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Grant | Web Update

Department of Justice grants money to prevent sexual assault

Published: January 21, 2014, 6:05 pm ET
Collegian Reporter

The U.S. Department of Justice has extended a $499,984 grant to University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University to educate and train students, staff and law enforcement about sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking.

The three-year grant will allow Richmond to work alongside VCU to help prevent sexual violence and increase training for officials who deal with cases of sexual misconduct.

Both campuses have allocated part of the grant to hire a new staff member to help coordinate education, awareness and prevention efforts. Richmond’s newly hired official will start working March 3.

“Everything that we need to do needs to focus on victims and three crimes: sexual assault, dating or domestic violence and stalking,” said Dan Fabian, associate dean of Richmond College and Title IX deputy coordinator. “So [the new official’s] time and energy will go to educating about those issues.”

Part of the new official’s job will be encouraging victims to report cases of sexual misconduct. Underreporting is one of the biggest problems college campuses face in dealing with sexual misconduct, Fabian said.

“We have a good three decades of national statistics when it comes to violence on college campuses,” he said. “And they know 1 in 4 women will be a victim of violence, and 1 in 8 to 1 in 10 men will be a victim.”

The National Victimization of College Women is a comprehensive study regarding sexual violence on college campuses that university officials refer to for research. Kerry Fankhauser, associate dean of Westhampton College and Title IX deputy coordinator, said the study indicated that Richmond should be seeing more reported instances.

“What it really showed us,” Fankhauser said, “is that at a university our size we should anticipate somewhere around 35 to 50 rapes a year and somewhere around 100 to 150 sexual assaults. So we know we need our numbers to increase in every area.”

Fabian said that since his role as associate dean undertook the Title IX duties in 2011, the number of reported cases has gradually increased. Fabian works alongside Fankhauser in dealing with reports of sexual misconduct and encouraging and educating students to report cases.

“Ever since [Fankhauser] and I have been put in this role, we’ve seen the number of reports go way up and that’s a great thing because we know that it’s always gone on,” Fabian said. “So now we’re responding to it. We had 64 reports in the first year, 82 in the second year and 37 so far this year.”

The grant also aims to unify different offices and groups on campus that have interest in prevention efforts but currently work in isolation.

“We already have a mix of prevention, education and awareness efforts on campus, but they’re all so spread out,” Fankhauser said. “One of the major focuses of the hired coordinator will be to bring those together.”

In drafting the proposal for the grant, Fabian and Fankhauser sought out different community members and officials to take part in the project. They organized a 70-person group that will meet quarterly to discuss efforts in the larger Richmond community.

“We’ve created a large community group which represents people like the chiefs of police in Henrico County and chief of police in the city of Richmond to see how we can educate the entire community around these issues and not just our campuses,” Fabian said.

Within the working group, efforts will be divided between four subgroups to look specifically at law enforcement and sexual assault response teams, education and prevention, student services and an assessment group. The assessment group will work to develop campus climate surveys to gather data regarding sexual violence at both Richmond and VCU.

The University Police Department was enlisted during the proposal drafting to solicit community partners and help garner community support.

“Now largely our job will be managing the grant,” said Beth Simonds, assistant chief of campus police, “and making sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to with this grant.”

Part of the funds will be allocated to train law enforcement officers who interact with victims and investigate sexual assault cases.

Fankhauser and Fabian will be leading the project at Richmond and will work with Tammi Slovinsky, sexual assault prevention coordinator at VCU.

Contact reporter Clay Helms at clay.helms@richmond.edu

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