College gets grant for prevention of sexual misconduct

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STANDISH — The Department of Justice has awarded Saint Joseph’s College a nearly $300,000 three-year grant for training and prevention efforts regarding sexual assault, interpersonal violence and stalking in order to “create a safer college campus.”

The grant will fund a three-phase project with the ultimate goal of reducing violence on campus “through various primary and secondary prevention efforts,” said Dean of Campus Life and Title IX Officer Matthew Goodwin. 

The project will be run by Sarah Gordon, who was recently hired as the college’s coordinator for violence prevention and whose position is funded by the DOJ, as well as a community coordinated response team. 

The first year of the project is the planning phase, which will necessitate “understanding what the content of the training should be based on our needs,” Goodwin said. “Sarah’s work the first year will largely be based on assessment and evaluation of our existing practices.”

The second year is the implementation phase. While the training is still in the planning stage, Gordon said the goal is to change campus culture. 

“How do we change a culture on campus where we have students, staff and faculty feeling like this is a supportive and safe place? It’s really a holistic approach to changing dynamics here and training everyone here on campus,” she said.

The third year will be the assessment and sustainability phase.

“This is working on initiatives that will last much longer than three years,” Gordon said. 

The majority of the funds from the grant will go towards paying personnel conducting the project, with a small portion being used for the programs themselves. 

Gordon has assembled the response team, which includes Goodwin, and is working on scheduling its first meeting, which will probably take place in early to mid-April. The team is comprised of community members, law enforcement and Saint Joseph’s faculty, students and staff. 

When it comes time for the implementation phase, the team will partner with Through These Doors – a domestic violence resource center for Cumberland County – and the county Sheriff’s Office to hold training events for the college community.

“This (work) is very in line with our mission. This is an opportunity for us to do some very mission-centered work and create a safer college campus,” Goodwin said. 

Saint Joseph’s had five cases of forcible rape reported between 2014 and 2017.

The application for the grant, Goodwin said, was lengthy and required the college to discuss its goals for the grant as well as its unique college community. Saint Joseph’s submitted its application in May 2018 and was notified of its selection in mid-August 2018. 

This is the first time Saint Joseph’s has received a grant from the DOJ Office on Violence Against Woman. The grant was one of 57 totaling over $18 million that were given to higher education institutions nationwide. 

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected] 

The Department of Justice grant provides for training and prevention efforts regarding sexual assault, interpersonal violence and stalking at Saint Joseph’s College.