Women’s Center Earns Grant to Expand

A $300,000 grant from the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Violence Against Women Office will help the Women’s Center at the University of Vermont expand campus and community programs to reduce violent crimes against women on campus.

Two years ago, UVM was among 20 institutions out of 120 applicants to receive the initial DOJ grants.

Eight of the originally funded grantees, including UVM, recently received continuation funding.

The overall goal of the grant is to strengthen community response to violence against women through education and advocacy.

Objectives focus on developing and strengthening security, investigation and education strategies to prevent and respond to relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes on campus.

The central component in UVM’s program is the Campus Advocacy Program.

Anne Smith, who was hired as a victims’ advocate through the original DOJ grant, offers confidential support to victims and provides them with information about their medical, legal and counseling options and local resources.

Smith works with campus and community service providers and law enforcement and speaks regularly on campus to make students, staff and faculty aware of advocacy services.

She will collaborate with UVM’s Office of Judicial Affairs to develop training programs for campus disciplinary boards and participate in the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigation’s First Responder Training team.

“It’s hard to feel like part of a community if you don’t feel safe,” said Sharon Snow, director of the UVM Women’s Center.

Recent statistics reflect that one in 20 women are victims of rape or attempted rape on college campuses each year.

Snow said that those statistics are unreliable because many gender-related crimes are never reported.

“We expect the number of reported violent incidents to go up,” she said, “as more women become aware that we offer a safe, reliable place and resources to meet their needs.”

Plans are being developed to reach out to student athletes, Greek Life, ALANA and LGBT members of the campus community and to enhance a centralized response protocol involving university staff, campus and local law enforcement, the Women’s Rape Crisis Center and Women Helping Battered Women.

In addition, a new campus-based Gender Violence Response Team staffed by campus and community members will focus on campus policies and coordinate additional education and prevention services.

That effort includes reframing the concept of gender violence as a societal and community issue with men as equal partners in the solution.

“Our goal is to create a campus culture that has zero tolerance of gender violence and that holds perpetrators responsible,” said Luann Rolley, project director.