Funds will support College’s initiatives to combat sexual assault both on campus and within Easton community Twitter
By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis
Last week, Lafayette College was one of two Lehigh Valley-area colleges to receive “It’s On Us” grants of up to $30,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Governor’s Office. The program brings together college and university presidents, superintendents, administrators, teachers, students, families, and community members to reframe the conversation around sexual violence and pledge to be part of the solution.
Since 2016, the statewide “It’s On Us” campaign has awarded over 190 grants totaling nearly $4 million to more than 75 postsecondary institutions. This year’s round of funding, effective January 2022 through May 2023, prioritizes institutions that partner and collaborate with K-12 schools or programs that serve that population, as well as institutions that intend to promote their affirmative-consent standards as part of their code of conduct. This is the third time Lafayette has received the grant; the College was previously awarded in 2018 and 2021.
“I’m excited to be involved in this project and to continue the foundation that has already been set in prior grant cycles, as we continue to move the needle forward in addressing and combating interpersonal violence on campus,” says Katy Bednarsky, Lafayette’s student advocacy and prevention coordinator.
According to Bednarsky, Lafayette is proposing that the grant be used for the “Fostering Collaboration to Advance Equity and Awareness for All Ages” project, which involves new training and innovative programming to address today’s greatest challenges in combating campus sexual assault. Three key components will be addressed through this grant initiative:
“The beginning months of the fall semester up until about Thanksgiving break have been nationally recognized across college campuses as a time when students are more likely to experience sexual assault,” Bednarsky says. “First-year students are especially vulnerable, as NOW.org has identified that they are 2.5 times more likely to experience an assault during this time period. During this ‘RedZone,’ it is important to saturate the campus with all available resources and reporting options, as well as bystander intervention skills.”
In addition to bolstering resource saturation—with heightened emphasis on the RedZone—and featuring a consent campaign and a series of video resources, the College plans to use the “It’s On Us” funding to host the “Speak About It’s Flagship Show” as part of orientation for all first-year students. The show will aim to improve institutional awareness and response to sexual violence by engaging students in conversations regarding sexuality, affirmative consent, and bystander intervention, among other topics.
The College also plans to host a one-day training for Lafayette stakeholders, Communities in Schools staff, and members of the Easton Area School District with the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA). In addition, Lafayette will partner with Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley and Turning Point of Lehigh Valley Inc. to provide training workshops to targeted staff at the College, which will focus on topics such as LGBTQ+ and BIPOC survivors inclusivity and competency, drug-facilitated assault, and more.
Finally, Lafayette will partner with Communities in Schools and Easton Area School District to provide workshops, support groups, training sessions, and self-care celebrations for K-12 students to increase awareness of, and improve responses to, sexual assault.
“Combating interpersonal violence requires a holistic and creative approach, engaging stakeholders and students of all ages and sectors, and I think this project provides a unique opportunity to do so,” Bednarsky says. “It demonstrates not only a continued institutional commitment to addressing interpersonal violence within our campus community, but also a vested interest and intentional integration of resources and support in the prevention of interpersonal violence in our Easton community.”
In addition to receiving the “It’s On Us” grant, Lafayette College also has been accepted into, and will be participating in, the sixth cohort of National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ The Collective program. This is a two-year commitment to an extensive evaluation process of the College’s response, prevention, policies and procedures, and direct service efforts regarding sexual violence. Upon completion of the assessment, a team of Lafayette stakeholders will work to create an implementation plan to address identified gaps and barriers to services.
“The work we undertake using these grant funds, as well as the commitment recently made to participate in The Collective, are important tools in changing the campus climate regarding sexual violence,” says Annette Diorio, vice president for campus life at Lafayette. “Our commitment to using evidence-based practices to change the culture is steadfast, and we are grateful for the opportunity afforded us through the grant to expand this work.”
This year’s iteration of “It’s On Us” funding benefits 34 Pennsylvania institutions, including the Lehigh Valley’s Lafayette College and Kutztown University.