In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Rutgers School of Social Work is proud to highlight some of the projects it has participated in this year as Rutgers actively builds a safer campus for all of its students.
The School of Social Work’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) played a key role in addressing on-campus sexual violence, according to University President Robert Barchi’s final report to the University Senate.
As universities across the country strategize with their faculty, staff, and students on combating sexual misconduct on campus, Rutgers has already established itself as a leader in creating a safe campus. Thanks largely to the efforts of VAWC, as well as dedicated groups of administrators, professors, and students, the work Rutgers has done in studying solutions to the issue of sexual violence has been recognized as exemplary by the federal government.
In 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault requested that Rutgers pilot a tool to assess how students feel about the climate of their campus in regards to sexual misconduct. The survey was first issued on the New Brunswick campus in a campaign titled “iSPEAK.” In the years following, the same or similar versions of the survey have been released on all Rutgers campuses. The resulting data was used by the White House in their comprehensive campus safety guides.
“Thanks to the good work of our Center on Violence Against Women and Children and our student affairs divisions, Rutgers has been recognized as a leader in addressing and preventing sexual violence,” President Barchi stated in his report.
Rutgers took further steps to address sexual violence on campus after receiving a grant to do so in 2017. Under the federal Victims of Crime Act, Rutgers received nearly two million dollars in funding specifically to address sexual violence on campus.
The grant funding has included the expansion of the Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) program to all Rutgers campuses, including RBHS. VPVA, which was established in 1991 but until 2017 only existed on the New Brunswick campus, has been critical in assisting victims of sexual violence as well as the University’s Title IX office, the Office of Student Affairs, and the newly-formed Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Culture Change.
“VPVA services helped me overcome some of the anxiety I've had from traumatic experiences and focus on healing, and turn what made me feel insecure about my experiences into strengths,” said one student, who preferred to remain anonymous at the time of the interview.
With matching university funds, Rutgers now has nearly $11.4 million in funding dedicated to expanding services and support over the next four years.