The Jordan Center’s Dr. Colleen Lelli and Dr. Filling-Brown receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice

By Angelina Halas
October 19, 2021

There was elation, excitement and even some screaming.

These were the reactions of the director of the Jordan Center, Dr. Colleen Lelli and Associate Provost, Dr. Filling-Brown, when they found out the center was awarded a grant of $290,000 for its work.

“The mission of the Jordan Center is the whole idea to educate others about domestic violence and children affected by trauma and even what trauma is” Lelli said.

Dr. Lelli describes the mission of the Jordan Center as an acronym she came up with, “CAPE.” It stands for collaboration, advocacy, prevention and education. Graphic made on Canva by Angelina Halas.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.”

“Our whole idea is to collaborate with individuals on campus, as well as those off campus to fulfill that mission,” Lelli said. “We also want to advocate and look at preventing and educating others about trauma and domestic violence.”

This grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice and will allow the Jordan Center to implement a developmental approach to learning about these topics as well as support and fund future events they hold. The grant will also help them to engage in more research and the issues that surround the Jordan Center. 

“A number of what we already do, like holding the Domestic Violence Education Symposium, will be able to be funded through this grant, which we host every year in October,” Lelli said.

The eleventh annual Domestic Violence Symposium was held on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Dr. Lelli and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Chioma Ugochukwu, welcomed Barbara and John Jordan to the event.

“Your advocacy for sexual assault is admirable and so needed and appreciated,” Ugochukwu said while standing at a podium in Grace Hall, broadcasting on Zoom.

Despite not being a Cabrini alumni, years ago, the Jordan’s lawyer met the previous president of Cabrini. He told him all about what Cabrini does, like social justice advocacy and their lawyer told him that he has to meet Barbara and Jordan. Since then, they’ve been heavily involved with the university.    

“When we launched the center, it was just called ‘The Center,’” Lelli said. “Barbara and John Jordan were there and since they’ve been so involved in supporting Cabrini, through events and monetarily, Dr. Taylor named the center after them.”

The symposium is held every Oct. because of it being Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Healing Abuse Working for Children reports that about six in every 1,000 students are sexually assaulted on college campuses. It also states that 21 percent of college students report having experienced dating violence by a current partner, and 32 percent report experiencing dating violence by a previous partner.

Sarah Klein, attorney and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and former competitive gymnast who is the first known victim of former Olympic women’s gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, was a guest speaker, sharing her story with those present and those virtual during the symposium.

Klein stood at the podium in Grace Hall to give her speech to those present and those on Zoom. Screenshot captured via Zoom by Angelina Halas.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women and one in 33 men have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports that nationwide, 81 percent  of women and 43 percent  of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.

“I don’t talk about being a victim that often,” Klein said. “I call it a survival story.”

Klein’s goal through her speech is to “blow the stigma surrounding domestic abuse and violence to pieces.”

For three years in a row, the Jordan Center has received around $30,000 from the It’s On Us Pennsylvania grant.

“We wrote our proposal initially to engage athletes with topics of sexual assault and bystander intervention,” Lelli said. “With that, we brought Sarah Klein to campus to speak to the athletes. The student athletes liked her so much that they said that everyone needs to get the chance to hear her story so we were able to bring her back for the symposium.” 

By taking the It’s On Us pledge, it means that the person is a good bystander. It relates to the mission of the Jordan Center by educating others about issues like dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and childhood trauma.

The Official Pennsylvania Government Website states that the pledge is a “statewide campaign that invites everyone to play a role in ending sexual assault.” Screenshot taken from their website by Angelina Halas.

Being able to share grants with Lelli is something Filling-Brown considers an honor.

“We are passionate about this work and it’s what we do, in and outside of Cabrini,” Filling-Brown said. “This is our life’s work and to do it alongside my friend, a woman who I deeply respect, is simply a blessing.”

During her speech, Klein praised Cabrini for being “Proactive, not reactive.”

“We’re going to be doing great work with the Jordan Center. This grant is not only going to allow us to continue that work but elevate it to the next level, which was a vision of mine as the center director,” Lelli said.

“I hope that the Jordan Center can continue its work both supporting our Cabrini campus community and also serving our external community, especially providing professional development opportunities to educators,” Filling-Brown said. “I want the Jordan Center to be known nationally for the work of our faculty affiliates.”

Filling-Brown’s wish of becoming nationally known is starting to come true.

“I’ve been connected with a number of state and national partners that are really proud of what Cabrini University and the Jordan Center is doing,” Lelli said. “Even President Biden knows who we are. I’ve met him a few times and he told me knows who I am and what I do and promote here on campus. We are getting nationally recognized which is amazing.” 

The Jordan Center has been around since 2017 and Lelli recommends that students become involved in events.

“It’s not about finding the center, even though we do have an office. It’s more about the research our mission, t wasn’t about a physical space,” Lelli said. “It’s more about what we’re doing in programming and bringing speakers to the university and having students, faculty and staff get involved in all of our events and learning about our research.” 

If someone sees the Jordan Center is having an event, it’s for everyone to attend. These events are published through email, the Jordan Center’s website and posters across campus. 

“We hope that students engage and come to all of our events,” Lelli said.

If interested in the Jordan Center events, check out their website here

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Angelina Halas

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