The Wellness Resource Center at VCU and the University of Richmond won a joint federal grant that will fund the hiring of sexual and LGBT violence prevention specialists. VCU is in the hiring process for both positions.
The United States Department of Justice awarded nearly $500,000 to the schools last week. VCU will receive $276,440 and use it to hire a LGBT violence prevention specialists, said Katherine Hill, assistant director of the Wellness Resource Center.
The Well already has a staffed position that handles cases of sexual violence, but the issue can not be handled by a single person, Hill said.
“Right now, we have one person working on both the prevention and recovery side of things, so it is really tough to focus on one or the other,” Hill said. “We actually have a university-funded position focusing more so on violence prevention that we are looking to fill.”
Of the more than 31,000 students at VCU, approximately 7 percent self-identify as LGBT, Hill said. The LGBT violence prevention position will be grant-funded for three years and help the university handle violence and discrimination against those students, Hill said.
She also said she hoped students will take notice of the opportunities to seek help and speak out against sexual violence.
“It is a classically underreported issue.” Hill said. “We have really expanded our service, and I hope students will take advantage of the help we can offer.”
Aside from funding a new position, the grant will provide both schools university-wide training on issues of sexual, domestic and LGBT violence.
VCU will also establish The Campus Alliance to End Violence with the grant. The group will organize community-response teams who will set up anti-violence protocols and training. The judicial system at VCU will also place a greater focus on handling issues like stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault, Hill said.
For the University of Richmond, the grant will set up the school’s first-ever position of its type.
At 4,361 students, U.R.’s student body is much smaller than VCU’s. However, the issue of sexual violence is not taken lightly. Dan Fabian, associate dean of Richmond College, will be part of the U.R. hiring process. He said he is excited about the new ways students on campus will be helped.
“We are very proud of the work VCU and the Richmond community have done so far tackling this very serious issue,” Fabian said. “This new position will give our school a level of commitment to reaching out to victims that we have never had before.”
Junior Jenna Cooper said she appreciates the efforts VCU is making to end sexual violence and discrimination on campus.
“College can be a scary place for a girl, especially early on when you aren’t familiar with the city and are going out and about for the first time,” Cooper said. “I hope that anyone who is a victim does not feel like they have no one to turn to for help, especially with these new resources.”