DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWL) — After an Instagram account detailed anonymous accounts of sexual violence at Dubuque schools, the district is working with students to raise awareness. According to the district, they are working with the student behind the account to help raise awareness of the district’s own reporting process for sexual violence.
The district first became aware of the account just over two weeks ago, following a walkout staged by the student behind the Instagram account. District staff have been in contact with this student ever since.
“We’re always looking to improve and that’s a very good thing that came out of the meeting we had with the student,” said Mimi Holesinger. “We talked about the posters we currently have in all schools advertising our online reporting option and our anonymous reporting option.”
Mimi Holesinger leads the Dubuque Community School District’s reporting process, called Title IX. Holesinger says that in meetings with the student, they recommended changing the current poster format to make it easier to read. Additionally, the student asked the district to attach a QR code that would direct students directly to the district’s reporting website.
It’s not just a local problem, according to a report by the US Department of Education, reports of sexual violence increased by 55% in K-12 schools between 2016 and 2019.
Gwen Bramlet-Hecker is the co-director of a nonprofit called Riverview Center that provides support and services to victims of sexual violence in northeast Iowa. She says the best way to prevent sexual assault or harassment is to start educating children early.
“There is age-appropriate content to start teaching the dynamics, not necessarily of sexual violence, but of a life without sexual violence starting in kindergarten,” Bramlett-Hecker said.
According to Bramlett-Hecker, teachers and parents need to work together to educate students about things like consent and healthy relationships, but it needs to be a long-term effort.
“If you haven’t worked to build trust with your students, that you’re a safe place, that you’re a believable place, that you’re a place that really cares about them,” she said , “so starting to talk to them about healthy relationships isn’t going to fly.”
The Dubuque Community School District formed a group of students and staff this week with the student who created the Instagram account. The group is studying how the high school raises awareness about sexual violence, but they hope to bring this idea to more schools. Dubuque Community Schools is also working to create video tutorials to show students how to use the school district’s online reporting site.
The majority of anonymous stories on the Instagram account were deleted earlier this week, but according to Dubuque police, two police reports were filed last Friday regarding stories from the account.