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WIU Receives U.S. Dept. of Justice Grant for Prevention of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking

October 6, 2010

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University has received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, (OVW) to help further reduce incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

According to Janine Cavicchia, director of the WIU Women's Center and chair of the campus-wide Relationship Violence Awareness and Prevention Committee (RVC), the three-year grant initiative reflects a collaborative effort among departments in Student Services and Academic Affairs student organizations and community agencies that serve individuals affected by sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, including the Western Illinois Regional Council-Community Action Agency's Victim Services (WIRC-CAA VS) and campus and local police. Cavicchia will serve as project director. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, an associate professor of psychology at WIU, served as a lead writer of the grant proposal.

"This initiative will provide campus and community partners with a variety of new tools designed to help address the critical need for comprehensive education, prevention, intervention and sanctioning of offenders of interpersonal violence, with the ultimate goal of reducing the prevalence and effects of interpersonal violence on campus," Hetzel-Riggin said.

According to Hetzel-Riggin, figures from the most recent National College Health Assessment conducted in 2008 by the American College Health Association indicated that approximately 1,447 students at WIU had experienced sexually aggressive behavior or attempted/completed sexual assault, and almost 900 had experienced stalking, while another 1,802 had likely experienced emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse within a relationship.

"My own research, which I conducted on the WIU-Macomb campus from 2006-2009, found that of the 1,276 women surveyed, 19.4 percent reported a history of domestic or dating violence, 13.3 percent reported a history of sexual aggression or assault and 32.1 percent reported being stalked," Hetzel-Riggin said.

Cavicchia and Hetzel-Riggin said the grant will benefit students by allowing the University to develop a coordinated response to interpersonal violence that includes mental health and medical care, and will help to increase awareness of resources available. Goals for the project also include developing online- and in-person training for campus police officers and judicial board members on laws, policies and protocols for responding to interpersonal violence victims. The grant will also be used to create and implement a mandatory education program on interpersonal violence for all incoming students; to develop a peer-led, bystander intervention program; for programming that addresses interpersonal violence prevention for underrepresented groups such as minority students; creating a comprehensive website and marketing campaign on interpersonal violence information and resources; and creating an Interpersonal Violence Response Team led by an Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator.

"We are pleased to partner with Western Illinois University in this effort to reduce domestic, dating and sexual violence as well as stalking," said Diane Mayfied, director of WIRC-CAA Victim Services. "We know young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are at greater risk for these forms of violence. And sadly, we see the results of these crimes on victims, their friends and families every day. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the University community to provide assistance in whatever way we can."

Cavicchia noted that Western has demonstrated a long history of commitment to developing and strengthening resources and support services for, and education about, interpersonal violence. Rape awareness programming at WIU started in the mid-1970s, when Student Personnel Services (now Student Development and Orientation) and University Counseling Center staff members Nell Koester, Cari Sheets and Jo Ann Hummers initiated programming and conducted survivor support groups, which continue today.

"The University's current RVC evolved from a Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Assault, which was first formed in the 1980s in order to improve how we respond to victims of violence and to develop resources to help survivors," Cavicchia said. "This grant will allow us to implement unprecedented and even more effective means of providing education, for our students and all members of our campus community, in our continuing efforts to reduce interpersonal and gendered violence and provide assistance and support to survivors."

For more information, contact Cavicchia at (309) 298-2242 or

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