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UI officials anticipate passage of reauthorized Violence Against Women Act

BY HILLARY ROSENCRANTS | MARCH 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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The U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized a new form of the Violence Against Women Act last week, ushering in a slightly new set of protocols for reporting and prevention of sexual assault on university campuses across the nation.

University of Iowa officials welcome the changes.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Karla Miller, executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

Indeed, the bill received a great deal of debate during its most recent run through the federal government. The strengthened form of the bill includes immigrants, Native Americans, and the LGBT community, groups that previous models had excluded.

“The idea that you would exclude someone who is a victim of a crime on the basis of their membership of any group is not in the spirit of what we want our country to be,” Miller said.

Linda Stewart Kroon, the director of UI Women’s Resource and Action Center, said the reauthorization will allow for better quality services.

“The reauthorization of [the act] will allow us to make sure we’re providing comprehensive services to the full range of people who are victimized by interpersonal violence,” Kroon said.

Currently, one of the projects for prevention that takes place on the UI campus is funded by a grant, which supports violence prevention efforts.

“Were [the act] not reauthorized, the funding would have been in jeopardy, and there may not have been any future opportunities to carry on that work,” Kroon said.

Two of the prevention services involved on campus are Nformed, an online course all incoming students are required to complete, and educational programming for everyone from police officers to resident assistants and faculty.

The UI police provide a sexual-assault awareness and prevention matrix, which can be accessed on the department’s website.

“We provide information all the time, lots of programs are made available, and the safety information is on the matrix to enhance students’ safety and security,” said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

Miller said she believes UI officials have stepped up their efforts to make the campus a safer place, including making sure victims don’t fall through the cracks and have access to pertinent services. She said the renewal of the act will reinforce these methods.

In accordance with the Violence Against Women Act, the RVAP provides personalized services to victims, including walking them through the aftermath of their assault.

“Whether they choose to report, or go to the hospital, or have an accommodation of any type, they are accompanied through the system,” Miller said.

Kim Novak, a national campus safety expert, said she is interested in watching how the bill is enacted.

“I predict there will be a moment of hysteria,” she said about the legislation’s effect on campuses nationwide. “There will initially be people who will wonder how they’re going to do this with the staff structure they have.”

However, she is confident that Violence Against Women Act’s new form will be effective in preventing sexual assault — provided that those who are involved in prevention engage themselves.

“It’ll look different on different campuses,” Novak said. “But campuses can look to each other for effective systems and processes. It’s about understanding our environment as an individual entity in order to figure out what works for a specific campus.”

Novak said preventing sexual assaults, among other things on university campuses, is a science.

“Hopefully, the reauthorization will take us to a place where we shift our focus from teaching women how not to be raped to teaching perpetrators how not to rape,” she said.


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