NEW ALBANY — IU Southeast was recently awarded a $300,000 federal grant to help bolster the campus' sexual violence prevention efforts — an award school officials say will go a long way to strengthening the already fairly safe campus.

The school was notified last week that it was the recipient of the award from the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women. Funds are expected in October and will help develop and sustain the school's Reduce Sexual Violence and Stalking Project over the next three years.

IU Southeast was the only school in Indiana to receive the award; through an internal process, the campus was selected among seven IU campuses to move forward with the application. IU Bloomington had recently received a similar state award.

“It's a big deal for IUS to get a $300,000 federal grant to help with a concrete national issue — sexual violence and stalking,” IUS Chancellor Ray Wallace said.

THE CAMPUS CLIMATE

A March 2016 IU Southeast Campus Climate Survey with 669 participants or about 12 percent of the population, showed that 6 percent of both men and women thought sexual misconduct was an issues on the campus. Of the participants, 71 percent identified as female and 29 percent identified as male.

Of the female undergraduate participants, 5 percent reported experiencing nonconsensual attempted or completed penetration, during their time as a student at IU Southeast. This is lower than the 2000 U.S. Department of Justice study “Sexual Violence on College Women,” which showed an average of one in five women would experience such an incident nationally during college.

At IU Southeast, the campus climate survey found that nonconsensual touching, stalking and sexual harassment were among the most common types of incidents, with between 8 and 10 percent reporting having experienced one. Fifty percent of all respondents stated in the survey that the incidents happened off campus.

Reports from the internal police force show five runs on campus between December 2017 and July 2018 for intimidation/harassment. Although reports of violence on campus are relatively low compared to other institutions, Wallace said it's important to help foster a culture of safety.

“We're like any other university in that we have to be vigilant that this doesn't rear its ugly head,” he said. “So we want to be able to explore ways in theory and practice that we can reduce violence and stalking.”

ONGOING WORK

The funding will help go toward initiatives to reducing potential for sexual violence on campus — in part by creating a coordinated sexual assault prevention team within the county, partnering with the Center for Women and Families to provide resources and support to students, working with law enforcement for coordinated efforts and training, developing peer education coordination and offering Green Dot Bystander Training, to help students know how to respond in situations where violence or other harassment or similar situations may arise.

It will also help develop outreach for prevention and response for LGBT and multi-cultural students and those who are veterans or have a disability. It will also help support the school's annual human trafficking awareness summit and provide salary for three years for a coordinator for the initiatives.

The school had already begun working toward some of these before the grant was secured; over the last two years, in part by holding the human trafficking awareness summits and providing access to resources and counseling to students who had been victims of assault — whether that was while they were a student or before.

Also new this semester is a one-credit course in bystander training, which can help students react to potentially violent situations, whether that means intervening or recognizing and calling authorities. It could be in person, overheard or online.

STUDENT'S VIEW

Claudia Scharrer, a criminal justice senior and sexual prevention intern at IU Southeast, is among the first students to take the bystander course and she said she's already learned quite a bit.

"It's been amazing because it's just a conversation," she said. "All of the information is real-life." The one hour a week course asks students to look at what happens currently in terms of sexual misconduct, beyond the campus. The students also have practical, real-life projects, such as touring the Center for Woman and Families and organizing a supply drive.

Scharrer has been at the forefront of the prevention movement for nearly her entire college career, having held the spot as intern for the past three.

She helped work with a five-student focus group, three women and two men, who met in the fall of 2017 to discuss not just violence prevention but feature programming across campus. What did they want to see more or less of? Some of their responses helped dictate the programming that is in place or coming soon, as did the campus surveys. She said that what the students asked for was more training.

"One in particular he was male and in a fraternity and mentioned that he and his fellow brothers thought that bystander intervention training is what they really needed," she said.

Scharrer said that while she feels the campus has been safe in her experience, it's important to her to make sure that everyone feels secure. She's looking forward to a career in law enforcement, where she said the training she is getting now can be of great use.

"Women are always needed in law enforcement," she said. "Rapes and domestic violence [incidents], women want to talk to other women."

She said the recent grant is "extremely important. Based on the small scale programming and focus groups, students are begging for more training.

"And with more funding, we can provide that and be a campus that students want, that parents want to send their kids to, that faculty and staff want to be a part of."

The initiative for the bystander training course was developed by Seuth Chaleunphonh, dean of Student Life at IU Southeast, and Kim Pell of the Adult Student Center, after training was offered at the Bloomington campus.

After this semester, they plan to take what they've learned and share it with other campuses.

"If it works, we don't want to keep that information to ourselves," Chaleunphonh said.

He said the entire project and what the funding will afford is a way to strengthen the campus, and make sure that each person associated with it is afforded protection and respect. Part of that starts with recognizing and avoiding bias based language and negative verbal comments.

"Valuing people is important through people's words or actions," Chaleunphonh said. "We try to do that as a campus to prevent these things from developing further."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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