FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Woman’s University is using a three-year, $750,000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant to increase awareness of and implement policies to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.
The school has partnered with eight universities and colleges and five higher education organizations to achieve their mission.
“We have a good mixture of large schools, small colleges, urban and city schools and faith-based and secular institutions,” said Donna Scott Tilley, Ph.D., principal investigator for the grant and assistant provost for promotion of research and sponsored programs at TWU. “This will allow us to reach a broad range of individuals. All totaled, these institutions serve almost 100,000 students.”
Each partner institution will establish a task force, including student representation, that will create or revise policies, prevention programs and comprehensive responses to campus sexual assault.
TWU task force members will participate in all project activities.
Tilley said the groups’ efforts aren’t just about protecting women, but protecting all victims of sexual assault.
“Sexual assault creates a lifetime of stress for a woman, but a false accusation damages men as well,” she said.
Although less often reported, men are victimized in college, and members of the LGBTQ community are at most risk, she said.
Participants serving on the TWU team have skills ideally suited for the project.
Mark Sandel, M.S.W., professor and director of the university’s social work program, previously led Project REV (Resources for Ending Violence), a 9-year, U.S. Department of Justice-funded program aimed at ending violence against women.
Abigail Tilton, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has extensive experience in developing policies and managing grants.
Tilley is a registered nurse and certified adult sexual assault nurse examiner.
Noah Lelek, Ph.D., assistant professor of drama, will lead bystander education training for TWU. Bystander education, which teaches people how to intervene in abusive or potentially abusive situations, is required by the grant for incoming and first-year students. She has a broad background in theater for social justice with specific training in interactive theater.
Each partnering university is also required to create a Sexual Assault Response Team and conduct campus climate surveys that will be used to gauge perceptions of risk, knowledge of available resources and more.
Tilley said representatives from each participating university and organization will meet in September to get instruction and direction in setting up teams.
A consistent approach is necessary, Tilley said, as campus officials’ response to sexual assault can range from effective and therapeutic to ineffective or even harmful. She noted that Texas Woman’s, where males make up about 12 percent of the student population, doesn’t have many incidents of sexual assault, but added that all incidents must be handled carefully.
“Even if it’s just one student affected, we have to get it right.”
Partners with eight colleges and universities, five organizations to prevent sexual assault on campuses The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault found that one in five women is sexually assaulted in college.