University receives grant to help prevent dating violence

University receives grant to help prevent dating violence
The Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice has granted an award of $200,000 to help reduce violent crimes against women on campus at The University of South Dakota and the surrounding community.

The major goal of the grant is to unify efforts between the university and the community to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Statistics provided by local law enforcement officials indicate that about 35 women from USD were involved in cases of domestic violence assault, rape, sex offenses, domestic offenses (non-violent), protection order violations, and stalking during 2002 and 2003.

The local victim's advocate service shelter and the Vermillion Coalition Against Domestic Violence report numbers even higher and because often cases go unreported to police, believe there are other cases and stories not being told.

"The only way to know the reality of the situation at USD is to create a supportive environment in which women feel free to come forward when victimized. To accomplish this and to prevent further victimizations, men and women must stand together to send a clear, loud and powerful message that it is never okay to violate women, or men," said Dr. Lila Rucker, project director.

This goal will be accomplished through the use of the grant funds by training students at USD in peer preventive education. Under Dr. Rucker's leadership, a new student organization, SAVVY! (Students Against Violence, Yes!), has been established.

Following 35 hours of in-depth training, SAVVY! team members function as victim's advocates, members of a SAVVY! speaker's bureau, and co-facilitators of SAVVY! workshops. The workshops will be offered free of charge on campus, in the community and across the state.�

Dr. Rucker said there is a high level of excitement for Savvy! as "evidenced by active participation from a wide variety of student organizations such as Amnesty International, the Criminal Justice Club, the Student Theatre Co-Operative, Tiospaye U., the Panhellenic Council, the Interfraternity Council, student athletes, and international students."�

All students as well as members of the campus and community are welcome to become involved in SAVVY!. For information or to get involved, contact Dr. Lila Rucker in the criminal justice studies program at 605-677-5709 or lrucker@usd.edu.

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