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Westminster College, CARDV partner for new initiative

Westminster College, CARDV partner for new initiative

October 16th, 2018 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Students gather at the columns at Westminster College in Fulton. Westminster will partner with the Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence to provide a resource — in the form of an advocate — for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and any other form of gender-based violence.

Photo by Jenny Gray /Fulton Sun.

Westminster College and the Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence are introducing a new resource for college students.

Beginning soon, Fulton-based CARDV will send a victim advocate to Westminster's campus 9 a.m.-1 p.m. every Wednesday to meet with students. The advocate will give emotional support and advice to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and any other form of gender-based violence.

People of all genders are welcome to visit the advocate, who will never strong-arm students into reporting an incident.

"About 15 percent of American women are sexually assaulted in college," said Jeannie Schmidt, project coordinator for Every Blue Jay. "About 6 percent of men are assaulted as well. We want to be very inclusive."

It's just one of several initiatives bundled under Every Blue Jay, a campus project funded by a federal grant.

"One of the best ways to reduce (gendered violence) is to build a community you can collaborate with to change societal norms," Schmidt said.

Schmidt's own mother was the victim of domestic violence, and because Schmidt was never taught how to spot warning signs herself, she fell into several similar relationships in her youth. Later, she spent more than 20 years working as a victim advocate.

"Working with teens, I've seen how growing up in violent households teaches them to normalize those behaviors, and media reinforces those false beliefs," she said. "Education is the key to prevention."

Westminster is planning events to provide education in domestic violence and sexual assault prevention. Every Blue Jay is also teaching students how to intervene when they spot that type of violence.

Westminster's diverse population poses some challenges, Schmidt said. People of different cultural backgrounds and sexual identities may face specific issues that those belonging to other groups would not. They may also be more reluctant to report an incident.

"For example, sometimes women from other countries have different views about how they're supposed to be treated," Schmidt said. "We want to make sure we can respond appropriately to them while not making them feel like they're wrong."

The grant Westminster received funds the first three years of Every Blue Jay. The first full year of the grant was spent planning curricula and charting a course around those challenges. Now it's time to implement those plans.

"I'm just very excited to see everything moving forward," Schmidt said.