A coalition of Baltimore-area colleges headed by Loyola University Maryland has received a $750,000 grant to prevent and investigate sexual assault and dating violence, and to improve victim services.

The grant is part of $25 million in funding announced this week by the U.S. Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women to address what has become a heated issue on campuses across the country.

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In addition to Loyola, the Baltimore Area Higher Education Coalition against Sexual Violence includes the Community College of Baltimore County, Coppin State University, Goucher College, McDaniel College, Maryland Institute College of Art, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Stevenson University, Towson University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Loyola said more than 125,000 students attend and travel frequently among these schools.

"Our organizations are united against sexual assault and dating violence, and committed to creating a safer, more secure environment for college students," said Katsura Kurita, assistant vice president for student development and Title IX deputy coordinator for students at Loyola. "We will make exponentially more progress by working together along with our campus partners on vital initiatives that will improve victim services and prevent future violence on our campuses and in our region, and there is an incredible opportunity for our efforts to have an even greater impact with the support of this new funding from the Department of Justice."

The colleges hope to enhance how they respond to sexual violence, increase access to services for survivors and develop informative videos and mobile apps. They also plan to offer training that includes information specific to LGBT students and students of color.

Colleges have been wrestling with the issue in recent years, and the federal Department of Education has been investigating more than 200 campuses, including some in Maryland, for how they respond to allegations of sexual assault. Title IX requires colleges to respond to sexual assault claims as they would other forms of gender discrimination.

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