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SMC receives grant to promote an end to sexual violence

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault (INCASA) awarded the Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) and the Office of Student Involvement and Multicultural Services (SIMS) a $10,000 grant.

Revenue generated from the sale of End Violence Together specialty license plates funded the grant. The license plates were a collaborative design developed by INCASA and the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, director of BAVO Connie Adams said.

“The purpose was to generate a new means of funding to support response and prevention efforts of sexual assault,” Adams said. “These license plates also help raise awareness of this important issue throughout the state.”

Stephanie Steward-Bridges, director of SIMS, and Adams worked together to write a proposal for the grant, which was established in 2010, assistant director of SIMS Graci Martsching, said.

As one of the first recipients of the grant, BAVO and SIMS intend to use the money to continue to educate Saint Mary’s students on sexual violence prevention, director of media relations Gwen O’Brien, said.

The grant is particularly remarkable because state-funded programs that focus on sexual assault are scarce due to government budget cuts, Adams said.

“Funding for primary prevention sexual assault programs is limited and has traditionally been utilized by community-based organizations,” Adams said. “In addition, there have been funding cuts in recent years.”

As rare as government-funded sexual assault prevention programs are, the grant was given to SMC just as sexual assault is gaining more visibility in the United States political sphere, Adams said.

“Partnering with our state coalition is particularly unique and beneficial,” Adams said. “Our partnership comes at an ideal time, as the federal government begins to further assess and understand sexual assault on college campuses across the country. In January, President Obama launched a task force to address sexual assault on college campuses.”

Adams said she believes Saint Mary’s deserves the grant because of the comprehensive history it has in addressing sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. This track record has always relied on a united approach rather than independent operations, Adams said.

“We know that to truly reduce violence and fully support those impacted, we must work together,” Adams said. “Success is dependent on everyone, not a dedicated office or through one good policy, although both of these help. Our collaboration and the deep investment of our students make Saint Mary’s a worthy grantee.”

The director of BAVO has many plans for the grant, according to Adams.

“This funding through INCASA is dedicated toward research to enhance future primary prevention programming,” Adams said. “First, we will be implementing the CORE Survey, a national survey which assesses student attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors related to alcohol. … Second, we will implement focus groups and surveys to gather feedback of current programming. Third, we will gather information from evidence-based research and peer institutions to review current programming methods.”

Once the results are in, BAVO and SIMS will use leftover funds to hire a student intern to assist with the efforts, O’Brien said. The outcome will not only influence how assault is addressed within the smaller college community, but also how it is dealt with across the country, Adams said.

“We have nearly 50 students involved with BAVO in various capacities helping to develop, implement and assess programming,” Adams said. “These students, particularly members of the Student Advisory Committee, are given the opportunity to develop valuable leadership skills while significantly contributing to the greater good of our campus community. We hope the new internship position offers the same opportunity.”

A comprehensive examination of students’ experiences and attitudes will have the greatest chance of reducing violence, Adams said. These assessments will help activists identify the unique relationship between alcohol and sexual violence on college campuses, Adams said.

“While often addressing sexual violence is often associated with BAVO, it is critical for any campus community to have an effort stemming from all departments,” Adams said. “SIMS has offered some excellent programming related to risk reduction and promoting bystander intervention and has been a strong supporter of BAVO’s efforts. This is a great opportunity to deepen this partnership.”

Martsching said BAVO’s Green Dot training fit perfectly with INCASA’s goals, but SIMS involvement, although equally important, was less obvious. The assistant director of SIMS said the correlation between alcohol and abuse was the reason SIMS played a necessary role in the joint initiative.

“The reason why SIMS is a part of this is because we have been doing some programming to support healthy drinking habits and being safe while out,” Martsching said.

In the past year at Saint Mary’s tailgates, SIMS handed out water bottles with BAVO’s Belle Code attached, Martsching said.

“We also passed out safety cards with Security’s number, taxis’ numbers and safety hotlines,” Martsching said.

The INCASA grant is not the only, nor the largest, grant Saint Mary’s has received addressing this particularly gendered issue.

“This is the second largest grant the College has received to address sexual violence,” O’Brien said. “The largest grant came from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women’s campus program in the fall of 2009 to start BAVO, which opened in the spring of 2010.”

Adam’s said the grant will help BAVO and SIMS learn about the programming Saint Mary’s already has in place and how to enhance and implement new initiatives.

“It is our hope that experiences of violence will decrease and our students will be further empowered,” Adams said. “These aims certainly echo the College’s mission and allow us to continue to assess our response to the complex needs of our community and world.”


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