According to some reports, one-fifth of college students nationwide experience domestic violence and college-aged women experience a higher rate of partner violence than any other age group. In order to address this widespread problem, the University of Hawaiʻi is building its capacity to support survivors and promote domestic violence education on its campuses through two important agreements celebrated in a ceremony October 28.
The university signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hawaiʻi State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (HSCADV) and is anticipated to formalize another relationship with the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) soon after. These agreements are the first significant collaborations between the university and domestic violence service providers and lay the groundwork for specific operational relationships to be developed.
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“We are excited to partner with two respected community organizations that share the goal of improving responsiveness to gender based violence,” said UH President David Lassner. “A critical part of the university’s efforts to ensure safety for everyone on our campuses is building an institutional infrastructure that supports victims. The university believes in using a holistic approach that integrates access to existing proven community-based services and resources along with our own support services.”
The agreement with HSCADV, a statewide coalition of more than 20 domestic violence programs, establishes the university’s first community partnership to assist survivors on its campuses with accessing a comprehensive scope of services, both on campus and in the community.
Building on work for affirmative consent
The university, through its Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), has been working with the HSCADV as part of a legislatively mandated task force on affirmative consent. HSCADV has also provided trauma-informed domestic violence training for the University Title IX teams across the UH System.
“We look forward to building on our work with UH to enable victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking to be aware of the services and resources available to them in the community and to facilitate their access to these services,” said Marci Lopes, HSCADV’s executive director.
The university’s prospective agreement with DVAC entails providing a campus-based survivor advocacy program and confidential advocacy services on four of UH’s Oʻahu campuses: UH West Oʻahu, Honolulu Community College, Leeward Community College at Pearl City and Waiʻanae and Windward Community College. DVAC received funding for this program through a grant from the U.S. Office of Victims of Crime.
The new campus advocacy program with DVAC will be invaluable, according to UH OIE Director Jennifer Rose.
“Students face significant challenges when trying to navigate their safety across various, complex systems,” said Rose. “We are very excited about our partnership with these trusted community service providers as this will increase safety, resources and options for our student population.”
Experts say the best way this can be achieved is to have survivors work directly with trained advocates.
“Navigating the maze of the justice system, social service, mental health and healthcare agencies is daunting for domestic violence survivors,” said DVAC Chief Executive Officer Nanci Kreidman. “We look forward to assiting the University of Hawaiʻi System in making campus settings and student experiences safer while they pursue their educational dreams.”