In the spirit of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I decided to reach out to Gavin Grivna, the Assistant Director of the Aurora Center and k(no)w more about this resource. “K(no)w more” is the Fund Aurora slogan, encouraging the U of M’s student body to raise awareness and say no to any more sexual assault. I asked Gavin a couple questions so we can be better informed about the Aurora Center, what they do, and how they help the U.
What are the goals and mission of the Aurora Center?
Our official mission is: “To serve all victims/survivors/concerned people of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking at the University of Minnesota and Augsburg University.” Our goal is to provide services on campus in the form of response and prevention. Response in the form of advocating and supporting survivors and prevention in the form of education to students, staff and faculty. We want all survivors of sexual violence to feel heard and supported in the healing journey. We want the campus to be a respectful, educated and empowered community to live in.
What is the most important thing to know about the Aurora Center?
We are a free and confidential space for victim/survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and sexual harassment. You are not alone, we believe and will support you.
What services are provided to a victim of sexual assault?
We serve as advocates (emotional support, information and resources) for the following:
24 Hour Helpline
Walk in and scheduled appointments
Academics: accommodations and withdrawals
Medical: forensic exam support
Police: filing a report
Legal: civil/criminal court, restraining/protective orders
University: filing a report, accommodations
What can a victim expect if they call the helpline or visit the office?
For the hotline, a trained advocate will respond and be there to listen and support you in the moment. They can assist you further if desired by providing resources and scheduling appointments with Aurora staff. In the office, you will be greeted by our student staff at reception and offered water/coffee/tea, candy, etc. Whether you have a scheduled appointment or are just walking in, on your first visit you will complete a brief intake form on an iPad and meet with staff soon after in a private office.
What can you do if you know someone who is a victim of sexual assault?
Believe, listen and support them. Be there for them, but resist the common temptation to try and fix, explain or suggest what they should do. Allow them to choose how they want to proceed moving forward and be there for them as a supportive friend. Consider using phrases like “it is not your fault,” “thank you for sharing with me,” “I believe you,” as this is not often overtly expressed.
What other services or resources does the Aurora Center provide to the U of M campus?
We provide prevention education and workshops to students, staff and faculty. Workshops cover a variety of topics including empathy, healthy relationships, empowerment, consent, bystander intervention, peer accountability, and more.
Our staff are also available for consultation regarding questions, policy, processes on campus and off and how to be victim-centered and trauma informed in support of survivors.
How can someone get involved and what opportunities for volunteering are there?
We have between 80-100 active volunteers with Aurora each year. Volunteers complete a 40 hour training offered each spring and become either direct service advocates answering the Helpline and responding to local hospitals for medical forensic exam support, or they become violence prevention educators facilitating workshops across campus. Another opportunity is to complete a 6 hour training in the summer to be a special projects volunteer to answer questions and provide information about Aurora at events throughout the year including Orientation, Welcome Week and more.
How will the funds collected at Fund Aurora help the Aurora Center?
We are wanting to use the funds to support legal assistance for victim/survivors. We currently have a grant with Tubman which provides free legal assistance, however that grant is soon going to be complete and we would like to continue to provide these services for our clients. Also, we are piloting some empowerment self defense courses this spring which we hope to continue moving forward with any funds raised as well. Empowerment self defense goes beyond many traditional self defense courses people often think of utilizing trauma informed practices and approaches, teaching some techniques while also promoting body positivity, boundary awareness and personal advocacy.
Thank you Gavin for answering our questions and working to create a safer campus. Any other information can be found at the Aurora Center website. Strive to k(no)w more and help fund Aurora, Gophers!