DOJ grant to curb domestic violence

Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

UW Oshkosh received a $300,000 federal grant that will be used to address the issue of sexual and interpersonal violence across all three UW Oshkosh campuses.

The U.S. Department of Justice grant will disperse the funds over a three-year period. Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Art Munin, who co-wrote the grant with Women’s Center Director Alicia Johnson, said it was the first grant he’s ever written.

“For us to have been awarded this grant, we’re absolutely ecstatic because of how transformative it’s going to be for our campus,” he said.

The money will be used to hire a new staff member who will serve as project manager and will be responsible for assisting in prevention efforts. The new hire will also help in the creation of a community response team that will strategize ways the campus and community can work together to support survivors and prevent sexual and interpersonal violence.

Beyond hiring a new staff member, the grant will allow UWO to provide students and staff with training sessions on trauma-informed care for domestic and sexual abuse survivors and create a new bystander intervention training program called “Safe Bars” for staff in local bars and taverns.

Munin said the grant is renewable and that throughout the three-year period the university will submit status reports to the DOJ, which can be used to reapply for the grant.

The new project manager position will be crucial for implementing trauma-informed care training across all three campuses. Trauma-informed care training helps build empathy and understanding of how trauma affects the brain and a person’s sense of self-worth, Munin said.

He added the training helps students and staff build “the skills to be able to work with [victims] and provide the best support possible.”

Johnson said trauma-informed environments recognize that trauma is present in the campus community and that members in the community need to support and care for one another by understanding the impact of trauma.

“Creating a more understanding and supportive environment may help victims/survivors feel safer to come forward, help them know that they will be believed and that the violence they experienced is not their fault and get connected to resources that may help them begin or further their healing journey,” Johnson said.

Johnson developed the “Safe Bars” bystander intervention training as she had seen other universities implement similar programs.

“The goal of this is to have staff in these establishments be able to recognize potential or actual incidents of sexual or interpersonal violence and how to prevent or intervene in these incidences,” Johnson said, adding that implementation will be a collaborative process with external partners and the alcohol-serving establishments willing to partner with the university to create safer environments.

He added that UWO has partnered with the University Police and city government to roll out the “Safe Bars” initiative.

“From getting to know the community, I’ve found that we’re all invested in the same thing,” Munin said. “This is all about just caring for your patrons [and] caring for our students.”
The UP will be partnering with ASTOP, a victim services provider based in Fond du Lac.

“Because we are three campuses now, we wanted to make sure to partner with nonprofits all over the Fox Valley,” Munin said.

Johnson said administrators are constantly working to strengthen their sexual and interpersonal violence prevention efforts.

“In the last 1.5 years alone, we have joined the Culture of Respect and hired a full-time Sexual and Interpersonal Prevention Coordinator,” she said. “We also offer regular training and programming as part of our prevention efforts.”

Since 2011, only two other colleges in Wisconsin have been awarded this grant: Edgewood College in Madison and Carroll College in Waukesha, both private institutions, Munin said.

“I think it just shows what we are building here at UWO to really try and combat sexual and interpersonal violence,” Munin said.