Newly-formed group planning sexual assault training, awareness
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Newly-formed group planning sexual assault training, awareness

A group of faculty and administration is creating a plan to combat sexual assault through law enforcement, prevention, policies and victim advocacy.

Marisa Cummings, the Cook House project coordinator, was hired in February as part of a $300,000 grant USD received from the Department of Justice last October.

In the first year of the three-year grant, Cummings said efforts so far have been focused on collaboration, creating buy-in and having tough conversations through the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT), the group responsible for planning and implementing the goals of the grant.

Though the plan is still being developed, Cummings said it will include prevention efforts, programming, bystander training and collaborative efforts with different campus groups.

“I’m hoping to see a lot of student-led prevention and training efforts, because that’s really awesome when you see students mentoring other students,” she said.

CCRT meets every two weeks and has representation from university administration and faculty, the Vermillion Police Department and Domestic Violence Safe Options Services (DVSOS).

Eventually, Cummings said CCRT will include students and a University Police Department representative.

“What I’m seeing so far is everyone being very engaged and willing to work together and have those difficult conversations,” Cummings said. “Because each department has their own goals and objectives, which sometimes mesh and sometimes don’t. So being able to come together collectively and have those discussions is really, really powerful. And it will best serve the students.”

Though he just recently became involved, Adetokunbo Oredein, the Center for Diversity and Community director, said he’s impressed by all the sectors that are represented in CCRT.

“You have these different minds that understand one size doesn’t fit all. I think that’s probably the biggest plus,” he said. “I think it’s going to come out pretty well.”

Oredein said the training CCRT has done and will continue to do is important because its messaging is something that everyone can understand.

“I’ve dealt with athletes, I’ve dealt with students – male, female, different races, cultures – and the language is very important… (in) how they understand things,” he said. “So I think that’s a great component.”

Cummings has been meeting with student groups across campus and hopes to have some involved before next fall.

Implementation and sustainability are the group’s priorities in the second and third years, respectively, Cummings said.

“We’re really excited to get to work,” she said. “We have a great team, and even though the subject of sexual assault is a difficult one to have, I think that being able to have those tough conversations and be more open about the dialog in terms of prevention efforts and education… I think the end result will be really good for the students.”