GW’s top officials will soon be trained in responding to domestic violence alongside administrators of other D.C. schools, part of a new partnership with a local violence prevention group.
The training, led by the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, could cover examples of gender-based violence, how to respond to allegations and how to work with survivors. GW has joined seven other D.C. universities in the partnership.
Leaders from the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence will meet this spring with the schools, including GW’s peers Georgetown and American universities, to plan the details of the training, said Andrea Gleaves, a strategic partnerships associate for the coalition.
Gleaves said the organization’s staffers will train “top-tier” leadership at schools, like university presidents and provosts, through quarterly workshops and seminars. University President Steven Knapp signed an agreement to have GW participate in the trainings, Gleaves said.
“The goal is really about creating a learning community among D.C. institutions as they begin to develop and implement policies,” Gleaves said. “What programs are effective? How can we make them better and how can we share that knowledge among various campuses?”
The 29-year-old organization received a $500,000, three-year grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women in January to jumpstart the partnerships. Once the trainings begin, the group will also work with the schools to launch social media campaigns targeted at survivors and all students “to be impactful for each campus,” Gleaves said.
Domestic violence includes any abusive behavior in which one partner tries to take or maintain control over another partner, according to the Office on Violence Against Women. It can include physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and can happen in relationships between partners who are dating, living together or married.
At least three of GW’s peer schools – Emory, Tulane and Northwestern universities – also educate their administrators about domestic violence and dating violence.
Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said in an email that the initiative will “create a collective message that no form of interpersonal violence is acceptable on any college campus.”
As of last spring, schools are now required to report stalking, dating violence and domestic violence incidents in their annual security reports under the updated Violence Against Women Act.
GW has recorded six simple domestic assaults and one aggravated domestic assault in its crime log over the last year. Aggravated assault, a felony charge, means the victim suffered severe bodily harm.
Natalia Marlow-Otero, the executive director at the advocacy group D.C. Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, said the “very important” partnership will help start conversations about dating violence on college campuses, which she said isn’t discussed as much as other forms of sexual violence.
“Many times when we see victims that are in universities that, especially with dating violence, are terribly isolated,” Marlow-Otero said. “There’s a lack of information within that community that prevents the victims from seeking assistance either from within the university or perhaps they don’t know where to go outside of the university.”
Marlow-Otero said a productive administrator training would teach officials how to identify a dating violence situation and how to hold the attacker responsible while also supporting the survivor.
She said students must understand, “What constitutes controlling behavior? What does a normal relationship look like?”
Laura Zillman, the vice president of Students Against Sexual Assault, said students should also receive training in appropriate behavior and healthy relationships. She said starting conversations about dating violence can be a challenge because “college students may not think the labels apply to them or their friends,” or realize the resources that are available.
Each year, SASA picks a statistic related to sexual violence to spread information about resources. This fall, the group chose “21 percent,” which represents the proportion of college students across the country who reported experiencing dating violence from a current partner, Zillman said.
“Students should be aware of how a healthy relationship looks and how to recognize the warning signs that their relationship, or a friend’s relationship, may be unhealthy or even dangerous,” Zillman said in an email.