Dr. Emily Bonistall Postel

Written by Jen Straniero '18

At the University of Kentucky’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women, Dr. Emily Bonistall Postel directs her passion for ending sexual assault to researching populations often understudied when it comes to violence on college campuses -  graduate and international students. For her efforts as an activist and educator, she has won numerous awards, including being named an “Advocate for Change” by the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and a “Teacher Who Made A Difference” by UK’s College of Education.

Her passion for advocacy arose from tragedy - when Dr. Bonistall Postel was a senior in high school, her cousin Lindsey, then a sophomore at the University of Delaware, was raped and murdered. “When Lindsey was killed, it completely shattered the bubble of safety I grew up in,” she recalls.

Through college, Dr. Bonistall Postel frequented self-defense courses as a way to grieve the loss of Lindsey. But it wasn’t until took a philosophy of women course taught by Dr. Rebecca Whisnant that something clicked. “In class, we read about secondary victimization, she shares, “and it spoke to my experience in such a way that it validated my own experiences.” She immediately changed her major to sociology and women’s and gender studies. Finally, she had found a niche of education that felt right for her to pursue, and something that would make Lindsey proud.

Determined to share this knowledge with the campus community, Bonistall Postel and her friend Emi Hurlburt became the first all-female ticket to win the Student Government Association (SGA) presidential election in 2008. Her position gave her a larger platform to pursue her vision of bringing a better, more effective sexual assault prevention workshop to campus. “The current presentation just wasn’t landing with students,” she shares, “and I wanted to do what I could to make sure what happened to Lindsey did not happen to anyone else.”

In the summer of 2008, funded by the University and with the support of Chris Schramm, Bonistall Postel traveled to Kentucky where she was trained by Dr. Dorothy Edwards, founder of the Green Dot Bystander Intervention Program. That fall, she gave the first Green Dot presentations to nearly 1,400 first-year incoming students. While the presentations were well-received, the university didn’t have the funds to adopt it more widely.

Five years after her 2009 graduation, Green Dot was officially launched on UD’s campus, and is now a fundamental part of the campus experience.