VCU chosen for national campus safety pilot

Janeal Downs
Staff Writer

VCU is leading the pack in creating a progressive model to prevent sexual violence on campus.

VCU will serve as the pilot university for the National Center for Campus Public Safety’s initiative from Nov. 11-14 with the aim of creating a curriculum for campus safety nationwide.

Assistant director for sexual assault Tammi Slovinsky said the four-day training will be held in the Depot Building on Broad Street. She said the program is directed at educating first responders on college campuses such as law enforcement, nurses, advocates, residence life and local attorneys and prosecutors.

Ten representatives from VCU, five from Virginia State University and five from University of Richmond will participate in the pilot.

“This is a way that VCU is being proactive (…) and our ultimate goal is for this campus to be safe for our students,” Slovinsky said.

Slovinsky said she and others will watch as members of VCU’s sexual assault response team receive training and will provide feedback and suggestions to the curriculum.

She said the sexual assault response team is meant to be a small group that convenes to identify gaps in services provided to victims of sexual assault and then make corresponding suggestions.

“Once the curriculum is developed the members of the team that are attending VCU are going to be part of a training institute that will then use this curriculum in training with first responders at VCU, University of Richmond, in Henrico county and then also in the city of Richmond,” Slovinsky said.

She said the freshly created pilot curriculum will primarily focus on survivors of sexual assault, partner violence and stalking, which she said are the main forms of violence covered by the federal Title IX law of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination on college campuses.

Current resources for victims of sexual violence include the Wellness Resource Center, which provides advocacy resources including education on the reporting process, linking students with support groups, student counseling and other supportive services such as medical, mental health and advice on the criminal justice process.

“It’s also exciting because it provides us an opportunity to be proactive in the process of developing a curriculum that will be used across the United States at college campuses,” Slovinsky said.

VCU Police chief John Venuti stated in an email the police department and Wellness Resource Center are collaborating to host the event. He stated three officers including himself and the department’s victim and witness specialist officer, Corporal Tricia Mozingo, will participate in the training. The officers will then become members of the VCU-University of Richmond First Responder Training Institute.

The Institute will train first responders including law enforcement on VCU’s campus, University of Richmond’s Campus, Richmond and Henrico.

“Although sexual assault investigation training is not new, there is an increasing focus on trauma-informed training,” Venuti stated. “This pilot will focus on trauma-informed investigations and will hopefully result in a best practice curriculum for use across the U.S.”

He said the police department wants people to be able to recognize the red flags of unhealthy behavior and understand how to intervene safely. The VCU Police Department currently offers resources such as the LiveSafe app and a guide with suggestions on how to be an active bystander to help prevent aggravated incidents of violence.

Andrea Young is the training and technical assistant coordinator for the National Center for Campus Public Safety, the organization hosting the pilot initiative. The center, which was established in June 2014, is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Department of Justice.

Young said VCU was one of the first schools to reach out to the program to participate in the pilot that had space available for the training. She said the organization was considering partnering with the university to help develop a facilitator guide as well.

“We’re intended to be a clearinghouse for training, resource requests, information gathering for campuses and institutions of higher education around the country,” Young said.

She said there is a lot of information that needs to be discussed over the course of the four days including the Jeanne Clery Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, Title IX and the adjudication and appeals process during an investigation.

“We’re hearing pretty consistently pretty terrible things that have happened to people, and that can create secondary trauma, so how do I as a person investigating, get the support that I need so that I’m not traumatized in my profession and how do I handle that,” Young said.

She also mentioned the “Not Alone” report, a document published by the White House task force to protect students from sexual assault. The report clarifies the different roles and responsibilities of organizations that have received federal funding in an effort to protect students from sexual assault, such as the National Center for Campus Public Safety.

She said that because of geographical considerations, the program did not want to limit the pilot to only one school, and they did not want to host something where people would have to travel far. The National Center for Campus Public Safety’s second pilot will be held at University of California, Berkeley. Young said she will be onsite at both campuses during the trainings, along with six instructors and federal partners.

“The more I got into it the more I realized that it was a huge huge issue that hasn’t been discussed at the level it needs to be discussed for a very long time,” Young said. “If you look at the number of people that have been impacted by sexual violence, the numbers are staggering and it’s a big thing.”

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