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April 8, 2015

Laura Swanson: Creating Change

April 8, 2015

Media and information senior Laura Swanson is one of only two students across the nation to receive last year’s $1,800 iAspire Grant, a national award for students who are working to affect change on the issue of sexual violence on college campuses. As a recipient of the award, Swanson was flown to Los Angeles to appear on the nationally syndicated “Dr. Phil Show.”

Swanson was part of a team of College of Communication Arts and Sciences students who produced a documentary, titled “Every Two Minutes,” that features the stories of 17 sexual assault survivors who break their silence to bring a face to the victims of this crime in an effort to empower others. The film also includes interviews with therapists, nurses, police and sexual assault advocates.

The iAspire Grant Initiative is a partnership between When Georgia Smiled: The Robin McGraw Revelation Foundation, Students of the World and Pivot TV. Grant recipients can use the funds for programs, resources and other educational endeavors.

“Receiving the grant just made me realize that I’m taking it one step further that I am going to be able to create an even bigger change than I already set forth,” said Swanson, who plans to use the money to make an extended cut of “Every Two Minutes” to include more information and stories from the featured survivors. She also would like to screen the documentary at universities across the nation and to study what those schools are doing to prevent sexual assault.

During Swanson’s appearance on the “Dr. Phil Show,” which aired Dec. 15, 2014 she shared why she became involved with this issue.

“The issue of sexual assault is very personal for me because I have been assaulted. The experience effected my self esteem and my self worth and it really made me question why I was expected to be shamed,” Swanson said. “The turning point that made me really want to get involved in this issue was when a friend disclosed her story to me. I realized that this is so common; this has happened to so many people.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 237,868 Americans are sexually assaulted each year, or about one assault for every two minutes of the year, with 60 percent of sexual assaults going unreported and 97 percent of sexual perpetrators going unpunished.

Swanson is actively involved in helping other victims of sexual assault and is member of the MSU Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention team. She also was coordinator of the Lansing Take Back the Night event and is an advocate for the Firecracker Foundation, an organization that helps sexually abused children.

But she says the most important thing she has ever done involving the issue of sexual assault has been the production of “Every Two Minutes.” Released last spring, the documentary was highlighted at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival.

Swanson, who produced and served on the film’s production crew, also is one of the sexual assault survivors featured in the documentary. She says that in asking others to talk about their experiences she wanted to share her story too.

“I want people to know that it’s really difficult for people to come forward with the way our society sees sexual assault. It puts a lot of shame on it,” Swanson said. “And, I want them to just think about what they would want to hear if they were to experience this and if they were to disclose this to another person.”

Reprinted with permission from College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Photo by Anthony Cepak, College of Communication Arts and Sciences