping Green Dot memorabilia or logos, we want to make sure that it’s representative. We don’t want a ton of people out there wearing Green Dots if they haven’t actually committed to the Green Dot program. We’re kind of finding that balance. Of course, first-year students and transfer students would not be able to go through that, potentially,” Freeland-Trail stressed.

Freeland-Trail is excited for the coming events in October. She and the Office have focused on finding a balance between passive campaigning and bigger events.

“We’re really looking forward to expanding not only the offerings that we have, but the collaborations that we have as well,” Freeland-Trail stated. “One, so that we are reaching all Conn students, but so that we’re including more inclusivity in the things that we do.”

New collaborations will take place between three branches of the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion:  Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy, the LGBTQIA Center, and Unity House. A new event will be a series of intergroup dialogues, which will take place in October and November, with another hopefully in the spring. The first dialogue will be happening on Oct. 11 at 4:00 p.m. in the LGBTQIA Resource Center and concern intersectionality, and the second dialogue will follow in November to consider immigration and DACA. On Oct. 22, the men’s water polo team will host a Green Dot game, representing the embrace of a new team for Green Dot. Freeland-Trail praised the team’s supportive and interest in involvement. The Men’s Ice Hockey team will be helping with the Purple Ice Night event on Oct. 20 at 9:00 PM at the Dayton Arena. Humphrey’s will also host a Green Dot Bar Night on Halloween, where trivia and raffles will inspire participation and preventative measures.

Freeland-Trail expressed excitement about the Interpersonal Violence and Firearms event on Oct. 24, when three staff members from Americans Responsible for Students will broadcast a webinar from D.C. for Conn students. Former Congresswoman and politician Gabrielle Giffords founded the organization after being targeted in a shooting rampage and shot in the head, during the same event at which six of her constituents were killed. Bettina Weiss ’15, a Conn alumna and an intern for Americans Responsible for Students, will be featured on the webinar as one of the three staff members. The webinar will include discussions about stalking, dating violence, and sexual assault, especially around college-aged students. They will also discuss legislative measures that the organizations is seeking to take in in ending dating violence.

Emma Riggs ’18, a member of the SafetyNet program that Freeland-Trial supervises, also expressed interest in the Interpersonal Violence and Firearms event. Riggs participates in many of the programming done by the staff of SafetyNet members. Riggs helps plan agendas for meetings, or leads meetings if Freeland-Trail cannot attend.

“Heidi introduced the idea of intergroup dialogue to me, and it is something that I see being very successful at Conn. With a topic like intersectionality, there are many different directions in which the dialogue could go, and the direction it goes in will largely be shaped by whoever shows up. I am eager to see how this month’s dialogue goes, as this is the “pilot” for a year-long IGD series that we have planned!” Riggs said.

Riggs also shared the excitement of the collaborative planning process for the month of events.

“Teo [Mavrokordatos ’18], McKenzie [Griffith Potter ’18], and I sat down early on in the semester to discuss what our goals for DVAM were and what events we really wanted to see happen. We make all of these decisions together, but each of us may focus on certain events. For example, I have been very involved in the planning of the Intergroup Dialogue event on Oct. 11, whilst Teo has been spearheading the Green Dot Bar Night and McKenzie’s focus has been the Green Dot Volleyball Game. This allows us to put a lot of time and effort into each event.”

Many changes and collaborations will be taking place on behalf of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy. Freeland-Trail has worked to extend the community approach that Connecticut College has fostered, as well as continue to provide a network of support and resources for victims of sexual assault and violence. Domestic Violence Awareness Month will host the first events for Green Dot initiatives on campus for the 2017-2018 year, with a brand new schedule of events and activities.

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