By Matthew Thacker
For many students, leaving for college is the first time they will step outside the comforts and stability of their home. And for many, especially women, one of the main concerns is about their safety as they trek across campus late at night.
“Before I came to Eastern, I was worried about a lot of things ranging from campus safety to just surviving in the dorm,” said Hannah Schaich, a freshman nursing major from Lawrenceburg, Ind.
To that end, the university recently received a federal grant that will be used to shore up the university’s safety and education programs that strive to prevent violence against women.
The $300,000 grant, which came courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice, will fund a variety of programs at Eastern that will try to improve education on issues of sexual assault, stalking and dating and domestic violence.
“We will be working with campus groups to make sure that we have safe places for women and men to go should they be a victim of violence,” said Caroline Reid, an assistant professor of social work who will be implementing the grant.
The university first began working on the grant application two years ago, when university and community groups formed a Violence Prevention Coalition to address violence against women on campus, Reid said.
The university has long supported several groups and events-Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, Feminist for Change, Take Back the Night, and Rock Against Rape–that seek to raise awareness on the issues of sexual crimes or violence against women.
But these existed largely on their own without a single, coherent operating plan, said Marta Miranda, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and co-writer of the grant. The money from this grant will fill in the gaps between these groups, establishing a comprehensive unit that will work toward the common goal of preventing violence against women.
A large percentage of the grant will be earmarked for educational purposes, both for students and faculty, Miranda said. And diversity, likewise, is an important facet of the program, seeking to educate students on the many faces of both abuse and harassment.
“Ninety-five percent of men are not offenders, so it is up to that percentage to reach out and educate those remaining 5 percent,” she said.
Some aspects the grant will continue to support already exist on campus. These include the course on sexual assault that all first-year students attend as well as the campus hotline that provides night shuttles or police escorts for those who don’t wish to walk across campus alone.
Miranda said the night shuttle/escort program sometimes receives more calls than the university can handle, making some students wait longer than they might want to or go without the service. She said the grant money could partially be used to pay for more student workers to meet the demand in escort calls.
“There will be a lot going on over the next few years including research to document if what we are doing is making a difference,” Reid said.