The Violence Awareness and Response Program is resuming its Brave Hearts discussions this week, shining a light on the underrepresented communities and unspoken problems beneath the surface in Mankato, both on and off campus.
This year’s discussion speaker is graduate student BriShaun Kearns. Kearns, originally a student from Winona State University, transferred to Minnesota State University, Mankato this year, and began speaking at these events in early October.
The Brave Hearts discussions, occurring every other Thursday in Ostrander Auditorium, speak about problems going on in the lives of students.
The month of October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so the last two discussions have been about domestic violence as it pertains to students, and what it does or doesn’t look like.
“A lot of people think it’s something that it’s not. It can happen with roommates, elderly people, children… talking about it totally recontextualizes everything,” Kearns said.
A significant focus of the last two discussions, as well as future talks, however, has been the mistreatment of Native American and Indigenous peoples. Mankato has had its fair share of history regarding systemic inequality toward Indigenous people, specifically the Dakota and Winnebago peoples.
History was made just down the street in Mankato, on Riverfront Drive, where 38 members of the Dakota tribe were unjustly hung in 1862, becoming the largest mass execution in US History.
Giving visibility to the unjust treatment of Native American people, even to this day, is one of the reasons behind Kearns’ hosting of these discussions.
“It’s the reality of the world. Half of Native women will experience domestic violence, and four out of five Native women will be sex trafficked in their lives. I personally know multiple people in my life growing up who experienced sex trafficking. So we hope to educate people,” Kearns said.
Kearns believes that the underrepresentation of these issues and the lack of conversations surrounding them only contributes to the problem.
“People do think that this isn’t a real thing that happens. They think it’s one of those things that happens only in the movies. I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘It’s not really that bad.’ I want people to come and share the knowledge… feel heard, and feel understood,” Kearns said.
Although there’s only been one discussion so far, the reviews have already been coming back positive. Kearns likes to keep the discussions open and interactive; a big component of that is asking for feedback from members of the audience.
The last discussion, centered around domestic violence and the many shapes it can present itself in, was particularly helpful.
“I asked them if this was a new thing for them to hear, and people were like ‘It is new!’ Lots of folks did share that it was helpful to hear. It can be really scary to go through that stuff by yourself,” Kearns said.
Kearns wants everyone attending the discussions to know that they aren’t alone.
“There are specific hotlines for people experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence, and we have a lot of connections to the community here with CADA, the Committee Against Domestic Abuse. You can always ask for help,” Kearn said.
Write to Joey Erickson at email@example.com