Margaret Campe, the new director of the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center, has led a professional and academic career focused on anti-violence, from her research in feminist criminology to working in violence intervention and prevention on college campuses. At UNLV, Campe says she is determined to raise awareness of the services and resources at the center and help all students, staff, and faculty — regardless of identity or status — who are survivors of domestic, sexual, or family violence find a path toward resilience and healing.
What attracted you to UNLV?
My on-campus interview. The staff at the center had created a very intentional space, and expressed goals for the office that aligned with my own aspirations and values. I was also excited about the opportunity to work at one of the most diverse campuses in the nation. Often, on campuses and in communities we see services that are developed from a privileged vantage point that overlook the experiences of individuals or groups that are marginalized. During my interview, I heard earnest conversations about increasing accessibility and services so the needs of the students, faculty, and staff were being met. We discussed what assessments were needed to find out which programs are working, and where there are gaps in the services we provide.
You’ve been in Las Vegas just a short time. How have you coped with your transition without having stepped on campus?
I arrived in Las Vegas on March 26, and my official start date was March 31. The transition has certainly been an interesting one. Everyone at Student Wellness and all the center’s staff have created a warm, welcoming, and collaborative environment, despite having only had contact with folks virtually. Certainly, I look forward to being able to get onto campus and interact with my colleagues in person, but all things considered, it has been pretty smooth.
What did you do prior to joining UNLV?
I was working at the University of Kentucky as a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Research on Violence Against Women and most recently as a research manager for the sociology department.
UNLV is among the country’s most diverse campuses. How does that influence the type of services and programs necessary for the center?
We approach violence intervention and prevention from an intersectional perspective. We understand that students’ identity characteristics influence the way they experience violence and the ways in which they heal from trauma. In order to do anti-violence work, we need to view the work from an anti-oppression lens. This means respecting that survivors are the experts in their own lives. We need to listen to and empower them. This may include things like financial coaching, partnering with the Disability Resources Center to provide accommodations or the office of student conduct, making referrals to behavioral health, Student Health, CAPS, or referrals to legal resources, such as the UNLV Immigration Clinic. We also provide students with resources on different ways of approaching healing modalities, recognizing that for many, traditional resources or systems may not meet their needs.
Tell us about the Student’s Guide to Radical Healing.
We wanted to create an easily accessible resource that validates the experience of survivors and can guide them toward a path of resilience and self-discovery. With the latest research on trauma and neuroscience, we believe that everyone has an innate capacity to heal from trauma. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and it is an ongoing process that requires different tools that can help them move beyond the impacts of trauma. No matter where survivors are in their journey, we want this magazine to remind them that they are not alone, it is not their fault, all feelings are valid, and our office is here to support them.
What are your concerns with people forced to spend more time at home?
My biggest concern for our students, and really the whole community, would have to be the potential risk for increased exposure to family or interpersonal violence. The social distancing and quarantine are needed, but in a home where violence is prevalent, these circumstances can exacerbate or escalate the violence at a time when alternative living arrangements, as well as community and financial resources, are stretched thin.
Across the state, there were more than 42,000 victims of domestic and sexual violence, and only 10,668 reported contacts by those victims to law enforcement, and about 8,000 temporary protection orders prepared. What do the numbers tell us about what UNLV students might be experiencing?
Research has established quite thoroughly that instances of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and family violence more broadly are under-reported. There are a lot of different dynamics that go into a person’s decision to report their experiences of violence, and if they do report, to whom. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by the disproportionately lower number of reports to police compared with the number of victims. It does speak to the need to continually be evaluating our community (campus or otherwise) response to violence and examining ways to improve community and systemic responses.
What inspired you to do this work?
I was a volunteer hospital advocate and hotline advocate in Duluth, Minnesota, where I worked with the sexual assault response team and the sexual assault nurse examiner. That’s where I found an alarming amount of victim-blaming for students by their peer groups, families, and even within the system. I realized then that just working with victims wasn’t going to be enough.
What is your vision for the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center?
First, we want to make sure that students, staff, and faculty understand that the center serves all students regardless of identity or status. We’re exploring new ways to inform the campus community of our mission and the services we provide. We also have a goal to be the national leader in campus violence prevention and intervention. We need to be able to articulate the effectiveness of our programming empirically, so we are also looking forward to implementing a rigorous assessment of the services we provide. We want to expand services focused on healing from trauma that are evidence-based and continue to grow our CARE Advocate program. I am looking forward to building on existing relationships and partnerships and to working collaboratively with other campus and community agencies that are committed to the prevention and intervention of interpersonal and systemic violence.
What is the most important message you would like to share with the community?
Although campus has mostly transitioned to online courses and remote work for most of the faculty and staff, our services are still available via our 24/7 crisis line, (702) 895-0602.