purple ribbon

Buffalo State Tackles Violence through DOJ Grant

Buffalo State received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to continue work started in 2006 by the Violence against Women on Campus (VAWOC) initiative. The three-year project aims to raise awareness, increase reporting, and decrease incidents of sexual assault, rape, intimate partner violence, and stalking on campus and in the community.

The college received notice of funding earlier this month but has already begun to accomplish its objectives. Liz McGough was hired as program coordinator and victim services case manager and will work under the direction of Charles Kenyon, dean of students and principal investigator on the grant. The Weigel Health Center’s Health Promotion unit has also organized activities this week in conjunction with the grant to build campuswide support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The first VAWOC grant focused on seven objectives: conducting a comprehensive needs-assessment survey, creating a coordinated response team, developing and implementing mandatory Web-based training for students, expanding coordination between campus and community police, enhancing the role of University Police, training campus judicial/disciplinary boards, and establishing a 24-hour student helpline. Kenyon said all seven objectives were addressed.

Under the new grant, the Campus Safety Forum will serve in an advisory role for eight new but similar objectives: expand and strengthen the coordinated community response, provide updated information for responders to better address VAWOC issues, improve response time to victims, create a tracking and monitoring system through University Police, increase awareness of and decrease cultural acceptance of VAWOC through Buffalo State, enhance and improve mandatory prevention-education programs, create and train a separate College Judicial Board, and develop a multidisciplinary stalking-crimes program in conjunction with off-campus law enforcement personnel.

Kenyon said the grant’s activities will serve as a critical factor in campuswide efforts to promote Buffalo State as a “civil and caring community.”

“Our work to reduce violence against women raises awareness of the problem of violence in general, and its roots in disrespect, incivility, and the absence of caring for the well-being of others,” he said. “By raising consciousness on these issues we hope to involve more and more students in saying no to violence and in promoting among their peers the civil and caring values we want for our campus community.”

McGough, who began her role last week, believes the grant can help strengthen the campus culture to further unite against “power-based interpersonal violence.” She has worked with the Counseling Center for the past three years in various roles and said she is excited to establish an office for violence victim support next to the Health Promotions unit in the basement of Porter Hall.

“The collaboration with so many other partners on campus is a big part of what makes this grant worthwhile,” McGough said. “As we build momentum, it will be very important for faculty and staff to get involved and include [related] topics in the classroom.”

Faculty and staff are asked to show support for domestic violence awareness by wearing purple tomorrow. The Weigel Health Center’s Health Promotion unit has supported student activities with a purple theme throughout the week, including tying purple ribbons to trees, writing inspirational messages on sidewalks, and displaying posters in the Campbell Student Union.

The most noticeable sign of support this week has been the purple-lighted bell tower of Rockwell Hall. Tammy Kresge, coordinator for health promotions with the Weigel Health Center, said Campus Services made the lighting possible with support from the administration.

“Rockwell Hall is iconic to Buffalo State,” she said. “The purple lighting helps get the message out and legitimizes it. More people are affected by domestic violence than we think—it touches everyone’s life at some level.”

Key partners of the VAWOC initiatives include the Dean of Students Office, the Counseling Center, University Police, the School of Natural and Social Sciences, Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service Inc., Child and Family Services (Haven House), the Buffalo Police Department, and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.