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UC Merced grant targets violence against women

POSTED October 31, 2009 12:12 a.m.
A new federal grant from the Department of Justice awarded to the UC Merced Police Department will establish several programs aimed at preventing violence against women.
The $299,756 grant will be doled out to the police department over the next three years and will fund programs that focus on dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It will also be used for services that help survivors of current or past violent attacks, said Rita Spaur, chief of the UC Merced Police Department.
In addition to preventive programs, such as self-defense classes, the program will also address issues related to bystander behavior and peer response.
“The goal is to implement a comprehensive, multi-phased collaborative program that reaches out to and educates the campus community on issues of violence against women, and supports survivors,” Spaur said. “Even one assault in our community is too many.”
According to UC Merced’s campus crime statistics, there was one sexual assault on campus in 2008 and one in 2006.
Aside from helping the campus community maintain its existing level of safety, Spaur said the three-year grant gives the university the tools necessary to serve the campus population as it grows. Nearly half of the current enrollment and more than 300 members of the faculty and staff are women, according to the university. Projections estimate an influx of 650 to 750 new students each year until UC Merced reaches its capacity of 25,000.
“Our department has jurisdiction in the state with emphasis over UC Merced-owned or leased properties and the surrounding square mile,” Spaur said. “Maintaining the safety and security as the campus community grows is a primary focus for our department. This grant will help us establish a culture of zero tolerance for violence against women that will sustain as UC Merced grows to capacity.”
The UC Merced Police Department will continue to work with campus departments, and local nonprofit, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to develop a coordinated community response that encompasses services for survivors and criminal prosecution, Spaur said.
“The program will build upon the rich experience of community partners to effectively empower women of the UC Merced community,” Spaur said. “It will also support other campus and community services.”
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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