One in four women will be a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college—a startling statistic at the center of federal and state government policy discussions and law enforcement trainings— leaving university administrators across the country questioning how to address the problem.
It’s been three years since the Georgia College Women’s Center first received funding for Project BRAVE, a comprehensive violence prevention plan aimed at education, training and victim services to do just that.
During that time more than 2,000 students and over 500 faculty and staff members have taken part in Project BRAVE through training courses and other opportunities. Those include campus Public Safety officer training as well as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training for an emergency room nurse at Oconee Regional. SANE nurse is one who has completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of the patient who has experienced sexual assault or abuse.
“We’ve also created a Coordinated Community Response Team with more than a dozen members from campus departments and local agencies,” said Jennifer Graham, director of the Women’s Center. “We meet monthly to discuss policy changes, processes, education trends and more.”
Just this week, Graham got word that the nearly $300,000 Department of Justice grant funding was renewed for another three years.
“I think the trainings and learning opportunities during the last three years have helped educate our students. We can see from the data provided from the pre- and post-test that they are learning about bystander intervention and resources for victims, and we also hear numerous anecdotal stories of how students are choosing to step up and intervene in certain situations,” said Graham.
Whether it’s the mandatory online training for all new students, presentations at Week of Welcome events, Project BRAVE trainings or others, Graham tries to reach out to students multiple times with the same message.
“There’s this notion that you have to tell people information three times before it sinks in. That’s why we try to take advantage of as much programming as possible,” she said.
Aimed at increasing knowledge surrounding power-based interpersonal violence and prevention through bystander intervention education, the Be BRAVE: Step Up training and other courses are offered monthly or on an as requested basis for student organizations and departments.
“I have seen Project BRAVE make an enormous impact on campus in the lives of many students, faculty and staff. As an organization, Project BRAVE strives to promote a better culture and atmosphere on the campus of Georgia College and is succeeding in doing so by raising awareness on issues that others might shy away from speaking on or standing up for,” said Sean Montgomery, a Project BRAVE peer facilitator. “This unique organization is vastly important to the construction of a safer and more positive culture on campus here at Georgia College," he said "because not only does it allow for faculty and staff to promote healthier habits, but it allows students to be on the forefront of controlling the culture on our own campus. It gives students who are involved, and those who bear witness, a unique insight into the mission of Project BRAVE by helping to identify situations, which may not have always been recognized as negative because of the pre-existing culture."
Now with the continued programming for an additional three years, the Women’s Center looks forward to expanding engagement with the campus and community.
“Future grant plans include bringing our bystander education curriculum to the downtown restaurants, continuing to develop programming to engage men, hiring an additional advocate, increasing programming for underserved populations (women of color, LGBT* folks, students with a disability) and continuing to partner with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life,” said Graham.
For more information, visit gcsu.edu/womenscenter.