By Mackenzie Herring
The Department of Justice’s Office of Violence against Women (OVW) awarded grants to 57 colleges and universities across the country to combat issues related to sexual assault and gender motivated violence on college campuses, and as a first time applicant, Lewis & Clark College received one of the federal grants. The $297,889 awarded to LC will be put towards improving the existing bystander intervention program and spreading awareness about resources available for victims.
As part of the Grants to Enhance Culturally Specific Services for Victims of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program, $18 million dollars was the combined total for all of the 2018 recipients, with LC being the only school in the state of Oregon to be awarded the grant.
The DOJ’s office of Public Affairs announced the grant recipients on Aug. 29. In the release, OVW Acting Director Katharine Sullivan mentioned how important the development of the program is and congratulated all recipients, including new applicants and those that have applied for the grant in the past.
“It is vital to keep our students safe on campuses by supporting programs that take a coordinated community approach to education and prevention of sexual assault on our college and university campuses,” Sullivan said in the press release.
Although the grantees were announced in August, Joe Becker, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications, said that the reason the grant has not been mentioned on the LC website or in the faculty and staff newsletter, the Source, was due to the lengthy process of accepting the grant.
“It wasn’t sort of officially accepted until last week, and until it was it didn’t really make sense to move forward to the story … That’s the only reason,” Becker said.
Associate Director for Health Promotion, Melissa Osmond, said that in addition to the process of accepting the grant, a lot of time went into the grant’s application, in part because of the focus the program has on “external partners.” These partners are intended to be resources that can help the college in its effort to better handle incidents of sexual and gender based violence.
“As a small campus, and a campus that doesn’t have sworn law officers, we are required to partner with a local law enforcement agency, and a second external partner requirement is a victim service agency,” Osmond said. “We chose the Portland Police Bureau because we already had a relationship with them, and Collins Safety because we have already worked with them in the past.”
The program requires all applicants to have training programs for campus safety and disciplinary personnel and resources for victims already in place.
“(There are) certain requirements for intervention and education training for students that are coming in and certain requirements for victim services and for people who have been affected by sexual assault and other gender based violence. So what they look for is that we hit all of those points and we have a plan in place to identify where we are doing those things and where we might have areas of improvement on those things.”
With the grant money, LC plans on strengthening their bystander intervention program and hiring a project coordinator to assist with the planning process and implementation of other instituted changes. Osmond has already been working on the bystander program by increasing the number of advocates.
“Over the summer I recruited and trained nine new sexual assault advocates who in the next week or two will be live on the website and available to meet with students who experience unwanted sexual situations,” Osmond said.
Charlie Ahlquist, Assistant Dean of Student Rights and Responsibilities, hopes that the program will raise awareness of available resources and what is classified as harmful and inappropriate behavior.
“One of my hopes is that by rolling out a broader bystander intervention program, beyond what we are already doing beyond the Pioneer Success Institute, there will be an increased awareness among the student body about how0apply for this grant and end up not receiving it, Ahlquist said that he is thrilled that LC was one of the few recipients.
“It’s exciting that we were able to put together the pieces and it will be awesome to see how it does end up impacting our community,” Ahlquist said.