Creating a Culture of Caring: It's On Us

Less than four years ago, the Center for Awareness, Response, and Education (CARE) did not exist. Each year since its creation, CARE has grown and found new ways to better serve students who have experienced sexual violence.

This year is no different.

CARE, now an integrated part of the Northwestern community, was created with funds the university received in 2011. The funds came from a three-year grant that the university received from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women.

This year, NU has been awarded the same grant to support more services for survivors of sexual violence and awareness programs for the community.

The $300,000 grant, Campus Program Grant to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking, can be renewed every three years and is meant to help strengthen existing campus programs with new initiatives.

Now that the university has established CARE, the grant money will mainly go towards creating new positions that the university feels will only further help make a difference in the campus culture and start a dialogue.

During the academic year, CARE will hire a Coordinator of Men’s Engagement and Campus Inclusion and Community will hire a Step Up NU graduate assistant, and four undergraduate student workers. The coordinator will focus on creating and implementing comprehensive prevention efforts focusing on men’s engagement, while advising Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS) and offering more survivor advocacy services. One student worker will work in CARE, and the other three will work within Student Affairs Marketing for campaign design and videography.

Although most of the money really goes into hiring staff, the grant program goals and objectives each are tailored to broadening campus and community engagement, offering effective intervention, and altogether reducing cases of sexual assault and other violence.

“We have a new definition for sexual misconduct that will make a difference in campus culture,” Lisa Currie, director of Health Promotion and Wellness, said. “It’s really an exciting time to be in the field and see what’s happening on a national level.”

Before renewing the grant, university officials had to go through an application process that would showcase the school’s depth of commitment to the cause. Although the Department of Justice doesn’t specifically address why they select certain schools for the grant, Currie believes they are looking to build upon success.

This year, two task forces are being created to go underneath and continue improving upon the work CARE is doing. The task forces, which are in collaboration with Multicultural Student Affairs and the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, will work to improve outreach and services for Black and LGBTQ students.

“We have seen success in our programs, but we want to assess where we can improve and go from there,” Currie said.

Currie, who has been in the field for almost 20 years, also mentioned how students are becoming more of a driving force in changing the dialogue on sexual assault.

Just this year, the White House launched the It’s On Us campaign, which is meant to support bystander intervention. While the university is giving students the tools to learn how to effectively intervene and help prevent and respond to sexual assault, it is students who are following through with it.

“Our programs are the vehicle to do it by, but many campus efforts are now student-driven,” Currie said. “From ASG to Athletics, there’s a lot that has been happening and is in the works.”