Cullen is first male to intern at CAASA


Stephanie Steiner

Stephanie Steiner | Arts & Life Co-Editor

This semester, Mark Cullen, a senior Social Work major at Buena Vista University (BVU), has been interning at the Center Against Abuse and Sexual Assault (CAASA) in Spencer, Iowa.

Even though his exposure has been minimal, this has been a unique experience for Cullen. It has really opened his eyes, affecting him more on a personal level than a professional level.

“I have become extremely aware of how oppressed victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are. I am definitely learning,” Cullen said. “As an intern at CAASA, I have had the opportunity to work one-on-one with a client during a crisis. The majority of my work at CAASA thus far has been on a macro level. I am teaming up with a class on campus in producing an outreach activity, a 5K, to promote awareness of sexual assault.”

Cullen is getting half of his required semester hours from CAASA and the other half from the Juvenile Court Services of Buena Vista County. Although his experience with direct client work at CAASA has been slim, Cullen brings a whole new perspective to the organization simply by being a male.

“What CAASA does is within a very female dominant area. I believe the reason for that is because too much of society, especially males, are blind to the fact that sexual assault and violence is taken so lightly yet today. During my time at CAASA, I hope to open up the eyes of many males and inspire both male and female students to stand up for what is right no matter how uncomfortable the subject may be. For too long, society has blamed victims for sexual assault and not placed responsibility where it is needed,” Cullen said.

Kathryn McKinley, the Director of the Social Work Program and Associate Professor of Social Work at BVU, has played a major role in preparing Cullen for the area of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“The Social Work Program has classes in the areas of practice, policy, research, and theory. After students take Intro to Social Work, if they are a Social Work major, they are required to take a three-week observation course during January. I think that experience is really key to then get them ready for that senior internship because it makes students realize what real life is about in social service agencies,” McKinley said.

McKinley is excited about this particular internship because of its opportunity to open new pathways for the industry.

“Of course, we [workers in domestic violence] want to protect victims of all sexes. We are also needing to be doing a better job than we’ve been doing in terms of educating men about what the issues of domestic violence are,” McKinley said. “Having a male intern presents a very different picture to young men about for whom this is really an important issue.”

Attention has been brought to this issue on BVU’s campus lately, and Cullen realizes more than ever the significance of what he is doing and working toward.

“With the recent activity that has been brought to light at BVU regarding sexual assault, I believe it is more important than ever that we as a student body make it known that accountability for these offenses are held. My ultimate goal is to inspire more men to stand up protecting and advocating for victims of sexual assault and violence,” Cullen said.

Photo courtesy of Mark Cullen