Gender Violence Education and Support Office Receives State Grant

In mid-March, Lehigh University learned that it was one of nearly 40 Pennsylvania colleges and universities to share more than $950,000 as part of the It’s On Us state grants. It’s On Us is part of a national campaign that began in 2014 and is aimed at ending sexual assault. The state of Pennsylvania launched its own campaign two years ago.

In a news release, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said It’s On Us PA grants will help dozens of state institutions of higher education in developing programs to prevent sexual assault and establish campuses where assault and harassment are not tolerated.

"The pervasiveness of sexual assault has never been more clear, and combating sexual assault requires action,” Wolf said.

Brooke DeSipio, assistant dean and director of Lehigh's Office of Gender Violence Education and Support (GVES), said that her office identified four areas of focus in the grant application: bystander intervention training; staff training; updating of reporting and resource videos; and development of tailored information and resources for students of color, international students, LGBT students and commuting students.

"Lehigh is always striving to implement innovative ideas and best practices when it comes to gender violence prevention and support. I am really excited about this grant because it gives us an opportunity to expand and improve existing programming and resources so that we continue to stay on the cutting edge of gender violence prevention on college campuses,” said DeSipio, who leads the office that was created in 2014.

Under DeSipio’s direction, the GVES office is dedicated to changing campus climate around issues of gender violence that include sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, stalking, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment.  “We also work to support survivors by creating a survivor-supportive campus, and to reduce the number of gender violence incidents by helping students develop and sustain healthy relationships and fully understand the issues around consensual sexual encounters,” she said.

With Karen Salvemini, Lehigh’s first equal opportunity compliance and Title IX coordinator, DeSipio has held training sessions and workshops for members of the Lehigh community on these issues. Presentations have been made to student groups and organizations around campus, including fraternities and sororities, varsity athletic teams, and student clubs and organizations. These candid conversations often identify root causes of abuse, such as societal attitudes and beliefs/values.

Currently, Lehigh is in the process of launching a Title IX campus climate survey, which will help DeSipio and Salvemini better understand issues specific to the Lehigh culture, and will help develop effective programmatic responses with the grant money.

Programming is held throughout the academic year, with upcoming events including an airing of the documentary, “It Was Rape,” at 4:10 on Thursday, March 29 in UC 306, and the Take Back the Night march and speak out that begins at 7 p.m. Monday, April 2, by the UC flagpole. Participants will march to Lamberton for a “Speak Out Against Gender Violence” event that begins at 7:30 p.m. This year’s Take Back the Night march is organized around the theme of “Words Have Power.”


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