The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women has awarded the University of Lynchburg a continuation grant in the amount of $299,816 over three years for its Office on Violence Against Women Campus Program.
A major component of the OVW Campus Program is the creation and facilitation of prevention education programs for students and training for University employees.
One initiative launched since the initial grant was received in 2018 was Wings Up, a sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking awareness and prevention program for first-year and transfer students. Thus far, Wings Up has been administered to 925 students via Student Orientation and Registration, or SOAR.
“This program provides tools and skills necessary to intervene in situations related to sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking,” Kristen Cooper, project supervisor and interim vice president and dean for student development, said.
“Ninety-eight percent of students who participated in Wings Up in the summer of 2021 indicated that they were confident or extremely confident in their ability to intervene in these potential situations after their Wings Up experience.”
StepUp!, a bystander intervention program that builds on skills learned from Wings Up, was also developed. Approximately 150 students, including student groups and athletic teams, have attended StepUp! training.
The grant also has funded training for more than a dozen faculty, staff, and students to serve as facilitators for the StepUp! program. “University staff and campus safety and security officers have benefited from specific training to ensure that the response to sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking is rooted in a trauma-informed approach,” Cooper said.
With the initial grant, the University also created the Coordinated Community Response Team. The CCRT is comprised of representatives from 12 University departments, the City of Lynchburg Police Department, the Lynchburg Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney Victim/Witness Program, and the YWCA’s Sexual Assault Response Program.
The CCRT is currently developing a staff victim advocate program that will provide supportive victim services and link victims with community partners for further services, investigation, and legal guidance when needed. The victim advocates are currently engaged in training.
Additionally, the grant funded a full-time coordinator who works with the CCRT, the Campus Victim Services Group, students, and community partners on initiatives that promote a safe campus culture.
“The continuation grant will provide us with the resources and training to focus on increased support and advocacy for victims and survivors, expanded and strengthened community outreach, bystander education, and greater policy review and development to ensure a safer culture for everyone,” Cooper said.
Recently, the OVW Campus Program, in conjunction with numerous University offices, sponsored on-campus events led by Brenda Tracy, founder of Set The Expectation, a national sexual violence prevention program. The program grew out of Tracy’s experiences as a victim and survivor.
On Oct. 5, Tracy shared her story and presented a program to 575 students. The next day, 90 faculty and staff and 37 students participated in follow-up workshops. Many student groups are also signing the Set The Expectation pledge, demonstrating their commitment to the inclusivity and safety of Lynchburg’s campus community.
The next grant cycle also includes a new external partner: the Community Access Network. The nonprofit health care clinic has already partnered with the University’s PA Medicine program as part of the Lynchburg Tomorrow initiative.
“We are excited to pursue additional collaboration opportunities with this new partner, in addition to strengthening our relations with existing partners,” Cooper said.
For more information about Lynchburg’s OVW Campus Program, contact Cooper at email@example.com.