photo: UTEP

UTEP awarded DOJ grant to coordinate sexual assault response efforts

A grant from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) will enhance access to victim services and develop programs to prevent, investigate and respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking at The University of Texas at El Paso and in the community.

Twenty-three percent of undergraduate women and 5 percent of undergraduate men at top U.S. universities said they were victims of non-consensual sexual contact, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities.

The DOJ recently awarded $8.5 million to 27 institutions of higher education to develop comprehensive coordinated campus and community-based approaches to prevent and respond to sexual violence incidents.

UTEP was one of four Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the nation and the only institution of higher education in Texas to receive a grant from the DOJ OVW. The $299,995 grant will be distributed over the next three years.

Starting in October 2015, UTEP will develop a coordinated community response with the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV) and the El Paso District Attorney’s Office to ensure students and their support networks have 24-hour access to on-campus and off-campus victim services.

According to Thenral D. Mangadu, Ph.D., the grant’s principal adviser, the program will take a public health approach to promote changes to prevent sexual and domestic violence by increasing awareness on campus and in the community using evidence-based strategies including social media.

“We have a sexual harassment and sexual misconduct policy and protocol on campus,” said Mangadu, assistant professor of public health sciences at UTEP. “Our goal through this project is to develop a coordinated response protocol that formally involves our community partners in law enforcement and victim services. To do this, we’re going to look at multiple levels of intervention from the individual to their family and friends, the community, campus policymakers and law enforcement.”

Mangadu said the program at UTEP is based on the socio-ecological model and prevention strategies that were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommended by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

Program activities include mandatory trainings for incoming students and student peer educators that have been shown to prevent and reduce sexual violence. The program also will implement bystander interventions to reduce and prevent sexual assault, and train campus law enforcement and members of campus disciplinary boards to respond effectively to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

The project’s social marketing component will utilize media tools and social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and a mobile app to engage students and the community in prevention and education efforts, including raising awareness about sexual violence, connecting students to on-campus and off-campus victim services, increasing knowledge of law enforcement programs, and promoting events.

The University departments involved in the grant include the College of Health Sciences, the UTEP Police Department, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, the Department of Residence Life, the UTEP Wellness Program, Academic Technologies, University Communications, and several student leadership organizations.

Stephanie Karr, CASFV executive director, said that as the leading provider of sexual assault and domestic violence services in the El Paso community, the CASFV has had a long history of working with UTEP on these issues.

“The Center Against Sexual and Family Violence is honored to be a partner on this extremely important project to address and prevent sexual assault, dating violence and stalking on the UTEP campus,” Karr said. “The award of this grant from the Department of Justice is a recognition of our successful collaboration. Our mutual goal is the safety and respect of all individuals in our community, including UTEP students.”

The CASFV is a nonprofit organization with the mission to protect families from domestic violence. The center’s 24-hour crisis hotline is 915-593-7300 or 1-800-727-0511.

Author: UTEP