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USM Campus Safety Project Supported by $300,000 U.S. Department of Justice Grant

Posters created for a Take Back the Night rally.

PORTLAND—Two members of the University of Southern Maine community have been awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Violence Against Women, to foster a healthy campus climate for USM students, faculty, and staff.

Susan Fineran, director of the USM School of Social Work and professor of women and gender studies, and Jean Bessette, research associate in the USM Muskie School of Public Service, will use the grant to fund the USM Campus Safety Project (CSP), an initiative that addresses issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and dating violence. The CSP, originally created in 2009 through an initial $300,000 DOJ grant, works with community members and departments throughout the university to provide programs and trainings that enhance victim/survivor safety and promote accountability for offenders.

Since the establishment of the CSP, the university has seen significant positive changes in community awareness, and Fineran and Bessette plan to build upon the work of the CSP by expanding programs to all USM campuses. Plans include providing prevention education to all students, faculty and staff and engaging additional coordinated community response team partners. Efforts will continue to review and revise reporting protocols used by the student conduct board to be congruent with Title IX. Additionally, response training will be provided to USM employees and public safety officers.

According to the most recent Maine Crime Victimization Report, nearly one in five respondents reported being the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime, and those who reported one or more stalking behaviors directed at them are nearly three times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime.

Nationwide, campus safety has been an area of recent focus, with the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE) signed into law in March 2013 during the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Campus SaVE affords additional rights to campus victims of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

“This grant will allow us to greatly expand our campus resources toward prevention education for students, faculty, and staff,” said Fineran, an expert in peer sexual harassment and bullying. “Education and preventative training is critical for a healthy, safe campus environment.”

See USM Campus Safety Project for more information.