November 28, 2012

Tracy Russell Shaynak, director of the Women's Resource Center, at Bucknell's annual Take Back the Night event
Tracy Russell Shaynak, director of the Women's Resource Center, at Bucknell's annual Take Back the Night event

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By Heather Johns

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University received a $300,000, three-year grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women Campus Grant Program to expand education and enhance services to strengthen effective responses to dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Bucknell is one of only 22 colleges and universities across the country selected for funding in FY 2012.

"The award is largely focused on prevention," said Tracy Russell Shaynak, director of the Women's Resource Center. "We've assessed our current resources and what we're able to accomplish. This grant can help fill in the gaps."

The grant will be used to fund a prevention coordinator position that is dedicated to enhancing education for students focused on promoting positive bystander behavior; increasing the awareness of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; fostering greater male student involvement in prevention efforts; and strengthening community support for survivors. It will also help subsidize costs associated with the Speak UP Bucknell Peer Education program and pay for conferences.

"The remainder of the funding will support the goals of our newly formed Campus Community Response Team," said Shaynak. "The team will focus on creating a seamless response for students. So, if there is an incident downtown and the student is interviewed by a police officer, that officer will have better knowledge of the work we're doing on campus."

Shaynak will co-direct the grant with Marie Shaw, a psychologist in Psychological Services. The Women's Resource Center will work with Transitions, a local crisis center affiliated with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), to provide training for local law enforcement both at Bucknell and downtown, and to work with survivors.

This specific kind of training is necessary, said Shaynak, because sexual assaults are different than other types of criminal cases. "It is critical that officers on and off campus who are working with survivors understand psychological reactions to trauma and are well-prepared to sensitively investigate these cases," she explained.

The Campus Community Response Team is comprised of professionals from Transitions, the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department, the Union County Office of District Attorney and the Union County Victim Witness Advocate program, as well as campus offices including Public Safety, the Women's Resource Center, Psychological Services, the Division of Student Affairs and Bucknell Student Health.

"This team will be designed to include cross-training and shared protocols, so everyone knows what everyone else does." This is especially important because advocates and police officers can seemingly be at cross purposes during a sexual assault investigation. "The officers are trying to get as much information and evidence as possible as soon as possible," explained Shaynak. "Advocates are working with the survivors to make sure that they understand what's happening and the choices they have, and that they can ask questions."

"The truth is, we all ultimately have the same goals," said Shaynak. "We're trying to create a common understanding and increase our collective effectiveness so that more survivors will feel comfortable with pursuing the legal and judicial options available to them."

Contact: Division of Communications


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