Avon Foundation for Women awards grant to Shenandoah University for initiatives against sexual assault, domestic violence

shenandoah uShenandoah University has received a $10,000 grant from the Avon Foundation for Women through its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative. The grant funds new initiatives to activate bystanders to reduce sexual assault, dating abuse and stalking. This is the first year Shenandoah has received funding from the Avon Foundation for Women.
This is one of 25 Avon campus grants totaling $250,000 awarded to colleges nationwide to fund programs focused on preventive education on dating abuse and violence, sexual assault, stalking and the promotion of healthy relationships. The funding also enables institutions to offer local resources and provide referrals to community-based domestic violence experts. In addition, the grant supports educator training, materials and support sessions about healthy relationships.
Since 2008, Shenandoah has implemented several distinctive sexual assault prevention initiatives, including numerous projects originally developed by students enrolled in women’s studies courses. In 2012, the university’s Division of Student Life implemented the Step UP! comprehensive bystander intervention program through which students learn how they, as bystanders, can intervene in many kinds of situations to help a member of the Shenandoah community.
Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct Suzanne O’Driscoll, M.A., will lead the project team that will implement the grant activities. “The grant from the Avon Foundation for Women will allow us to strengthen our Step UP! program and customize it, providing a greater focus on teaching our students to use bystander intervention strategies to reduce sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct,” said O’Driscoll.
The grant will culminate in an April 2016 public preview of Shenandoah University-produced videos for future bystander intervention training for students, faculty and staff. The grant will also support training of peer educators who will conduct Step UP! bystander intervention training.
“At Shenandoah, we have been very proactive in our efforts to reduce sexual violence on our campus,” said Vice President for Student Life Rev. Rhonda VanDyke Colby, D.Min. “We also want our students to become principled leaders in their communities — leaders who will strive to reduce sexual violence and abuse in the future, wherever they go.”
“We have great local partners in these endeavors, with the Laurel Center being foremost among them,” she added. “When we learned of Avon Foundation for Women’s campus grant program, we were eager to seek support for strengthening our initiatives. We are grateful to have Avon as yet another partner.”
“We are proud that the Avon Foundation for Women shares our mission and has chosen to support our program,” said Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director of General Education Amy Sarch, Ph.D., who is also the former Director of the Women’s Studies Program. “With these funds, we will build on the momentum we’ve already started on campus through our sexual assault awareness campaigns and the work being done at Shenandoah’s [Not Just] Women’s Center, and create a program specific to Shenandoah University.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, young women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Since the Clery Act was passed in 1990, a variety of initiatives have been developed to educate college administrators on the issues of gender violence, particularly sexual assault, and to provide resources for college campuses to reduce violence. Although much has been learned, there is a great deal more that can be accomplished to implement effective campus-wide policies and prevention practices to prevent and reduce incidences of violence.
In April 2014, the White House issued NOT ALONE: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, highlighting steps school administrators can and must take to honor their obligation to protect all students from sexual assault and violence.  Recognizing that school administrators bear the burden of responsibility to provide safe communities for all students, the Avon Foundation partnered with Futures Without Violence to develop Guidelines for Preventing and Responding to Gender-Based Violence in Higher Education. These guidelines highlight best practices for creating and promoting a campus norm of interpersonal respect and non-violent relationships, and can be downloaded for free.
With this new grant, the Avon Foundation has funded campus dating abuse programs to educate significant numbers of student groups and faculty to create awareness, to recognize the warning signs of abuse and to encourage students to safely intervene to help prevent violence.

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