Department Officials Visit Campuses to Raise Awareness On Violence Against Women
By Tracy Russo
On campuses, students face unique challenges. A victim of dating violence, domestic violence, or sexual assault may continue to live in danger if the perpetrator resides in the same dormitory or attends the same classes. On smaller campuses, a victim may wish to remain anonymous but may find this to be virtually impossible in such a small environment.
Similarly, stalking victims may find it difficult to escape their tormentors, because the stalker may have a seemingly “legitimate” reason for remaining in contact with or in proximity to the victim, like studying in the library. The fear and anguish suffered by rape victims may continue if they attend the same classes or live in the same dormitory as the perpetrator.
We know that when young people witness or are victims of violence, they pay the price for many years to come. That is why this month, nine department leaders will visit 11 college campuses across the country to meet with students and faculty to discuss how to fight sexual and intimate partner violence on campus, and to train young people about how to prevent and report this type of activity. The campus tour is part of a year-long campaign by the Department of Justice to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.
Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli kicked off the tour on Monday, March 8 at Harvard University. Later in the week, Assistant Attorney General Tony West participated in awareness events at Stanford University and Pacific Lutheran University, and Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno spoke at University of Illinois- Chicago.
Associate Attorney General Perrelli noted:
“Violence against women and children is an issue where I believe that we are at a critical point to make a real and significant difference. Intimate partner and sexual violence can be found on college campuses across this nation. None of us are above the reality of this issue, and it is incumbent upon all of us to stand up and take responsibility. We are committed to working with federal, state, local, tribal and campus partners to ensure that all communities are given the resources and support they need.”
Since its inception 15 years ago, the Justice Department, through the Office on Violence Against Women, has awarded over $4 billion in grants to provide communities with resources to address sexual assault and violence against women. For 2011, President Obama requested over $460 million be allocated for this purpose.
Many of the campuses that were part of the tour have demonstrated a strong commitment to ending this type of violence. At Stanford University they are working with non-profit, non-governmental partners including the Silicon Valley YWCA Rape Crisis Center, and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office, as well as bolstering victim assistance services, support and advocacy. Together, students and campus leaders make a critical difference in collective efforts to end intimate partner and sexual violence.
Pacific Lutheran University, a faith-based institution, runs a program called “Voices Against Violence” that has assisted over 100 victims of sexual relationship or stalking violence and has become a model initiative. They work with non-profit agencies and non-governmental partners like the Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County, Wash., and collaborate with criminal justice partners like the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and Prosecutor’s office. These partnerships help to bolster victim assistance services, support and advocacy; and enhance education and prevention programs around the campus.
Advocates at the University of Illinois-Chicago are working on increasing awareness of violent crimes against women and helping to decrease barriers to accessing services. They are working to create a coordinated response that includes medical and emergency room care, and makes sure that campus administrators, campus police, judicial board members and housing staff are trained to effectively handle violent crimes against women, especially for underrepresented groups. These efforts create a sense of community as students and faculty participate in campus-wide anti-violence campaigns, and fosters a safe environment for students to purse their academic goals.
(To read original article, visit this Department of Justice link.)