Skip to main content

USD Medical School and Partners Win Grant to Expand Services to Prevent Sexual Assault in Western South Dakota

Bridget Diamond-Welch standing outside near Old Main. Bridget Diamond-Welch, PH.D., a research scientist in the USD medical school said the grant will help prepare professionals if the oil pipeline and camps are built and if services are needed.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault (The Network) and a collection of partners have been awarded a $1.3 million grant to expand services related to preventing and responding to sexual assault and sex trafficking in rural, western South Dakota.

Bridget Diamond-Welch, Ph.D., a research scientist for the USD Sanford School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine, said the impetus for the grant is the anticipated arrival of workers to rural and remote areas of South Dakota to build the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“The development of so-called ‘man-camps’ along the route of the pipeline and during its construction will deliver thousands of workers to western South Dakota,” said Diamond-Welch. “These sorts of projects have caused a rise in sexual assaults and sex trafficking in other states. Right now, medical facilities and expert counseling and response for victims of sexual assault, trafficking and other related problems are not conveniently available along the pipeline route in western South Dakota. We want to be prepared if the oil pipeline and those camps are built and if services are needed.”

According to Diamond-Welch, Native American reservations and rural areas are already stretched thin as they work to meet the needs of victims, including Indigenous people.

“We are really excited to work with our state and tribal partners with this grant funding to provide Native American sexual assault survivors in the pipeline area with access to sexual assault services and trauma-informed and patient-centered sexual assault forensic-medical exams,” said Krista Heeren-Graber, executive director of The Network.

Specific objectives of the grant will be to expand counseling, safety planning, legal and victim advocacy and trauma-informed and patient-centered sexual assault forensic-medical exams. Specially trained advocates and experts will be hired as part of the grant.

Key on-the-ground members of The Network participating in the expansion of services are Communities Against Violence and Abuse (Lemmon, South Dakota), Missouri Shores DV Center (Pierre, South Dakota), Missouri Valley Crisis Center (Chamberlain, South Dakota), Sacred Heart Center (Eagle Butte, South Dakota), Sacred Shawl Society (Martin, South Dakota), Victims of Violence Intervention Program (Spearfish, South Dakota), White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society (Mission, South Dakota), Winyan Wicayunihan Oyanke/Where all Women are Honored (Rapid City, South Dakota), and the Winner Resource Center (Winner, South Dakota).

The grant will be administered by The Network and funding will cover three years of effort.


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News