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Connecticut College establishes 'Think S.A.F.E.'

With a nearly $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, Connecticut College is establishing a new program to address sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. The program, Think S.A.F.E. (Sexual Assault Free Environment), which is being funded for three years, will further integrate sexual assault prevention and response training and education into the campus culture, build a community coalition and enhance victim services.

"Connecticut College is taking the initiative to revise policy and procedures and establish proactive responses to crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking on campus," Sarah Cardwell, associate dean of student life, said.

Connecticut College is one of a number of colleges and universities across the country to receive funding through the Department of Justice's Grants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on Campus Program. Yale University and the University of Southern Maine were among the other New England colleges to receive funding through the program in 2009. Connecticut College's Think S.A.F.E. program, coordinated by the Offices of Student Life, will address six main goals:

• Enhance the College's victim advocacy program

• Create a coordinated community response team

• Provide on-going training to first responders, including Campus Safety, Residential Life staff and the Student Life Emergency On-Call staff

• Improve training for campus judicial boards

• Review and revise sexual misconduct policies, protocols and judicial procedures

• Create an environment in which more victims want to come forward to report incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking on campus

One of the program's highlights is the creation of a Coordinator of Sexual Violence Education and Advocacy position, funded by the grant. The Coordinator will serve as an on-call victim advocate and a resource for first responders, and will be responsible for implementing prevention and education programs across campus.

"The Coordinator will be the primary point person for sexual assault education, prevention and response," Cardwell said. "We are currently accepting applications for the position, which we hope to fill by January. Already, we have a number of impressive candidates with tremendous experience in the field."

The College's community response team will be based on partnerships with the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut, the New London Police Department and the State Attorney's Office in New London. The team will meet once a month to address best practices for training, response and reporting.

Through Think S.A.F.E., on-going prevention and response training will be provided to a number of groups on campus, and a campus-wide education initiative will focus on prevention and education. With more education and enhanced victim services, Cardwell says the hope is that more students will report incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.

"National statistics indicate that these crimes are notoriously underreported, and the extremely low number reported on our campus would seem to reinforce those statistics," Cardwell said. "If victims come forward, we can make sure they get the support they need."

November 6, 2009