Oct. 9, 2009
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU receives $251,222 for sexual assault prevention work
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has received a $251,222 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to support The Bridge Project, a prevention program focusing on eliminating violence against women. The three-year grant will also fund an increased University police presence on campus and provide in-car computer equipment.
SRU, which was recently named the 14th safest campus in the country by The Daily Beast Web site, operates The Bridge Project as part of its Women's Center. The Bridge Project educates students and community residents on issues involving dating violence and sexual assault and provides free services to victims.
"Sexual assault, dating violence and stalking predominately involves individuals who are 16 to 24 years old, so that's most of our population," said Karla Fonner, SRU Bridge Project coordinator. "Our students are not immune. We don't have more of a problem than anywhere else. We are just trying to provide as much prevention education as possible."
Fonner said The Bridge Project wants to implement new prevention training for all first-year students by using an online program called "nformd.on.sexual.assault." The online survey would be taken before students arrive on campus to gauge their understanding of issues related to sexual violence. The women-only section includes topics such as understanding male communication styles and how to recognize sexually aggressive men.
After completing the program online at their convenience, students would submit their answers and receive immediate feedback. The grant will also pay for Women's Center staff and University Police officers to attend workshops and off-campus seminars, she said.
Robert Downey Jr., University police chief, said the grant would enable him to place more officers at orientation and other student events to specifically talk to students about preventing dating violence.
"It's a problem that transcends society as a whole," he said of sexual assault. "If we are proactive by educating our students, women as well as men, about what is acceptable behavior, we are giving our students the tools to make good choices," Downey said.
The department, which employs 16 officers, will purchase a mobile report data system for use in cruisers, Downey said. The technology will enable officers to check a suspect's criminal background and the registration of vehicles on the spot, without having to radio police headquarters. Officers will also be able to file incident reports from their vehicles, for alleged crimes as well as fires.
Downey said the beefed-up presence and new equipment reflects the University's proactive stance on preventing crime and preparing graduates to live responsibly. "We are an institution of higher learning," he said. "We want to prepare our students in all phases of life, educationally, and we want them to be socially aware."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.