Grant helps SRU combat sexual violence


Slippery Rock University received more than $7,000 in state grant money for programs to combat sexual assault on campus.

The grant, part of Pennsylvania’s “It’s On Us” program, will build on previous programs established by the university. This year, SRU plans to use the money for research and educational programs focused on building healthy relationships.

SRU plans to dive into the data they have from CARE referrals, the student health survey, and Title IX dating violence to get a clearer picture of what students are facing in their personal lives and how the university can help, according to Karla Fonner, the director of student support, who helped write the grant.

Fonner said in the past SRU has focused on bringing attention to sexual violence. This year, the goal was to “flip the script” and find ways to promote healthy relationships.

“We built up the awareness so now the next step is taking it further,” Fonner said.

One of the university’s approaches to this is the formation of a book club where students and counselors will meet to discuss healthy relationship strategies.

SRU will also spend some of the grant money on more formal training for the counselors on the processes in place on campus for those who report sexual assault and their options for reporting.

Fonner also plans to promote Step UP! Bystander training, a program the university has offered students and organizations for over five years. That training is designed to provide students with skills for when they witness unsafe situations.

According to Fonner, a lot of the CARE referrals the university receives come from a concerned friend.

During the 2019-20 academic year, the SRU Care Network received 116 reports of sexual assault, dating violence and harassment. Those reports come from students on- and off-campus and incidents may have taken place that academic year or earlier, according to Fonner.

Numbers reported by the university under the Clery Act show SRU reported 16 rape offenses, 6 dating violence offenses and 8 stalking offenses from 2017 to 2019. These numbers reported under the Clery Act only include incidents on SRU’s main campus.

As students, faculty and staff become better educated about sexual violence and victims understand and trust the systems in place, reporting goes up, but does not necessarily mean there is a rise in overall cases, Fonner said.

While the number of CARE reports has been about the same this year compared to last, Fonner said she is concerned the pandemic has made students not feel connected with the campus and in turn, not reaching out for help.

Going into its fifth year, the “It’s On Us” program has given out nearly $4 million in grants to 70 institutions, according to a press release by Governor Tom Wolf’s office. SRU has received more than $50,000 during that time.

This year, 37 institutions – five of those PASSHE universities, including SRU – received grants that can be used for designated purposes from now until May 2022.

Pennsylvania 2-year and 4-year institutions can apply for up to $30,000 in grant money for programs to fight sexual assault on their campuses.

Students looking for resources are encouraged to utilize the resources below:

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Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.


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