Arkansas college receives $550,000 from U.S. to fight sexual violence

$550,000 to fund programs, hires at El Dorado campus

Posted: September 3, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Justice, hoping to combat sexual violence on campus, is parceling out $18 million to South Arkansas Community College and 56 other schools across the country.

Katharine Sullivan, acting director of the department's Office on Violence Against Women, announced the grants during a speech at the National Sexual Assault Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

The El Dorado school has been awarded $550,000, a department official said.

The grants are part of its Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking on Campus Program, the department said. Recipients will spend the money on "a range of services, including specialized training for campus law enforcement, health care providers, university personnel and others who are often first responders."

Wednesday, the Justice Department also awarded 54 grants totaling $32 million as part of its Improving the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program.

"Ending sexual assault in one generation will take these kinds of bold moves -- bold moves taken as a community in collaboration and partnership. We all need to work together: victim services, law enforcement, prosecution, courts, health professionals, federal and state governments, campuses, volunteers, bystanders, and survivors to end this terrible crime of violence," Sullivan told the audience in Anaheim, according to a transcript of her remarks.

Vanessa Williams, the community college's director of counseling and disability support services and its Title IX coordinator, said her school is partnering with Southern Arkansas University-Tech in East Camden and Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

The three-year grant will help "develop a coordinated and comprehensive community approach to on-campus domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking for each of our campuses," she said.

"We'll be hiring a project coordinator to work on all three campuses," Williams said. "We'll also be hiring victims' advocates and we'll be able to get trained by nationally recognized experts on these topics."

Although enrollment numbers are not yet available for this fall, the school typically has roughly 1,450 students.

"We all want to really promote awareness and prevention of these ... crimes on our campus and be able to provide more services , such as having a victim's advocate and bystander intervention training and more training for people to investigate these kinds of crimes and work to prevent them," Williams added.

Linda Lephiew, the school's grant coordinator, got word of the funding late Wednesday afternoon and called Williams to inform her that the decision had been made.

"I think I said, 'Is it good news? Did we get it?'," Williams recalled. "She said, 'Yeah,' and I [said,] 'Oh my goodness.' ... I was very excited."

Heath Waldrop, the community college's director of marketing and public relations, said Wednesday's announcement is welcome news for south Arkansas.

"Historically, it's an underserved area and an underserved population so we're always seeking and searching for grant opportunities to allow us to serve some of those populations that otherwise wouldn't be and haven't been," he said, praising Williams and Lephiew for their efforts.

SundayMonday on 09/03/2018