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York College gets funds to help sexual assault survivors
York College recently received a $293,000 grant from the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women to help fight sexual violence on campus.
The grant came after the OVW announced that it would award 61 grants totaling $25 million to address sexual assaults on college campuses, according to a news release provided by York College.
The campus will use the grant money to establish the "York College It's On Us" initiative, according to the release. That plan includes hiring a full-time director to oversee and coordinate all sexual-assault-prevention efforts at the college and facilitate the work of a Coordinated Community Response team.
York College has a number of efforts and initiatives already in place to help educate and reduce sexual assault and rape culture on its campus. For example, all incoming students are required to complete an online course titled "Consent and Respect," which includes lessons on bystander intervention, reporting cases of sexual assault and misconduct and fostering healthy relationships.
Incoming students also are required to attend "The Hook Up," an educational session that explores sexual beliefs, behaviors and stereotypes.
New this semester is a LiveSafe mobile application, which provides such services as a virtual escort, safety map and anonymous tip-reporting, among other safety features.
York College had already partnered with the "It's On Us PA" and the "It's On Us" national campaigns to educate students about preventing sexual assault and encourage more bystander intervention on campus prior to receiving this grant.
Those involved in the Coordinated Community Response team include partners who will represent various student organizations and offices on the campus. There also will be external partners, including WellSpan Health, ACCESS-York/Victim Assistance Center of YWCA York and the Spring Garden Township Police Department.
The college implemented a survey to examine the effectiveness of its current programming, including programming related to sexual assault. According to the news release, the OVM encourages surveys like the one implemented by York College to determine needs on campus.
“Schools that individualize their response to sexual, dating and domestic violence are better able to meet the unique needs of their student populations, especially underserved groups,” said OVW Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson, in the release. “Coordinated, comprehensive responses allow college communities to develop sustainable strategies to address these crimes.”
York College's survey helped the school adjust some of its policies to better serve students.
“Feedback from the survey, for example, led to a change in our medical amnesty policy,” said Marcie Beam, assistant director of residence life for student conduct and operations, according to the release. “Results indicated that most students would not choose to report a sexual assault out of concern they or others would be punished for infractions such as underage drinking. Our policy now includes amnesty for any student who is reporting that they or another student they are with has been involved in an incident of sexual misconduct.”
York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith said in the release that she took "It's On Us" campaign pledge last year to show York College's commitment to fighting sexual violence on campus. Gov. Tom Wolf also has taken the pledge.
“York has a long-standing commitment to educating our campus about sexual assault and seeking ways to eradicate it from our community," she said. "This grant will allow us to develop additional tools in our pursuit of that goal.”