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Violence Prevention offices open in Newark, Camden, RBHS

<p>Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance coordinator Kerry Camerer said there needs to be increased awareness to prevent the culture of accepting sexual harassment.</p>

Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance coordinator Kerry Camerer said there needs to be increased awareness to prevent the culture of accepting sexual harassment.

The recently established Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) offices at Rutgers University—Newark, Rutgers University—Camden and Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences (RBHS) will be expanded after a $5 million grant renewal over the next two years. The funds will also go toward expanding the current services available at the Rutgers—New Brunswick office, which has been around for approximately 28 years.

VPVA provides support services for those who have experienced interpersonal violence and community education on ways to address harassing or violent behaviors. Its goal is to ensure that the Rutgers campus is a safe and supportive learning environment, said RBHS VPVA coordinator Kerry Camerer.

The office provides a number of specific services such as in-person counseling, emotional support via phone, advocacy for navigating the reporting process for incidents of harassment and awareness programming highlighting the impact of violence, she said.

“Services are free and confidential,” Camerer said. “And we can provide support to those who have experienced violence at any stage of their life.”

VPVA’s most recent awareness campaign was #SpeakUpSeptember, which called RBHS students, staff and faculty to think about ways they can use their voice to interrupt problematic behaviors. They hosted a 90-minute training course called “Bringing In The Bystander,” which provided information on how peers could identify harassing situations, look for solutions and intervene.

“In order to disrupt a culture that accepts harassment and violence, we need to build awareness on safe ways to speak up,” Camerer said. “Prevention is most effective when everyone believes they have a role in keeping the community safe.”

Part of the funding allows VPVA to host more programming and involve more students. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the office will be hosting multiple events and awareness initiatives for the RBHS community.

The programming is one way the office is trying to improve student awareness of available services, Camerer said.

“Our goal is to continue building awareness about our office and services. The RBHS VPVA opened in late 2018 and we know that many students, staff and faculty may still be unaware of us,” she said. “Our programming and collaboration with student groups and our RBHS school partners will have ongoing efforts to make sure those that need our support can find us.”

The grant renewal also allows the RBHS VPVA office to expand its staff and provide more opportunities for support and education such as a new ambassador program.

“VPVA has started an ambassador program that is made up of volunteers from the different RBHS schools to provide feedback, assist with events, develop programming and serve as peer educators,” Camerer said.

The New Brunswick office of VPVA was established 28 years ago and, in addition to providing services to survivors of violence, has created nationally recognized programming to educate students on ways to address interpersonal violence.

In 2017, a two-year Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office established VPVA offices on the Camden and Newark campuses. RBHS was included in the grant’s second year, addressing the needs of the RBHS community.

“All of the VPVA offices work together to ensure University-wide consistency in services, but the offices also work separately to address the specific needs of their campuses,” Camerer said.

RBHS encompasses eight schools, including the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, the Rutgers School of Nursing and the Rutgers School of Public Health. Its facilities are located in New Brunswick, Newark and other locations throughout New Jersey.

Jillian Bandel, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, has taken advantage of VPVA services at the New Brunswick office and said that VPVA gave her a home.

“In my experience, the VPVA has been the best resource that Rutgers has to offer. They gave me a safe space when nobody else could and taught me how to cope with traumas,” she said. “The VPVA deserves this funding and all the funding in the world because they truly move mountains for us students and the community.”

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