FINDLAY — The University of Findlay will spend a $287,000 federal grant on efforts aimed at reducing campus sexual assaults, stalking, and domestic and dating violence.
The private university in Hancock County, with an undergraduate and graduate enrollment of 3,668 students, won a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
It will use the money to help victims of sexual assault and other violence report incidents, get help, and shed light on those problems.
“The primary goal is to do everything we can to protect the safety and well being of our students and campus,” said Matt Bruskotter, assistant dean for environmental, safety, security, and emergency management.
The project — which the university is calling Findlay Action Through Coordination, Education, and Training — will provide centralized services on campus.
Findlay was the only Ohio university to receive funds in 2013 from the campus grant program, which began in 1999, according to the Office on Violence Against Women. It gave 28 such grants this year totaling about $7.3 million.
The university is developing an online “awareness course” to educate incoming freshman about preventing and reporting incidents and where to find help. It will be ready for new students starting next school year, Mr. Bruskotter said.
Also by fall 2014, six nurses at the university health center will be trained as sexual assault nurse examiners, or SANE nurses, to provide forensic exams and collect evidence. That will allow students to receive those services at the health center instead of leaving campus and heading to the hospital. Nurses will work on-call.
An advocate from Open Arms Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services in Findlay also will spend a minimum of 10 hours a week on campus to meet with students.
Ashley Ritz, Open Arms executive director, said locating services on campus makes sense. Students aren’t always familiar with community resources or know where to find help off-campus, she said.
“The less trauma you can put the victim through the better,” she said. “[It’s] much easier to have a one-stop place such as a health center.”
Open Arms sees about 30 clients in the emergency room each year for sexual assault cases and assists with about 20 domestic violence cases. Ms. Ritz estimates about a quarter of those it serves throughout Hancock County are ages 18 to 24.
University of Findlay reported three forcible sex offenses, or sexual assaults, occurred on campus in the last three years, one in 2011 and two in 2012. It reported no nonforcible sex offenses, such as statutory rape, during the last three years, said Mr. Bruskotter. Those figures must be reported under the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, which he said presently does not include domestic or dating violence statistics.
Mr. Bruskotter said the university sought the grant so it could take a “proactive” approach.
Marietta College, a private school in southeast Ohio, is in the third and final year of implementing a $300,000 grant it received through the program in 2010. The college’s project director and psychology professor Mary Barnas said Marietta used the funds to designate a sexual assault advocate, provide training, and hold awareness events. A peer advocate program also received support for sexual assault prevention programs.
“Sexual assault is probably the most under-reported crime both on and off campus,” Ms. Barnas said.
Mr. Bruskotter said the University of Findlay will use some of its funding to create “safe rooms” — places equipped with a panic button for victims who need short-term housing.
Legal Aid of Western Ohio is among the university’s partners in the new effort. Findlay attorney Melissa LaRocco said Legal Aid is working out the exact services it will provide but said the agency will assist with education, including “bystander awareness” — how to assist people around you who may be in need.
“The goal is to really raise a lot of awareness among the student population as well as faculty and staff … about what to look for,” Mr. Bruskotter said. “It’s not the victim’s fault. It’s not something they need to be ashamed of.”