Following the opening of its new Sexual Assault and Education Center, the University of Kansas is now the winner of a large federal grant aimed to help combat sexual assaults on campus.
The three-year $750,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Health Services Office on Women's Health and will involve seven other universities across Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
"The whole goal is to figure out how colleges and universities are addressing sexual assault," said KU professor Juliana Carlson, who is the facilitator of The Heartland Project.
"We're looking at what are the policies these institutions have in place right now, and we're gonna try to encourage them to think about developing those policies in a little more thoughtful and comprehensive way," she said.
According to national research from 2009, nearly one in five undergraduate women experienced sexual assault on campus. From 2012 to 2015, KU had 43 violations of its sexual harassment policy, resulting in 13 expulsions and 29 suspensions. The university is also facing a current lawsuit from former student Daisy Tackett, a rower who claims she was raped by a KU football player.
"When we think about preventing sexual assault we're really looking more at not just individual level change but really thinking about an institutional level and community level change," said Carlson.
Kimberly King was a Kansas prosecutor for years and is now the director or compliance and risk management at Rockhurst University. She was thrilled to join The Heartland Project when KU called.
"We want to do something along the lines of student bystander prevention training," she said.
Each university in the project will be given funds to create their own task force. According to Carlson, some funds will also be spent towards activism, prevention services and programming, and SARTs, sexual assault response teams; anything that will help schools to become the cutting edge towards on campus sexual assault prevention and response will be considered.
"We're really interested in helping universities think about what not only happens after a sexual assault but also how do we prevent it,” said Carlson.
Other schools that will be involved in The Heartland Project include: K-State, Harris-Stowe State (St. Louis), Lincoln University (Jefferson City), Crowder College (Webb City, Missouri), University of Nebraska and Nebraska Wesleyan (Lincoln).
Josh Helmuth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org