Article Written by Lilly Marohn. Photo courtesy of Saint Cloud State University. 

For two years, a St. Cloud State staff member endured relationship and intimate partner violence which she described as the lowest and most challenging moments in her time. She left her abusive partner, went to court, and transferred from University of River Falls, Wis. to St. Cloud State University.

These major transitions in life took a toll on her mental health, impacted her relationships with others, and affected her academic performance. She describes it as an extremely exhausting time in her life.

That staff member, Dana Weinke, took her traumatic experience with intimate partner violence and now helps students who are experiencing similar situations. Weinke now works as a Gender Violence Advocate at the Women’s Center at St. Cloud State University.

While enduring relationship and intimate partner violence, Weinke worked with advocates.

“Advocates showed me a bunch of compassion and were really helpful. They made a really big impact in my life,” said Weinke. “I realized I want to do that someday and help somebody else.”

Through this experience, Weinke realized she wanted to switch her major from Elementary Education to Social Work. Her family members also inspired this change.

“I had family members who experienced homelessness, and addiction struggles, and battled cancer,” said Weinke.

Since the social work field is broad, Weinke liked that there were many different sectors available to work in to support people through struggles.

The St. Cloud State community has a large portion of students who have endured difficult situations. One of which is sexual assault.

“One in three female-identified SCSU students disclosed experiencing sexual assault at some point in their lifetime,” said Weinke. “That’s a lot of students here and a lot of people in the community.”

Weinke is a resource to support students through difficult times. Her experience with abusive situations shaped her understanding and compassion toward students.

“I know how confusing and lonely and debilitating it can be to navigate everything on your own,” said Weinke.

She also enjoys working with college students because she can connect with them easily.

“I was a college student just last year, so I feel like I have a lot of similarities, and I can connect quite easily with college students and at the Women’s Center,” said Weinke.

Weinke helps students navigate a wide variety of unique situations. She meets them at their needs and accommodates to their situation. She said that sometimes that means walking them to the Title IX office or to the Counseling Center. Other times, it means being a confidential person to talk to and someone to validate their emotions and feelings, which can be overwhelming.

“At the Women’s Center, we do our best to make it a really positive experience and a welcoming environment, and we’re super accommodating and flexible,” said Weinke.

Outside of work, Weinke owns two dogs named Scout and Piper. She enjoys going on walks with her dogs, playing tennis, hammocking, being outside, reading and creating art. She is passionate about gender and equity, advocacy, reproductive justice and feminist issues that are going on in the world and locally.

For resources through relationship violence, stalking, sexual assault or more, the Women’s Center office is located in Atwood room 218.

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