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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to enhance programs that stem domestic and sexual violence and advocate for victims.

The federal grant is believed to be the first awarded to a Wisconsin public higher education institution over the past 10 years.

UW Oshkosh will receive $300,000 over three years with an option to renew as part of the Grant to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on Campus Program. The grant is administered by the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We are absolutely ecstatic to have been awarded this grant. It will be transformative for our campuses and the community as we seek to combat sexual and interpersonal violence,” said Art Munin, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students, a co-principal investigator of the grant application. “It will help us expand efforts that are ongoing in this area at UW Oshkosh.”

Ten key UWO stakeholders agreed to partner on the project: Chancellor Andrew Leavitt; Provost John Koker; University Police Department; Dean of Students Office; Human Resources; Equal Opportunity, Equity and Affirmative Action; Counseling Center; Student Health Center; Student Recreation and Wellness; and Residence Life.

“As we celebrate 20 years of the Campus Program, the Office on Violence Against Women is pleased to award the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a grant to address dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on their campus and in the surrounding community,” said Laura Rogers, acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice. “Creating training to increase awareness around preventing violence and providing trauma-informed care and building a Coordinated Community Response team are key to keeping students safe on and off campus.”

Munin and grant co-author Alicia Johnson, director of the UW Oshkosh Women’s Center, began the grant process in early 2018. They submitted their work for consideration in March 2019.

“We applied for this grant because sexual and interpersonal violence is experienced by far too many in our community,” Munin said. “It is our responsibility to do everything possible to prevent such instances from occurring, and we must provide every support possible to survivors. While we knew that this grant was highly competitive and difficult to obtain, Alicia and I believed strongly in our plan and are incredibly grateful to have received this positive news.”

Grant funds will allow the University to hire someone to assist and focus on prevention efforts. The individual also will create a coordinated community response team of area resources to combat sexual and interpersonal violence.

“It felt validating that our plan for growing our sexual and interpersonal violence prevention efforts was recognized by the grant reviewers,” said Johnson, who also is a lecturer in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at UWO. “The work that will be done through the grant will not just impact women, as sexual and interpersonal violence impacts people of all genders. By providing training on trauma-informed approaches, we will work collaboratively across campus to create a safer and more supportive environment for everyone.”

A training series grounded in trauma-informed care will be created and offered to UWO faculty, staff, students and executives. Johnson said she hopes that environment will amplify voices of victims/survivors and help everyone understand trauma and their role in responding to and preventing it.

“Trauma-informed care” is a shift in perspective by those charged with caring for people struggling with trauma, Johnson said. Instead of asking someone what is wrong, caregivers will ask the person what has happened to them and how the caregiver can support them.

As part of the grant, a new bystander intervention training—Safe Bars—will be created and presented specifically for staff in Oshkosh-area bars/taverns.

“Sadly, instances of sexual and interpersonal violence can first begin in local bars, and staff in these establishments can assist greatly by intervening early, before problems arise,” Munin said.

“Applying for and being awarded this grant is another way that we as a collective University community are showing victims/survivors that we believe and support them—we are with you,” Johnson said.

UW Oshkosh will partner with the Oshkosh Police Department and ASTOP—a victim services provider—on grant-related initiatives. The UW Oshkosh project was supported by Grant No. 2019-WA-AX-0038 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, finding, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.