Lily Rose Lee (Formerly Michelle Knight)

As one of the women who escaped from the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro after 11 years of captivity, torture and abuse, Michelle Knight has risen out of darkness and trauma to captivate audiences around the world with her incredible story of heroism, survival and healing. Speaking honestly about her experiences, she imparts valuable lessons for other survivors, sharing invaluable takeaways for those who work with victims of trauma and abuse.

Choosing a new name for her new life, Knight, who is also known as Lily Rose Lee, is an international and New York Times best-selling author. Her first memoir of the Cleveland kidnappings, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed, tells the riveting details of what happened inside Ariel Castro’s home and also shares her tumultuous childhood. Her new book about life after her escape, Life After Darkness: Finding Healing and Happiness After the Cleveland Kidnappings comes out on the heels of the five year anniversary of reclaiming her life. It shares her inspiring journey to finding true friendship, healing, happiness and a life’s purpose advocating for victims of trauma and abuse. Knight and her story have been featured on Dr. Phil, The Today Show, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek and People, among others.

A captivating speaker who shines in a moderated conversation format, Knight has appeared before audiences ranging from survivors and community groups to professional organizations in mental health, trauma survivorship, social services, and law enforcement. Committed to being a strong voice for victims, her unforgettable story and inspiring message continue to touch lives and make a positive impact around the world.

Grahm Coder

Special Agent Coder is currently serving as an FBI Agent assigned to a Violent Crimes squad. SA Coder has been a criminal investigations Special Agent his entire career and has investigated cases to include Mexican Cartel Drug Trafficking, Domestic Terrorism, Crimes against Children/Missing persons, and Violent Crimes/Fugitives. SA Coder has been the recipient of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) “Task Force of the Year” Award during two separate years, and has been nominated for the DOJ “Attorney General’s Award” and the FBI’s “Director’s Award” for his role as Lead Case Agent during a Domestic Terrorism investigation related to an assassination attempt on the Nederland, Colorado Police Department in October of 2016.

SA Coder is recently known for his work as the lead Case Agent for the FBI during the 2018 Christopher Watts quadruple homicide case. In August of 2018 Christopher Watts murdered his pregnant wife Shannan and their two daughters Bella (4) and Celeste “Cici” (3) via strangulation with his bare hands. Watts disposed of his wife in a shallow grave in rural eastern Colorado, and dumped the bodies of his children in a nearby oil refinery tank where he worked. Watts was found to have been involved in a sexual affair with a co-worker, and killed his entire family in order to pursue his illicit affair. SA Coder (FBI) and SA Lee from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted a two day interrogation of Watts and obtained a full confession to include the locations of his pregnant wife Shannan, and their daughters Bella and Celeste.

Anna Nasset

Anna’s story begins as she was living her dream as a well-regarded gallery owner in the small coastal town of Port Townsend, WA. In late 2011 she became aware of man that was stalking her. Almost immediately, her life and business began to unravel, and as time wore on the psychological drain and real-life fear for safety became too much.

In 2013, Anna had to make the gutting decision to close the gallery. She swore she would never own another business again as she stared at her piles of debt. In 2015, traumatized, terrified and humiliated from the experience; coupled with the loss of her father, she quietly escaped to the hills of Vermont.

​It was there that she found safety, support, and healing by working with therapists and a victim services agency in Washington and Vermont. She admired her support team and felt herself longing to move into the field of victim services. Wanting to be a catalyst for change, Anna decided to offer her graphic and web design for victim service agencies.

She was one of very few people who were able to step forward and safely share the harrowing experience of being stalked for a decade. With help of the criminal justice system and prosecution, Anna successfully closed her case and her stalker was imprisoned receiving one of the longest sentences (10 years) in our nations history. Her story no longer needed to be tucked into the shadows; she could speak, strongly, clearly and with captivation to help others find freedom from stalking.

​Stand Up Resources (SUR) has grown out of the deepest loss and trauma; and at the heart it’s mission is to serve victim service providers, first responders, the military, and universities by offering expertise in the areas of stalking, sexual assault, suicide prevention, bystander prevention, and best practices.

Chris White

Chris was born and raised in the Sioux City Area. After graduating from South Sioux City High School, Chris attended the University of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and political science. Chris played quarterback and wide receiver for the Cougar football team. Chris went on to receive his law degree from the University of South Dakota School of Law.

After law school Chris joined a law firm in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he primarily practiced civil litigation. In 2016, Chris was elected as the Brown County State’s Attorney in Aberdeen. During his time at the Brown County State’s Attorney’s Office, Chris successfully prosecuted several homicide cases. Chris also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the District of South Dakota.

Chris is licensed to practice law in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Chris now resides outside of Jackson, Nebraska with his wife and four children. When not working, Chris enjoys spending time with his family outdoors, archery hunting, and watching college football.

Jodi Brown

Jodi Brown was a Special Prosecutor for the Brown County State’s Attorney’s Office for twelve years. During that time she specialized in the prosecution of crimes of family violence. Jodi handled roughly 4,000 cases involving family violence during her time as a Special Prosecutor. Jodi continues to assist victims of family violence and continues to advocate for strict prosecution of family violence. Jodi is very passionate about the prosecution of domestic violence and the protection and involvement of victims/survivors of domestic violence. Jodi was awarded the “You Make a difference” award from Safe Harbor in 2007 and the Volunteer of the Year award from Safe Harbor in 2010.

Jodi graduated from Northern State University in 1998 with honors and with a degree in criminology and sociology. Jodi then went on to get her Juris Doctorate from the University of South Dakota School of Law in 2002. Jodi continues to be in private practice wherein she specializes in family law cases. Jodi has also been awarded the divorce attorney of the year in 2020 and 2021 from the Aberdeen American News.

Sara Vedvei

Sara is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) who earned her Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Science with an emphasis in Couple and Family Therapy from North Dakota State University.

Sara has had many roles within the mental health field over the past eleven years, starting with her work as a Volunteer Advocate for the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo, ND. In the past six years as a licensed clinician, Sara has worked directly with children, couples, and families providing individual and relational therapy services to address a wide range of issues, including trauma, complex trauma, and traumatic grief. Sara’s work has also included providing therapy services to children and adolescents at two rural school districts in the Fargo area and collaborating with school personnel on how to conceptualize emotional and behavioral difficulties in the school setting through a trauma-informed lens. Sara has specialized training in trauma/traumatic grief work with children, adolescents, and their families, including the assessment and treatment of children in the birth to 5 population, and is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Sara is also certified in Critical Incident Stress Management services.
As a clinician, Sara seeks to honor clients’ life experiences and the individual, relational, and societal dynamics that impact their lives while empowering them to make changes for healing.

Honorable Circuit Court Judge Tony Portra

Tony Portra grew up in Aberdeen, graduating from Aberdeen Central in 1987. After high school, he attended Moorhead State University in Moorhead, MN where he graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance. He then attended Law School at University of South Dakota, graduating in 1994.

After brief stints at the South Dakota Attorney General’s office and in private practice, he took the bench in March 1999 as a magistrate judge. Tony was then elected to the circuit bench in 2006 and was re-elected in 2014. He is currently running unopposed for re-election this year.

His wife of 31 years, Jamie, is a speech language pathologist at Mike Miller Elementary, part of the Aberdeen Public School District. Tony and Jamie have two children, Jake (28) and Andie (26). Jake works in the computer field in Minneapolis, MN and Andie is a 3rd grade teacher in Tucson, AZ.

Gina Karst

Gina has been the Executive Director of Safe Harbor, a women’s shelter in Aberdeen, South Dakota, since December 2009. Gina is passionate about advocacy, education, and providing awareness and prevention for victim/survivors of violence. As the Executive Director of Safe Harbor, in addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations to ensure victim/survivor needs are being met. Gina also handles the more technical aspects of a non-profit through grant writing, evaluations, budgets, and public speaking. Gina served on the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault (The Network) Executive Committee for 7 years, two years as President. In her time at Safe Harbor she has worked with many victims/survivors of violence within the organization’s service area, as well as advocated for them in Pierre during the legislative session. Gina is proud to be working with the NESD Family Violence Prevention Conference to bring educational speakers, networking, and more to the region.

Jay Marchand

Jay Marchand, MSW, CSW-PIP, received his bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, SD and his Master of Social Work from the University of South Dakota.
Jay has worked in various domains of the social work profession for 14 years and started his career with LSS Re-Entry Services in 2012 as a case manager for fathers re-entering their communities from the South Dakota prison system; eventually being named Director in 2018. Through his role as Director, Jay oversees programming in Sioux Falls, Yankton, Springfield, Pierre and Rapid City for men and women involved in the criminal justice system. Re-Entry Services programming includes trauma informed care, corrective thinking, re-entry support, employment training, abusive partner assessments and abusive partner group work.

Jay and his staff at Re-Entry Services have created a holistic intervention model for offenders of domestic violence relying on strong partnerships with community, correctional and judicial stakeholders to attempt to break the cycle of domestic violence in their client’s lives.