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updated: 11/7/2013 11:48 AM

North Central leading partnership against gender-based violence

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Violence related to gender is the target of a set of programs being developed in Naperville, where North Central College is leading a new partnership aimed at preventing crimes such as sexual assault, while improving services for those who become victims.

Fueled by $274,600 from the federal Department of Justice, the college, Naperville police, Edward Hospital, Wheaton-based Family Shelter Service and the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago's Patterson and McDaniel Family Center in Glendale Heights are educating the public about preventing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

"We really wanted to get the grant because we thought we would find some very willing partners in Naperville and we did," said Laurie Hamen, North Central College's vice president for enrollment management, athletics and student affairs, who also is the college's Title IX coordinator. "We think it will make both North Central and Naperville better places to live."

The three-year grant will allow North Central to hire a new coordinator of gender-based violence services, Hamen said.

It also will fund creation of a sexual assault response team; a speaker series on gender-based crimes led by gender and women's studies faculty; training for more sexual assault nurse educators at Edward Hospital; prevention education through a program called "Green Dot" that encourages bystanders to step in to help end sexual violence; and training for North Central's college judicial board on how to adjudicate such cases.

The efforts are designed to teach college students and Naperville-area residents it's OK to talk about gender-based violence, and when these crimes occur, they should be reported, Hamen said.

While national studies show one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted, 95 percent of sexual assaults on campuses go unreported, according to statistics from the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

"We have the type of college campus that people consider to be safe. Our statistics show very low levels of all of these gender-based crimes. But that may mean nonreporting," Hamen said. "In my mind, one of the best ways to work on reporting is to have a robust educational system and a community that really cares about all these issues."

The college is interviewing candidates now for the new gender-based violence services position in the Dyson Wellness Center, seeking an educator/adviser to work with students who are victims of such crimes and to make sure they receive the support they need.

The grant is formalizing collaboration between organizations like the college and the Patterson and McDaniel Family Center, said Kathy Kempke, the center's manager of education and advocacy. She said groups in the partnership are reviewing how victims of gender-based violence are being treated by schools, hospitals, rape crisis centers, police and the state's attorney's office to ensure they are respected.

"This gives us an opportunity to be able to do more in Naperville than we did before and also have this great group to work with," Kempke said. "It brings all these systems together."

Kempke said partners want to make their efforts against gender-based violence permanent, even once the Department of Justice funding expires.

"In a community where this kind of violence is unwelcome," Hamen said, "there are less of these kinds of things that go on."

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